Friday, April 30, 2010

The creepiest children's books ever

The Huffington Post slideshow does include some authentically creepy items:

although I find myself disagreeing on a couple of choices.  I discussed the fabulous picture book, Where Willy Went, in this GIFSL* 30 entry, concerning naughty books about sex:

...and it's still a winner, finding friends most lunchtimes who read and chuckle (and maybe learn something too).



Thursday, April 29, 2010

Young people hate books and dead tree publishing is finished. Yes?

Found this YouTube video via Lucacept.

And Lucacept's discussion about the issues facing libraries lending files (e-books, audiobooks) is most relevant and not, at present, finding answers from publishers.

Watch the video on YouTube here if you the one above doesn't work for you.
It's a brilliant video.  Brilliant.  Bravo DK/Penguin USA.



PS. And the format of this strikes me as having possibilities for writing, too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Books written for adults but grabbing teen readers

 ...before you assume 'adult books' means stuff you find in an 'adult bookshop' - nah.  Clicking about in relation to Soulless by Gail Carriger (huge fun, one of my Easter holiday reads) ...

I tripped over the American Library Association's Alex Awards - recognising books that were written for the adult market but have found eager readers among teenagers and young adults.  While there's a tad of an American skew (hardly unsurprising), it's still a handy little collection development tool.  There are links on the pages to the Alex Awards in 2009 and earlier years, so you can hunt back through for possible additions to your school library.

Another on the 2010 list is the dark graphic novel Stitches: a memoir by David Small, which I bought on the recommendation of Paul McDonald of the Children's Bookshop in Beecroft.

I don't have a separate 'senior' section or stickering (kids in my school are years 7-12, or about 11-18 years old); what I do for the occasional book is have a note in the back next to the date due slip (where whichever staff member is lending out the book will see it) with a wording that goes something like, "Dear Reader, if you are in Years 7,8,9 or 10, you will need to consult the teacher librarian before borrowing this book."  I figure this means we can chat about those which may need chatting (eg. the Year 7 boy who wanted to borrow The Time Traveler's Wife on the basis of the time travel bit, rather than realising quite the marital detail involved in the wife bit).  It also means those in search of titillation (hey, a Senior Book - it must have Good Bits!!!) have a hard road to hoe, as they don't have external cues (separate section or stickering) to help them on their way.  If a junior kid is dead keen to borrow a book with this note in it, one option is to phone the parents/guardians and discuss the matter, and this usually ends up being a productive road to a solution.

Two novels I've read in the last couple of years which fell on the Yup and Nope sides of my collection development: although Love like water was a shortlisted book in the Children's Book Council Awards in the older reader category a couple of years ago, it has been borrowed not much if at all.  I read it, and thought the age of the main characters (around their early twenties) and their activities and preoccupations made it much more of a book interesting to young adults rather than high school age kids; I wasn't brought to care much about the characters or what happened to them.  I've included it in displays, had it on my face-out book stand and so on, but it just doesn't find friends.  If I'd read it before buying (and let's face it, you can't read everything before buying), I don't think I would have. So it's a Nope.  Last hols I read Melina Marchetta's new book, The piper's son, a few-years-later sequel to Saving Francesca.  I'm much more confident that this will find readers, and not only because it's a sequel.  While it too is suited to older high school students, it's more engaging in its storytelling, drawing you in and along.  The characters are in their early twenties, but more accessible and engaging, the focus of the book more positive than the underlying negativity I felt while reading Love like water.  I read the Marchetta book before adding it to the collection, wanting to be aware of its content, and it's a definite Yup.



image source for Soulless
image source for Stitches

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Twilight Eclipse film/movie trailer #2

Find the Twilight Eclipse teaser trailer via this link.

As of the weekend, you can see the Twilight Eclipse trailer no. 2 (longer, at 1.39 minutes!).

Link to the above (on TrailerSpy):

Newborn vampires emerging from lakes! More Romantic Tension! Extensive Sighing from young gels!!

Australian release date: 1 July 2010.



