Monthly Archives: October 2013

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Book Week Scotland 2013 – Schools Resources

The Scottish Booktrust is running their book week at the end of November and they have a brilliant school resource on how to get involved with their Biig Book bash.

Looking for ideas on how to get pupils and staff involved in Book Week Scotland? This resource pack can be used before, during or after Book Week Scotland 2013 to help you on your journey to becoming a reading school!

The resource pack features ideas for getting both staff and pupils engaged in Book Week Scotland activities, including:

* suggestions for a ‘Big Book Bash’, from a staff book swap to a pupils’ book review club;
* ideas on how to get the whole school sharing their current reading;
* guidance on holding a reading flashmob!

Whether you want a few activity ideas or plan to hold an outlandish celebration of the written word, this resource pack provides the tools to get you started.

You do not even have to be Scottish to use the ideas (and they have some great ones!

You can download the school resource pack here:

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell

Meet Ada Goth.
She lives in Ghastly-Gorm Hall with her father, Lord Goth, lots of servants and at least half a dozen ghosts, but she hasn’t got any friends to explore her enormous, creepy house with.
Then, one night, everything changes when Ada meets a ghostly mouse called Ishmael. Together they set out to solve the mystery of the strange happenings at Ghastly-Gorm Hall and get a lot more than they bargained for…
I was a wannabe goth when I was younger, sadly living in Cape Town and wilting in the African sun made it impossible to wear the black and dye my hair or wear make-up and my parents would have killed me if I had come home with midnight-black hair smoking clove cigarettes. So I internalised it – I read the books and listened to the music! I still love the Sisters of Mercy, The Mission and other bands that typify the goth scene.

This is one of the prettiest and shiniest books I have come across all year, shiny silver and purple with stylish art by Chris Riddell made me think of the Hot Topic store I visited in America with one majot difference! This book has substance as well as bucket-loads of style!

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse has shades of Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake and a whole rash of puns and shout outs to gothic novelists and characters from literary fiction. It is a novel for young goths – not emo kids but actual goths! I will not get into the differences between the goth and emo scene but they are different – trust me on this!

Ada has to help Ishmael find out the cause of his death, solve a chilling conspiracy and reconnect with her grief-struck father who still has not come to terms with the death of his beloved wife (Ada’s mother) as well as encounter a new governess with a dark secret and befriend the children working in the rambling hall and help them uncover the secret of the scheming gamekeeper Maltravers.

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse a hilarious book,funny amd with lashings of pathos is aimed firmly at a younger audience but with enough foot- & side-notes and puns for older readers to enjoy.

15 Halloween Reads

The Forest of Hands and Teeth – Carrie Ryan
Hollow Pike – James Dawson
The Gallows Curse – Andrew Hammond
Ministry of Pandemonium – Chris Westwood
Department 19 – Will Hill
The Monstrumologist – Rick Yancey
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs
Rot and Ruin – Jonathan Maberry
The Enemy – Charlie Higson
Long Lankin – Lindsey Barraclough
Cirque du Freak – Darren Shan
The Diviners – Libba Bray
172 Hours on the Moon – Johan Harstad
Demonata – Darren Shan
This Dark Endeavour – Kenneth Oppel
Furnace – Alexander Gordon Smith
The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman
Coraline – Neil Gaiman
I Know What You Did Last Summer – Lois Duncan
Unwind – Neal Shusterman
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black

A 21st century View of 17th Century London

A 3D representation of 17th century London before the Great Fire of London

Pudding Lane Productions – a group of students from De Montfort University has won this year’s Off The Map Competition.

This was the first I had heard about the Off the Map Competition. Projects like this can spark a young person’s interest in history and game creation – and where better to find information on these two subjects than in the library?

Off the Map is a unique collaboration, an exciting invitation, a new kind of student competition.

Bringing together the peerless collection of the British Library, the bleeding edge technology of Crytek’s CryENGINE® and the cultural platform of GameCity – it’s an invitation to a select group of undergraduate students to stretch their imaginations and refine their talents within a creative context.

In this launch year, teams of students in the UK are being invited to be inspired by a specially curated set of maps, each one hand-picked for the Off the Map challenge by experts at the British Library.

Using the power of Crytek’s free CryENGINE® 3 SDK, the teams are invited to explore these assets and make their own creative responses. With no restrictions or strict rules dictating the process, the main goal for participants is simply to surprise us, challenge us and take us somewhere new – off the map.

I will be watching the competition in future years and (hopefully) involve a group of students here in shadowing future participants. This may hopefully spark a future in digital creation.

Why have School Librarians?

Download (PDF, 160KB)

This leaflet has been produced by the School Libraries Group of CILIP for all current and potential stakeholders (including parents, governors, teachers and students) in schools. The leaflet outlines what a professional Librarian, and the Library service they lead, will provide to pupils and the whole school community and why that is important.

