Monday, December 10, 2012

Wondering at work....

Last week we had our first question on our new wonder door - "What makes things glow in the dark?" This question came from wonderopolis and if you register with them they will send to your email a wonder each day. So here are some pictures of the wonder wall at work....

As the week went on not only did we get more post it notes on our door but also many people were stopping and commenting on the ideas. Our students liked it so much that one of the grade 10 boys asked if he could set this week's wonder questions which is - "What makes the world go round?" 

This is one step we have taken to be an Inquiry Library after Kath Murdoch's workshop. More will follow....

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wondering at work...

What does an Inquiry Library look like?
Make one of the glass doors dark with foreboding.....
Add a little something to the darkened door....
Slowly, slowly peel back the layers. Ask people - what do you think this is about?
Finally on Friday afternoon - leave them with this question.
What will be coming next? Is this what an Inquiry Library looks like? Well it is a start.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wondering at work...

After our day with Kath Murdoch on Monday, my colleagues - Serife and Pla and I spent an hour dreaming about these question - how can we make our library an Inquiry Library? If our colleagues are Inquiry Teachers how can we be Inquiry Librarians? We thought of lots of great ideas and many of them you will see through this blog.

For some of our inspiration we will using wonderopolis

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lose a weekend, gain renewed passion

I just spent my whole weekend at a workshop. Friday night arrived and I was tired. Construction work in Taksim had added a few hours to my usual long hours of weekly commutes. I was holding off a cold. I had a week of extra school meetings. The days are getting shorter and.... well I think you get the picture. So the prospect of spending my whole weekend in a seminar room in a hotel was not very appealing. Then Saturday morning I was challenged to rethink my entire professional practice.

Kath Murdoch is a leading light in the area of learning by inquiry. Right from the start she invited us to think of ourselves as inquirers. I started to wonder how to be an inquiry teacher and then more than that how can I be an inquiry librarian? I would love to have inquiry at the heart of everything I do. How can I invite more student voice? How can I change what I do in the library to invite more student discovery? What thinking routines should I include to enable my students to grow as thinkers and inquirers? 

Slide showing some great questions
Two kiwi librarians learning together
 I have had the rare opportunity to think carefully about my professional practice and the invitation to redesign it, refresh it, renew it to be more inquiry focussed. Not only that I was able to do this with a fellow librarian and Kiwi - Kelly Blackwell, who works in Sofia, Bulgaria. 

I am not tired any more. I am excited to try as many strategies and ideas as I can. I have challenged myself to try out one new idea a week. Take one step no matter how small towards being an inquiry librarian. Get ready to share this journey, the successes and the mistakes that will lead to more learning. I can't wait to get started. I can't wait to chat with my colleagues who will be at a one day workshop Kath is running at our school tomorrow. I am curious to see how I can change, learn and grow. 

Thanks so much to Kath and Kelly  for helping me get started on this learning journey. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Blur 070.9

Blur How to know What's true in the age of information overload by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel

This book has stayed with me weeks after having read it. In the current time of economic uncertainty, conflict in the middle east and scandals with top politicians it is so important to be able to discern what is being presented to us in the media. This book provides not only the tools to do this but also very useful case studies and analysis. 

The authors offer 6 ways of skeptical knowing - 6 essential tools for interpreting the news - 
1. What kind of content am I encountering?
2. Is the information complete? If not, what's missing?
3. Who or what are the sources and why should I believe them?
4. What evidence is presented and how was it tested or vetted?
5. What might be an alternative explanation or understanding?
6. Am I learning what I need?

The final chapter of the book offers this hope declaration - I will let the writers tell you the story. John Dewey and Walter Lippmann debate about the whether people are capable of being free. Lippmann argued the public were ill equipped to be informed citizens. He also thought the press unable to  to inform the public. Dewey agreed with this critique of both press and public but asserted the only justifiable role for the press was to educate the public, to make them more able to participate in democratic society. "The press had no other claim to exist. Nor, incidentally, did education. Democracy could not be saved by losing faith in it. A century later, technology has caught up to Dewey's vision. The time for education has arrived."

There is my friend Dewey again. What a great way to begin my Delving into Dewey.  review and six points

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Delving into Dewey

Two Mr Dewey's have a profound impact on my life as a Teacher Librarian. They were contemporaries of one another but not related in any way. I wonder if they even met each other. 

Melvil Dewey (December 10, 1851 – December 26, 1931) - the man who invented a method of organising libraries known as the Dewey Decimal System. He was one of the founders of the American Library Association - am Association which has been of great help to me personally and to thousands of others. Project Gutenberg has his Dewey Decimal System pamphlet online. In the course of our work processing books ready for borrowing we refer often to our copy of the Abridged Dewey Decimal Classification and Relative Index to help us know where to place a book in our collection. For a librarian it is important to place books of a similar subject together so our borrowers can find the title they want and browse the shelves for similar titles.

