Friday, December 30, 2011

Book 26 - Where the streets had a name by Randa Abdel-Fattah - Bethlehem

We first meet Hayaat and her family at the supermarket during the short time they have to shop for groceries between curfews. They are so anxious not to get caught out after the curfew they split up and shop in certain aisles. In the mayhem that ensued for all the families in the neighbourhood they still forget to buy Hayaat a new toothbrush.

Thirteen year old Hayaat lives in Bethlehem with her family. Her older sister is about to be married to a young man who works in Lod so they will live in Ramallah. Her grandmother lives with them and does not keep good health. Her father dreams of the land they were forced off. Her whole family remembers what was while they live in the reality of what is. When her grandmother has a stroke Hayaat decides to take the risky trip to Jerusalem to get her beloved Sitti Zeynep some soil from her ancestral home.

Hayaat's best friend Sammy insists on helping her negotiate the checkpoints, curfews and travel permit ssystems. Together they manage to make their way through many dangers.

Randa Abdel-Fattah takes the reader to the world of Palestine and shows the realities of life for the people there, Palestinian and Israeli. It is a very enjoyable read and I thoroughly recommend it.

Randa Abdel-Fattah's official website

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book 25 - Cyberia Monkey see, monkey don't by Chris Lynch - Cyberia?

This is the second book in the series called Cyberia by Chris Lynch and we (IICS library) only have this one - we don't have the first book. Don't you hate it when that happens? Oh well. This is a difficult book to categorise in terms of possible audience as well. Is it a tweens book or is it Young Adult? I think it is more for tweens. Zane is a guy whose whole life is wired. He wears an anklet that connects him and his body to the technology that is part of everyone's life. He rarely sees his parents in the flesh but is connected to them through technology as well. In the first book Zane discovers a part of the world that is technology free and full of animals fleeing from the technology controlled world Zane and his friends live in. He discovers he can talk with the animals through an invention he makes himself. This makes him very attractive to the evil scientist and vet Dr Gristle. The second book begins with Zane coming to the end of a punishment period where he was isolated from the world and disconnected from all technology. He immediately discovers that Dr Gristle has made huge progress towards controilling animals. Zane's own dog has come under the evil Doctor's influence. Zane becomes determined to free them from the Doctor's manipulations.

A futuristic novel which causes the reader to think about how much we want technology to invade our lives. It is light hearted in tone and the animals bring an interesting range of characters and foils into the story line.

Chris Lynch has written book three in the series already, Cyberia; Prime Evil. Here is the Teen reads review of the first book. Kids World Review of the first two books.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

100 Librarians shout out

I have been reading this on the bus on the way home from work. It is an inspiration and certainly made the journey go so much faster. This is a FREE ebook downloadable to many devices. It has over 100 essays on so many topics including Digital and Emerging Literacies, Reading, Learners, Collaboration, the physical and virtual library.the Future...I highlighted so many passages. The contributors come from all around the world including a few brilliant kiwi librarians. It is called a crowd-sourced collection - I had to look at wikipedia to find out that
Crowdsourcing is the act of sourcing tasks traditionally performed by specific individuals to a group of people or community (crowd) through an open call. Jeff Howe established that the concept of crowdsourcing depends essentially on the fact that because it is an open call to a group of people, it gathers those who are most fit to perform tasks, solve complex problems and contribute with the most relevant and fresh ideas.

This is an inspiration and I want to thank all the contributors and Buffy Hamilton and Kristin Fontichiaro for editing the collection.

To download for free Smashwords

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book 24 - Slam by Nick Hornby - London, England

This book was not what I expected - at all. I decided I would read it for this Blog and to promote to skaters at school. The main character, sixteen year old Sam is a dedicated skater whose one hero in life is Tony Hawk. He has read Tony's biography many times and talks to the poster of Tony on his wall, imagining that Tony speaks back with sound and sage advice. Sam's divorced parents had him when they were 16 years old themselves and were forced to marry for his sake. He sometimes feels the unspoken burden of having ruined his mother's chances for success. At a business party for his mother's work Sam meets Alicia. Their relationship becomes sexual very quickly and Sam finds himself going from absolutely consumed by it to finding it very suffocating. Just as he call it off he is told by Alicia that she is pregnant. SLAM is a hard fall in skating terminology and the slam Sam experiences is so intense as he lives in the guilt of repeating his parents past mistakes. 

Sam's narration of the story is very believable. Hornby's characters are always realistic and in this his first novel for teens he strikes the right note again. There is an added twist as TH somehow transports Sam into the future. This happens a couple of times and seems to serve to reassure Sam about the events to come and give him hope that it will not be the disaster he fears. I enjoyed this novel's humour and honesty. I am not sure teenage boys will read it though. Here is Nick Hornby himself chatting about the book. Also a review by Brian Farrey for Teen Reads

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book 23 - Silverfin by Charlie Higson - Eton and Scotland

With the name Bond it is almost essential to keep up with the James Bond movies. This is, however, the first Bond book I have read (apologies to Ian Fleming). I really enjoyed the way Higson created the Young James Bond character. Many of the details of James' background were revealed and seem to me to be very credible. The adventure that he finds himself involved in is as globally impacting as the ones 007 is assigned to. The villan is suitably sinister and maniacal.

We meet Bond as he is starting school at Eton College. He is out of place and awkward but quickly learns the rules and shows he has endurance and strength. He makes an enemy of the bully George Hellebore and discovers that George's father, Lord Hellebore, has inherited the property near his Uncle's house in Scotland. As he travels to Scotland to holiday with his Aunt and Uncle he helps a young lad, Red Kelly, hide on the train. Red is going up to the area James' family lives in to try to find his cousin who has gone missing. James takes up the challenge to assist Red and together they discover that the Hellebore property holds some sinister secrets.

