Tag Archives: reviews

New Melbourne-based collaborative blog – Brassofthebear

Photo by Alexander (Sasha) Sheko

Brazen plug for my son, Sasha’s, new collaborative blog about Melbourne – Brassofthebear. It’s just new but there’s plenty to read already.  Here’s the ‘about’ -

Welcome to Brass of the Bear, a collaborative blog with a local focus written by people in and around Melbourne, Australia. The name of the blog is derived from Bearbrass, one of a few names by which Melbourne was originally known.

Brass of the Bear (BB) aims to feature a broad range of content within its local focus, such as:

  • Reviews of cafes, restaurants, bars and the such,
  • Information on local events, art, cinema and music
  • Photography, writing and other locally based creative content
  • Secrets, quirks, hidden locations and adventures to be had
  • Information and opinion pieces on local community and political issues

BB is seeking contributors in any of the above areas (or even anything relevant that doesn’t fit into the above categories). Contact us at brassofthebear@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you.

Sasha asked me to contribute and so I wrote about Melbourne as a UNESCO City of Literature, highlighting events at the Wheeler Centre. Here’s a selection -

You  may or may not know that Melbourne is ‘a City of Literature’. I have no real way of predicting that since most of what I don’t know is common knowledge. In fact, Melbourne’s designation as aUNESCO City of Literature is apparently “acknowledgment of the breadth, depth and vibrancy of the city’s literary culture”. That makes me happy. And so Melbourne boasts a variety of literary organisations  and events to promote a culture of reading and engagement, events such as  Writers VictoriaExpress Media, the Australian Poetry Centre, the Melbourne Writers Festival and theEmerging Writers’ Festival.

You can read the rest here.

The Gertrude St Projection Festival is a good read.

Over the past couple of weeks (from 20 – 29 July, to be precise), Gertrude Street in Fitzroy has been home to a variety of projection art pieces, ranging from hypnotising geometric animations in shop windows to colourful patterns projected onto the entirety of one of the 20-odd story public housing towers. This year saw the fifth Gertrude Street Projection Festival (GSPF), featuring a large number of artists, including a number of collaborative works.

This is the first time I’ve seen the Projection Festival, and I really enjoyed it. Gertrude Street is one of my favourite streets, so much character.

Photo by Alexander Sheko

Other posts include Adventure – Footscray, Le Miel et La Lune restaurant review by James Zarucky, a very informative post about Yarraville by Ashley Onori, a story about the old Children’s Hospital (with photos which look apocalyptic) which is being demolished, and a review of the White Rabbit Record Bar in Kensington. The blog includes posts expressing political concerns (a letter to Daniel Andrews) and commentary on a film  from the National Film and Sound Archive’s Film Australia Collection.

I’m always supportive of collaborative efforts, especially when they’re shared online for others’ enjoyment, and I do love my city, so I’m looking forward to reading more from hopefully a growing list of contributors. If you have any expertise in any area of knowledge pertaining to Melbourne, or if you’ve recently attended an event which is worth writing about, leave a comment in the ‘About’ section of the blog.

Photo by Alexander Sheko

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Prime Minister’s Literary Awards

Thanks, Fiction Focus, you are always ahead of the latest news in fiction; my first stop for reading news and well written YA reviews.

Sadly, due to funding issues, we will no longer have the pleasure of your blog posts. Thankyou and well done for 798 posts! Judi, you will be sorely missed!

Amplify’d from cmisevalff.edublogs.org

The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards

pmla-headThe waiting will soon be over for the authors and illustrators shortlisted for the 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. The word is that the announcement will be made next Monday, 8 November.

YA Fiction:

  • Stolen – Lucy Christopher
  • The Winds of Heaven – Judith Clarke
  • Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God – Bill Condon
  • The Museum of Mary Child – Cassandra Golds
  • Swerve – Phillip Gwynne
  • Jarvis 24 – David Metzenthen
  • Beatle meets Destiny – Gabrielle Williams

Read more at cmisevalff.edublogs.org

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Filed under blogging, Books, Children's books

Creating a community of readers

We all read, don’t we? If not books, then newspapers, if not hardcopy then online, if not novels, then graphic novels – does it really matter?

Having started my reading blog for school, I soon realised that it had to move from being limited to my own reading to including that of all the members of my school community. Of course, this is still an unrealised dream, but I was happy that so many teachers (and some students) offered their diverse reading reviews.