John Dewey (October 20, 1859 – June 1, 1952) was an educator who brought in many social and educational reforms. His work My Pedagogic Creed was published in the School Journal vol. 54 (January 1897), pp. 77-80. It has so many things in it that I agree with. I work in a school which has the word "community" in its name. Dewey valued school as a community and wrote, "I believe that much of present education fails because it neglects this fundamental principle of the school as a form of community life." He also challenges the teacher to be active in helping to create proper social life he wrote,  "I believe, finally, that the teacher is engaged, not simply in the training of individuals, but in the formation of the proper social life.
       I believe that every teacher should realize the dignity of his calling; that he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of proper social order and the securing of the right social growth." I immediately think of the mission of the IB which is more than its educational programmes and certificates. On its website it states, "At our heart we are motivated by a mission to create a better world through education. We value our hard earned reputation for quality, for high standards and for pedagogical leadership. We achieve our goals by working with partners and by actively involving our stakeholders, particularly teachers.We promote intercultural understanding and respect, not as an alternative to a sense of cultural and national identity, but as an essential part of life in the 21st century.The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect."

Apart from my musings here - where is all this leading? Having completed my "Around the World in 80 books" challenge I decided I would try in expand my non-fiction reading. I have been using LibraryThing to catalogue the books I read for school since November 2007. I have 831 books catalogues so far. I can see them according to Dewey classification and less than half are nonfiction, which is not surprising due to my love of fiction. My goal this academic year is to read high interest non-fiction which I hope I can encourage my colleagues and students to read. I will, of course continue with my fiction reading but now I am looking for the high interest, high quality non-fiction as well. 

I think the two Mr Dewey's would approve.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

80 books read in Around the world in 80 books

So I have finished my challenge - 80 Young Adult books read in just over one year.Apart from the magic number 80 what has been achieved? 

I know more YA books in our collection. On Friday I spent 15 minutes with some grade 6 girls browsing the shelves and chatting about what we had read. It started with one girl asking me for a recommendation and as we browsed and chatted the crowd grew. I hadn't read all the books we found but the ones I had read I was able to speak about from the heart. This is such a powerful way to help students develop a love of reading for themselves. It is mentioned in The Book Whisperer as a powerful way to help students access the riches of the library. And it is fun....

I have developed a reading habit. I love to read but I now have a commitment to read the books in our collection to pass them on to others. We are a k - 12 school and our library caters for 3 year olds through to  adults. I have a huge variety of ages, cultures and languages to cater for. I want to connect people with books, good books and to do so I need to read them. So I will continue with this reading habit and start a new challenge.

I realise much of our collection has roots in the USA. Just look at the Google Map I kept as I read. I must ensure that our collection is truly international. That is quite a challenge when the school's preference is to source all materials, including books, from the USA. We are about to enter a new budget and ordering round for next year. I intend to try to ensure the materials I purchase are international in nature and content. 

Next Thursday we begin our Professional Learning Group again for the new academic year. The first meeting will be new books in our library that support professional growth. These will not just be about how to teach but also books that encourage thought and curiosity on our teaching subjects. I will challenging myself and my colleagues to read more in order to bring depth and breadth to our content knowledge. I would love to see a culture of reading throughout the school. Let's see what happens next....

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Book 80 - The Danger Box by Blue Balliet - Three Oaks, Michigan, USA

How can a legally blind boy solve a mystery? Zoomy is legally blind - his world can be scarey sometimes as things come in and out of focus.  He lives with his grandparents who have taught him how to make lists to help bring some order and predictability into his world. 

One evening Zoomy's father returns driving a stolen car, bringing a mysterious box and danger into their quiet lives. This is the first time Zoomy has met his his absent father and he is not sure he likes the way Buckeye creates havoc for his family.

Zoomy's grandfather is an antiques dealer and he takes the box to his shop but not before Zoomy, a keeper of notebooks himself, asks if he can read the notebook they found inside the box.

The notebook holds many mysteries for Zoomy who spends time at his library trying to discover what the notebooks is all about. While at the library Zoomy meets a true friend in Lorrol, who is at Three Oaks for the summer vacation. Together they begin to work out that the notebook is very precious indeed and written by a famous man who not unlike Zoomy is full of self doubt and uses the notebook to bring order into his life.

Throughout the novel there are issues of "The Gas Gazette" written by Zoomy and Lorrol with clues as to the identity of the notebook writer. 

Review from Kidsreads by Norah Piehl   Review from the Chicago Sun Times by Deborah Abbott
Blue Balliet speaking about her novel

Monday, October 29, 2012

Book 79 - Hot House by Chris Lynch - USA

"Are ya winning?" Russ's Dad would always ask him that. They had a close relationship Russ and his Dad. Russ would sense when his Dad was about to come home and get up specailly to make him breakfast on the mornings after night shift. Russ's Dad was a fire fighter and Russ was training to be one too. For Russ his father was his number one hero always and forever - that was until he died in a blaze trying to save an old woman.

When is a hero not a hero? When it appears that there is more to the story. This novel expertly explores the depth of loss the death of a parent can bring. Russ remembers the wonderful times he had with his father. Then, as the fire investigation report becomes public, Russ is forced to acknowledge the pain his father lived with daily both physically and emotionally. Chris Lynch does pull any punches when it comes to the toll fire fighters and their families pay as they work in emergency rescue situations. He questions the public's loyalties and expectations of these heroic people.

