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Category Archives: 094 ~ Printed books

Book review ~ Burial rites

Title: Burial rites

Author: Hannah Kent

Published: 2013 by Picador, Australia

Adult fiction/ historical fiction

Burial Rites is a very popular book, on the book club circuit, at my library. This made reserving the book difficult due to its popularity. In my mind, I needed to read this book and once a copy became available I grabbed it. The expectations were confounded further upon discovering it is the first novel written by Hannah Kent, translated to over 20 languages, optioned for a Hollywood film and boasts an impressive list of awards as follows;

  • Shortlisted for The Stella Prize
  • Shortlisted for The Guardian First Book Award 2013
  • Winner of Indie Awards 2014
  • Winner of Victorian Premier’s Literary Award People’s Choice Award 2014
  • Winner of FAW Christina Stead Award 2014
  • Winner of ABA Nielsen Bookdata Booksellers’ Choice Award 2014
  • Shortlisted for NiB Waverley Award for Literature 2013
  • Shortlisted for Voss Literary Award 2014
  • Winner of ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year 2014
  • Winner of SMH Best Young Australian Novelist 2014
  • Winner of ABIA/Booktopia People’s Choice Award 2014
  • Shortlisted for Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014
  • Shortlisted for Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction 2014
  • Shortlisted for ALS Gold Medal 2014
  • Shortlisted for National Book Awards 2014
  • Winner of Davitt Awards Debut Fiction 2014
  • Winner of Davitt Awards Reader’s Choice 2014

(Source: http://www.panmacmillan.com.au/9781742612829 )

Hannah Kent spent some time in Iceland, on an exchange as a teenager. During this time, she learnt of Agnus Magnusdottir, the last woman to be executed in Northern Iceland, for her part in the murders of two men in 1829. This historical moment/story inspired Hannah Kent to go back, later in life, with intent to research the story and write this novel. The detail of the research process is outlined in the back pages of the book. At the beginning of the book is an outline of Icelandic genealogical passing on of names based on patrilineal heritage. Sometimes genealogical links can become unclear depending on social circumstance, position in the household and desires to keep infidelity hushed up. This provides an insight into relationships.

When I first started reading the novel, I found it difficult to become fully engaged. Even though the writing was great and I enjoyed trying to map names and relationships, it seemed somewhat held back. I discussed this with a friend who felt that the language was too contemporary for the period it was set in and thus detracted from the work, for her reading pleasures. Whilst I understood her point, I can’t see how the language could have been written differently. It may have made it even less accessible. Even though I was enjoying the read, I put it down for a week only a third of the way into the story.
When I picked up the novel again, I found I became more enthralled with each revelation in the story. At the outset of the novel Agnus barely spoke, as if her words could not be heard even if she tried. The language snippets suggested the power of society was how her story was being told and she had resigned herself to there being no point in trying to be heard. This concept of storying became something that needed to be questioned. As Agnus started opening up and storying, I became engrossed wanting to learn about her character, to understand her, to see the injustice in her in life. I became engrossed in examination of power relationships, the complexities of social and economic power and how women were intertwined with power, disempowerment and a process of finding power in the gaps that presented themselves.
Once engrossed, I wanted to keep reading. When I finished, I wanted more. By the end, I realized the sophistication of the story, the research and the capturing of power relations. I fell in love with the writing of this story. It is fiction yet somehow resonates a truth.
When you finish reading a book and you want to reread it again, because you may discover something overlooked in the first reading, is when you know how great the storying is.
You may be interested in the following review on Burial rites:
Fire and ice – written by Steven Heighten and published September 27, 2013 in The New York Times

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2015 in 094 ~ Printed books

 

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Book review- The Convent

Book review- The Convent

Title: The Covent

Author: Maureen McCarthy

Published: 2012 by Allen & Unwin  

 Young Adult fiction

In the Author notes, to The Convent, Maureen McCarthy shares a note written to herself from 1991. This note outlines a desire to find out more about her mum’s past, and her life as a ward of the state at the Abbotsford Convent. This is the seed that Spurs her extensive historical research in the development of a novel spanning four generations of women and their connections to The Convent over time. McCarthy declares ‘Like no other book I’ve written The Convent feels like mine’, highlighting the personal connection felt for the stories being told in the fictitious weaving of lives and interactions. 