This is a fast moving novel which was very enjoyable. Lots of foreshadowing of the adult Bond were skilfully weaved into the plot as well. This is the first of a series following the Young Bond as he grows up during the 1930's.

Young Bond website                                      Charlie Higson's webite

Friday, November 25, 2011

Student librarians are winners

I just had to brag. Our student librarians (see post earlier this month) won the trophy for the group that raised the most money for their cause at International Day. I was in Budapest that day working with our Speech and Debate team but the boys and my colleague Samantha worked hard to create Mt Everest and then obviously had the most people pay to play their game. I am not sure how much money was won - will post on that later. So our student librarians are winners and so is Shree Mangal Dvip School for Himalayan Children library. Below is a banner showing our librarians on the left and Shree Mangal Dvip School library on the right.

Book 22 - Annexed by Sharon Dogar - Amsterdam, Netherlands

Sharon Dogar introduces us to her fictional characterisation of the real PeterVan Pels, the young man who was hiding in the annex with his mother and father and the Frank family including Anne and Margot. She convincingly portrays a young man who lives with regret, fear and frustration. On the very day his family is to go into hiding with the Franks Peter witnesses his girlfriend's family being rounded up by the Nazis and regrets not trying to save her. He reluctantly leaves the world of war and oppression for the cramped confinement of the annex. Anne is at first seen as a spoiled young girl who is used to getting her own way. Strong minded and strong willed Anne is an irritation to him. As the time progresses we see Peter come to an understanding of himself and of Anne.

This is a well written novel, definitely one for older young people who can not only appreciate the history of the time but would also understand the transformation of Peter in the extreme circumstances he finds himself.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Book 21 - The Carbon Diaries by Saci Lloyd - London, England

The diary entries of Laura Brown are not light weight or frivolous by any means. Laura is writing her diary in 2015 - the first year of the new carbon rationing in Britain. Everyone is issued with a carbon credit card and their daily use of carbon itmes (electricity, transport, food imported) is all monitored and rationed. For any teenagers the prospect of rationing use of the Internet or electricity for their rock band is daunting. Even more worrying along with the extremes weather events throughout Europe - snow blizzards in winter, drought and heat waves in the summer, her own family is facing their own extremes. Laura's older sister Kim rebels by sneaking away to Ibiza a couple of times in one month taking the whole family into carbon debt. Her father Nick, loses his job as a teacher in tourism as no one canuse their carcbon credit on travel anymore and her mother finds all the stress too much to cope with. Laura records all the events happening around her with the self obsessed focus you would expect of most teenage narrators. She has to adopt an elderly person in need, though her neighbour Arthur seems to bring with him some unusual perspectives into this situation as he remembers the rationing from post war days. 
With all the complexities of modern life, the usual ones of teenage life and global warming this novel is quite a read. Lloyd has a sequel already published - The Carbon Diaries 2017 and a film offer from the BBC.

Saci Lloyd's website has a brilliant book trailer for the diaries.
The Guardian story about the film of the The Carbon Diaries

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Book 20 - Burn my heart by Beverley Naidoo - Kenya

Matthew and Mugo - two boys who live on the same Kenyan land. Both their families see the land as their own. Mugo's grandfather left the land to fight for his country and when he returned found it had been given to Matthew's father. He left his son (Mugo's father) to work for the white family now claiming his land so he could watch over it. Matthew has no knowledge of this but Mugo knows more than it is wise to let the boss's son know. Mugo is the kitchen hand but he is often drawn into Matthew's games and adventures. The have an uneasy friendship which becomes even more comlicated as Matthew is sent off to a white boys boarding school and becomes friends with other white landowners sons. Mugo's own big brother is implicated in Mau Mau activity and both families find themselves in opposing sides of a land conflict which is growing every day.

Kenya in the 1950s saw a Mau Mau uprising, when native Kenyans tried to reclaim their land by force several decades after white settlers came and claimed the land as their own. The Mau Mau uprising was bloody and violent. Violence stemming from both the whites in power upon suspected participants as well as Kenyans turning against fellow Kenyans who did not want to participate. 12,000-20,000 Kenyans died.

Beverley Naidoo is an accomplished writer who brings great insight into African life into all her writings. This novel is no exception. It has much that will lead to great discussion for readers. The obvious theme of loyalty is explored - loyalty to friends, loyalty to family, loyalty to your own people.

The cover art is well done. I like how the front cover shows a face and the head lookslike a heart. Below is the full jacket with the other side of the friendship shown.
 Beverley Naidoo's website with details of the book
The Guardian's review.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Community and Service - serving the toughest community.....

This week we started our Student Librarian programme again. We have run the programme every year I have been at IICS and it has experienced revision and improvement every year. This year we have a more strucured approach to the link between Student Librarianship and our Community and Service programme. All our students involved in Community and Service must complete their journals on managebac. Also they have to represent a country at our International Day and raise money for a project within that country - more on that later.

Let me introduce you to our library team. Our 8 enthusiastic young men from grades 7 - 9 are running the library four out of five lunchtimes a week. Each lunchtime sees them in a team of four completing four distinct roles - the desk, shelving, displays and team leader/patron assistance. The roles change everytime they are on duty so everyone gets to work in all four roles throughout the weeks. Some students have volunteered one lunchtime a week others three - depending on other commitments they have. Our first training session was after school last Wednesday. The students discussed how their contribution to the library team will help our school out work its mission statement. What qualities in the IB learner profile are strengthened and developed by being on the library team. The students' answers were amazing. These are thoughtful, intelligent students who see how they make a difference in our school.

Our team has chosen Nepal for International Day. We are raising funds to buy library books for Shree Mangal Dvip School for Himalayan Children, through With our team of students, who are all non-native English speaking boys, we hope to raise the English and literacy levels of the boys at SMD (whose literacy rate is quite lower than the girls') by purchasing books that might appeal to boys. There is a wishlist on Amazon, containing many books requested by the boys. We will also purchase those books of the highest desire on the wishlist, regardless of gender interest. Quite an exciting link. The boys are creating a game that people attending International Day will pay to play. Let's hope they raise lots of money for this school library.

