Friday, November 18, 2016

Readers really matter

I had the opportunity to discover this TED talk about reading.  If you are reading this blog you are probably a reader. You might be a King's High School student, you might be one of my librarian colleagues.  If you are a reader, then this talk will give you affirmation that you are doing one of the best things to make your chances of success in later life. Watch this talk to feel validated.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Road to Winter by Mark Smith

In a grim future Australia, where the seas have risen and then a virus has swept through, killed millions and pretty much wiped out the population - especially the women who seem to be more susceptable, life is very tough and lonely for 16-year-old Finn. His family are all gone, but left him well prepared, he has a great cache of supplies but is in constant danger of being attacked by roaming packs of people, nicknamed Wildlings who are hungry and desperate. He has a dog for company, I always love the dog characters and this one is no exception. Finn has made a life for himself, hunting rabbits, fishing, surfing and eking out an existence on what he can find. It is a tough life and he needs to be constantly on guard. Suddenly his routine is totally disrupted by the arrival of a group of Wildings who are tracking a girl. This injured and vulnerable girl is Rose, and she needs Finn's help, she is stroppy and damaged and Finn is overwhelmed but kind to her. She is searching for her sister and Finn is unable to resist helping her to find her.

What I loved so much about this book was the fact that it is not only a really well-written dystopia, but that has much to say about current Australian politics. Rose and her sister are Siley's, slang for asylum seekers, originally from Afghanistan, they are treated as slaves on farms and in factories as a way of solving the asylum seeker problem. Mark Smith makes his politics clear on this topic but not in any kind of preachy way, but in a humanitarian way which makes you think. It is interesting to see these issues tackled in this way, often there are bright red pointy arrows to an author's politics but, in this case it is way more subtle. 

This is the perfect book for those who like dystopia, it will appeal to juniors and seniors and comes highly recommended by those people who have read it so far. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

BookGangers meet Justin Cronin

Here at King's The Passage by Justin Cronin is one of our 'bestsellers' we have lots of copies and still there is a waiting list to get hold of it.  It is super scary and has great characters and even though it is an enormous book lots of people become really caught up in the series.  All in all it is a great book and it is read by students in year 9 all the way through to those in year 13 - and staff too!

Last night some of the BookGang had the opportunity to go and meet the author of this series when he gave an author talk at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, this opportunity was provided by The Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival.

Here are some photos of our students getting books signed and meeting the author.  He was great fun, there were lots of laughs and he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. If you get the chance to meet the author of a book you enjoy, we think it is a great opportunity. You get the inside info on what they were thinking when they were writing the book, you also sometimes get a different take on a book you've liked.  Everyone takes something different from a book and the chance to meet other people who have loved a book you've loved, and to hear about the authors experiences are something special.

Baidin, Spiro and Keelin with Justin Cronin
Keelin gets his book signed by the author, and slides his hand gently towards the mints!  Many mints were harmed!

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Sleeper and The Spindle

Neil Gaiman, author of lots of books, and Chris Riddell, illustrator of lots of books, including lots of books with Neil Gaiman, have collaborated again on a fabulous picture book called The Sleeper and the Spindle.  It has been in the library for a while now and is one of those books which is browsed and wondered over, a bit like the Maps book mentioned in the post below.

It is a story based on the Sleeping Beauty legend, but it is much more than just a story, it is full of new additions, interesting ideas and characters how seem to leap off the page, this is a book to treasure and to look over from time to time.  If you like to draw, then this book has almost magical properties.  It is on display at the issues desk at the moment.