The happy life of teacher librarians: an opinion on graphic novels

Well, as blogged earlier this one's out and about and providing some succour to the Twilightery while they await the Bree Tanner Twilight novella and the film of of Eclipse.  Even avid Twilight-haters who love graphic novels grudgingly agreed that it was well-drawn - mostly monochrome, with splices of colour for specific effect/impact.

I've blogged here about other graphic novels (click the tag to see other entries) and will continue to add them to the school library, where plenty of kids are reading and enjoying them.  The happy life of teacher librarians of course involves buying things to suit the customers, whether or not they're setting you on fire personally (and of course metaphorically). (Well, I'd rather nothing actually did that with matches).

As the personal opinion of an (I'll admit it) middle-aged teacher librarian, can I just say that I find graphic novels rather too aerobic?  Perhaps it is my long years of reading print/text, but graphic novels go by flickety flick, page turning much faster than a print novel.  While I don't mind seeing things illustrated, flickety flick, and have heard at least once that a picture is worth a thousand words, flickety flick.... y'know, with graphic novels, for my taste, I'm not so sure flickety flick.  I think, by and large, I'd rather have the images in my head than on a page flickety flick.  All that constant page turning flickety flick isn't restful reading, at least for me.  Reading is only an aerobic activity if it also involves a treadmill - and then it's the treadmill that's aerobic, not the book.

Am I the only one who thinks this???



Monday, April 26, 2010

How a book cover is designed (Blameless, by Gail Carriger)

One of my holiday reading books was Soulless, by Gail Carriger.  In a most useful comment, Tehani Wessely gave a link to this YouTube video, which shows the design process for the third book in the Parasol Protectorate series, Blameless (Soulless, Changeless, Blameless comprise the series so far).  So, in case you don't read the comments on my blog as assiduously as I do... .  One to share with Visual Art teachers, English teachers...

Here are the three Parasol Protectorate covers so far.  I do rather like the combination of vintage and modern.

source of images is the author's website,

Cheers (and many thanks, Tehani!)


PS. I do rather like the moment in the video when they go ooops, the Eiffel Tower has to go - and also watching cars being erased.  Fascinating to see the process of graphic design.

PPS.  Blameless isn't out till September. Having really enjoyed the first two, I'll be definitely reading it.  How could one not wish to know more about Alexia Tarabotti?  And parasols, vampires, dirigibles, werewolves and so forth?

PPPS Gail Carriger has one of the best author bio pieces I've read:

Ms. Carriger began writing in order to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. Ms. Carriger then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She now resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported directly from London. She is fond of teeny tiny hats and tropical fruit.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Scott Westerfeld

If I wanted to prepare the pretty-much-ultimate-and-authoritative blog entry on Scott Westerfeld.  You know, Uglies,


You know, don't you?  Yup.

Well, I wouldn't bother writing it, because the fabulous folk at CMIS have done it.  Their Tuesday Spotlight on Scott Westerfeld is all you need. 

I'm off to scull a Diet Coke and read the newspaper.  My work here is done.



image source:    

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Images + quotes on Learning and Change

Spotting this on the ever-useful Bright Ideas blog, I followed the link to find the Flickr group called Great Quotes on Learning and Change.  Lots of PowerPoint ready image+quote combos for staff development (and student applications too).  Check each individual image's page in Flickr to see the possible use under copyright (eg. which rights are reserved, if has a Creative Commons license etc) before using it. 

Also useful to give ideas for developing your own versions of this style of PowerPoint slide with your own photo/quote combos.



who once put together a fabulous presentation with what I thought was a lovely changing waterplay background using a series of photos of a water feature from outside an art gallery.  Great source, eh?  Someone enquired which sewer I had photographed...... sigh.  Cain't win 'em all, can you?!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

E-books and e-book readers in Australia

This blog entry began with one newspaper article, and has grown like Topsy; I've added more links to ebookery as I've found them.

Sydney Morning Herald columnist Elizabeth Farrelly had an opinion piece published at Easter about her Kindle e-reader.  Her major criticism (and it's my criticism too, in relation to e-books and audiobooks): the limited availability of up to date copyright content to Australian-address customers.  Amazon won't tell you ahead of time what you can't get here (thousands fewer titles than to US subscribers), and Audible hides lots if you log in as yourself (ie as a subscriber in Australia - I'm on the point of cancelling my Audible subscription for precisely this reason, unavailable content.  I'm not talking about, for example, audiobooks that don't exist - the recordings do, and if I was in the US I could buy them). 