A high resolution copy of the leaflet can be downloaded here:

Lockwood & Co. Hallowe'en Adventure Story

Lockwood & Co. is a small ghost-detection agency in London. Its only employees are three children: Anthony Lockwood (dashing and brave), Lucy Carlyle (clever and resourceful) and George Cubbins (cautious and hard-working). They have a lot of work to do because there’s an epidemic of ghosts across the country. Hundreds of spirits and spectres appear each night during the hours of darkness. And they’re dangerous – the touch of a ghost can kill!

Starting on Saturday 26 October Jonathan Stroud is going to write a new Lockwood & Co adventure, which is going to be posted up on The Guardian website. There will be a new instalment every day for six days, with the last part coming out on Thursday 31 October – Halloween.

Each day, at the end of each section, there will be a VOTE on what happens next. The most popular choice will be chosen to carry on the story. So the entire shape of this story will depend on the readers. They (and you) can decide how Lockwood and his friends carry out the investigation. You can decide how they tackle the ghosts they’ll meet, and what clues they should follow.

The Marcus Chown 2013 What A Wonderful World Tour

Why do we breathe? What is money? How does the brain work? Why did life invent sex? Does time really exist? How does capitalism work – or not, as the case may be? Where do mountains come from? How do computers work? How did humans get to dominate the Earth? Why is there something rather than nothing?

In What a Wonderful World, Marcus Chown, bestselling author of Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You and the Solar System app, uses his vast scientific knowledge and deep understanding of extremely complex processes to answer simple questions about the workings of our everyday lives. Lucid, witty and hugely entertaining, it explains the basics of our essential existence, stopping along the way to show us why the Atlantic is widening by a thumbs’ length each year, how money permits trade to time travel why the crucial advantage humans had over Neanderthals was sewing and why we are all living in a giant hologram.


You are 1/3 mushroom

We share 1/3 of our DNA with fungi (As if my Christmas card list wasn’t long enough…)

You could fit the entire human race in the volume of a sugar cube

That’s because atoms are 99.9999999999999% empty space. So, if you could squeezed out all the empty space from all the atoms in all the people in the world you could indeed fit the human race in the volume of a sugar cube

Slime moulds have 13 sexes

Each can mate with all other sexes (And you think it’s hard finding & keeping a partner!)

You age more slowly on the ground floor of a building

This a consequence of Einstein’s theory of gravity, which says that time flows more slowly in strong gravity (If you want to live long and prosper, move to a bungalow)

Today your body will build about 300 billion cells

That’s more than there are stars in our Milky Way galaxy (No wonder I feel knackered doing nothing)

Babies are powered by rocket-fuel

That’s right – the very same mixture of hydrogen and oxygen that boost the Space Shuttle into space is the source of all our energy

Every one of us spent half an hour as a single cell

I remember it being very boring. I couldn’t wait for some friends to play with

Brains aren’t all they’re cracked up to be

The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea looking for a rock to cling to. On finding one, it no longer needs its brain. So it… eats it

The crucial advantage that humans had over Neanderthals was… sewing

No one has ever found a Neanderthal needle. It is thought that the sewing of baby clothes may have given human babies a crucial 1% survival advantage in the ice age winters and this may explain why humans outcompeted Neanderthals

97.5% of the Universe is invisible

68% is invisible “dark energy”, 27% is invisible “dark matter”, and, of the remaining stuff – the atoms that you, me, and the stars are made of – only half has actually been seen by telescopes.

UK Teens Trailing in International Literacy & Numeracy (& possibly how to reverse this trend)

I read two news articles today that are connected. The first was in the Guardian
According to a survey of 2,000 British children and parents conducted by Nielsen Book in June this year, 50% of family households now own at least one tablet, up from 24% a year ago.
On a weekly basis, 60% of children are reading books for pleasure, and if you factor in children who are being read to by parents, that percentage climbs to 72%.
Only three activities increased in percentage terms between 2012 and 2013: playing “game apps” (the term used by Nielsen Book), visiting YouTube and text messaging. “What we’re seeing is that non-readers have risen from 22% to 28% of all children,”
“It’s hugely impacting on teenagers: 11-17 year-olds are actually dropping their participation in quite a broad range of activities in order to play game apps,” said Henry.

The second article on the BBC News website:
A major study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows how England’s 16 to 24-year-olds are falling behind their Asian and European counterparts.
England is 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy out of 24 countries.
“This shocking report shows England has some of the least literate and numerate young adults in the developed world,” said Skills Minister Matthew Hancock.

Over the past decade I have seen reading groups in libraries and schools run with librarians and parents (dads & lads groups), groups run with teachers & librarians or librarians & parents (Chatterbooks) and general reading groups run by librarians or (in schools) teachers for young readers. I have never come across groups that incorporate parents/guardians, teachers & librarians. If anyone knows of such groups please let me know as I would love to find out how they got started.

It is disturbing that a developed, first-world country like Britain is so far down on international literacy & numeracy tables.
A suggestion is that teachers, librarians and the parents/ guardians of young readers join forces to ensure that children have decent access to reading materials and that they actually read them.

Placing teens in the middle of a triangle with parents, librarians and teachers along the borders making sure they have access to relevant materials and actually use them will be a step in rectifying this but it is only a beginning.

