Gleebooks Education 

February 2010

Gleebooks Bookshop - Monday, February 01, 2010

No 35,  February  2010

Greetings.  Very best belated wishes for the New Year! 

Sorry the newsletter is so late this year but part of the reason is that we have a new baby grandson Asher, born on 2nd February and so we had to make a quick visit to Sydney to see him and the family.  He is a lovely dark haired baby boy like his big brother.   All are doing well.

We had a very relaxing Christmas and New Year.   We stayed at home in the Adelaide Hills and the weather was kind to us – not too hot but warm enough to spend time swimming at the beach and then reading books in the evening.

IB workshops were held in Adelaide in the middle of January and so I put on a display of books.  It was a great way to meet so many teachers from Australia and also Asia and not have to travel overseas.   However at the end of March, we shall be putting on another display of books at the IBAP Annual Regional Conference to be held in Singapore from 25th – 28th March.  If you are there do come and say hello and see the big range of books on display.

I managed to update all the lists for the Primary Years Programme before these workshops.  These are on the website at  www.australed.iinet.net.au  However if you wish I can send them to you as attachments by email.  Just let me know. 

Quite a few teachers have asked me in the past few weeks for reading Iists of additional reading for all reading ages.  I have attached two lists for Grade 2 & 3 and also for Grade 8 & 9.  I shall gradually add to the lists when there is more time.  However if you want more suggestions for other grades, I can also send you some for other age levels (though the lists will be a bit rougher)..  

I have also attached a subscription form for a children’s literature magazine called Magpies.  When I worked for a specialist children’s bookshop (many years ago!) I helped with the initial setting up of this journal. It was a very exciting time and it is amazing to think that 24 years later it is still going strong (with its sister magazine Literature Base).  Magpies contains reviews of children’s and young adult books and also interviews and articles on authors and other aspects of children’s books.  The books are mainly from Australia and New Zealand but there are also many books from the UK and also the US.  It is a very helpful journal for teachers and librarians everywhere.  If you wish to subscribe it is necessary to subscribe directly to Magpies.  However the books reviewed can be ordered through Austral Ed. 
   
Thanks for all your support.  It is wonderful to keep in touch with so many teachers and librarians in so many places through out the world.  Do let me know of any changes of email address and thanks for passing on this newsletter to others who may also be interested. 

 

At the IBAP Conference in Singapore, I am especially looking forward to hearing Greg Mortenson who wrote Three Cups of Tea (pb $26.95, Young Readers edition $16.95) in which he describes his amazing work in building schools in remote parts of Pakistan.  I have just read the sequel Stones into Schools (also written by Greg Mortenson with Mike Bryan) pb $32.95.  It follows chronologically from where the first book ended and so it goes from 2003 to the end of 2009.  In many ways I found this book even more fascinating because of the descriptions of the group of Pakistani men and one Afghani man who work with Greg in Pakistan and Afghanistan and how they achieve such remarkable results.  The logistics of getting schools built and then staffed in remote areas of Pakistan is difficult enough but in remote areas of Afghanistan, the challenges are mind-boggling!  The story of how a school was built in the extraordinarily remote area of Bozai Gumbaz in the Wakhan Corridor in north eastern Afghanistan reads like a thriller as there is a race to get building materials by yak into the village across difficult snow covered mountain passes before the winter encroaches and the whole area is totally cut off for many months.

I was constantly surprised that so many elders in these remote villages were so committed to getting schools for girls built in their communities.  The Foundation that Greg set up (the Central Asia Institute) has as its priority, schools for girls in remote villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan and at the end of 2009 had set up 131 schools providing education to nearly 58,000 students.  As Greg says “If you educate a boy, you educate an individual, but if you educate a girl, you educate a community.”  The stories about some of these students and the village elders are inspiring and it is fascinating to read how Greg and his team in Pakistan and Afghanistan have built up relationships with Islamic clerics, militia commanders and tribal leaders.  It is marellous to read such positive stories coming out of Afghanistan and Pakistan at a time when the news on television and in the newspapers is so often depressing.  I gave this book as a Christmas present to all my friends and family and recommend it to everyone knowing that sales will help build more schools in remote villages and will also give support to them in many other ways as well.  To find out more, look at the website for the Central Asia Institutewww.ikat..org

A special organization called Pennies for Peace has been sent up for school children.   The website is www.penniesforpeace.org    Pennies for Peace now has designed a toolkit to help schools implement an informative and rewarding programme for children to help raise funds for the foundation and also to learn more about children in this region.

A picture book has also just been published on the story of the Three Cups of Tea.

Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr Greg and Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and Susan L Roth,  Collages by Susan L Roth  hardback $32.95
This picture book is written in the words of the children of the village of Korphe in Pakistan where Greg Mortenson was first nursed back to health and where he promised to return and build a school.  The simply written but beautiful text describes how the children feel about their new school and how it was built.  At the end of the book there are several pages with photos and more information describing the village and how the school was built.  (5 – 10 years)

 

Non-fiction

Deron Goes to Nursery School by Ifeoma Onyefulu hardback $27.95
Deron is four years old and he lives in Ghana.  Before his first day at nursery school, he and his mother go to the market to buy a school bag, shoes and some cloth so that she can make his school uniform.  His first day at nursery school is described in simple text and colourful photos as Deron meets his teacher and the other students.  There are various activities, songs and games, lunch, a rest and story time and finally it is time to go home with mummy.  An excellent introduction to a first day at nursery school in Ghana.  (3 – 5 years)

What’s Chemistry all About? By Alex Frith ad Dr Lisa Jane Gillespie illustrated by Adam Larkhum   pb $20.00
This is a very good introduction to chemistry.  It covers a vast amount of information in an accessible and interesting way.  The information is clearly set out and the engaging and often very funny illustration and diagrams, cartoons, graphs, tables etc do really help make in making the subject comprehensible (even to me).  The list of contents comprises the following topics:  What’s the world made of?  How does it all work? Let’s make things happen, How is Chemistry useful? Our Chemical Universe and finally a section on additional information about chemistry.  There is a detailed Glossary and Index. 
Also published by Usborne, in 2009, What’s Biology All About? pb $20.00  
What’s Physics All About? pb $20.00  will be published in April 2010.      (10 – 15 years)

What Mr Darwin Saw by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom  hardback $27.95   pb $15.95
I am always impressed with the way in which the team of Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom can present complex ideas in such interesting and accessible ways.   Here Charles Darwin’s life is written as simple diary entries with illustrations that are lively and have captions describing many of the things Darwin did and saw on his long journeys.  It introduces many of the amazing places and creatures that Darwin encountered and also the way his thinking developed till the publication of On the Origin of the Species in 1859.  The final two pages of the book give a précis in illustration and text as though Darwin himself is explaining in simple language how his Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection worked.    There is also a Glossary and a large map showing the extent of Darwin’s journey.    An excellent introduction to Darwin’s life as well as to this complex subject of evolution.   (8 – 13 years)

Sharing Our Stories series by Liz Thompson hardback $24.95 pb $12.95 each
This series gives us an insight into the importance of story and of country to Indigenous communities in various regions of Australia.  In each book, the community has chosen a traditional story to be told and various members, both children and adults, describe what the story means to them and to their idea of country.  The traditional story is illustrated by children’s drawings and is also told in the Aboriginal language. The many photographs showing us the people in the community and also the country in which they live add considerably to the interest of each book.  This is a very interesting and insightful series.  Titles are:
Woonyoomboo: A Story from the Jarlmadangah 
The Mermaid and the Serpent: A Story from the Wugularr
The Frog and the Brolga: A Story from the Purnulu Community
The Devil-Devil from Warlock: A Story from the Jilkminggan Community
The Sunbird: A Story from the Warburton Community
Turtle Dreaming: A Story from the Maningrida Community              (8 – 11 years) 

If you would like a list of books that I recommend on Australian Indigenous Peoples please contact me and I can send it out by email.

The Way We Work: Explore the Human Body – Head to Toe! by David Macaulay with Richard Walker  hardback $49.95
I have always loved Macaulay’s The Way Things Work  trade pb $45.00.  In this book, as well as a detailed description of the working of hundreds of machines and the principles behind their technology, Macaulay also uses extremely funny illustrations and descriptions of mammoths from prehistoric times to give further examples of the various principles.   However I think that portraying the complex workings of the human body is an even more challenging task for Macaulay.  Apparently he spent years in research attending anatomy classes and attending dissections in order to gain some understanding of the very complex processes involved.  The result is an extremely detailed analysis both in text and also with illustrations.  There is humour in many of the illustrations and many depict the body as though it is a machine and this often helps in our understanding of how it works but my overall impression was of the amazing (even overwhelming) complexity of the body and its functions!   There are seven comprehensive sections showing how the various parts of the body work.   It would be very helpful book to have in the library to provide additional information for students.    (12  up)

