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