Want more Neil Gaiman - check out his tumblr

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

Don't let the cute picture of a small bird held in what look like loving hands on the cover fool you, there is a psychopath lurking within this book.  Her name is Rosa and she is Che's sister.  Che and his family have moved from place to place all through his childhood, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, lots of places, they have come to New York and have just arrived in town when the story opens.  Che's parents have come to start up a new company with their oldest friends who have kids about the same age as Che and Rosa, it is all very exciting and although starting again is not great, New York has potential for excitement and friendship.  However nobody seems to believe that Rosa is as bad as Che knows she is, she is so little and cute looking, how could she be harmful, she is just a kid?  But Rosa is a terror, she has no empathy, she just doesn't get feelings of any kind.  Che has plenty of stuff going on himself, he has met a great girl, he is finally getting a social life, dealing with his annoying skin which is one of the other banes of his existence, but he wants his parents to take responsibility, to be at home, to listen and to most of all sort out Rosa.

This is a great thriller, the characters are well written and you get completely drawn into the story as it rolls along. Rosa is - well, she is a monster.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Maps - Travel the globe without leaving your living room

We have a variety of 'treat' books in the library and a new crop has just arrived.  One of these lovely things is the book Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski. It is a large book, a book which has lovely feeling pages and it is a book to pour over and explore.  Maps with lots of details, with small drawings alongside the things you normally find in a map like rivers and mountains, but also the things you would find uniquely in the countries you explore. You can find out about the famous people of each country, what the people eat, what they wear and little snippets of history about the places in the maps.

It has the feel of a book you can look at over and over again, and every time you would find new things of interest.  Here is a for instance: Did you know that the world's largest sand dune is called The Great Dune of Pyla and it is on the coast of France near the city of Acquitaine?  Did you know that the coral reef in the Gulf of Aqaba is popular with divers?  Did you know that in South Africa they eat Bunny Chow, It is meat or vegetables with curry sauce in hollowed-out bread?  Lots and lots of little bits of interesting information in one large and fantastic to look at book.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Questions, Questions and Answers

Do you find yourself wondering about stuff?  Are you deeply curious about things which don't seem to have an answer?  Are you someone who asks big questions that nobody seems to be able to supply an answer to?  Then I have something you might like.

Of course, it is a book.  What if, Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munro.  This book is our most popular non-fiction book at King's.  We have lots of copies and it is always out being read. It is a little crazy, a lot sciency, all kinds of funny and one of those books which you find yourself dipping into time after time.  I've embedded below a clip of Randall speaking at a TED event. But you can also go and check out the website here.

If you are interested in this kind of thing, and you want more, there are a bunch of videos including Randall talking to Will Wheaton and Randall talking at Google.  There are a heap, you'll see them in the sidebar of the video.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Way Down Dark by J.P. Smythe

A spacecraft called Australia has been sent off from Earth because terrible things have happened to the world. Chan's ancestors left 400 years ago and have been flying adrift trying to find somewhere to land and make a new home.  The Australia has resources in limited supply after all this time but things are touch. Society has pretty well become a dog eat dog world and only the strong, the quick and the agile survive. Chan is the main character, and she is resourceful and very determined with a strong sense of social justice. There turns out to be a lot of secrets on the ship, secrets which change the course of their lives. 

In the opening scenes Chan's beloved mother dies and she is left to cope on her own.  Her independent and self-sufficient nature mean that she tries to keep her head down and lives quietly, and not get involved in violence and disorder. One day she makes an extraordinary discovery - a way to return the Australia to Earth. But she needs to be careful, there are too many people who might want to do her wrong and she doesn't want to die in the process of trying to save the ship. Good twists and turns and what I really liked were the descriptions of the structure of the ship. 

This book will appeal to students who have enjoyed Wool and Red Rising, it is gritty and different to lots of the current crop of young adult books.

South Dunedin - a video

The Otago Regional Council have published a series of videos which demonstrate how the land in the South Dunedin and St Clair area has been altered and changed since the time that the land was settled.  These have been shared widely in the Dunedin community recently, but in case you haven't seen them, I'm going to share them here.