I admire these young men - they are serving the toughest community, their own peers, and doing it with great enthusiasm.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The wonderful sound of your own stories....

Last Wednesday our primary school children had a story time - all at the same time - but with different languages being used to tell and read the stories. We had English, Turkish, German, Korean. Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Japanese, Hebrew, French.... some groups were very large (split into upper and lower primary) and others were a select few. Our readers and storytellers were teachers, parents and students. In some groups the older sibling was reading to her younger siblings. We used story books and the International Children's Digital Library to provide story books when we didn't have that language represented. There was great excitment as the children gathered in the various rooms. It was wonderful to hear the chat and the enjoyment. We hope to run this again in February during our love reading week. Thank you to all my colleagues at IICS and the students who took part.

Why do this? There is a lot of research as to how the students' home lnaguages are important to the acquiring of a second language. In our school the language of tuition is English. For some of our students the only time they speak, listen, read or write in English is at school. There is evidence to suggest that free voluntary reading of the home language supports development of the second or third or fourth languages of the student. A paper was presented at the 'Hands on Literacy Conference' in Singapore in 2008 by Jan Stipek investigating the value of free voluntary reading. It is well worth the read. I hope when we run the event in February we will have free voluntary reading for the Mirddle School children at the same time. They will be encouraged to bring any reading material in a language the use in their homes. Let's see where all of this leads.

This explains my passion for libraries.....

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Book 19 - Peak by Roland Smith - Tibet and Nepal

When Peak Marcello, a fourteen year old, is caught and prosecuted for scaling New York skyscrapers, his father suddenly reappears in his life and whisks him away from the publicity to his climbing operation at Mt Everest. Peak hasn't seen or heard much from his father in 7 years and their estrangement continues as his father, Josh, has to cater to his clients, wealthy mountaineers who have paid him to help them summit Everest. Peak joins the group as his father sees an opportunity to ensure his business gets publicity in getting his son to be the youngets person ever to make it to the summit. Peak rises to the challenge and in doing so comes to some new understandings about himself, his father and the sherpa people who give their lives assisting the foreign climbers.

Peak is the narrator of this story but he shares the limelight with Sun-jo, the grandson of his father's close friend a monk called Zopa. Many things can be learned from the world's highest mountain it seems. I think the book's last sentences are a good summary without being a give away of the plot."The only thing you'll find on the summit of Mount Everest is a divine view. The things that really matter lie far below." I enjoyed this book and can thoroughly recommend it.

Roland Smith's website and a Teen Ink review by Elliot K of Colarado Springs also catch the book trailer below....

Friday, October 21, 2011

Readicide while on librarian training...

Is it a terrible thing to not only be reading this book while on IBO Librarian training but also to recommend it to other librarians at the same time?

Kelly Gallagher is a classroom teacher in Anaheim, California. He teaches English and reflects about his students' progress as readers, as learners and as thinkers. Not surprisingly he finds that many factors that are turning students off reading are able to be changed by teachers and schools. He ideas are practical and support by excellent research.

I agree with everything I read. I would love to introduce the article of the week idea he writes about in chapter two. I am challenged by the idea of creating relevant summer reading programmes. As a former teacher of English,  I also recognise the need to frame the challenging literature our students are invited to read to encourage them to engage with it fully.

I have one question though - why does Kelly Gallagher not enlist the assistance of the school librarian? It seems to me that the most amazing resource Gallagher had at his disposal was his school library. He does mention checking out a book from the library. He then boasts that his classroom library has thousands of books - how redundant. He seems totally unaware of the value of the school library and the skills of a school librarian - story divas (the subject of a future post). This is a real indictment not of Kelly Gallagher but of my profession. We often work so quietly in the background we are overlooked. I think we need to ensure that all our teaching colleagues know the value we can add to their programmes. We can help reverse readicide in our school. We need to be loud and clear and specific in the contribution we make.

This book challenges me as a school librarian. It challenges me to create meaningful collaboration with my teaching colleagues to ensure our school is not engaged in readicide.

This is an important book for teachers and librarians to read and talk about.

For other interviews with Kelly Gallagher
The tempered radical which states that this book raises issues for the whole community.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book 18 - Schooled by Gordan Korman - somewhere in the USA

This book is so funny I laughed out loud sometimes. The Rap Book Report above tells you the story so I won't re tell it here. Gordan Korman is an amazing Young People's writer - his books are light hearted yet make a significant point. At the moment we have this novel in the PYP section - I think I will shift it to Young Adult. It is about grade 8 students and manipulation. Might be too subtle inplaces for our younger readers.

Gordan Korman's website and a reviewer has banned this book in her house - find out why

Monday, October 10, 2011

Books 17 - Sudden Impact by Lesley Choyce and See No Evil by Diane Young - Canada

Both of these books have been published by Orca Book Publishers based in Victoria, BC, Canada. They are part of the  Orca Currents series which are short high-interest novels with contemporary themes, written expressly for middle-school students reading below grade level. We bought 12 titles to add to our 'Quick Reads' in the Young Adult Fiction section of our library.

Sudden Impact addresses the issue of organ donation through the illness of Tina's best friend Kurt. The characters are credible as is the situation they face. The novel has great pace and is very readable. It was a 'Quick Read' for me and I am sure many of our students who are learning English or who struggle to get into books will enjoy this story.

See No Evil is about Shawn and his friend Daniel who witness a person being badly beaten behind the mall. They both know who is responsible for the attack but are too fearful to say anything to the Police. The story is again very credible and fast paced. Shawn is also trying to care for his younger brother as their father works and their mother no longer lives in the same city as them. Another worthwhile read I will be recommending to our students.