Publishers, authors and agents need to get themselves sorted on rights for audiobooks and e-books so that we in Australia can read and listen to the same range as readers/listeners in the UK and US.  It's crazy that you can buy a print copy (eg of a multimillion bestseller) but not, for example, a Kindle copy if you're an Australian-address buyer.  Their choices are sabotaging our use of this technology, and limiting their profits (a very odd thing in a capitalist world, imho).  Buyers are willing to pay for copyright content, but publishers, authors, agents (and Amazon - if I was i/c there I'd be chivvying the others like crazy) are just saying no.  Do they realise their daftness?  Into the vacuum they create the pirates are, I'm sure, oh-so-willing to provide an alternative - with no profits to authors, agents, publishers or Amazon.  Daft.

A quote:

But I did want something to read. Something compressed and intelligent for the plane or the swag. But apart from The Spectator and The New York Times, it's like an airport bookstore with the good bits removed. Kindle Australia has four readable books. Three Stieg Larssons and Stoker's Dracula. I've read them.

Everything else is called Midnight in Madrid or How to Make A Million Bucks with a Gleaming Smile and a Flat Belly. You can't search alphabetically, and much as Amazon vaunts its relationship with publishers you can't get Pete Dexter or Tim Winton or A.A. Gill and if you search Carl Hiaasen you get three Lee Goldberg westerns and a self-helper called Active Senior Living.

and her rather nice final line:

Hmm. Burnt by kindling. Hot cross you, April Fool me.

Read all about it: Easter: when a Kindle surprise turns into a curate's egg, by Elizabeth Farrelly.

Here endeth this rant.  Well, for now.  Haven't even touched on e-book and audiobook rights in a library/lending context as opposed to an individual reader/subscriber.

There's another good and long article about e-books in Australia here: The e-book revolution is coming to a screen near you, by Charlotte Harper - SMH/Canberra Times.  It points out that the US-centric focus of Amazon also means few Australian books available for Kindle yet; and reiterates the point that piracy will take up the space left by dawdling publishers.

A shorter blog piece at the Committed Sardine, entitled, Don't believe the e-book sceptics includes these four principles for considering change:

(Farhad) Manjoo lays out four principles for more successful predictions about our digital future:

1. Good predictions are based on current trends
2. Don't underestimate people's capacity for change
3. New stuff sometimes come out of the blue
4. These days it's best to err on the side of (technological) optimism

The last piece also refers to a well-known 1995 Newsweek essay by Clifford Stoll, entitled (entrancingly), The internet? Bah! Read an evaluation of this piece here, which points out that while Clifford Stoll may have been proved totally wrong on many things...

Let's get this over with. Here is a list of things Stoll calls "baloney" on—each and every one of which has a thriving utility in 2010:

•interactive libraries
•multimedia classrooms
•electronic town meetings
•virtual communities
•taking a computer to the beach
•getting books and newspapers online
•e-commerce, online shopping, and e-payments
•booking airline tickets and restaurant reservations

...he is also, in 2010, a good sport about his essay being cited over and over for its lack of prescience. (Nick Summers: Let's talk about the 1995 Newsweek piece that says the internet will fail).

Author Alan Baxter blogs that ebooks are the future. (Found via Darcy Moore's blog)

There are so many e-book articles around - if you want to contribute links in the comments to any which you have found useful/informative, please do.



Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beastly: the movie/film

You may have in your library the book Beastly by Alex Flinn, which places the story of Beauty and the Beast in modern day New York (with a young man who is 'obscenely good looking' and has, unfortunately, manners also requiring that adjective.

There's a film of this book coming out in September 2010, starring Alex Pettyfer (Stormbreaker) and Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical).
Are they destined to become the next Bella and Edward? asks this online article (slightly breathlessly).  It also has a film clip. (Article is source of the above pic).  More fodder for Trailer Time...