This is the land that King's High School sits on and where many of our students live.  It makes for interesting viewing in the light of the floods which affected our area last year.  The market gardens which feature in this video are where King's High School sits right now.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn

What starts as an ordinary Sydney school day for Fin soon becomes a day never to be forgotten. He sits in school taking part in the banter and enjoying class with his favourite teacher, getting involved in the argy bargy of the bus trip home and talking to the girl he is keen on.  Meanwhile in a country not too far from his own, nuclear bombs have been released and this will change everything for Fin and his little brother Max and everyone they know and indeed everyone in the world. The temperature plummets as ash fills the sky and as food in the shops becomes scarce and people start to become aggressive and paranoid and then sick, life is getting very scary. Once warm, Sydney is now cold and grim. Fin is looking after his little brother and frantically worried about his parents.

This is a brilliant book about resilience and personal strength.  A book which feels very plausible and the characters are written very well, you feel that you know them.  The story of these boys coping alone, dealing with neighbours in trauma and the ongoing struggle to keep themselves fed and warm is a true survival story.  Eventually they will be forced to take action and team up with others and that will come with it's own set of challenges.
Below is a video review from an Australian book reviewer which is very cool.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

School Leavers - the website for you

Are you in your senior years at school?  Starting to wonder what you will do when you leave?  Or are you in year 13 with the end of the year sneaking up on you?

Time to start planning, make firm decisions and make good choices.  The website below can help.
Click this link and it will take you there.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Blackline Poetry Competition

This term there has been a huge amount of interest in our Blackline Poetry Competition. Probably the most successful competition that the library has ever run at King's High.  We are using these as our inspiration.

We ripped out the pages of old books and trimmed the edges and made them available for anybody who wanted to make a poem or poetic artwork out of them.  Crikey!  It has been amazing.  The quality of the entries has been fantastic.  Staff as well as students have joined in. I will share some of the entries after they have been judged.  The competition will close at the end of next week, so if you are holding onto poems that you want to enter, act quickly to get them in.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

Another beautiful world, like our own but with the wonderful Selznick twist. The absolutely gorgeous look and feel of this enormous art filled book is something to behold, it has gold edged pages and feels beautiful in your hands.  Anybody who loves to draw will enjoy this book from multiple points of view, those who can't draw will be full of admiration for the skill of the author/artist. I love the way he zooms in on his drawings, the distant view becoming more and more concentrated as you realise where his focus lies. Every time you look at a page you see more detail. The picture story fills the first half of the book, then you come to the written story which is also great, nicely tied to the pictures and really a continuation of the story from a different point of view.   This is a lovely book, and the fact that he bases his stories on real lives is always interesting, makes you want to follow up and find out more.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Attack on Titan - our most popular books

Since the library began stocking manga 3 years ago these books have consistently been popular, so popular this year, that in fact, they hold the top 10 spots in our most popular items.  Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama is the story of people who live within walled communities.  They are attacked by a huge human looking beings who seem to want to destroy them.  There seems to be no reason for this.

"The story initially centers on Eren Yeager, his adopted sister Mikasa Ackerman and childhood friend Armin Arlert, who join the military to fight the Titans after their home town is invaded and Eren's mother is eaten. However, as the story progresses and the truths about the Titans are slowly revealed to the reader, the narrative shifts to encompass Historia Reiss, squad leader Levi, and other supporting characters." From Wikipedia

These books are read by students from across the school - year 9 - 13 and we have to keep several copies of each of the books. Even though the manga are available as anime online the books just keep being borrowed.  It is fantastic to see.  Coming soon to the library are some new manga series (One Punch Man, Vampire Knight and some new episodes of existing series we stock such as Black Butler, Naruto, Fairytail and Bleach.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Stranger by Harlan Coben

The Stranger is a novel about secrets. It has been popular in our Year 12 classes but I think it would appeal to students across the school. Imagine being in a situation where you meet a complete stranger, someone you've never seen or met before and he starts talking to you as if he knows everything about you. He knows your secrets, he knows things about your family and you cannot figure out how or why. What does this guy want?  Where is all this going?

The Stranger is a good mystery thriller and is really fast to read, the action drives you along, you need to find out what is going to happen next. Where will this stranger strike next?  How can he be stopped?  If you are a fan of Lee Child and his novels then this would be a great next read.


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