This year I’d like to expand the scope a little more to include anything and everything related to books, reading, film and whatever catches my eye and leads to a love of literature and ideas, as well as interaction and possibly a good laugh or at least a chuckle.

The variety of topics will hopefully mean that something will appeal at least some of the time. Ideally, interaction and collaboration with others is the goal.

Here are some examples of my recent posts:

The Age Resource Centre not only contains great resources you’d expect, but also a Reading and Writing page which includes extracts from great books (as described in this post):

Currently, Andy Griffiths has contributed a hilarious short story, Just commenting,  as part of a special series on the Summer Kids pages of The Sunday Age.

Here’s the first half of Andy’s story (you’ll love it):

WHEN I grow up I’m going to be a commentator. I’m getting really good at it, too, because I practise every chance I get. In fact, I’m practising right now.

I’m sitting at the dinner table using the pepper grinder as a microphone.

“It looks like we’re in for an exciting night’s eating,” I say in a hushed voice. “Anything can – and probably will – happen. The father is chewing on a chicken bone. The mother is pouring gravy over her potatoes. And the sister . . . well, the sister is looking directly at the commentator.”

“Can you pass the salt please, Andy?” says Jen.

“And the sister has opened play by making a direct request to the commentator to pass the salt,” I say. “The question is, will he give her the salt or is he too busy commentating?”

“Mum,” sighs Jen, “Andy’s commentating again.”

“Oh dear,” I exclaim. “The sister seems to have forgotten about the salt and has decided to tell on her little brother for commentating instead.”

“Just ignore him,” says Mum.

“I can’t,” says Jen. “I want him to pass the salt.”

“She’s getting impatient now,” I say. “She’s thrown away all pretence of politeness and good manners. Looks like she still really wants that salt. But her little brother is just shaking his head. Looks like we have a stand-off on our hands.”

Jen rolls her eyes. “Can you pass me the salt, please, Dad?”

“A brilliant change of tactics on the sister’s part,” I say. “Let’s see how it works out for her.”

Dad nods, picks up the salt and leans in front of me to pass it to Jen.

“What a pass!” I say into the pepper grinder.

“Straight from his hand to hers, no fumbling – and Jen is wasting no time in transferring the contents of the salt shaker to her dinner. Just look at her shaking that thing – she’s giving that shaker everything she’s got. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the salt-shakingest salt-shaker action we’ve seen around this dinner table in a long time.”

“Jen,” says Mum, “that’s quite enough salt.”

“Looks like the mother has stepped in to shut down the sister’s salt offensive.”

“Shut up, Andy,” says Jen.

“Jen!” says Mum. “Please don’t talk like that at the dinner table.”

“But, Mum . . .”

“I know your brother can be very annoying, but there’s no excuse for language like that.”

“Oh dear,” I say.

“Looks like Jen’s dinner has definitely taken a turn for the worse. Not only has she been cautioned for excessive salt use but now she’s getting into trouble for being rude at the dinner table.”

“All right, that will do now, Andy,” says Dad. “Just eat your dinner.”

“But who will do the commentating?”

“NOBODY will do the commentating!” says Mum. “We’ll all just eat our dinner in peace and quiet.”

“But that’s boring.

“And unfair.

“How can I be a professional commentator when I grow up if you don’t let me practise?”

“Just eat your dinner,” says Dad, “or else you’ll have to leave the table.”

When I found Nancie Atwell’s quote about reading and how it makes you smart, I knew I had to put that in.

There’s nothing better for you – not broccoli, not an apple a day, not aerobic exercise. In terms of the whole rest of your life, in terms of making you smart in all ways, there’s nothing better. Top-ranking scientists and mathematicians are people who read. Top-ranking historians and researchers are people who read. Reading is like money in the bank in terms of the rest of your life, but it also helps you escape from the rest of your life and live experiences you can only dream of. Most important, along with writing, reading is the best way I know to find out who you are, what you care about, and what kind of person you want to become.

When I found the homonymic (is that a word?) poem, Sum thyme’s I’m ache Thai pose (Sometimes I make typos), I thought I had to put that into a post. I love quirky stuff, and I think many students do too. Anything that has value but isn’t what they expect to be ‘academic’, classroomy (another made-up word).

Then I found out about an exhibition which included the biggest book in the world, and thought this would be perfect for the blog too.