We will be selecting more titles from this series for our orders this year.

Sudden Impact on Orca books' website and reviewed at Teen Link reviews by Jenna F

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Book 16 - The Sniper by James Riordan - Stalingrad, USSR

The snipers of Stalingrad were legends in their time. During the German assault on this city the snipers were tasked with the most difficult tasks. Capturing or killing enemy officers was their number one priority. They were known as the bravest of the brave. 

This book follows the lives of a group of young people who were in school one week and plunged into battle the next. The main character is Tania. As oneof the older students she is forced into the anti-aircraft gunners and her first experience of combat is the four days and nights of shooting down German bombers over her city. She returns home exhausted to find her house empty and signs that her family has fled the city. Determined to help her country as a nurse Tania sets off to find the place where she can volunteer. Instead she is sent off on a dangerous mission to deliver a message to her father's commanding officer. Her success in completing this task brings her to the attention of the recruiter for the sniper team and suddenly she finds herself in training along with other young men and women. 

I liked the way James Riordan shows us Tania's transition from an innocent, naive, school girl to a battle hardened sniper. She makes some serious mistakes and Riordan in no way sugar coats the consequences of sending inexperienced young people into the war zone.

 This story is based on actual events. James Riordan has visited Stalingrad many times, having studies Russian in Birmingham and Moscow. In 2006 he actually met Tania Chernova, known as the sniper of Stalingrad. Tania was awarded the Red Star for bravery due to her courage as a sniper during the seige. Riordan based his character of Tania on her life. 

Read some of the book here on Google Books

Friday, October 7, 2011

More signs and wonders

Pictured to the left are our newest idea for library signs - we call them "danglers". We have chosen the nonfiction books our children ask for most often and have found an appropriate picture to represent each one. We have these images laminated and then use the laminated strips left over to attach them to the shelves. It creates a great 3D effect and at the same time helps our pre literate students find the kinds of books they like to read with their families. 

As we hear more requests we add them to our list of danglers to create - so far the production list includes books about cars and space. Even our older students and staff like them.

We also have added two new graphic novel bins to the Primary Nonfiction area. We have kept our graphic novels at Dewey 741.5 but put them in these bins. The books are then face out and the students can flip through them to make their selections. The first bion pictured is one of the primary ones and the second one is the MYP/DP bin. As you can see we may need a new bin for the secondary school graphic novels very soon.

The result of these signs and wonders - more books are being borrowed from these sections.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Book 15 - War is boring by David Axe and Matt Bors - Iraq, Lebanon, Washington DC, East Timor, Afghanistan, Somalia, Detroit, Chad

This graphic novel follows the war correspondent David Axe as he recounts to his driver in Chad his various experiences in the world's war zones. He reflects on the fact that often in these situations he simply waiting for 'something' to happen and then when it does he has to be in the right place at the right time. When he does venture back to the safety and peace of his native USA it is not long before he realises that  "As boring as war can be... peace is much worse." Also David hates being called a 'war correspondent'. The reader is taken into the dangerous war zones of the world following David as he writes about his experiences. The language and pictures reflect the realities of the war zones he visits. David sees himself as a war tourist and writes his observations on the web comic "War is boring" - see link below. We can see how his experiences have turned him into a journalist who is trying hard to bring the injustices of war to the world's attention.

I am not a great reader of graphic novels but this one certainly arrested my attention. Definitely for older students due to the use of profane language and some of the content.

David Axe has a blog called 'War is boring'

Interview with David Axe by his some times editor, Noah Shachtman - warning language may offend.

Reviewed by Powell's Books review a day

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Book 14 - Veronika decides to die by Paul Coelho - Slovenia

I am pleased that we have placed this stunning novel in the adult fiction of our K-12 library. As its title suggests it is about a young woman who decides to commit suicide. Veronika has a very ordinary life, one without the depths and heights of any emotion and it is in this blandness that she decides to take her own life. Despite this attempt she actually wakes up in a hospital, a mental hospital, and she is told she has done such irreparable damage to her heart that she only has a few days left to live. Suddenly her whole attitude changes from resignation to inevitable death to making the most of any moment she has left. The other patients in the hospital also have an effect on Veronika's beliefs about what is normal, what is happiness. The book ends on a very hopeful note. I am always a little cautious about having books about suicide in a collection for Young people but this book is worthy the discussion it will create as people read it.

Paul Coelho is the author of many best selling books. This interveiw with the Telegraph newspaper provides some interesting insights into the writer's life and his spiritual journey.

For a review of 'Veronika decides to die' see the blog Book reviews by Bookovers for booklovers

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Signs and wonders in the library part 2

This morning we took delivery of six large house plants. My colleague Robyn went out shopping with the school gardener on Monday and they selected the plants. Here in Turkey house plants can be expensive, especially ones of any size. Why are we adding plants to the library? We want to improve the environment and make the library more welcoming and comfortable.

According to the House of Plants website having house plants in the room leads to

  • Improved concentration levels leading to improved productivity particularly with those working with computers

  • Faster recovery from mental tiredness

  • Interiors feel spacious, looked after and clean

  • People prefer to occupy rooms that contain plants

  •  Already we have had many students commenting about how lovely the plants are. So these plants would fall into the "wonders" category.

    I did say a few weeks ago I would report on the impact the new, big and beautiful library signs had on the library. Our students like these very much. Some of the comments we have had include "Now this feels like a real library", "Everyone can see where things are". We have also noticed a purposeful atmosphere when our students are in here - with their teachers and when they are working unsupervised. Below you can see the contrast between the old sign and the new one.

