We want to help create motivated and engaged young readers. This blog is about children's and YA literature (especially New Zealand), literacy research, and ways to get, and keep, kids reading.
National Library School Services in Auckland recently ran a successful introductory seminar for the 2007/2008 "Reading @ the Beach" summer reading programme for teachers. School services staff were asked to write"mini" reviews of some of their favourite books and these were put on display (with the books) for the participating teachers to peruse.
Judging by the number of "gaps" on the shelves after the teachers had left, we figured that the reviews were pretty effective selling tools! Over the next few weeks, I'll post some of these reviews under the title "Quick picks for summer" - so keep a lookout if you need suggestions for something to read over the holidays.
The true story of the dog who captured the heart of a city.
By Dianne Haworth. Published by Harper Collins, 2007
You will need the tissues when you read this true story. The sad events leading to our doggie hero down by the Wellington wharves is tempered by the numerous acts of kindness shown to Paddy by those that he met … so much so that workers on the wharves and Wellington taxi drivers started paying for his dog licence (and this was in the Great Depression of the 1930s).
As the years went by, Paddy went places and did things that some people never get to, like sailing on merchant ships to various countries, even taking to the air in a plane. This is a great animal/adventure story for children year4-7. In fact, it’s a great read for adults as well.
Reviewed by Robin
Teresa is the fourth generation of the Moran family, all of whom have all been natural and brave soldiers who have thrived in battle, but struggled to adapt to civilian life. Will this cycle be broken with Teresa? It maybe, but I was not sure after reading this book.
Teresa is a Lieutenant in the New Zealand army who experiences battle in East Timor and in Iraq. Neither of these war scenarios is as clearcut, as black and white, as the theatres of war experieced by her forefathers, and Ken Catran skillfully reminds the reader of this.
The first half of this book is in a language of war that is totally different to previous wars, with the emphasis on collateral damage. For this reason it took me a while to get into it, but once Teresa is caught up in the action, the whole tone of the story changes.
Ken Catran's research is first class again and he wraps the story of the Moran family up well. A must read for those who have followed the story, and a modern war story, in a difficult theatre of war, for those who are reading Ken's books for the first time.
A brilliant story being the Prequel to the Tales of the Otori which began with Across the Nightingale Floor. It is the story of Lord Otori Shigeru the Otori leader who adopted Takeo, the hero of the later trilogy, as his son. Shigeru has great qualities as a leader, not only in battle but in his judgement and treatment of people. While a great fighter in battle, especially at the hugely significant Battle of Yaegahara, he is hugely unlucky in love and in his immediate family. He overcomes this with diplomacy and patience and with his ability to attract loyalty from his followers by the examples he sets in life. Once again Lian Hearn shows what a superb storyteller she is with language that flows and sucks you right into the story. Her creation of medieval Japan in the grip of the various warlords, and her descriptions of the passing seasons and physicality of the landscape is stunning. For those who have read the other tales this is essential reading, and for those who want to start the series, this will do brilliantly. At over 600 pages it is ideal for the holiday period and it links up brilliantly with the start of the Nightingale floor. Your mad if you don't read this one. For year 8 to adult in appeal.
Hillary & Norgay: To the top of Mount Everest
By Helen Whipple: St Catharines, Ont.: Crabtree Pub, c2007.
Enjoy this beautifully presented book, which examines one of the 20th Century’s greatest achievements. When Sir Edmund Hillary and Norgay Tenzing reached the summit of Everest they became international celebrities. Discover what drove these men, how their younger years shaped them, and how being the first to reach the summit of the world’s tallest mountain created a legacy, turning Sir Ed into a New Zealand icon.
This book is an invaluable resource on Everest and Hillary with a combination of black and white archival photos and colour photography, fact boxes, statistics with information regarding the men who climbed Everest, the mountain, country, and people of Nepal. It is suitable for Year 6 to 8 students.