Teenreads review by Norah Piehl   Interview with Chris Lynch thanks to Harper Teen

60 second recap views about the book

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Moving on from Between Two Worlds

Now that I have been in Turkey three years and have completed almost two months of the fourth school year I have decided to change my blog name. 

Originally I thought I would post about being in two worlds - the world of the classroom and the world of the library but guess what - it is one world for me. The library is my classroom and when I am in classrooms I am bringing all the richness of the library. 

I thought I would be writing about the two worlds of down town Istanbul and out at school but with technology despite the physical distance (and three days last week of more than three hours on the road I still physically feel the distance) there is no distance. Our library is available to everyone 24/7 and more and more of our collection is too. There are differences between our print collection and our electronic collection yes - but it is all one collection.

I imagined I would post about New Zealand and Turkey. I have been posting when in New Zealand and when in Turkey but the challenges, positive and negative, for school libraries in both countries are very similar.

So here I am - making the change to LibraryBond. I like the idea of the commitment of "My word is my bond" - it speaks of promise and trustworthiness. I like the 'promise' you can find in a library and a librarian, in this case promise meaning a reason to expect something. I hope people come to a library with the expectation that they will find things. I hope people come to see me with an expectation that we will work well together, to solve a problem, to find a resource, to enjoy a story or teach a skill. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Book 78 - The Cardturner by Louis Sachar - USA

I know nothing about cards, I don't play cards - well other than solitaire. This book features the card game 'bridge' and what an appropriate metaphor for life, for the complexities of the characters and their lives, for understanding and misunderstanding. 

Alton Richards is not having the best of summer vacations. His girlfriend is now dating his best friend, his family is not able to go anywhere and before he even starts to look for part time work his mother's favourite uncle decides to sack his regular card turner and insist that Alton step in to fill her place. Uncle Lester is a cantankerous, self made millionaire who is only his family's favourite uncle because of what he might leave them in his will. Uncle Lester needs a card turner because he is blind. He plays bridge, he plays like a genius and he plays to win. In this story the card game bridge becomes an arena in which the tactics and strategies echo the real life manipulations of Alton's family, close and extended. Alton's  mother thinks she knows everything about the hands that have been dealt to her Uncle, his wife, his wife's sister and so on but as Alton gets to know his uncle and his bridge partners he discovers the truth.

Not knowing anything about bridge was not a problem as Alton has a method for describing the features of the game without letting it get in the way of the story. I enjoyed this book and can thoroughly recommend it.

Guardian Book Review

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book 77 - Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton - Fictional Country in Sub-Saharan Africa

We meet Chanda as she waits in the office at Bateman's Eternal Light Funeral Services. She is there to arrange the funeral of her half sister Sara, who died age one and a half. She is helping becasue her mother is still holding Sara and her step father is lying drunk somewhere and Chanda is the eldest child living in the home. Chanda is an intelligent young woman who has lived through some very tough times in her short 16 year life. She wants to continue with her schooling, she wants to be a writer, she has dreams but the realities of her life, of the lives of her family members crowd out those dreams. The realities of life as a child in a society where many of the adults are dying of disease, in mine accidents and through poverty mean that her friend also is forced to make some terrible choices. 

Chanda is someone who cares, who is resourceful and who finally decides that the prejudice and fears of other will not dictate the actions she takes to care for the people she loves. This is a powerful novel and well deserving of the medals and awards it has received.

Allan Stratton's website             Annick Press website and promo    Annick's book trailer

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book 76 - My name is Mina by David Almond - England

How does a novel about the life of a troubled girl grip the reader so effectively? David Almond has this ability to make a simple life so enthralling. Don't get me wrong Mina is far from simple. She is home schooled by her mother and she tells the story of her everyday life and how she came to be home schooled. 

At one point Mina recounts how she made a friend at school who limped badly and was a fellow outcast from the rest of the school children. Their conversation evolved as the friend says she is going to have a very painful operation so she won't limp any more. She then asks Mina is she will have an operation to repair her strangeness.

Mina is strange to her peers and to her teachers. She is brilliant, she thinks deeply about things, she is a tortured soul who is trying to come to terms with the grief of her father's sudden death. Her favourite place to be is sitting in the tree at her house. She writes in her journal up there. She watches the neighbourhood from there. She feels safe there.

Mina is a character from David Almond's book Skellig (review from Reading Matters) and this novel is the prequel to Skellig. In the last few chapters of My name is Mina Michael and his family move into the house next door and his baby sister is shown to be very ill. 
Guardian review                                                                                                     David Almond's website
David Almond speaking at Scottish Book Trust event 'Authors Live' about writing about the ordinary.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book 75 - The Queen of Water by Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango - Ecuador

As you can see this novel is based on a true story. Pictured below are Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango. This is a fictional story based on the life of Virginia. The main character is called Virginia and we meet her as she is turning 7 years old. She lives with her family in an Andean village in Ecuador. She works in the fields all day with her family. They are called "longa tonga" or stupid Indians by the ruling class of mestizos - the Spanish descendants of the conquistadors  Virginia at age of seven is taken by a mestizo couple to care for their baby and do the household chores. They live in a city a long way from Virginia's home village. The wife terrorises Virginia and often beats her mercilessly. The husband calls her his 'hija' or daughter. Virginia spends her first year plotting ways to run away but as time goes by she gets used to her life, she likes the baby she is raising and this couple lead her to believe her family do not want her.