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    Book 13 - Mahtab's Story by Libby Gleeson - Afghanistan to Australia

    After her father is severly beaten and her grandfather disappears forever Mahtab's family must leave their home in Herat, Afghanistan and endure a harsh journey over the mountain passes into Pakistan. There her father makes the only decision he can - to go on ahead of his family all the way to Australia. Mahtab's best friend Leila went to Iran with her family but Mahtab's father knows an Australian man and he has decided to embark on the risky journey to the other side of the world so his family can know freedom and peace.

    Mahtab tells the story of their family's journey from Pakistan to Indonesia then on a small boat to Australia. They do not know if her father is still alive or even if he is in Australia. Once in the land they dream will be their safe haven Mahtab finds the Refugee Holding Centre to be like a prison and despite their new friend Catherine who is helping her learn English she falls into a dark pit of depression. A realistic portrayl of the fears and hopes of refugees - this story ends on a very hpeful and triumphant note.

    Inspired by the true stories of young women in year 11 at Holroyd High School western Sydney, Libby Gleeson wanted write a novel showing the escape from persecution in a homeland to a new lifestyle in Australia.

    Here is Libby Gleeson speaking about her book and what inspired her.

    Libby Gleeson's website

    Book 12 - Neil Armstrong is my uncle and other lies Muscle Man McGinty told me by Nan Marino - Long Island, New York, USA

    "Muscle Man McGinty is a squirrelly runt, a lying snake and a pitiful excuse for a ten-year-old. The problem is that no one on Ramble Street knows it, but me." Tamara Simpson begins this saga from the summer of 1969 - incredulous that no one else in her neighbourhood sees this new comer for the lying scondrel he is. It is true as we read further into the story Muscle Man McGinty we see that this child has a predilction for exaggeration unlike anything you have seen before. He is training for the Olympics, Neil Armstrong is his Uncle but when he challenges the whole street to a game of kick ball bragging he can beat them single handed Tamara senses all will soon be put to rights.

    Set against the backdrop of the historic moon walk Nan Marino explores what makes lasting memories and impressions on us. Tamara's best friend Kebsie has disappeared with no forwarding address. Her brother is away at College but there is still the underlying conflict between him and their father lingering in the home. There is something unusual about the way everyone is treating Muscle Man McGinty but Tamara is the last one to understand it - she is too caught up in her hatred of this usurper of her friend Kebsie. Tamara makes an interesting narrator - someone who always seems to be attracting trouble and totally unaware of the feelings of others because she is lost in her own feelings of emptiness at the loss of her friend. A quick read that has real depth.

    Nan Marino's website

    Saturday, September 24, 2011

    Book 11 - The death defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCraughrean - France

    I admire Geraldine McCraughrean - she is an amazing writer. I have read a few of her books and every one of them is different to the others. In this novel she masters the art of the French farce. A farce is a light dramatic work in which highly improbable plot situations, exaggerated characters, and often slapstick elements are used for humorous effect. In this farce she introduces the character of Pepper Roux - we meet him on the day of his fourteenth birthday which has alos been prophesied as the day of his death. His Aunt made this alarming prediction when he ws born and since then she had made it her mission to prepare Pepper for this inevitable end.

    However, Pepper makes the courageous decision to leap away from the boundaries of his home and the prophecy and try to out run the long arm of death. Thus begins his adventures. He takes on different identities all in the attempt to trick the angels that he is not Pepper Roux and therefore should not die. He becomes a ships captain, a shop assitant, a journalist, a horse musterer... and so on. With each twist and turn in this plot we see a young man who is determined to live life to the fullest. This is such an outrageous story executed at such a fast pace that the reader easily suspends disbelief to accompany Pepper in his adventures. I think this would make a great clas realoud.

    The Guardian review goes into much more detail.
    This book has a website with interviews with Geraldine McCraughrean and the news it has been shortlisted for the 2011 Cilip Carnegie Medal - a worthy contestant indeed.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Book 10 - City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende - The Amazon, Brazil

    It is interesting how different these three covers are - all three give a different feel for the story within.  This is the story of fifteen year old Alex who is sent to stay with his Grandmother while his mother is undergoing treatment for cancer. Alex's Grandmother is not your usual grandparent. She is a writer for International Geographic and prefers that Alex call her Kate. What she lacks in the expected care and concern from a grandmother she more than makes up for in adventure and teaching Alex independence and self reliance. She takes him with her on expedition to Brazil, to track a yeti-like creature reported to inhabit remote portions of the Amazonian jungle. Alex and Kate become part of a group of journalists, an anthropologist, a doctor who is trying to save the natives from western diseases, a guide and his twelve year old daughter Nadia (pictured on the cover on the right). Nadia and Alex become close friends and through a series of dramatic events they get kidnapped by a local tribe and come face to face with the terrifying yeti creatures. Throughout the entire adventure Alex changes from a mollycoddled child to a young man who oversomes his fears, prejudices and dislike of most foods on offer in the jungle.

    This novel has had mixed reviews. I enjoyed the mix of adventure and magic but must admit that some characters are stereotypes - the anthropologist in particular and the people trying to exploit the resources found in the Amazon. I am not sure how students will receive this book - I have suggested it as a resource for a grade 6 unit of Inquiry on Anthropology. It would make for interesting discussion.

    For a positive review read Teenreads point of view

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Book to movie movie to book

    From my Wordpress Blog April this year.

    My colleague Robyn and I just had the fun experience of walking into a book and DVD shop and spending 2300TL on DVD’s. It took about two hours of careful selection but we managed to find a wide range of titles for our k – 12 school. Our school PTA had worked very hard on a Scholastic Book Fair to raise the money. So did I feel any guilt about taking money raised in a Book Fair and spending it on movies? No guilt – none whatsoever.
    Many of the movies we purchased were of the books we have in the library. I have noticed over the years that there is indeed a desire to see a movie that is of a book that someone has read but it also goes the other way. Some students having seen the movie then seek out the book or books that the movie is based on.