*Other new titles on Hillary include:
Hillary and Norgay’s Mount Everest Adventure
By Jim Kerr: Chicago: Heinemann Library, c2008
Suitable for Primary – Intermediate students
Edmund Hillary: first to the top: Elish, Dan. Publisher: New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, c2007.Suitable for Intermediate – Junior Secondary
reviewed by Tracy
As another year draws to a close, here are some things to think about…
What does it mean to be literate in the 21st century?
What "counts" as reading?
If boys refuse to read fiction, but enjoy comics, the Guiness Book of Records, manuals and computer game cheat sheets, are they readers?
What about online games, such as Runescape? This is very popular for NZ kids, from Primary School up. To navigate the game, you need to be good at map-reading and directional skills. Just getting through the initial tutorial takes a lot of reading. Then, any "conversation" between players is in the form of text. Quests within Runescape need a lot of reading. For example, in the Romeo and Juliet quest, you have to follow complicated instructions, and take wordy messages between the lovers and their supporters. If you don't have a reasonable reading level you can't play this popular game. Is being immersed in the world of Runescape the same as being immersed in a good book?
To be literate in the 21st century do you need to have your own blog?
At the very least, blogs can help students on their journey to literacy. Here's a quote, from the blurb of the book Classroom Blogging, by David Warlick:
"Weblogs are about reading and writing. Literacy is about reading and writing. Blogging equals literacy. How rarely does an aspect of how we live and work plug so perfectly into how we teach and learn?"
Even some year 1 classes are starting to use blogs to develop their literacy.
Voyagers - NZ Year 1 Blog
Mrs Cassidy's Classroom Blog (Grade 1 in Canada)
Does reading your friends' pages on Bebo count? Social networking sites like Bebo, Facebook and MySpace are currently some of the most visited internet sites by kiwis. How can young people's passion for these sites be harnessed to help build literacy?
One idea is to create your own online social network for your book group, using goodreads or ning. What are your friends reading? You can even add goodreads to your bebo! Another idea is to have students set up fictional profile pages for characters in a book they are studying. One class has done this with The Great Gatsby, on MySpace.
Here's an example of 21st century literacy in action, using digital storytelling. Work out what is special about where you live. Write a script. Think about how to represent this visually. Then, turn this into a wonderful digital story, that can be enjoyed right around the world.
Have a look at the Life Round Here stories from Te Awamutu Intermediate, and Taradale Intermediate Schools.
Don't forget the ideas from recent Create Readers posts on Technospud Projects, where your class can publish your participation in a literature project (next year it's Prince Caspian) on the web, and Allanah's Appleby Showcase, which includes (among other things) podcasts of oral book reviews from Motoroa school.
How are YOU going to harness these 21st century opportunities to help create readers in 2008?
There are some books that you read and you just wish that the main character was real, as you have developed such a strong connection with them. In fact, you know that you'd be best friends forever!
There are several characters like this for me. As I grew up, it was Jo Bettany from Elinor M. Brent-Dyer's Chalet School series, Alanna from Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet, Carol Ryrie Brink's Caddie Woodlawn, and Ruth Sawyer's Lucinda Wyman. Most recently it has been Elizabeth Clarry from Jaclyn Moriarty's 'Feeling sorry for Celia' and, heartbreakingly, Tessa in Jenny Downham's 'Before I die'.
However, the one person who has stayed with me since I met her on my 10th birthday is a certain red-haired, free spirit named Anne Shirley. I always admired her independence and self-confidence, and wanted so much to share in her adventures and exploits. I envied her having her long red hair cut off after a disastrous attempt at dyeing it, as I had long, weighty plaits of red hair too. And now I am a mother, I understand Anne's behaviour and comments made after being told of her son Walter's death in the fields of France during World War I.
So who would you choose as your literary best friend? Has it changed over time, or have you continued to add characters as I have done? I look forward to reading about your literary best friends too.
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