Delhi Commonwealth Games 2010  by Cameron Macintosh  hardback $29.95
This is a helpful book for any teachers and librarians wanting background information on the city of Delhi and its bid to hold the Commonwealth Games in October 2010.  It explores how the city is being prepared for the Games with the new sporting facilities and transport arrangements and accommodation.  It also gives information on the history of Delhi and especially on its historical buildings.  There is also information on the 17 sports included in the 2010 Games and profiles of some of the key athletes.   The four titles in this new series published in January 2010 are:
Australia at the Commonwealth Games 
History of the Commonwealth games
Delhi Commonwealth Games 2010
India Host Nation 2010.                                                                                    (9 – 13 years)

Funny Business: Conversations with Writers of Comedy compiled and edited by Leonard S Marcus  hardback  $29.95
Thirteen well-loved writers of comedy discuss the reasons they write funny books, why they began writing, childhood anecdotes and their writing habits.  I found this fascinating.  Writers are from the US and also the UK and include Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Sharon Creech, Anne Fine, Carl Hiaason, Norman Juster, Dick King-Smith, Daniel Handler, Louis Sachar and Jon Scieszka.      (Mainly for adults but students from 13 years up could also find it of interest.)

 

Picture Books

Fox and Fine Feathers by Narelle Oliver  hardback $28.00
Beautifully illustrated in Narelle Oliver’s distinctive detailed style, this picture book depicts four native Australian forest birds, the nightjar, the lyrebird, the coucal and the Pitta.  These birds warn each other when there is danger.  In this case the danger comes from the European fox.  The nightjar has the ability to blend in and camouflage itself against the leaf litter of the forest floor and this is portrayed beautifully through Narelle Oliver’s detailed illustrations.  The book can be appreciated for the story and the beauty of its illustrations but also for the information it gives at the end of the book on the four native birds and also on the introduced European fox and on the forest setting of the book which is on the border of the NSW and Queensland.   (6 – 11 years) 

Hairy Maclary, Shoo by Lynley Dodd hardback $22.00   
There are so many Hairy Maclary titles and some I think are more successful than others.  This new book is terrific.   When Hairy Maclary gets locked in a van by accident he is taken a long way away from the dairy.  He is confused and a bit scared when he gets out and so causes havoc as he races through various shops.  Each of the shopkeepers calls out “Stop this shemozzle, this hullabaloo!”  until he is finally recognised by Miss Plum who takes him back home to the dairy.  There is lots of very satisfying rhythm and rhyme and excitement in this new adventure.  (2 – 6 years)

How to be a Baby by Me, the Big Sister by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sue Heap  hardback $27.95 pb $16.95
This is such fun.  The illustrations are delightful and the text just begs to be read aloud.  In fact as you read the book the voice of the big sister is loud and strong!  She proclaims, “When you’re a baby, it’s not good because you don’t have any hair.  (I have long hair like a princess.)  When you’re a baby, you don’t read books.  You eat them.”  She takes great delight in listing all the things a baby can’t do and all the things that she, the Big Sister can do extremely well.  But she also shows her love for the baby and says that although she will always be the big sister, one day he will be as big as she is!    (4 – 7 years)

Running with Horses by Alison Lester  hardback $29.95
Alison Lester was brought up on a farm with horses and rode them almost every day as a child. She has said she dreamed of having an adventure similar to Nina’s adventure in this story.  Nina lived with her father who was stable master for the beautiful white dancing horses of the Royal Academy.  When Anna was ten years old, a war was raging in the world and she and her father and a friend have to flee across the snow-covered mountains taking with them four of the dancing horses and an old horse Zelda that Nina loves.  The old horse is old and slow but several times she saves the group from death by her instincts.  It is a dangerous journey but they finally arrive safely at the secluded country house of Nina’s grandparents.  The illustrations are striking.  The figures of Nina, her father and friend and also the horses are always drawn in black and white against a coloured background sometimes incorporating photos of mountains with coloured illustrations.  The story is fictional but is inspired by the evacuation of the famous Lippizaner stallions of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna during the Second World War.   (8 – 12 years)

 

Fiction

Moon Station by Rachel Flynn illus by Judy Watson pb $12.95
Williams has to do a project on designing a moon station for Grade 5.  Some enterprising kids outsource their projects to their parents since this is the modern way or “best practice.”  Williams has a suspicion that this might be cheating.  This is a very amusing story about the hazards of doing projects, and also about getting on with older sisters and also with kids at school.  One of the popular Aussie Bites.  (7 – 10 years)

Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy illus by Heather Potter pb $14.95
Pearl has always lived with her mother and her granny making a family of three but now her granny cannot remember anyone and this is such a sad time for Pearl that she feels she is cut off from everyone and that she has no friends.  Pearl loves to write and tell stories and her granny always encouraged this but she also taught her that a poem does not need to rhyme and this is how Pearl writes this story, in free verse.   (8 – 10 years)  