(Whose favourite version of Beauty and the Beast remains Beauty by Robin McKinley).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Reading in a time of change, by Margaret Simons

An excellent, thought-provoking article published in Overland magazine, Reading in a time of change by Margaret Simons was prompted by but not only about, the iPad.  E-books, e-readers,all sorts of reading in these times of change.  She discusses the experience of reading for herself, her children, her grandson, and concludes:

My father was also staying with us over summer. Thirty years older than me, he is still working out how to use his mobile phone but email – that ancient technology – is his main means of staying in touch with friends around the world. He reads local newspapers for the crosswords. He takes the Guardian Weekly in print form and is dismayed by the idea it may be delivered only online in future. He had not heard of Twitter until I told him about it.

Of course, he was called to sit down and read to my grandson. He pointed to the dog in the book, and my grandson made the connection with the dog in the room. The experience of reading was not a thing by itself but something intimately associated with the growth of a mind, with socialisation and even with motor skills.

Perhaps, in this very ordinary and familiar convergence of an infant’s growth, we can glimpse something of our future.



New Twilight novella: The short second life of Bree Tanner

This novella, The short second life of Bree Tanner tells the story of Bree Tanner, one of the newborn vampires from Eclipse.  I wasn't sure at first if this was an April Fool joke (given when the news came out) but unless it's a very elaborate one, it's not.

Read more on Stephenie Meyer's official site (entry dated 30 March 2010 and also this page) which links to this site: WHERE YOU CAN READ IT FREE ONLINE FROM JUNE 7 TO JULY 5 2010 (tell your students!) . 

 There's a SMH article about it here and you can preorder it (if you want a bound version) at various places such as Better World Books (cheaper than Amazon, much cheaper overseas postage and profits to literacy).  Looks like the Australian RRP is around $23.

Back at school and hitting the ground running.



Thursday, April 15, 2010

Designed for Learning: school libraries

As you may know, I've been doing some presenting at conferences and staff development days on "Re-imagining your school library".  (Will be at MANTLE in May).

This 27 minute video (can't embed it, so click here to watch it) is from CILIP in the UK, and is all about the design and functions of 21st century libraries - showing spaces and possibilities, how students and library users find these, what they want, how library staff and teachers find these, what they want.... full of ideas, and SO positive about the IMPORTANCE of school libraries now and into the future as learning spaces.

Watch it.  Definitely.

I'm going to have to watch it more than once, to unpack the ideas and think about how to use them.



Found via Twitter @sandynay

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What do teacher librarians do?

Wordle: Teacher Librarian
I've been working on my submission to the Australian government's inquiry into teacher librarians and school libraries.  Sometimes it's interesting to see your thoughts in a more graphic form, so I did some playing with Wordle and the above image (click to see it larger) was one result.

I went through several versions, with the same text each time.  Interesting to see what conjunctions the Randomize button produced.  Tweaked colours, fonts - that Randomize button is evilly addictive!

Submissions to the inquiry close this week.



PS Blogger's playing sillies with images, so it's a tad smaller than I wanted to show you here.    But you can go bigger here.

PPS No, I'm not saying it's definitive.  But one view.  Not planning to include this graphic in my submission, but I thought it would be fun to share.

Monday, April 5, 2010

My own holiday reading

Some of the books which have waited for these Easter holidays to find their turn... not necessarily from the shelves of the school library or teenlit.  For one thing, the kids have first dibs on what's in the school library, so if they want it and I want it, no contest - they get it; and for another, there's definitely a to-read pile for me at home unrelated to school (so don't assume these are all school library recommendations - many wouldn't necessarily much interest Young Persons).  What's a holiday without reading, after all?  Thus, in no particular order...

The sweetness at the bottom of the pie by Alan Bradley

and its sequel, The weed that strings the hangman's bag (if it arrives in time, it's published in April).  Flavia de Luce is eleven, and also a private detective with a particular interest in poisons - this sounded entertainingly written from reviews, so I've taken a punt.  (Not necessarily a school library choice, despite her age). 
The piper's son by Melina Marchetta (you're looking at my uncapitalised rendering of the titles and realising that I'm SUCH a librarian in some ways, eh?!) (Loved Saving Francesca; have to read this one, I so hope I enjoy it - I didn't like her last book, Finnikin of the Rock, a venture into fantasy).  Update: I DID like this one, very much.  More suited to older high school students, not only for some language but also ideas being explored.  A really satisfying read with well-drawn characters and well-constructed plot. 