The Convent covers the lives of four generations of women who have had connections with the Abbotsford Convent. Sadie, Ellen, Cecelia and Perpetua. Sadie’s three year old daughter Ellen is forcibly taken from her and raised at the Convent during the 1920’s. Ellen’s daughter Cecelia becomes a nun at The Convent during the 1960’s and Perpetua works in the cafe at The Convent after it has been reopened as an arts precinct with studios, cafes and galleries in contemporary times.

The intersection of stories is mapped through each of the women, their connection to each other, to The Convent and the connection with Perpetua (Peach) who is at the centre of these intersecting stories as the heart of the novel. 

The structure of the novel aids the delivery of the complexity of character and story development over an historical timeline spanning a century. This is easily achieved with each chapter in the novel titled by the characters name; from which the perspective is to be delivered. As historical moments shift in narrative, dates are provided to indicate moving back and forth in time, revealing situations, life changing incidents and the impact of social forces on the lives of women at different points in time. 

For me, the strength of this novel is its ability to capture the strength of the stories of women, despite hardships, different social mores in different socio-historical time periods, and the choices made impacting on lives lived. These choices are either by self or imposed by others contributing to life paths travelled. In some ways the stories in this novel capture the complexity of female empowerment and disempowerment at the same time across the different periods of time that is mapped.
I will definitely reread this novel!

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2015 in 094 ~ Printed books, Library, Literacy

 

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Censorship of Children’s Books ~ Banned Books Week

Working in a school library, censorship is a constant focus with challenges to the provision of information coming from many angles, including teachers, the government, community and parents. Edwards (2006) states that the challenge to books has been increasing in recent years and most common reasons for challenges include morality, obscenity, profanities and, witchcraft and occult themes from wizards to ghosts.

The State Library of Victoria provides a list of ten most challenged books and on that list is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Some issues confronted at the school level can pertain to covert forms of censorship contradicting standards for professional practice and the commitment to provision of access to information that has a right to be represented in the school community (Asheim, 2009). In this regard reference is made to value judgments by library staff in the selection process, leading to exclusion of resources or making access to information difficult. This is evident in the following examples

  • Expressed preferences for certain formats over others.
  • Positioning of books/information where it is not easily accessed.

The focus of this professional development activity is to highlight a commitment to the promotion and advocacy for freedom of information and the rights to reading. By committing to raising awareness amongst the school community I have chosen to investigate Banned Books Week; celebrating the freedom to read.

Banned Books Week is held during September 22-28, 2013 and associated activities for potential inclusion in the school library program during this time are being investigated.

Why is this important?

In discussion with teachers, parents and staff, I have learnt that censorship is highly emotive when it concerns children as the audience of information. Many have strongly formed attitudes that in turn impact on objectivity in this area including collection selection. Choosing to raise awareness with a Banned Books Week program provides an avenue to explore censorship in a manner that feels safe and non confronting. Some of the books on the list are highly valued by many, thus providing an avenue to delve into this topical area whilst promoting critical reflection.

Being able to instigate discussion around censorship is important for my professional practice and commitment to advocacy for the right to provide access to information objectively is demonstrated in this programming.

Exploring Banned Books week provides an insight into activities that can be implemented at a school level; including displays of books that have been challenged, readings of passages by students and teachers and displaying lists of the challenged books over an historical timeline. Coming across the lists of books that have been challenged, provides a tremendous insight into the need to continue raising awareness as it is ongoing and increasing.

National Archives Australia provides a great resource exploring Books and Magazines Banned in Australia from the 1920’s to 1970’s. The University of Melbourne has a website, Banned Books in Australia linked to ‘A Special Collections ~ Art in the library exhibition’.

Why not visit Banned Books Week Virtual Read-out and hear some passages of books being read

Asheim, L., (2009) Not Censorship but Selection, Children’s Literature in Eduction, 40(3), 197-216.

Edwards, H., (2006) Censorship of Kids books on the rise, The Age, April 30 2006.

 

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The Inky Awards ~ Young peoples book awards

Inside A Dog

Outside a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside a Dog, it’s too dark to read ~ Groucho Marx.

The website Inside a Dog is an initiative developed by the State Library of Victoria targeting a teenage audience. As the website states it is

“All about books by young people for young people”

The website is structured to incorporate forums where young people can have discussions, enter competitions, review books, join online book-clubs, chat to a current author in residence, find out current literature-related news, or vote for books to be awarded an Inky Award.