I’m hoping that the diversity and quirkiness of the post content will work well with the reviews and trailers, so that members of the school community and readers outside the school will turn to the blog for enjoyment. It would give me deep satisfaction.

Your contribution is very welcome, wherever you are.

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Filed under Children's books, Literature, Teacher librarians

Have you learned to share?

parrotsharing

Photo courtesy of Eliselovesprada on Flickr

Marie Salinger just shared with me an excellent blog post written by Andrew Douch, No learning for unauthorised persons.   Andrew expresses his disappointment in the fact that many teachers are reluctant to share what they create for their students’ learning. I recommend that you read the entire post.

In my comment following Andrew’s post, I mention that my role as teacher librarian automatically puts me in the position of finding and sharing resources, and that I don’t see why I shouldn’t share outside my school, or even outside my country. Since forming a personal learning network on Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Diigo and similar networking platforms, I’ve realised that what I share with others is a drop in the ocean compared with what I receive. If only all teachers would experience this.

My blogs and wikis are also a way of sharing ideas, resources and discussions which would otherwise only be shared with a couple of colleagues or not at all. It seems that blog authors find all manner of things useful and edifying, and write about these. I’ll often share resources this way, or even re-post from someone else’s blog if I think it’s worth passing on and giving my two cents worth.

More problematic is the sharing of material which I’ve read in a hard-copy publication. Currently, I’m reading the current edition of Fiction Focus: New titles for teenagers published by Curriculum Materials Information Services, WestOne Services, Department of Education and Training, Western Australia. It’s a teacher librarian’s treasured resource, providing excellent critical reviews of adolescent fiction, as well as reviews of resources of professional interest to teachers. I’m also reading the Centre for Youth Literature Newsletter published by the State Library of Victoria.

It’s frustrating for me to read these excellent resources and not share them online. What may normally occur is that we read them and take out ideas and resources for our own practice, or at best, email a few teachers if we think there is something of interest for them.

So what’s problematic? Well, it’s common practice to re-post online content written by someone else because you can give a synopsis and hyperlink to the actual resource; you don’t have to do more than give a quick summary of the original post since the reader can go directly to the source for more detailed information.

Not so in this instance. I would really like to feature some of the articles in these publications, but how much should I say? I don’t want to overload my readers, and I can’t presume they will obtain the hardcopy publications. I’m not sure if the publishers will consider my efforts a breach of copyright.

For example, there’s an excellent special feature in Fiction Focus, Wow websites – book inspired web wonders, which links to Young Adult fiction websites which

use high quality art and web design to create spaces and interfaces that reflect the character of the fiction that they represent,

providing

spaces for young readers to do what they have always done: play, discuss and imagine…

I applaud the promotion of such websites because I’ve realised that reading becomes an experience when adolescent readers become involved in the art, interactive activities and games, author blog and videos. Providing such websites increases the chances of hooking young people into reading fiction.

themortalinstruments

Here are the links to author websites provided by this article:

P.B.Kerr’s site, Quertyuiop

Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap series

Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series

Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series

Charlie Higson’s Young Bond series

Robert Muchamore’s Cherub series

For Picture Book authors, there are links to the following websites:

Shaun Tan

Matt Ottley

Chris Priestley’s Tales of Terror   Gothic feel site

Darren Shan

The Bad Tuesdays

Scott Westerfeld’s new Steampunk-inspired website

The selected works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen

The CMIS Fiction Focus blog include more extensive links to more blogs and websites of young adult authors and illustrators.

Fiction Focus also has an excellent article on Steampunk,

a sub-genre of fantasy and speculative fiction. At the core of steampunk is the notion of altered history (often Victorian and London-Victorian at that) combined with technology that is historically impossible, and therefore all the more intriguing.

There are great links included, so you can see my dilemma – I’d like to share all these wonderful resources with people, but I really think they should subscribe to the magazine, or even, the magazine should go online. CMIS has also given us a taste of Steampunk in their blog which is worth adding to your RSS feed reader, but I can’t resist including all the Steampunk blog links given here as well.

Brass Goggles

The Steampunk Home

The Clockwork Century

Steampod (podcasts)

Antipodean Steampunk Adventures  with an Australian slant

The Antipodean League of Temporal Voyagers

Do read the Fiction Focus blog post about Steampunk.

And guess what? From May 2010, the Centre for Youth Literature Newsletter will be going online. Yes!