    Working in an International School also means that the library provides resources for families as well as teachers and students. I have heard many times our students say as they are selecting DVD’s that what they choose will be used for a family night that week.

    I am very pleased with our purchases and I know our IICS families will continue to enjoy movies and books we provide. Actually – when I said I felt no guilt that wasn’t 100% true. I was surprised about how much I enjoyed spending that amount of money.

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Changing the World - through research skills - Taylor Mali poem

    Saw this today and had to share it. This Tuesday our ICT committee will be talking about literacies - I did have two brilliant articles to share with them but I think this poem is much better. It is by Taylor Mali a New York-based slam poet and teacher’s advocate who often writes poems about his students and the nobility of teaching. Thanks to the blog The Pursuit of Harpyness for sharing it with the world.

    I’m writing the poem that will change the world,
    and it’s Lilly Wilson at my office door.
    Lilly Wilson, the recovering like addict,
    the worst I’ve ever seen.
    So, like, bad the whole eighth grade
    started calling her Like Lilly Like Wilson Like.
    Until I declared my classroom a Like-Free Zone,
    and she could not speak for days.

    But when she finally did, it was to say,
    Mr. Mali, this is . . . so hard.
    Now I have to think before I . . . say anything.

    Imagine that, Lilly.

    It’s for your own good.
    Even if you don’t like . . .

    I’m writing the poem that will change the world,
    and it’s Lilly Wilson at my office door.
    Lilly is writing a research paper for me
    about how homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed
    to adopt children.
    I’m writing the poem that will change the world,
    and it’s Like Lilly Like Wilson at my office door.

    She’s having trouble finding sources,
    which is to say, ones that back her up.
    They all argue in favor of what I thought I was against.

    And it took four years of college,
    three years of graduate school,
    and every incidental teaching experience I have ever had
    to let out only,

    Well, that’s a real interesting problem, Lilly.
    But what do you propose to do about it?
    That’s what I want to know.

    And the eighth-grade mind is a beautiful thing;
    Like a new-born baby’s face, you can often see it
    change before your very eyes.

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, Mr. Mali,
    but I think I’d like to switch sides.

    And I want to tell her to do more than just believe it,
    but to enjoy it!
    That changing your mind is one of the best ways
    of finding out whether or not you still have one.
    Or even that minds are like parachutes,
    that it doesn’t matter what you pack
    them with so long as they open
    at the right time.
    O God, Lilly, I want to say
    you make me feel like a teacher,
    and who could ask to feel more than that?
    I want to say all this but manage only,
    Lilly, I am like so impressed with you!

    So I finally taught somebody something,
    namely, how to change her mind.
    And learned in the process that if I ever change the world
    it’s going to be one eighth grader at a time.

    Take a look at Taylor Mali's website - amazing poetry

    Sunday, August 28, 2011

    Book 9 - Romeo's Ex by Lisa Fiedler - Verona, Italy

    I love Shakespeare's plays. I love the comedies, the histories and the tragedies and Romeo and Juliet is one of my favourite plays. I also really enjoy fictional adaptations of Shakespearean plays. Lisa Fiedler has taken the minor character of Rosaline and made her into a complex, intelligent and beautiful young woman. No wonder Romeo was infatuated with her. Obviously the story relates to the days surrounding the Capulet ball and Romeo and Juliet's marriage and tragedy. Fiedler takes the story and tells it from several points of view - Rosaline, Benvolio, Tybalt, Mercutio and even Romeo tell their parts of the story as the tragic events unfold. Rosaline has an interest and some skill in the art of healing which makes her role in the conflict one of guardian and protector. Despite her best efforts and those of her newly found allie Benvolio they cannot prevent the tragedy from taking place - though I do enjoy the twist and turns Fiedler adds to the story, even at the end. Shakespeare's script is included in italics, though attributed to other people. I think any one reading the play, Romeo and Juliet, would enjoy and benefit from reading this book as well.

    To read a little of the story in preview - try the look inside from Amazon

    Here is a more detailed review from Davd Bisson

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Signs and wonders in IICS library

    This week the new signs were installed in our library. After attending an IB MYP librarians' workshop I came back determined to improve our library signs. We began researching about library signs and then consulted with our school marketing department. What did we want? Bilingual English and Turkish language signs to show students and teachers where different parts of our collection could be found. They had to be clear, easy to read and complement the existing signs in the school. We read many articles on signs in libraries - all pointing out that first impressions really count. Signs to me are different to displays and posters. We will create some guidelines about displays and posters in the library this year. Importantly the IBO nature of this school should be reflected in what is seen in the library. The Learner Attributes need to be on display. We will be working on displays more throughout this year - more blogs to come. Some great websites showing school library displays are school library displays by Elaine Pearson and creative library displays

     So our old signs are on the way out. They were small and very hard to notice and read. We often were directing people to the parts of the collection they were looking for. This made them more dependent on us. The new signs are big and beautiful as you can see. So far only staff have seen them but the comments have been very favourable. In two weeks time I'll let you know what the students say.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Book 8 - Hunter by Joy Cowley - New Zealand

    A classic survival story with a interesting time shift twist. Joy Cowley sets her story in the remote area of Fiordland in the South Island. The first character we meet is a 15 year old slave called Hunter in the year 1805. He is a gifted tracker and hunter but because his tribe was conquered he was enslaved. He is taking a hunting party to find a Moa - a large, now extict flightlass bird. We then also meet 14 year old Jordan and her two younger brothers who are flying back to their family in the year 2005. Their plane crash lands in the same Fiord that Hunter was in and Jordan struggles to help her brothers survive in the treacherous conditions. Somehow Hunter senses Jordan's needs through time and somehow she intuitively hears follows his guidance to shelter in a cave, ways to find food and how to care for her seriously injured brother.

    Interesting links between the two times and the desperate need of Hunter and Jordan to escape their circumstances to survive.