There is a very useful teachers section with links and resources that are mapped to curriculum standards. Suggested activities and resources provide useful online activities-based programs. The main focus of the site is user-generated book reviews, thus forming a great addition for any literacy-based activities and promoting conversation as part of the learning process.

This post will focus on evaluating the Inky Awards for inclusion in the celebrated Book Week in August.

The Inky Awards

In the Library we currently celebrate the Children’s Book of the Year Awards by the Children’s Book Council of Australia as part of Book Week in August. This year, the school library would like to extend this by incorporating the Inky Awards amongst the books celebrated. The short list for the Inky Awards is announced online via the Inside a Dog website on August 26th, coinciding with Book Week. The shortlist of books that students can vote for, is decided by teen judges. To become a judge a young person submits an application via email. Once selected the judges read 20 books in a two-month period and reach a consensus on the 10 shortlisted books. This shortlist is then open to other young people to vote for a book to be awarded an Inky award in one of two categories.

Gold Inky for an Australian book

Silver Inky for an International Book

As part of Book Week, a prominent display of nominated books is created, author visits occur, activities are programed related to the books and readings of the shortlisted books take place. By introducing The Inky Awards to the Book Week program, the students can participate in voting for a children’s book awards. Hopefully this can continue for years to come.

Because the website is focussed on participation and engagement of young people in online environments, it promotes empowerment via digital literacy and citizenship by encouraging connecting with wider groups. It extends literacy development beyond the classroom and school to include other young people and to the wider community, in forging links with the State Library of Victoria. This is a great basis for the promotion of life-long learning beyond the school.

As a librarian in a school setting, this resource is a great addition to any program in literacy development. It fosters a love of reading by encouraging reading as a social activity. Thereby linking in with Piaget’s constructivist approaches to learning grounded in developmental needs (Garhart Mooney, 2013 p.79).

By evaluating websites, children’s book awards and potential programs with curriculum links, I am able to provide resources in support of the school curriculum and the teaching and learning needs of staff and students. This is supported by standards of professional practice for teacher librarians (ASLA, 2004).

This website is geared towards an older age group in children, predominantly teenagers. Whilst this can be useful to the Grade 5/6 demographic of the primary school, I would like to investigate something similar for the younger children in the school. Consequently, the Inky Awards will be geared towards the older children in the school. It may be interesting to initiate a school based book awards for younger grades as a lead in to the Inky Awards when they are in Grade 5 and 6.

ASLA (2004) Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians, retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx

Garhart Mooney, C. (2013) Theories of Childhood, Second Edition: An Introduction to Dewey, Montessori, Erikson, Piaget and Vygotsky, Redleaf Press, Minesota, USA.

 

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Book Review ~ The Promise: The Town That Never Forgets

The Promise: The Town That Never Forgets/Noublions jamais lAustralie by Derek Guille, illustrated by Kaff-eine, translated by Anne-Sophie Biguet, ISBN 9780987313959, One Day Hill. Hardback $24.99

The Promise

This non-fiction book depicts a century old relationship formed between a town in France, Villers-Bretonneux and Australia. The commitment to never forget the help provided by Australians, who saved them in World War I is expressed. Australia helped rebuild the town by providing some funds raised by school children in Victoria. Almost a century later, the people of Villers-Bretonneux returned help to Victorians after the bushfires that ravaged country towns. The article, ‘Bound by history, French children honour their debt’ in the Australian, provides information of the children from Villers-Bretonneux raising money to help rebuild the Strathewen primary school, and this is the event that forms part of the book.

Nelson Ferguson, a cornet player and artist, was a stretcher-bearer from Australia in Villers-Bretonneux, during World War I and suffered injuries. His grandson was inspired to travel on this journey and learn more about the town and the history. He invited musicians, from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) to form a brass band to play a private memorial at the Australian War Memorial, located just outside the village. Geoff Payne was amongst the musicians on this journey. Beyond the historical basis, of the connection between the two places, the book conveys a personal and emotional journey by Musicians from the MSO during a 2007 tour accompanied by the journalist and author of the book Derek Guille. It is the personal story of Geoff Payne that resonates with emotion in this journey. Whilst there, he discovers a photograph in the Memorial depicting his great uncles grave. The emotional impact of this discovery transfers to his ability to perform later that same day at the memorial.