 

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Filed under 21st century learning, author, blogging, Children's books, Education, Literature, networking, Teacher librarians, teachers, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

School library blog – stay in or go out?

Recently I’ve moved my school library book review blog from an internal one within the school intranet (Sharepoint) to an external WordPress one. Just today I received an email from our Computer Systems Manager:

Do you realise that by using the WordPress site, you are denying most of our students easy access to your work. Sure, a few students might check it out in the Library at lunchtime but by the time most students get home, other priorities will have come to the fore. So, why not place your blog in the public section of the College Intranet? There you will get the best of both worlds, public access and, immediate and unhindered student access.

I should explain that we are a laptop school, but that internet access has to be booked by teachers, and is otherwise accessible to students before school, at recess and at lunchtime.

It was difficult to answer this email without writing a thesis! This is the best I could do:

 In answering your email, I started thinking about the meaning of ‘Sharepoint’ – a place where the school shares resources, information, etc.  Sharepoint’s  centralised, sharing facility is a powerful way to synchronise and share resources and activity in the school.  Yes, I did realise that by transferring my fiction blog to WordPress, students wouldn’t be able to access it during class times. I made the decision to move after using Sharepoint for almost a year, and I didn’t make that decision lightly, but based on important considerations.

 Funnily enough, the sharing within Sharepoint was limiting what I wanted to achieve with the blog. Sharepoint is an excellent school-based resource, but it didn’t meet our needs entirely. Firstly, there were restrictions, such as the fact that I couldn’t link to specific posts, so that when I posted more than one post, I couldn’t link to a specific one which had been pushed down by others.  I also couldn’t embed videos. Book and film trailers are popular with students, and often lead them to reading and discussing books.

 Access during classtimes did not increase readership, and I can only estimate this through anecdotal evidence with the Sharepoint blog, because, unlike WordPress, it doesn’t provide me with valuable data on readership.  As you say, students can only access the blog during lunchtime and recess, but they wouldn’t be able to read it in class anyway, unless given permission by the teacher, or when the teacher specifically books the internet. Since the move to WordPress, I’ve actually had an increasing number of emails from staff who prefer the appearance and options within WordPress, and following from their interest, I’ve been booked into classes  to introduce the blog and talk about books.  The blog is not generally something students are reading, unless I set a challenge or competition, but teachers who realise its potential are beginning to use it as an interactive medium for students.  

 Author visits are expensive, and so I find that embedding videos of author interviews  allows students to ‘get to know’ authors as real people, people they can relate to. When I show students the blog and give them time to browse, they inevitably veer towards the videos – not surprising considering their preference for media. We do what works in encouraging students to appreciate books and authors, and we must do what works best in engaging students in learning.  When students use Web 2.0 technologies, they are also learning netiquette – an important skill considering the dominance of technology in their future lives of work.

 The sharing aspect is the most important feature of external blogs . Just as teacher librarians and librarians encourage students to join local and larger libraries, so do we strive to share our reviews and comments with students and teachers in other schools, even in other countries. Every comment received is emailed to me for moderation before it is published.  I write the fiction blog for the whole school community, and I hope to extend our community to include other schools. We benefit from this interaction, and it enriches our discussion. Currently I’m compiling a list of excellent reading blogs of interest to both staff and students, which will be added to the blog as widgets.

 The work we do with Web 2.0 technologies at Whitefriars can be shared with others, and I find this enriching. I share, and I receive tenfold if not more. The School Library Association of Victoria blog, Bright Ideas, features what schools in Victoria are doing online, and our school has a positive profile throughout the state already, through its educational projects in wikis, blogs and nings.

 There are many more reasons for our choice to go with the WordPress blog, but it’s important to note that it is based on our commitment to Web 2.0 technologies rooted in the latest pedagogy. We are not ignoring Sharepoint, we are just selecting the best application for our needs.  As with any technology, it must be rooted in best pedagogical practice. Choice of online space should also be dictated by student learning within the context of the school’s mission statement. If we educate our young men ‘to take their place in society as valued individuals’, then  learning should take place not only in the classroom, but within the context of broader society. This, then, is the most appropriate context for blogs.

 I apologize for the wordy reply, but I thought it was important to give you a detailed answer. In conclusion, let me suggest you look at the Global Teacher website where you will find lists of school library blogs (under ‘Bookrooms’), school blogs and teacher blogs.

