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.
There will be few teachers or library staff who are not familiar with Chris Van Allsburg’s work – Jumanji; The Polar Express; Z was zapped; The widow’s broom; and others. My favourite amongst his work is The mysteries of Harris Burdick (1984), which I have used in the classroom numerous times. The introduction alone is a great read-aloud (especially if you read it with a bit of sombre mysteriousness…) and the starter for the many journeys of the imagination on the following pages.
His wonderfully atmospheric drawings with their deceptively simple titles and accompanying quotes have jump-started some very productive classroom writing sessions, and the same drawings have now been submitted to some well-known authors for their interpretation. Louis Sachar; Stephen King; Walter Dean Myers; Lois Lowry; Jon Scieszka; Kate DiCamillo are just some of the famous names telling their version in The chronicles of Harris Burdick (2011).
Last word to Lemony Snicket, who writes the introduction to this volume:
“…the mysteries of Harris Burdick continue, and if you open this book, you will likely be mystified yourself. As you reread the stories, stare at the images, and ponder the mysteries of Harris Burdick, you will find yourself in a mystery that joins so many authors and readers together in breathless wonder.”
A must-buy for all school library collections.
review by Linda
Image by gruntzooki
Looking for a title to create a genre jumper, well Shadow and Bone is a great place to start.
Orphaned by war, Alina and Mal grow up with nothing but each other. As adults they join the army and are sent on a perilous mission into the Shadow Fold, a cloud of darkness populated by hideous monsters. When they are attacked, Alina surprises everyone (including herself) by discovering a powerful ability that saves their lives. She may even be able to save the entire kingdom, but only if she can figure out how to control her power and work out who to trust.
This is a great book to give to students who are stuck in a genre rut. The story and setting will appeal to fantasy lovers, but Alina’s voice is very modern (and a little bit snarky) and will pull in students who generally shy away from books set in other worlds. There is something here for every reader: a quest to hunt a mythical stag, flesh-eating monsters, a magical make-up artist, gruelling martial arts training and a dramatic love triangle.
Set in Ravka, a mythical land inspired by Russian history and folktales, the book has inspired a new genre: Tsarpunk! Bardugo defines this as “fantasy that takes its inspiration from the aesthetics, culture, politics, and social structure of early 19th century Russia.” To learn more check out this interview or go to the author’s website.
A sequel is coming out in 2013, but in the meantime you can direct your students to The Witch of Duva, a Ravkan folktale that they can read for free online.
review by Caroline
Image by Badly Drawn Dad
Every once in a while a classic piece of literature gets written and this is one of them. The novel has recently won the Michael L Printz Award. The book is one you will want to visit again for its rich and accomplished phrasing and deep introspection reflected by the two main characters.
Handsome, shy Karl is a young boy in love with intelligent, beautiful Fiorella. Unfortunately for Karl, Fiorella would like for Karl to express his love for her and other matters of contemplation in written letters. In desperation Karl turns to Fiorella’s favourite novelist (who remains unnamed) to help him with his profession in prose.
What follows is a build up a special relationship between eighteen year old Karl and the seventy-five year old novelist. In successive meetings the novelist is able to delve beneath Karl’s teenage awkwardness in a very non-intrusive way to help him on his journey. Such is the mastery and craftsmanship of Chambers that one is able to identify with both protagonists, even if you are not as young as Karl or as old as the author. The story also focuses on many similarities between the two and at some point you realise that in helping Karl through his crisis the novelist is forced to face and overcome his own.
Aidan Chambers is a wordsmith and reading this novel I can see why he has been called ‘one of young-adult literature’s greatest living writers’.
review by Janice
Image by catusbeetroot
These are strong themes that I am sure a lot of us have felt within a family…what it is like being different from the rest of your family? How do you deal with the feelings like being left out from family outings?
Jamie feels it a lot more because he does not change into a werewolf when the moon is full. These elements are intriguingly explored like unfairness and loneliness. Is there such a thing as being lucky to not be part of this family’s ‘change’?
I enjoyed the fast-paced plot, the suspense the interesting vocabulary, and the best part was when the ‘vet’ said she could cure the family’s illness!
With a story that has a definite structure, a satisfying ending. And easy to read font this addition to the Go for it series is ideal for classroom and independent reading. See also “In less than a flash” by Corinne Fenton.
review by Fiona
Image by PumpkinWayne
In memory of Margaret Mahy, the Storylines Children’s Literature Trust held an event for New Zealand Book Month on the evening of the late Margaret Mahy’s birthday, 21 March, at the National Library in Parnell, Auckland.
Writers Kate De Goldi, Leonie Agnew and Tessa Duder presented a varied 70-minute programme of readings from Margaret Mahy’s work to an audience of about 60 adults and children. Children from Willowbank School delighted the audience with their adaptation of A Summery Saturday Morning. With the theme of Margaret Mahy’s birthday, MC for the evening, Rosemary Tisdall, read narrations between each reading, highlighting the gift Margaret gave to us all through her writing. Both poignant and entertaining the evening covered extracts from Mahy’s verse, novels and speeches.
Image by Christchurch City Libraries
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