There is a strong link between literacy and employability in the UK: people with the lowest levels of literacy are the least likely to be employed while only 2% of families with good levels of literacy live in workless households.

Most of the (pre-teen) children I have seen in schools and libraries love reading and stories The Summer Reading Challenge bears this out with numbers of participants rising with every year. We need to keep young readers engaged as they reach their teens, this is why I think it is so important that a teenagers are made aware of initiatives that are currently running across the country as well as independent, grass-roots work being done in individual libraries & local authorities around the UK and locally.

Ender's Game

The human race faces annihilation.

An alien threat is on the horizon, ready to strike. And if humanity is to be defended, the government must create the greatest military commander in history.

The brilliant young Ender Wiggin is their last hope. But first he must survive the rigours of a brutal military training program – to prove that he can be the leader of all leaders.

A saviour for mankind must be produced, through whatever means possible.

But are they creating a hero or a monster?

This is the multiple award-winning classic ENDER’S GAME – a ground-breaking tale of war, strategy and survival.
So after The Ender’s Game Panel last night (with Harrison Ford, Sir Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld in conversation with director & writer Gavin Hood and the producers Bob Orci and Gigi Pritzker) I thought I would revisit Ender’s Game, the novel.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Sir Ben Kingsley looks amazing as Mazer Rackham, the soldier whose actions during the Formic War saved humanity. Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Colonel Hyrum Graff the man tasked with creating the next generation of warriors at Battle School is equally fantastic. Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld are also excellent castings, I have only seen Asa in Hugo and Hailee in True Grit and am looking forward to seeing how they handle Ender’s Game.

The panel discussion was incredibly interesting, sadly I was too interested in listening to what they were saying so I did not take notes but what I can remember is that it took two hours for the make-up department to apply Mazer Rackham’s facial tattoo to Sir Ben Kingsley every day and the first time Hailee used a wire harness she was unable to keep upright… oh and Harrison Ford said that for special effects during the filming of Star Wars they actually built model space ships rather than using green screen technology.

Gigi Pritzker spoke of her joy that the book had been adapted for the big screen as she had read the novel after her nephew had suggested she read it an event that united two generations in a love for the story.

As a writer Orson Scott Card is brilliant, sadly his views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage make him a failure on being a decent human being. Ender’s Game is one of my all-time favourite science fiction novels; I read it when I was about 14 years of age and although I have not read it since the story has remained with me to this day.

Ender’s Game – the story of Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin a boy raised to save humanity in a battle of extinction with the Buggers (also known as Formics in later novels) an alien race that almost succeeded in destroying the human race in previous battles.

Using children as soldiers is nothing new – the stories of child soldiers that have been in the headlines over the past few yeas makes this story just as relevant now as it was when it was first published. The parts of the novel in Battle School show his progression from a withdrawn boy into a warrior and leader are brutal and can make brilliant discussion points about the psychological effect war has on children and the moral aspects of turning human beings into weapons.

It is telling that Ender’s Game, along with Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers are on the United States Marine Corps recommended reading lists.

Ada Lovelace Day event idea: Celebrating Science-Fiction Written by Women

Ada Lovelace Day is a day set aside to celebrate the women that have worked and work in Science Technology Engineering & Maths (STEM) based careers.

I think that we should also celebrate the great female writers of science-fiction. Many modern discoveries have had their roots in science-fiction and a number of scientists have been inspired by reading stories of the future when they were young to become scientists, engineers and creators of the future, turning science-fiction into science fact.

This is a partial list of women who have written and continue to write science-fiction. If you can know of other authors that should be on this list please leave leave their names in a comment below.

Aliette De Bodard: Scattered Among Strange Worlds
Anne Leckie: Ancillary Justice
Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveller’s Wife
Barbara Hambly: Crossroad
Cecelia Holland: Floating Worlds
Cherie Priest: Bone Shaker
C.J. Cherryh: Chanur’s Venture
Connie Willis: Passage
Elizabeth Bear: Dust
Elizabeth Hand: Errantry
Elizabeth Moon: Speed of Dark
Gail Simone: Womanthology: Heroic
Gwyneth Jones: North Wind
Jaine Fenn: Queen of Nowhere
James Tiptree Jr.: Ten Thousand Light Years from Home
Janet Edwards: Earth Girl
Jo Walton: Half A Crown
Joanna Russ: The Female Man
Justina Robson: Chasing the Dragon
Kameron Hurley: God’s War
Karen Lord: The Best of All Possible Worlds
Kate Wilhelm: Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang
Katherine Kerr: Palace
Kim E Curran: Shift
Laura Lam: Pantomime
Lauren Beukes: Moxyland
Lois McMaster Bujold: The Vorkosigan Saga
Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale
Nicola Griffin: Ammonite
Octavia Butler: Lilith’s Brood
Pat Cadigan: Synners
Rachel Pollack: Unquenchable Fire
Sarah Lotz: AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers
Sheri S. Tepper: Grass
Stina Leicht
Tricia Sullivan: Maul
Ursula le Guin: The Dispossessed