by Debbi Long
Stories about future societies, especially dystopian ones, are high on our “most popular books” lists. Most are about surviving in this new somewhat alien worlds, Hunger Games and Maze Runner, and many are read across most year levels. Other favourites include: Bzrk (#1 of series) by Michael Grant, 0.4 (#1 series) by Mike Lancaster, The Hunt (#1 of trilogy) by Andrew Fukuda and Skinned (#1 Cold Awakening trilogy) by Robin Wasserman.
Michael Pryor‘s book is set at the beginning, when the hero might just have a chance to stop things before society is forced to change and is enjoyed mostly by our younger students, the 12-13 year olds. The setting is now, today and easily believable.
14-year-old Bram comes home late and as he arrives at the gate senses something is wrong. It is part of the survival strategy that his parents have drilled into him all his life. Bram’s mother is a brilliant scientist who is a world leader in the artificial intelligence world. She has always been aware that things could go wrong in her field and has planned for it. Bram has an elaborately planned survival plan, called “Scatter and Hide”, that has been designed to give his mother time to find a solution to the disaster. She asks Bram to stay out of the clutches of Ahriman (as the AI calls himself) for 3 weeks. He must not be taken hostage if she is to figure out how to overcome the rogue AI. This turns out to be easier said than done. With the help of his friend Stella and Bob, another AI unit, built by his mother and put into his childhood toy duck, Bram works hard to stay free. It is not easy to stay out of the clutches of a being that controls the internet. In today’s world staying off-line and off the grid is difficult especially when so many everyday activities are dependent on technology without you being really being aware of it. Bram teaches Stella to use a slingshot against some of Ahriman’s creations and Bob has some very useful moves as they try to stay ahead of their pursuer.
Bram is intelligent and a bit of a loner due to moving around a lot due to his parents working arrangements. He has developed various coping mechanisms such as using different character voices to hide his feelings. Stella, his new friend, is independent, thinks for herself and belongs to no single group but is friendly with all. Together, along with Bob, they decide that it is sometimes better to attack than just hide. Their days are spent alternatively hiding and planning then carrying out ways to fight back.
There are some humorous moments such as the description of Bram trying to find a way of keeping up with the news without technology and Stella walking across to a newspaper seller to buy the “old-fashioned” option.
From the authors site, a page that discusses the novel, the story behind, its writing and links to other information.
Teacher Notes from Random House here.
Filed under: literature, Reading | Tagged: Australian literature, book review, children's literature, Dystopian fiction, Machine wars, Michael Pryor, science fiction, YA literature | Leave a comment »
This year we have had many students enjoying #4 in the series “The Slaves of Socorro“. It is a great story with lots of the sort of action that our boys love. The official book trailer, whilst advertising that the book is out, does nothing to really recommend it. So much could be put into the short trailer to really whet the appetite but this is a really bland attempt. We show trailers of our new books on a screen in our library. I am always looking for something to attract the eye of not only the good readers but especially the less interested students.
My challenge to our students is to come up with a better trailer, one that offers more to the imagination and may bring new readers to the series. We created a guide to the process and a rubric for class assessment several years ago. It has been used (and adapted) by students and teachers,and is available on one of our wikis
Congratulations to the authors and illustrators of the books below. To their editors and publishers and also the CBCA judges.
The CBCA winning books for 2014 voted on by the judges, were announced this afternoon. The judges have a difficult job and I know that a lot of deliberation and discassion has gone on. The CBCA awards are given to works that are the benchmarks for quality in Australian children’s literature. The books that made to this short list are being read and enjoyed by the boys. I wrote a post about the older readers shortlist with links for follow-up earlier in the year. As is usually the case the books chosen this year were quite varied in their styles and subject matter.
The 2014 CBCA Book of the Year awards have been given to the authors and illustrators in the following five categories from older readers to early childhood
- Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near
- The Sky so Heavy by Claire Zorn
Winner: City of Orphans: A very unusual pursuit by Catherine Jinks. Catherine has an interesting page about the title, there are teaching notes and, from the Allen and Unwin site, there are Reviews by teachers (PDF) also.