Virginia's spirited self belief is amazing and she dreams of a different future. She demands to be taught to read and once she does she secretly reads all of the books in the house - including the books the wife is using as a Biology teacher in a high school. When she finally does have the courage to break free from this family Virginia's determination to make a life for herself leads her to hard work but great success.

Laura Resau's website promoting the book
Book trailer by a student at Hillsborough County Public Schools 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Book Spine Poetry...

In an effort to teach grade 7 students how to create and use resource lists for citation purposes we gave them a challenge of creating a book spine poem in 10 minutes on the topic of Knowledge. They also had to create a correct citation list for their books.Most groups finished well with their photo and list complete - they could only achieve this if they used the resource list option in Destiny Quest our LMS.

Good job Grade 7 - I hope they can remember how to do this when they have research assignments.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book 74 - Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to not Reading - USA

It is almost sacrilege to follow a review of 'The Book Whisperer' with a book with this title. I guess the title is what makes it so appealing. The story line is interesting. The main character hates reading so much he pays another student to read and write book reports for him - well buys him food. When suddenly his surrogate reader decides to stop Charlie Joe Jackson has to suddenly find a substitute. He has a huge assignment coming up which involves a lot of reading.

This book is very funny. Written in first person by Charlie he vows to keep the chapters short as he knows other children out there hate reading too. However, as his story gets more complicated he simply can't help himself but to write longer chapters. 

This funny exploration of plagiarism and academic honesty is a great read. I enjoyed every minute - but don't tell Charlie Joe.

Tommy Greenwald's Blog            P.S Charlie Joe supports libraries - see trailer below.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Book Whisperer - ideas into action

I have talked to so many people about this book - as I was starting to read it, while I was reading it and after I finished reading it. Do not be surprised if you see more blog posts about it and the ideas Donalyn Miller shares.

Donalyn Miller is a teacher in Texas. She teaches language arts to grade 6. At the start of every school year she challenges the students to read 40 books that year. That is their goal. They can choose the books themselves. They do not have to write endless book reports or complete worksheets about the books. All they are asked to do is to read and keep a journal reflecting on their reading. In this journal they keep notes about books they would like to read in the future. Books other students tell them about. Donalyn sets herself a goal as well. Her goal is that by the end of the year every student in her class will have a love of reading.

Sounds like an impossible dream? I can imagine some of the students in her class being absolutely shocked at the thought of reading 40 books. Yet every year they all reach the goal. Many read more than 40 books. Her students score above the state standard levels in the standards tests every year. Donalyn teaches reading skills, comprehensions skills, all the necessary content for the language arts programme through the books her students choose for themselves. 

This is a librarian's dream. I was waiting expectantly for the pages Donalyn would devote to her class trips to the library. I was keen to read all the tips and anecdotes about how they modelled and taught book selection, book sharing, reading widely. There are two pages where Donalyn mentions her weekly or fortnightly visit to the library and that is it. No mention of partnership, collaboration. It is a positive experience admittedly but it is only a two page mention. Instead Donalyn exhorts teachers to develop their own class libraries, she has hundreds of books in her own library. 

Don't misunderstand me - I am not disappointed in this book. I am inspired by it. I love that Donalyn herself is an avid reader, that she enthuses so many students about reading. I am disappointed about the silence in the book about what an awesome resource the school library can be for such a programme. I crave to read about the partnership the school librarian can have with such a teacher. 

What can I implement in our library from this book? I am going to put this book in as many teachers' hands as possible. I am going to model how to choose books. I am going to encourage student voices to talk about their reading, their enjoyment and their selections. Already we have had wonderful times with grade 7, grade 3 on the rights of the reader and grade 4 are due in on Monday. All at the invitation of their teachers. I would love our school to become a book whispering school.

For more about Donalyn - she has this website - The Book Whisperer Please read her book, be inspired and then talk to me about how librarians can encourage teachers who want to be book whisperers in their own classrooms. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book 73 - Tall Story by Candy Gourlay - Philippines and England

How can you love a brother who is on the other side of the planet? How can you know a sister how lives in a large city, in a country you have never been permitted to enter? Andi and Bernado are siblings. Andi, short for Amandolina, had been born in England. Her mother had gone there from the Philippines looking for work. She had left her young son, Bernardo in her sister's care, hoping that she would be able to brig him with her in the future. Somehow the Home Office had never seen fit to give permission despite numerous petitions. She remarried and had Andi. Andi had been only once to San Andre to visit her brother and her extended family.

Andi loves playing basketball and despite being so small she is a great point guard. Bernardo plays basketball to be with his friends. His incredible height makes him very useful. When finally some good news arrive from the British Home Office, Bernardo's reunion withhis family in the UK is not as easy as it may sound.

Winner of the National Children's Book Prize in the Philippines and the Crystal Kite award 2011- this book is a wonderful read. 

Candy Gourlay's website and Book Dragon's review

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Book 72 - Ophelia by Lisa Klein - Elsinore, Denmark

You know I love adaptations of Shakespeare's plays as novels. Lisa Klein seems to enjoy writing them and she does it so well. 