The Ranger’s Apprentice series has been so incredibly popular.  The last book (so far) in the series was published in November 2009.  It follows on from the Kings of Clonmel and is very exciting.  Halt is severely threatened and Will finds this hard to accept as for him Halt is almost invincible.  These are gripping adventure fantasy stories set in a fantasy kingdom.  Will and his friends are assigned to various professions and over the series they meet up in various adventures throughout different parts of the kingdom. 
Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan   pb $16.95 each
Book One:  The Ruins of Gorlan  
Book Two:  The Burning Bridge 
Book Three The Icebound Land 
Book Four: The Oakleaf Bearers 
Book Five: The Sorcerer in the North 
Book Six: The Siege of Macindaw  
Book Seven: Erak’s Ransom 
Book Eight: Kings of Clonmel
Book Nine: Halt’s Peril                      (9 – 14 years )

The Battle for Rondo  hardback $35.00
This is the exciting third book in this trilogy about the world of Rondo. In this new fantasy adventure series the old music box which has been passed down in Leo’s family for many years is the key to Rondo.   Leo has always respected and followed the rules of its use but his least favourite cousin doesn’t and so they are both plunged into an exciting quest in the very strange world of Rondo.   It is a world in which many characters seem familiar and children will soon recognise that many are taken from nursery rhymes and from fairy tales.  I haven’t been so enthusiastic about the series but apparently children love the books and have been waiting impatiently for this last title. 
The Key to Rondo  hardback $35.00 pb $23.00
The Wizard of Rondo  hardback $35.00 pb $23.00     (8 – 12 years)

Dog by Daniel Pennac  translated by Sarah Adams pb $14.95
This is such an entertaining book.  It is told in the first person by Dog himself and is at times very sad, very funny.  It is always entertaining and gives us a very different perspective on other stories I have read told by dogs or cats.  The fact that it is a translation from the French perhaps explains this different perspective.  We read so few translations and this is a shame as I am certain there are so many wonderful books written in different languages of which we are unaware.  This book was originally published in French way back in 1982.  Daniel Pennac is apparently a very famous author who has written widely for adults and children for many years and his works have been widely translated into many languages.  (Again I feel so ignorant!)  Dog has had a very tough puppyhood.  But he has had some very important doggy mentors who have taught him how to survive and have also taught him a lot about humans and how they can be trained.  Dog is a most engaging character and the plot of the story is often exciting and very entertaining but for me the most interesting were the observations of Dog and of his dog friends on the possible relationships between dogs and humans and also the observations of various dogs on human behaviour.  At the end of the book Daniel Pennac writes a few pages describing the much loved dog companions he has had since he was a baby.  His most important advice is that dogs and humans need to respect each other and their independence.   (9 – 14 years)

Daniel Pennac has also written for adults a very entertaining book on reading called The Rights of the Reader, translated by Sarah Adams with a Foreward to this edition by Quentin Blake pb $16.95.   Originally published in 1992, Pennac writes passionately of the delights as a parent of reading aloud to young children and how too many parents stop too early before children really understand the pleasures that books offer.   Pennac writes with great flourish and drama and is often very funny.  The book also offers an insight into popular French books for children and about the more structured French education system while giving us ten Rights of the Reader which include The right not to read, The right to skip, The right not to finish a book, The right to read it again and The right to read anything.  Highly recommended.       

Sir Katherine by Anne Brooksbank  pb $17.95
This is a very satisfying fantasy/adventure story set in the time of King Arthur.   Katherine has disguised herself as a boy ever since her parents and brother died in the plague.  Her grandmother assures her it will keep her safer.  Katherine has a certain skill with the sword and the bow and this draws her into a dangerous quest where there is great danger from giants, dragons and of course the danger that someone will discover she is a girl.   Kit is a quiet, thoughtful and determined heroine and her relationship with young Will brings additional charm and interest to the story.  However for me there is also the additional surprise that although the words of the story were written by Anne Brooksbank, the overall story itself was devised by her husband Bob Ellis and Les Murray (Australia’s most famous poet).  To me it is astonishing that they could have written this story in a genre that I would have thought would be totally foreign to these two large men, getting on in years.  But then perhaps maybe I can imagine them sitting with a glass of red, by the fire, thinking up this charming story of adventure with a homespun feel in a land of dragons, giants and the court of King Arthur.     (9 – 13 years)

