Itch: a science-themed action adventure. Books 1 and 2

The last week has been very busy working with English teachers to match the more reluctant boys in their classes with books they might enjoy. It can be hard work sometimes but so rewarding when you have some success. We also had parent/teacher interviews over two days/nights. The English teachers stressed that the boys should be reading in a number of interviews so I had a chance to talk to the boys and their parents about what might be of interest to them. It was also interesting to see that many parents after looking at the books on display (many were military fiction and biographies/autobiographies out for ANZAC Day) had their boys borrow a book for them to read.

Itch by Simon Mayo_small

I was very happy to talk about books and reading when I didn’t have an interview of my own. One of the books I enjoyed last year was Itch by Simon Mayo. I read a review in a blog from the UK and bought it via my Kindle to read. The book was later released as a paperback that we now have in the library.

The main character, who has the marvelous name of Itchinham Lofte, is fairly ordinary 14-year-old who loves science and has one obsession, his collection of elements. His obsession puts him and his friends in a lot of danger.

There is plenty of intrigue and action with a bad guy, in the form of a mad scientist and a ruthless corporation with dubious morals laying claim to the new element Itch has in his hands. Is the element dangerous and did it cause the death of the mysterious traveler “Cake”? Itch needs to know more but who can he trust with his secret?

An action adventure with a science theme made this book a little unusual. The pace was brisk and the ending a good one. So, after believing you have poisoned your whole class with arsenic gas then going on the run from a your mad science teacher and to top it off almost dying of radiation poisoning, what adventures could there be to write about? There were a few big questions unanswered at the end of the book so there are enough things open for a follow-up story.

The book trailer for the novel was also great. Watch it below.

Itch RocksNow the second in the series has been published. I have yet to read it. I will have to finish off some other books this weekend before I get a copy to read. I will probable get the kindle version before getting a hardcopy as well for the library. We have boys who like the digital format, boys that will read the story whatever the format and others who prefer the traditional book.

There is again a good book trailer to whet the appetite.

Book Week 2012 activities and NYR

We are combining our Book Week celebrations this year with the National Year of Reading activities.

The first event was held on Monday. The lunchtime session called “Battle of the Books” involved teachers and a senior student at our school. Each had 5 minutes to convince the audience that their favourite book was the best and that we should all read it. Each speaker was absolutely passionate about their book. Some reading skills, props, cajoling and questions were just some of the tactics used. It is generally said there can be only one winner and, yes, there was one book voted as the officially declared winner and that was The Passage by Justin Cronin. The other books presented to the audience were The Bet by Anton Chekov, Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Each one of the titles had plenty of support and all books will be picked up and read by more of our students after the Monday’s event so everyone of them is really a winner.

Two of our National Year of Reading competitions are finishing up with the voting phase during Book Week.

We ran a photography competition, through term 2 up until last Friday, called Snap It!

You can see a slide show of the photos the boys entered on our library blog. We asked students to enter photographs that celebrated reading; in all aspects including reading in unusual places. This meant that some used their creativity and Photoshop skills to create some very unusual shots. We have them as part of our display this week as well as on the computers around the library as screen savers and on the big television screen.

The photos have created quite a talking point with the other students since being put on display and we are encouraging all to vote for the people’s choice award. One of them, a panoramic view of the library will be used as our banner photo on our intranet, so already a win for us with that one. We will be able to use of these photos to promote reading in the future as I am very proud of the efforts of all the boys. I must also mention our wonderful photography teacher Alison Agnew, who has supported our efforts and encouraged the boys to take on the task. I know many of the boys appreciate her skill in teaching them how to “see” and observe things as well as the more manual photographic skills.

The other competition that finishes with a voting component is the Film It! competition.

This competition involved students creating short videos that again celebrated books and reading. We had boys enter book trailers and some specific videos about reading. To give the boys some ideas we ran some of the internet videos, that celebrated reading and books, during lunchtimes throughout term 2. We also regularly show book trailers. Our own student videos have been running each day during lunchtime during Book Week with voting taking place both in the library and on-line via our intranet. Many year 8 students created book trailers and I have posted about our classroom processes before  with information about it, and a marking rubric for teachers, also on my reading wiki

Useful Links (Weekly)

  • Technology in Schools Faces Questions on Value – A long article that discusses the benefits of using technology in the classroom. “In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning. Advocates for giving schools a major technological upgrade say digital devices let students learn at their own pace, teach skills needed in a modern economy and hold the attention of a generation weaned on gadgets. Some backers of this idea say standardized tests, the most widely used measure of student performance, don’t capture the breadth of skills that computers can help develop. But they also concede that for now there is no better way to gauge the educational value of expensive technology investments. “   

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Useful sites (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

YA literature – Printz award winners and a podcast

Thanks to a post on the Fiction Focus (CMIS) site, I found out about  a collection of book trailers. These have been created for many of the Printz Award winners and Honor Books and go back as far as 2000. They were created by students at the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Women’s University.

The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. It is named for a Topeka, Kansas school librarian who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association. The award is sponsored by Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association.

There are some Australian books also on the list of trailers. Melina Marchetta’s On the Jellico Road, Printz winner in 2009, has been included as has Sonya Hartnett’s Surrender, a Printz Honor Book in 2007 and Margo Lanagan’s Black Juice, a 2006 Honor Book.

Speaking of using the film media to promote books – here is another interesting item.

Since the movie came out we have had a great rush on John Marsden’s books. There has always been a steady readership but, invariably, after a movie adaptation there is a rush back to the book. We are fortunate that we have mini class sets of the Tomorrow series books and we have been able to accommodate all those who have come to the library keen to read the books

There was a great interview from the RN Book Show has John Marsden discussing the film adaptation of his very popular Tomorrow when the war began book.  and some of the compromises he has had to accept.

The first book in the Tomorrow series was published in 1993 but there is a renewed surge of interest in the novel because it is now ‘a major motion picture’. The film version of Tomorrow When the War Began was released in cinemas during the September school holidays in Australia, and as a tie-in Pan MacMillan have re-published the novel, and its numerous sequels, with new cover designs made up of stills from the film.

Any author would be happy to have their novel back at the front of the book store but the translation from page to screen inevitably involves compromise and that can sometimes be less comfortable.

John Marsden was as articulate as ever and he gave thoughtful answers. He discusses the changes/differences between his story (the characterisations, the portrayal of violence, the way the enemies are less faceless to name three) and the new medium of film. The podcast is 17 minutes long but very easy to listen to and many of our boys would have opinions on the issues discussed.