Ophelia grows up in the confines of the royal castle. Her father is trying to curry favour with the King and when the Queen is looking for a new lady-in-waiting he offers his daughter's services. Ophelia quickly becomes one of the Queen's favourites and she is asked to read aloud her favourite books, some in secret as they are romances. During this time Ophelia sees more of Prince Hamlet during his visits home from his studies in Europe and they fall in love. Guarded by Hamlet's best friend Horatio they conduct their romance in secret. 

In amongst all this romantic secrecy more treacherous works are happening in the palace. The King mysteriously dies and his brother becomes King and marries the Queen, Hamlet's mother. Hamlet returns to Denmark, suspicious and troubled. Ophelia and Hamlet secretly marry. Their relationship cannot be openly acknowledged as there seems to be danger at every turn. Hamlet suspects everyone, including Ophelia's father, who he kills when he finds him in the King's private rooms. Hamlet is sent away and Ophelia is left mourning her father, trying to placate her brother who is bent on revenge and wondering whether her own life is at risk. She is forced to make the bravest decision she has ever made and with Horatio's help she executes her plan - just in time.

I enjoy the way Lisa Klein takes the plays Hamlet and Macbeth and creates a rich world in her novels. These novels are a wonderful way to enhance the teaching of Shakespeare. They add depth and I can see how students would have much fuel for discussion and thought reading both.

Review from Teen Reads   Lisa Klein's own website

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Book 71 - Cleopatra Confesses by Carolyn Meyer - Alexandria, Egypt

Earlier this year (January) I read and reviewed Cleopatra Rules - a non fiction book all about this mysterious Queen. I couldn't resist picking up this fictitious account of the life of the Queen from her childhood to just after the death of Julius Caesar and her return to Alexandria. 

Carolyn Meyer has created a wonderful character in Cleopatra. She tells her story in the first person and the reader comes to respect and admire her courage, intelligence and self belief. In a palace of enemies - her older sisters and later the advisors of her younger brother, her husband, she is a solitary figure who learns that knowledge of history and of her own people are her greatest allies. In her loneliness, Cleopatra befriends one of the palace dancers, Charmion, a girl her own age. Their friendship brings Cleopatra much needed advice and comfort as she faces the responsibilities and dangers in her role as Princess and then Queen. 

The book is well researched and at the end has a section "Cleopatra in History." The note from the author explains her interest in Cleopatra and how she went about researching this book. This two page explanation is a brilliant teaching point to show students how research is so important in historical fiction. It also has a bibliography a real plus from this librarian's point of view.

Carolyn Meyer's talks about her book.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Signs and wonders - moving displays

Our new team member Serife is an artist. So when it came to creating a board display outside our library there was only one person who could do the job. Understanding that not only colour and design were important to students age 3 - 18 but 3D and movement would also attract attention Serife used many interesting ideas and materials to make her welcome to our library a real success. The small books which frame the posters are on what we call 'danglers'. to make these laminate the image and then use the strips of laminate not required. Attach the image to the strip and it hangs away from the poster. These danglers move as people walk pass. We use danglers in the PYP non fiction section to show pre-literate children where their favourite subjects are on the shelves - see post in October 2011 'More signs and wonders'. The bookmarks we give away are from American Library Association. Serife created daisies with these and cupcake papers. The invitation to 'fuel your mind' hangs out from the ceiling above. All in all an incredibly effective billboard welcoming our school community into their library. Thanks Serife.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Local Focus - Global Impact Student Librarians at IICS

Our student librarians raised money last year at our school International day for books for a school library in Nepal. This school is for Nepalese children and delivers its curriculum in English language. Their library needed books. They had a wish list on Amazon and as a team our student librarians selected the books and sent them on their way. It took more than four months for the books to arrive. My colleague Samantha visited the school this summer and here is the letter they sent back for our student librarians.

Our student librarians give one or two lunchtimes each week to run our library. They shelve books, run the issues desk and create displays. I often think this is the hardest 'Community and Service'  option students can choose (see blog post Tuesday November 8, 2011). I am so proud of them and I hope some of them choose the hardest option again this year for their Community and Service.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Where in the world is the library orientation?

Me at Celsus Library, Ephesus, Turkey
So the new staff have had a whole week of orientation. Talks from the Business Office, talks about the IB programmes we run, sessions about culture shock, health insurance and tours of the school.... then they get a one hour (only one hour!) library orientation. How to use Destiny and  how to use the library. As always I try to make maximum impact in the allotted time so I resort to a method we used in New Zealand with new students at the start of each year. Make it into a game. 

Every holidays I ask my colleagues to have their photo taken outside a library. I use these library photos as a resource for an activity. People are given the photo and shelf markers made from the photo and then they have to find out information about the country the library photo was taken. They then locate books about the country on the catalogue and put the shelf markers where the books are on the shelf. The last activity is to label a map of the library. It is simple and fun and from the feedback I got we should have spent longer on the activity. All in all a successful introduction to our library.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book 70 - Taniwha's Tear by David Hair - Gisborne, New Zealand

This is the second book in David Hair's The Aotearoa series which began with The Bone Tiki. Usually I would read the first book first but as I was relying on the local library I had to content myself with beginning with this one - the first book was out on loan. 