    See great student reviews from Aquinas College

    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    Book 7 The thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell - Japan

    OK this is older young adult fiction (if that is possible) shall we say adult fiction? I do think students in their late teens will enjoy this book and they would also get great value from David Mitchell's essay about historic fiction as a genre at the back of the book.

    To describe this book as an eighteenth century love story is too limiting. It takes place in Edo-era Japan. The Dutch East India Company is stationed on the 120 metre-long artificial island . Theirs is the most significant contact Japan has had with the outside world since Portuguese missionaries were expelled. Dutch trade on the island is now the one opening Japan has to the outside world – a tiny valve for the exchange of goods and ideas.
    Jacob de Zoet arrives on the island charged with cleaning up the accounts of an operation riddled with corruption. He is a man of integrity whose dedication to his role causes others around him to distrust and resent him. He meets a beautiful but scarred Japanese midwife who has been granted some limited contact with European medicine, Jacob finds himself in love but his affection is forbidden by tradition, culture, politics and law.
    This unlikely and ill fated love story becomes more complicated against a back drop of Japanese political manipulation and the English navy advancing upon Japan. Mitchell also explores the idea of language acquisition, translation and interpretation. Cross cultural relationships in business, education and diplomacy between the Dutch and Japanese and later the Dutch and the English create dramatic storylines as well.
    This is another book with its own website - with all the added extras - take a look.

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Book 6 - Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys - Siberia

    It sounds awful to say that I really enjoyed this book especially when you learn that it is about the sadness and horror of a family from Lithuania being sent to Siberia in the 1941 Stalinist purge that happened in the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. It was a brutal, inhumane suppression of people. The narrator is the main character, Lina, a fifteen year old girl who has been nutured in a home that encourages her artistic talent and intelligence. Lina is such a realistic character, coping with the conflicting emotions and confusions that came with  being a victim of this regime. I also loved Lina's mother's determination to try to be positive and not let her circumstances rob her or her children of their dignity. Strength pf character is personified in this character.

    Not surprisingly this is a New York times best seller - it has its own website where you can read excerpts and read how Ruta Sepetys was inspired to write this account of people lost in a silent war.

    Take a look at this great review on yareads from Christine.

    This book and its characters will stay long in my memory.

    Saturday, July 2, 2011

    SLANZA conference - everybody getting there

    This morning I leave for my Summer vacation in New Zealand's winter. I am heading home to the other world I mentioned in my profile. While I am there I will be attending the SLANZA (School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) conference. One of the key note speakers is Joyce Valenza. I love these conferences - librarians are are people who are so generous in sharing their ideas and expertise.

    I am still a SLANZA member. I appreciate this association and all that it does for shool libraries and librarians. Networking is vital for our profession and I really value my colleagues in NZ and throughout the world. It reminds me of the quote

    Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there. ~Virginia Burden

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    Book 5 - Sunrise over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers - Iraq

    I don't usually read "war" stories but I am challenging myself to read more Young Adult novels so I thought I would increase the challenge by reading books from a variety of genres.

    This book is no glorification of war or of the American way. It offers some very realistic views of what was happening for some of the young people fighting in Iraq. The story follows Robin "Birdy" Perry - a new recruit from New York's Harlem. He is not too sure why he enlisted but finds himself in a special unit called "Civilian Affairs". This unit is supposed to make friends among the locals and show the humane face of the US army. He faces the paradox of this assignment from the minute he arrives in Iraq.

    Walter Dean Myers allows the voices of his Iraqi characters to raise the questions about this war. One leader says "Do you think that the people who have lived together for more years than your country has been in existence suddenly find it impossible? That the hatred has grown so quickly between Sunnis and Shiites that we must shoot and bomb each other? No, my friend." Another points out that by removing Saddam Hussein you just create more confusion "When you kill a camel it is better to cut off the body than the head," the old man said. "If you cut off the head then the camel doesn't know who he is." This book shows real stress in the motivation for the war and the execution of it. This is not a new war it is just another on top of the many wars already taking place in the land.

    Birdy faces the fear, the anger, the grief and the confusion of  war with his unit. This is a compelling read.

    For a look inside the book - Amazon
    For a more in depth review - Teen Reads
    For a student's review try this one from Jack posted in 2009

    Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    Book 4 - Bound by Donna Jo Napoli - China, Ming Dynasty

    Xing Xing is a young woman, an orphan, someone who is really no one. Her father believed in educating his daughters, he refused to have her feet bound, yet his untimely death left her caught in a society which sees these two liberties as huge impediments to the most important thing a young woman can do - get married. Xing Xing's step mother is determined to see her own daughter, Wei Ping, married off and so has bound her feet. Xing Xing must complete the work of both girls as her step sister is in so much pain she cannot walk. Yet we see that this amazing person has no anger or jealousy against her sister or step mother. Her spirit is gentle and loving. Xing Xing is a very memorable character who may be bound to a life of sevitude, bound to be alone and unmarried yet her spirit certainly is unincumbered.

    "Xing Xing squatted by the water, silent and unmoving. Her stillness was a prayer"

    I really enjoyed the poetry of Napoli's writing. This is a true Cinderella tale with the extremes of self interest and unselfish loving shown fully. Napoli not only draws very vivid characters but also shows the culture of the Chinese Ming Dynasty.

    To look inside - Amazon and for a more detailed book review try TeenReads

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Book 3 - The life and times of The Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson - Des Moines, Iowa, USA

    I was looking for some light relief after eathquakes and death of a sibling and this books was billed as "Bryson at his best:laugh out loud" by the Observer. I did laugh out loud a few times I must admit. Bill Bryson recounts episodes from his childhood and at the same time comments on life growing up in Iowa, USA in the 1950's.

    "Happily, we were indestructible. We didn't need seat belts, airbags, smoke detectors, bottled water or the Heimlech manoeuvre...We didn't need helmets when we rode our bikes or pads for our knees and elbows when we went skating."