I appreciate the opportunity to define my reasons for external blogs in education, and also to receive excellent advice from my professional network. Just as you would ask friends for advice, so I ask my Twitter network for opinions and ideas. In a short space of time, seven people offered support for the use of external blogs. One even provided me with a  link to the exact webpage where I could find my school’s mission statement! (Thanks, Marita)

Here are some of the points raised in Twitter supporting Web 2.0 applications:

  • a global audience is important
  • so students can have input from a wider audience – authors, scientists, explorers – who knows who else can assist their learning
  • develop netiquette
  • students can see their work published.
  • Can share work with parents, grandparents.
  • Can make networks.
  • Show people they can use ICT.
  • schools should have policies that have been thoughtfully crafted by all stakeholders
  • online policies should be consistent with the Vision and Mission Statements of the school

I’m really interested in hearing your views on this subject. How would you answer this email? What approach would you take? I’m wondering if my answer is too heavy-handed. What do you think?

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Filed under 21st century learning, blogging, debate, learning, network literacy, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

1000 books you must read

malcolm-mcdowell-as-alex-001

Malcolm McDowell in A clockwork orange directed by Stanely Kubrick. Photo from The Guardian.

 

 

The Guardian has created the definitive list of must-reads: 1000 novels everyone must read.

Selected by the Guardian’s Review team and a panel of expert judges, this list includes only novels – no memoirs, no short stories, no long poems – from any decade and in any language. Originally published in thematic supplements – love, crime, comedy, family and self, state of the nation, science fiction and fantasy, war and travel – they appear here for the first time in a single list.

What I like most about this massive fiction recommendation are the genre synopses which make me want to start reading right here and now and not stop until I’m finished. To give you an example, here’s what you’ll read about science fiction and fantasy:

It is sometimes assumed that science fiction, fantasy and horror must mean spaceships, elves and vampires – and indeed, you’ll find Iain M Banks, Tolkien and Bram Stoker on our list of mind-expanding reads. Yet these three genres have a tradition as venerable as the novel itself. Fiction works through metamorphosis: in every era authors explore the concerns of their times by mapping them on to invented worlds, whether they be political dystopias, fabulous kingdoms or supernatural dimensions. JG Ballard, the writer who brought SF into the mainstream, has remarked that “Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century.” Ballard’s visions of “inner space”, Orwell, Huxley and Atwood’s totalitarian nightmares, Kafka’s uneasy bureaucracies, Gibson’s cutting-edge cool – all are examples of a literature at the forefront of the collective imagination. Every truly original writer must, by definition, create a new world. Here is a whole galaxy of worlds to explore.

What follows is a truly impressive list of synopses under genre headings. Here’s an example:

Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951)

One of the first attempts to write a comprehensive “future history”, the trilogy – which also includes Foundation and Empire (1952) and Second Foundation (1953) – is Asimov’s version of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, set on a galactic scale. Hari Seldon invents the science of psychohistory with which to combat the fall into barbarianism of the Human Empire, and sets up the Foundation to foster art, science and technology. Wish-fulfilment of the highest order, the novels are a landmark in the history of science fiction.

You’ll also find Susanna Clarke’s article on Imagined worlds, including these authors – Lewis, Tolkien, Pullman, Pratchet and Le Guin. Her introduction is enough to draw me in:

The children’s author Anthony Horowitz recently pointed out that all books are doors – when we open them we expect to be somewhere else. All books are doors; and some of them are wardrobes.

Michael Moorcock reviews the best dystopias:

George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-four (1949)
Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 (1953)

Frederik Pohl & CM Kornbluth: The Space Merchants (1953)
Angus Wilson: The Old Men at the Zoo (1961)
Thomas M Disch: Camp Concentration (1968)
Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
Joanna Russ: The Female Man (1975)

Top 10 novels that predicted the future is an interesting read. Don’t hesitate, go to this website and run off and read!

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#19 Roll your own


rollyo

Originally uploaded by tsheko

Well, I’ve saved countless Rollyos belonging to other people, and I was procrastinating my own Rollyo because I couldn’t be bothered gathering websites, but finally I’ve rolled a search engine to die for (not really). My search engine is a slick little thing entitled ‘literature reviews’ (catchy, isn’t it?) and I’m not sure how anyone is going to find it. It’s a conglomerate of 14 carefully selected reviewing websites. Actually, I’m not  sure how to access the borrowed ones I spent so much time saving.

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Filed under Teacher librarians, Web 2.0