These are fantasy books in which the main character, Matiu Douglas, who through a series of event in The Bone Tiki discovers he can travel into the past and that he has powers which cause him to come into contact and some conflict with mythological and supernatural beings. As this novel opens Mat is beginning to come to terms with his new powers and is being guided by some new friends. He is a novice in this parallel world and realizes he must learn more from his mentors. It is summer and Mat travels to Gisborne to see in the New Year with his father. They are meeting his mother there and his parents are attempting a reconciliation. Mat's mentors give him strict instructions not to enter the other world while in Poverty Bay as there are strong legends and characters that he is not ready to meet with yet. However, on the way to the city, he and and his father stop for a meal. As Mat takes a walk by the river he is drawn into the past by an old woman who begs him to help her rescue her daughter. Mat is unable to refuse and is drawn into the fight of his life. His cousin and friends all become involved as well and Mat soon discovers he is not the only one who has this ability to go into the other world of the past and mythology. 

I enjoyed this story immensely even though I am not a great fan of fantasy. Mat is a believable character and I enjoyed the mix of Maori legend and modern life in New Zealand. I will have to wait until I am back in New Zealand to read the other books in the series - from the library of course.

David Hair's website Review from Catherine of On the Nightstand blog.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Book 69 - Monsters of Blood and Honour by Ken Catran - New Zealand

This is three novellas depicting teenagers interacting with war veterans from World War 2. The first story is about a cranky old man, Mr Parkin, who confronts the local teenage drag racers about their terrorizing the elderly residents of a retirement village with their night racing along the long stretch of road. This confrontation leads to one of the teens, Jase, wanting to get revenge for the old man shaming him. He begins to research the Lancaster Bomber squadrons that Parkin is so proud to have flown for. As Jase confronts him with this new information of the devastation the Bombers caused in Germany the teenager experiences a passionate counter attack as Parkin invites him in to listen to the tapes he has made for the oral history project. As you would expect perceptions change as Jase listens to the description of the terrors the Lancaster crews faced each night as they flew their missions.

The second story is about a young woman who is asked to care for her stern spinster great aunt. The rest of the family is unable to be with her so it falls to the girl to stay with her aunt who has been unwell recently. As their weekend together progresses it turns out that the aunt has been writing her account of the fall of Singapore and her time in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp. 

The last story is the most unusual. It is the account of a reclusive old man and his encounter with a teen who discovers that the man was involved is the largest tank battle at Kursk on the Russian border. The old man was in the German Panzer division and has terrible secrets to hide from his neighbours.

The book has a moving epilogue of a veteran attending ANZAC day commemoration. 

In each story the links between the veterans and the teens are tenuous and a little contrived. The retelling of the war stories are well researched and compelling which is the redeeming feature of this book. 

Bob from National Library NZ reviews the book. Trevor Agnew's review

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Book 68 - Calling the Gods by Jack Lazenby -

Winner of the New Zealand Post Children's Book Award 2012. I saw the proof copy of this when I was in New Zealand last year and couldn't wait to read the actual book. As soon as I arrived back in Auckland I headed for my local library and had to reserve it (a good sign).

This book is set in the future and follows the banishment from her village of a young woman named Selene. Selene has the gift of calling the gods to her village each year - whales. Her village makes the most of the gift of one of the gods to them by preserving the meat, making oil, using every part of the whale to sustain their precarious existence. We meet Selene as she is banished and we travel with her on her journey of survival against amazing odds. She has to bury her lover at sea as his attempt to join her is discovered and he is killed by the villagers as he attempts to sail to her. She rescues her brothers and a few others from the burned out remains of the village and they flee north to try to make a new life for themselves.

As they find a bay that is inhabitable and begin to create their own village Selene is 'seen' by an elderly man in our time. He sees Selene and her new tribe as ghosts and begins to understand that they are not from the past but of the future. His observations bring a kind of anthropological commentary to the story. It is this aspect of the novel that is troubling for some readers. The novel does demand a lot from its readers but gives us an inspirational person in the character of Selene. She shows courage in the face of overwhelming odds. She is forced to take risks in her efforts to build a future for her family. Her leadership provides the younger children with security

Review from Tomorrow's Schools today and a less than favourable review from Aleisha Cotterall posting in a forum of Booksellers NZ

Monday, August 6, 2012

Book 67 - Real life by Ella West - New Mexico, USA

I really enjoyed the first two books in this trilogy by Ella West, Thieves  and  Anywhere but here.  The main character in all three novels, Nicky, has an extraordinary ability to 'travel'. She can think of somewhere and then appear there simply by thinking about it. As 'Thieves' was first published the popular TV series 'Heroes' was first being shown in New Zealand. Whenever I book-talked these books I would link Nicky's abilities to those of the characters in that TV show. Nicky's ability to travel caused her much heartache throughout the series. In the first book she is kidnapped from her home in New Zealand by the "Project" which brought her together with a group of young people with the same ability. They were asked to rescue lost people and to go to offices to retrieve files. They suspected the Project's motives for sending them on these missions. 