- My life as an alphabet by Barry Jonsberg. There are teaching notes, on the Insideadog site there are reviews by YA readers and plenty of other reviews including a Readplus review
- Light horse boy by Dianne Wolfer
- I’m a dirty dinosaur by Janeen Brian and Ann James
- Banjo and Ruby Red by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood
Winner: Rule of Summer by Shaun Tan. I am so pleased that another wonderful book by the brilliant author Shaun Tan won this section. There are some great resources – my post with links including to videos, a teachers’ guide here and a podcast on The art of Shaun Tan.
Eve Pownell Award for Information Books
Winner: Jeremy by Christopher Faille
- Welcome to my country by Laklak Burarrwanga and family There are Notes for teachers (PDF) and Reviews by teachers (PDF) from the Ale and Unwin site.
- Ice, wind, rock by Peter Gouldthorpe
Filed under: literature, Reading | Tagged: Australian_literature, book awards, books, CBCA, CBCA Shortlist, children's book awards, Children's Book Council of Australia, children's literature, Reading, YA literature | Leave a comment »
One minute’s silence is another story remembering WWI. This one has text written by an author who I believe captures the Australian character very well and I enjoy reading David’s YA novels. This picture book really showcases his ability to use language emotively. Michael Camilleri’s images are equally powerful. I am thinking about the CBCA Book Week display and the theme this year “Reading to Connect: Connect to reading”. This book certainly enables us to connect to the past and not just to the ANZACs but to the Turkish soldiers as well.
One Minute’s Silence by David Metzenthen
It is hard to describe this book. You need to read it/experience it. This is a beautifully presented picture book that takes an unusual path to look at WWI’s Gallipoli campaign. It begins in a 21st century classroom with students depicted, in b&w drawings, as fairly uninterested. The minute’s silence for remembering those who died in WWI (at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month) is about to begin.
The text then repeats, page after page, the words “in one minute’s silence….” as it depicts, in b&w illustrations, and describes, in emotionally moving text, what happened at Gallipoli, from both perspectives. Using simple language, the reader is asked to think and imagine what the men at Gallipoli felt/thought/went through. The stories of courage and fear of the young men on both sides of the battle are seamlessly merged offering balance to the campaign that is very well-known in Australia.
The extract from Mustafa Ataturk’s moving speech is a fitting end to the book.
A great deal of careful thought has made the text and images deceptively simple as fit they together to give the reader a powerful experience. David Metzenthen‘ and Michael Camilleri have created an amazing book for all ages.
Looking for ideas about book week activities I came across one I thought would be fun to set as a quiz. There are a few places to go if you are looking for ideas for book week but two very good sites I like for Book Week ideas are Susan Stephenson’s Book Chook blog and the Book Week for Beginners wiki. There are all sorts of ideas and things that could be reworked for many libraries or classes.
One idea I liked was playing around with titles and over the last few days I have had a go. I came up with the following that I will test with staff (and students). They will be able to see the list of CBCA titles (I think I will combine the 2013 and 2014 lists to make them look a little more. I will add a few other well-known titles for staff to try as well.
I have listed my new titles below and will put up this list on my reading wiki along with the answers after Book Week. Can you guess them? I see this activity as one that could be used with students at anytime. There could be many variations on the basic idea.
From the CBCA Short list, 2014
Fabricated stories for uneducated young females
Welcome famous skipper
Notably less than whole
From 2013 short list
Small change for authoritarian
A venerable 24 hours
Well known novels
Habitation of predatory carnivore (historical fiction)
Young magus deals with miscegentic potentate (fantasy)
Avocation for hereditary seat (fantasy)
Polar Radiance (fantasy)
Liberation money (Australian life)
Traveller, outfitter, warrior, provocateur (mystery)
Entirely me (Australian prize winning novel)