    While it is very entertaining in places I fear it will not have huge appeal for teenagers as some of the social commentary is very detailed. The whole idea of this challenge is to find books that my secondary students will enjoy reading.  Where it could be useful is in encouraging students to write memoir. Bill certainly shows us that ordinary life is very entertaining when the stories of childhood are told well and in some cases slightly exaggerated. Bill's mother for example "...would like the record to show... that she is nothing like as bad a cook as her feckless son persists in portraying her in his books." As the final chapter shows sometimes good writing means not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

    To look inside the book - Amazon and for a review try the New York Times.

    Ebook readers’ bill of rights

    I love the Quentin Blake poster of the ‘Rights of the Reader’ – he illustrated a book by the same name written by Daniel Pennac. Now Andy Woodworth and Sarah Houghton-Jan have created the ‘Ebook readers’ bill of rights.

    Every eBook user should have the following rights:

    * the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
    * the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
    * the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
    * the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

    I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

    I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Book 2 - Finn's Going by Tom Kelly - England

    Danny or Finn? That is what the identical twin boys were asked constantly at school. That is what I was left asking at the end of this story. It seems to be told by 10 year old Danny as he is running away from home. Six weeks earlier his twin brother Finn died and the whole family has disintegrated under the weight of their grief. Nothing is the same any more. Danny is leaving so he won't remind his family of their loss any more and to try and cope with his own grief and guilt about his brother's death. His journey takes him back to an island the family visited once on holiday.

    This is a first book for Tom Kelly and I like the first person narrative style with lists, chapter headings and use of fonts to illustrate meanings. A book about grieving loss is very intense reading but the final chapters bring realistic resolution to the stroy even though I still cannot work out Danny or Finn. Perhaps that is the way it always is with twins.

    Take a closer look at Finn's Going with Amazon.

    MORE summer reading

    I wonder what IICS could do with our summer reading programme next year? Good on Sprauge School teachers - they seem to have some other reading promotions onYoutube as well. Love the tee-shirts.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    No better time to be a librarian

    ISTE conference next week - amazing, hope everyoen who attends comes away revitalised.

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Book 1 - Gardens of Water by Alan Drew - Istanbul, Turkey

    This is a very intense and rewarding read. Alan Drew creates such a realistic picture of how two families cope in the aftermath of the Marmara Earthquake. Sinan is a Kurd who fled his beloved village in the south east to try to find work and a safe haven for his family, wife Nulifer and daughter Irem and son Ismail. We meet them as the family is about to celebrate Ismail's circumcision ceremony. They have the dilemma about whether to invite their neighbours - an American family Marcus, Susan and their son Dylan. The cultural divide is obvious and is even more intense for Sinan as he blames the American's for his father's murder. As the story unfolds we see that Dylan and Irem already have a friendship developing. Irem is flattered by the attentions of this American boy and is painfully aware of the privileged position her younger brother has in her parents' affections. Then the earthquake hits and everything cahnges for both families. Susan and Ismail are buried beneath the rubble and it is her sacrrifice for Ismail that immediately brings both families together and sets them against each other at the same time.

    The themes in the novel are so well explored. Alan Drew skillfully explores the issues of faith, family and traditions. His characters are honestly portrayed. I recommend this novel to high school students.

    For other reviews of this novel try The Book Reporter or Amazon
    Also Alan Drew has his own website for the novel - Gardens of Water

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    Read around the world in 80 books

    Trying to get back to regular blogging so I am combining that goal with my goal to read more Young Adult fiction. I am starting with a book set here in Turkey Gardens of Water a first novel for Alan Drew. He was a teacher here in Istanbul at Uskudar American Academy. Alan witnessed the aftermath of the Marmara earthquake (1999) and the devastation it brought to so many. His novel involves two families living on the outskirts of Istanbul. I have jsut started it - so I'll keep you posted.

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011

    Come to Istanbul

    ECIS triennial conference for librarians will be in Istanbul this May. Guest speakers will be Doug Johnson and Joyce Valenza - two inspirational, generous, leaders in the field of school librarianship. Come and join us at the crossroads. I'll be there.

    Sunday, February 20, 2011

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Story telling goes 'viral'

    Last week we had story teller Alec Williams visit our Marmara campus. He told stories all day to almost all our stduents from preschool through to grades 9 and 10. Each session the stories we so well taylored for his audience - interactive stories for the littlies - ghost stories and riddles for the tweens and urban myths for the teenagers. At each session he challenged the students to go and retell some of the stories they had heard.

    The next day as students arrived in the library I asked if they had told stories - more that half had and delighted in telling me the details - variations they had made (translating into home languages, using props, paper) and that the people they told also had their own stories to tell.

    Lesson learned - never under estimate the power of story.

    Alec Williams you are invited back to our school any time.

    Friday, January 28, 2011

    Blogging on the bus...

    I have a forty-five minute service bus ride to school each morning and a one - one and a half - two - two and a half hour ride home depending on traffic on the TEM motorway system. I live in the centre of Istanbul - Cihangir and I work on the outskirts of the city beyond the suburb called Hadimkoy. My IICS colleagues and I share this trip every day. We have become very good at looking out for signs of a traffic jam - the simit seller, the water seller, the mobile phone recharger seller - we have seen drums, flowers, bananas and even disco balls sold. The men selling these things stand in the middle of the crawling traffic. The thing is they must actually make some money - why else be there? They also must be very good at judging where and when to hit the stalled commuters. They meet a need at the time of the need.

    I need to learn some lessons from them. They appear when the traffic slows and gets stuck. I need to be available to my students when this happens to them. I do believe that the best learning happens at the point of need. The trick is for me to get good at judging when the traffic flow is slowing and to make the most of the opportunity of a 'teachable moment'.