As Real Life  begins we find Nicky back at the Project having been captured after the whole group had escaped. They are all distrustful of the Project and each other. Nicky discovers that there is a swimming team in a small town near the Project and she decides to get back to the sport she was passionate about in her life before the Project. The solitary nature of swimming training meant that Nicky was able to reflect on what had happened to her in the Project and think about her present situation. She also discovers that many people in the small town have links with the Project. 

I really enjoyed all three books and was surprised at how Ella West finishes this series. There is a great discussion on Ella West's blog between her and a fan called Aimee about the ending of these books. Just a warning though this discussion does have details about the ending so if you want to read the book don't read this blog post and discussion. I am impressed that West encouraged Aimee's critique of her work and had such an indepth discussion.

More details about the book from Wheeler's website

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Book 66 - Isle of Swords by Wayne Thomas Batson - the seven seas

Wayne Thomas Batson says that he “writes adventures set in imaginative locales because he believes that on a deep level, we all dream of doing something that matters and that we all dream of another world.” His novel, Isle of Swords  certainly brings other worlds to his readers through pirates and monks keeping centuries old secrets.

There are pirates and then there are pirates in this complex book of honour, loyalty and courage. Declan Ross, pirate captain of the William Wallace, is a pirate with standards. After all, “you could take a man’s gold. You could take a man’s silver. . . but you never took a man’s ship.” 

Captain Ross, his fiery daughter Anne, and the sea-worthy and loyal crew of the William Wallace are forced to make an emergency repair stop at the island claimed by one of the cruelest and most notorious pirates of the world, Bartholomew Thorne. While there Anne discovers a man nearly dead on the beach. Because of another one of Declan Ross’s standards, “no crewman on the Wallace should ever leave another pirate behind”, the mystery man is taken on board the Wallace when they again set sail. From here, the crew sails on to St. Celestine, a sanctuary of monks which is now being threatened by Bartholomew Thorne. 

In addition to the first unexpected passenger on board their ship, the mystery man they picked up on the island, the Wallace picks up yet another passenger from St. Celestine, Padre Dominguez. Padre Dominguez holds a detailed map to the treasure of all time, permanently marked on his back. This treasure, “The Treasure of Constantine”, not only holds great riches, it also contains a secret treasure that no one but Dominguez is aware of. To arrive at such a treasure involves treacherous seas full of cross currents, shards of coral that will rip ships into pieces, a terrifying sea monster that guards the key, and little creatures that can only be warded off with monkey pee. 

Isle of Swords is a demanding read with all the stories within the story. The mysterious details surrounding “Cat”, the mystery man the Wallace picked up. . . the deeply emotional, yet at the same time, emotionally lacking relationship between Anne and her father. . . the mystery surrounding Anne’s mother . . . the obsession Thorne has over his first wife’s picture. . . Anne and Dominguez who are both captured by Thorne and chased by Ross . . . the British commander Blake who is pursuing both Ross and Thorne in an effort to rid the seas of their piracy.

I am not usually a fan of pirate stories but this was a real page turner. Thanks to Levi Thorstensen for the recommendation and lending me his copy.

Book trailer by Trent Rogers 6th grade

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer is here

I didn't make it to 80 Young Adult books this year - but I will continue until I do. I have read so many books for all age levels and enjoyed almost all of them. I am so pleased I gave myself this assignment. I wonder what I will do for next year? I have the summer to think about that. I will be reading and blogging over the summer. Watch that total creep even higher.

One of the hardest things about working in an International School is that every year families move away. Transfers, end of contracts, new opportunities all mean that we say good-bye to one third of our school community. Our headmaster, Peter Welch, has a weekly blog and this week he wrote about saying good-bye. Below is a quote from that blog.

"What I value is the richness of experience that an international life offers and the opportunity to keep learning. It seems to me that it is important to be ‘present’ in all our social and professional relationship and be open to proper connections. We should allow ourselves to be sad when people we care about move on. And we should try to properly appreciate people before they go and say that they have made a difference to us."

So we are busy with summer borrowing, sign outs and  autographing year book pages - it is the last day of school for the year. Happy Summer everyone. I will be spending some of it in the winter of New Zealand.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book 65 - Lady Macbeth's daughter by Lisa Klein - Scotland

I think I have mentioned before that I love Shakespeare and I  love fiction works that relate to Shakespeare and his plays. This book was so good in that it asks "what if?". Lisa Klein takes the line, "I have given suck, and know/ How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me.." (I.7.54-55) and imagines the babies Lady Macbeth is referring to. She gives her a some from a previous marriage and a daughter to Macbeth. The daughter, Albia, is born with a deformed foot and is rejected by her father who was expecting a son. He sends the babe to be left outside the walls but Lady Macbeth's maid rescues her and takes her to her own sister to raise. Her sister is one of three sisters who meet Macbeth and prophesy his rise to new status. 

Klein very cleverly entwines many parts of the play into a realistic story line. Albia is taken to be foster daughter to Banquo and his wife Breda after their own daughter dies of a fever. There she meets and develops a love for their son Fleance. Albia is also aware that she has a gift of the sight and \can see things in the future. Which is both comforting and terrifying at the same time. 