Kampung Boy by Lat  pb $23.00
This is a delightful cartoon book depicting the reminiscences of a boy growing up in a Malay village (or kampung) in Malaysia in the 1950s.  The illustrations are strikingly distinctive in black and white pen and ink.  They show his life as a baby, as a young boy in the village and then at school and finally his sadness when he leaves the village to begin high school.  Life in the small village is vividly depicted and shows the closeness of his family and life in the kampung with descriptions of swimming and fishing at the nearby river, ceremonies such as circumcision and his very strict Koran teacher.  The illustrations are often very humorous as is the text which describes very funny incidents while giving us background of the life in the village and of Lat’s family. Lat is actually a renowned cartoonist and much loved in Malaysia.  Kampung Boy is regarded as a classic and has been published in many languages since its first publication in 1979.   (9 – 14 years)

 

Fiction for Young Adults

It was so enjoyable reading a number of marvellous books for young adults over the holidays.  Too often I feel I have to brace myself to read what I fear will be another depressing book, about characters that I don’t care about and with plots that I would rather not think about.  (Maybe I am getting too old, or have read too much?)  But these books were all engrossing and engaging.

Solace of the Road  by Siobhan Dowd  pb $32.95
Holly has had enough of her life as Holly, a foster child and so puts on a blonde wig and becomes two years older and bold and determined as she sets off to make her way to Ireland to find her Mam.   This is a marvellous story so convincing with characters who really come to life.  Life is tough living in care but Holly does meet people who care about her.  However there is so much that Holly has to work out about herself and her early life and about other people and this she does on this road trip.   Holly is gritty and has a sense of humour and this shines through in this exceptional novel.   (13 years up)   

The 10 PM Question by Kate De Goldi  pb $16.00
A bald outline of the plot of the PM Question would have left me highly doubtful but on reading just the first page I was thoroughly involved.  It is the characters which I found so engaging.  Frankie is twelve going on an old man in that he worries incessantly about everything.  This is the reason for the title as at 10 PM he wanders in to his mother to check on his latest list of anxieties.  Are the smoke batteries flat?  Will bird flu strike and ruin their lives?  There is a very amusing eccentricity about his concerns and also about his whole family.  However when a new friend Sydney comes to the school her relentless, unavoidable questions gradually reveal deeper problems which threaten to unravel Frankie’s world.  I found Frankie an engaging character but I am unsure how 12 year old boys would find him.  Perhaps they would find him and his catalogue of fears just too embarrassing?  Or maybe the humour would be enough to sustain their interest?  I really don’t know.  The book is extremely funny in parts.   The plot is not completely resolved.  There is much more to be worked on by Frankie and Sydney and their families but there is hope that they will be able to sort things out because that is what life is – a series of happenings which have to be sorted out hopefully with lots of fun and learning and relationships along the way.  (11 – 15 years)

Swerve by Philip Gwynne pb $19.95
This is a most enjoyable book about a teenager preparing for university life.  Hugh is a cellist whose life seems mapped out for him but then he goes on an outback trip in an HT Monaro GTS 350 with his father who has been estranged from the family and hasn’t been seen for years.  The trip is an eye-opener for Hugh and he lives life as he has never imagined it but he also discovers much about his family and his father and also about himself and what he really wants to do with his life.  Very entertaining – I still have no idea what an HT Monaro GTS 350 really is but understand that they  (like many other cars) are a great attraction for some people! (14 years up)

Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin  pb $33.00
Le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea has always been one of my favourite fantasy books.  She is a marvellous writer and I was intrigued to read glowing reviews of her latest book, Lavinia in which she takes a character only very briefly mentioned in Vergil’s epic tale The Aeneid and brings her to life in a novel which Le Guin says is a tribute to the poet Vergil.  I was surprised at Le Guin’s love of Vergil’s work and also of the pre Roman Period of history.  In The Aeneid Lavinia is described as the King’s daughter who Aeneas marries when he and his followers finally settle after their epic battles and journeys.  Le Guin takes this character who doesn’t say a word in Vergil’s poem and makes her, her family, people and the place where she lives come vividly to life. By drawing on mythology and archaeology, she vividly reconstructs a period which is pre-Roman but in which we can see echoes of the Roman society to come.  Le Guin brings to life not only Lavinia but also the poet Vergil and the Trojan hero Aeneas. I found it a fascinating and engrossing read.  As one reviewer wrote. It is a “novel that deserves to be ranked with Robert Graves’ ‘I Claudius’.”      (14 years up)

The eighth book of the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz has also just been published.  I haven’t read it yet but this is more thrilling action of the sort that has been so popular with teenagers.  Crocodile Tears by Anthony Horowitz   pb $17.95

The whole series is:

  1. Stormbreaker
  2. Point blanc
  3. Skeleton Key
  4. Eagle Strike
  5. Scorpia
  6. Ark Angel
  7. Snakehead
  8. Crocodile Tears                                                pb $17.95 each

 
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