I came to this book via a passion for the street art by the Artist Kaff-Eine. The artwork beautifully conveys the emotions depicted in the true story of the journey by musicians from the MSO in 2007 and it is the emotional connection that resonates. When Geoff Payne discovers a photograph a sense of feeling the shattering moment is captured in the artwork. The actual playing at the memorial heightens the emotional moment and affirms the enduring connection of the two countries. The artwork, by Kaff-Eine, is poignant in depicting the moments of emotion. The beautiful water-colour illustrations convey the story with a gentleness and contribute to the humanisation of this story about the harsh realities of tragedies and how they extend to affect people today.

This book was acquired for the school library and was placed on the display shelf as part of the lead up to ANZAC day. It is a bi-lingual book with the English story written on the top half of the page and the French translation written directly beneath. This contributes to relevance for Languages other than English (LOTE) programs in school, particularly if French is a subject studied. It is a great inclusion when exploring diversity and world connections with other cultures too.

Most non-fiction books, about history and war, in our collection depict prosaic iterations of history and its events. There aren’t many resources providing personalised perspectives, nor mapping a connection between Australia and another country over a significant period of time.

The Promise: The Town that Never Forgets, does not depict actual war experiences in detail, however moments are intertwined within the story of a modern day journey of musicians revisiting a town in France to play music at a private memorial. In the end it is a celebration of a connection formed during times of extreme situations. It’s a celebration of human bonding across borders and helps to make the world a somewhat smaller and friendlier place. It provides a faith in human capacity to provide support at times of greatest need.

Being able to review books, whilst working in a school library, contributes to greater knowledge of the library collection and assists in ability to provide recommendations to the school community about specific resources that are relevant to the curriculum. This book provides a fantastic avenue to explore the historical events mentioned by connecting with other available sources. Considering, History is now compulsory in the Australian Curriculum from Year 3 upwards, an evaluation of resources available in the library to support the curriculum is vital.

 

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Visiting Libraries….

A Web of interconnections

This past session, one of the subjects I completed included the study visits to various information agencies. Interestingly most people visiting the Melbourne organisations were from other States of Australia or regional areas and I was definitely amongst the minority from Melbourne on the visits.

The places visited include

I’m not going to venture into detail about each of the organisations but rather provide a focus on Melbourne Library Service.

In previous posts, I have mentioned some of their innovative programming such as the Gallery Space hosting exhibitions, the cafe poet, the public piano and various workshops including Zine making workshops. It’s incredibly exciting to learn about the community engagement offered by Melbourne Library Service and how it provides a glimpse to the changing nature of libraries as space and how they are utilised.

In line with the rise in the creative maker culture, Melbourne Library Service reflects this, not only in their programming of workshops but in their collection building too. For instance, the Zine creation workshops lead to Zines that become part of the library collection that a wider audience can borrow, just like books, ebooks, audio books and CD’s. In effect this is an example of  great community engagement by a public library facilitating publishing and sharing.

Another interesting transition, exemplified in their plans for the library that is being built at Docklands due to open in 2014, is the incorporation of multimedia production facilities, a performance space and a Green room (for special effects). With these facilities, enabling multimedia production, they are planning to employ two multimedia technicians to facilitate the process and enable community to create films, audio recordings and even have performances or screenings.

Clearly, exciting times are ahead for public libraries as they transition to being the Hub of the community. The public library provides meeting spaces, resources and enables creative engagement. It provides connections to artists and community and facilitates the sharing of a local voice to a global audience.

Funnily, the study visits were meant to clarify the kind of information agency I would like to end up in. Currently, I’m in a small school library and for a few months I was convinced it was audiovisual archives and preservation that I wanted to focus on. After the visits, I came away liking all of them and have now broadened my choices rather than narrowed… Maybe next year I’ll narrow it down and the sky will provide a clear and narrowed focus 🙂

 

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National Year of Reading ~ 2012

We are always engaged in the act of reading and this year has been designated as the National year of reading. So Read, Read and Read and then why not continue to read. I couldn’t imagine anything more pleasurable… well maybe sharing what I have read with friends comes a close second.

Visit the following links for related information:

Love to Read

Love to read wikispace

 

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