The Author's note at the end is worth reading. I know this play well and I wonder if others who do not know it would enjoy it as much. I believe they would. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book 64 - The beginner's guide to living by Lia Hills - City anywhere in the Western world

Why read books? In the pages of a book you can experience, voraciously,  feeling, actions, ideas, adventures, pain and joy. It the safe scare, the thinking through of what would I do? Lia Hills offers this to her readers in the novel. Will, 17 years old, starts to write down all his major questions about life, the universe and everything. He begins this journalling process seven days after his mother is killed in a car accident. The pain and anger he feels is so raw. On the day of her funeral, Will meets Taryn, the daughter of some friends of his parents. She seems to understand, she gives him her friendship and her love, more than the sympathy and awkwardness his school friends are offering. Will falls into and through some major life events in the few weeks after his mother's death. His first sexual experiences with Taryn, reading philosophers, attacking his brother, experimenting with drugs, vandalism, he runs away and tries to commit suicide. All of this and any of this could be true to life - I do feel that to put it all in the novel was a little too much. This is Lia Hills' first novel and she certainly created believable and sympathetic characters. Will's father simply not coping with the emotional toll of his wife's death withdraws and is distant. His older brother, Adam, is aloof and critical. Taryn is alos a well drawn character and I think it is the characters who make this book more of a success rather than the huge number of events Will goes through in a few weeks. Lia Hills also draws heavily on writers, poets and Macbeth as Will examines some of the thoughts about death and dying. A good read overall.

Above are the two different covers to the book. An interesting study in cover art and what teemagers' prefer.

Excellent review from Emily Hainsworth

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book 63 - The Dark Beneath by Alan Gibbons - Oxfordshire, England

16 year old Imogen has finished her exams and now to prove to her parents that she can be independent she has just started a new job waitressing at the local, village cafe. The regular customers - three men she nicknames 'The Boys' who work at the local nuclear power station are full of opinions and react badly when she disagrees. Imogen's family are seasoned protesters from way back - even protesting against the nuclear power station. The latest controversy in their community is the possibility of a remand centre ofr asylum seekers being built there. The locals hate the idea, keep foreigners away. Imogen and her parents also hate the idea - don't lock up asylum seekers at all is their view.

Also in this village is Anthony - the troubled albino son of the cafe owners.  He has an instant crush on Imogen and begins to stalk her secretly taking photos of her. Imogen meets Farid - an asylum seeker from Afghanistan and finds herself strangely attracted to this strong, silent man. 

All of these factors make for a tense story full of people's prejudice, fears and misunderstandings. Imogen learns who she can trust and who is surprisingly untrustworthy. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Book 62 - Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted - USA

Billed as a modern day retelling of Beauty and the Beast this novel is told by the two main characters Lucius and Aurora who meet on the school bus their first day at a new school. Aurora is instantly accepted into the popular crowd while Lucius' only friend is the security guard at school.

Lucius has hooks where his hands should be. He lost both his arms in an explosion which he caused while experiemtning making a bomb in the basement of his house. His whole family lost thier home and, like Lucius, almost lost their lives. Now they are starting over - in a new town.

Aurora too has expereinced loss - her mother recently died of cancer. Now she and her father, the school librarian, are starting afresh in a new school. Her tragedy has softened her and she is determined to view the world through sympathetic eyes despite what others might say or do.

This novel explores so many themes and so well. I recommend it for teens - to make them think and understand.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book 61 - Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers - New York

Meet 14 year old Reese - locked up in the Juvenile Remand home called 'Progress'. The irony of this title doesn't escape him or the reader but Reese is determined to try to make progress. He is chosen for a work release scheme where he is to work in an old people's home. There he meets Mr Hooft, a man who has not forsaken his prejudices against races other trhan his own. As Reese gets to know Mr Hooft, the old man tells himof his own time in lockdown - as a child captured in South East Asia by the invading Japanese army during World War II. While the circumstances are very different, survival in the situation is not. Mr Hooft provides Reese with much needed perspective on his own situation. Reese has to overcome his own family circumstances and the streets of Harlem that continually rise to try to reclaim him.

This is a gritty read allowing the reader to confront their own prejudices and explore the themes of loyalty, bullying and changing oneself.

This book trailer was created by Savannah Dobson, who is an eighth grader from Pawnee, Texas. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Book 60 - Mortal Chaos by Matt Dickinson - Heathrow, Everest, Mali.

This is Matt Dickinson's first novel for Young Adults and it is gripping. I usually do not cope well with novels that have multiple characters but the people who are linked  by the events of this one day are portrayed in such a realistic manner. The whole novel revolves around the concept of chaos theory and indeed starts with a butterfly in a wooded area in England. The characters who become tangled together find themselves linked in a chain of potentially disastorous events. What lifts this from being a bleak twist of fate novel is that some of the main characters show real compassion and concern for others. Their selfless actions help redeem some of the carelessness of the others.

This would be a great novel to share with teenagers. I would like to hear what they have to say about the theme and to explore this notion of chaos theory. This is the first book in the chaos series. The next book starts in Sydney, Australia.... can't wait to get hold of it.

Matt Dickinson came to our school a week or so ago to talk with grade 9,10 and 11 about his experiences on Everest and how he came to write this series. He spoke about teams, leadership, resilience and the whole experience of summitting Everest. If you get the chance to invote him to your school or to hear him speak do.

Matt's website. The Telegraph's review. A promo for the book