Major Pettigrew's last stand by Helen Simonson (I think the cover was part of what got me in on this one - is that shallow?  Surely not, when I work hard to have lots of covers face-out 'selling' books to kids in our library) (ahem, coughcough)

The double comfort safari club by Alexander McCall Smith (further adventures of Botswana's lady detective, Precious Ramotswe)

Soulless by Gail Carriger (an adventure into steampunk/romance/mystery including vampires, werewolves and parasols - what's not to like about that list??). UPDATE: liked this one very much - a most amusing, light tone to it.  Considering it for the school library, though perhaps tagged for seniors.

Mr Rosenblum's list: or friendly guidance for the aspiring Englishman by Natasha Solomons.  There was an article about NS and this book in Saturday's SMH Spectrum section, but I can't find it online to give you a link.  Had a very funny conversation about holiday reading with a colleague - we both said "Mr Rosenblum" and "Major Pettigrew" almost simultaneously when discussing our Easter holiday choices.  So we'll have to compare notes after.

Comfort food by Kate Jacobs (I liked her earlier one about the Friday night knitting club, even if the ending was a tad manipulative, and I could have happily drowned, or at least read less of, at least two characters.  Hmmm.  That's not sounding like a ringing recommendation, but then again, I have invested in this one... well, I found a second hand copy and thought, why not?)

The girl who kicked the hornets' nest by Stieg Larsson (I've read the first two in the Millennium trilogy and am interested to see the Swedish version of the first book these hols).  Definitely NOT a series for the school library - deals with strong issues and ideas in sometimes difficult detail.  UPDATE: a satisfying, intricately-plotted finale to this trilogy.  Further evidence as to why Steig Larsson's own title for the first book was "Men who hate women", not the title given to the English translation, "The girl with the dragon tattoo".  I gather Larsson's partner is outraged at the change in title, but shallowly, I would guess that the second is a less confronting, more engaging, more intriguing, more reader-pulling title than the original.  Haven't yet seen the film.

The good mayor by Andrew Nicoll

The good thief by Hannah Tinti

This I accomplish by Kyra E. Hicks (on Harriet Powers' quilts - she was a black slave who made the most extraordinary applique quilts - nonfiction)

Love walked in by Marisa De Los Santos (recommended by a friend whose reading tastes I trust)

Still life by Louise Penny (another recommendation from that friend)

The winter vault by Anne Michaels (forget who recommended this, but someone did)

The blue plateau by Mark Tredinnick (nonfiction: hard to categorise, but it's a natural history with stories all about the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.  Sorta.)

Etcetera: creating beautiful interiors with the things you love by Sibella Court.  I like her aesthetic, her style, even if it sometimes seems financially out of reach.  I get ideas from books like this for things to try in the library, to enhance the environment there.  Some kids lounging on one of the sofas the other day called our library 'homey', in a happy sort of tone - hard to make such a big varied space homey, but the word conjures comfortable, and friendly, and welcoming, and other such useful adjectives liable to encourage them to visit the library and hang about for a while, and I appreciated the compliment.

The wild things by Dave Eggars (didn't get this read when the film came out at the end of last year).

Can a book list be a biography?  I dunno.  It's taken a while to load all these covers, but I thought it would make the blog entry much more interesting than just titles/authors in a list.  I'm planning some leaflets for fiction promotion, and the more I think on them, the more I plan to use covers to help 'sell' the books.

Anything you'd like to recommend?  Leave a comment.

Enjoy your hols!

Skerricks will be back next term, on 19th April 2010, the good Lord willing and the creek don't rise. 



PS. I do not guarantee to get through all of these - there are other items on the holiday agenda.  But I do plan to make a Good Effort in that regard...

Image sources unless listed below