Book selection (1) – Book Trailers

booktrailersMany books are launched these days with more than just a poster in a bookshop. In this multimedia age, many authors (and/or their publishers) are using publishers’ websites, FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube to capture the attention of their potential readers; especially those attuned to some sort of screen during the day. So this is a new way of selecting books which you may be interested in reading.

Thus it is often possible to find a short book trailer being used to launch or further promote a book. Some examples I recently came across included not only newer books like Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and City of Ember by Jeanne du Prau; but also included classics such as Number the Star by Lois Lowry.

I had shown these to a class – to give them ideas for presenting a review of the books they had been reading for Literature Circles. The impact was quite powerful as we discussed some of the elements trailers involved. In short bursts, they learned of several books they had not all read. As one girl commented when leaving the class, the trailers could influence their choice, as much as a powerful book cover – “If I had seen that one (Number the Stars) before choosing my novel, I would have chosen it!”

Of course, this was only a ‘snippetty’ use of book trailers, and a lot more discussion and instruction would need to follow before students could begin to create their own. It’s certainly given food for thought, though at this stage we might spend a bit of time looking and reviewing examples first.

Most certainly, I will need to look into posts like that at Crystal Booth’s blog – to get started.

ebooks & ‘Kindle for PC’

ebooks_250x2511Well, after some deliberation, I have finally decided to trial Kindle. At this stage, it is only ‘Kindle for PC’ (and phone), not an actual Kindle, but worth trialling since these are free.

To do so is relatively easy for those who already have an Amazon account. A simple ‘Kindle for PC’ query in Google gave the direct Amazon page, and a quick click on the Download button started the process. I saved the file (to have available for other PCs) and then ran the application file from my desktop.

I now have Kindle for PC on my home desktop computer, my laptop and was easily able to get the app for my phone (and it doesn’t have to be an iPhone either).

Since I use the one Amazon account for all, I can also retrieve my ebooks from any of these devices – it even recognises what page I last read! For instance, I began a book on my desktop PC, and then read further on my phone – then when I opened it again on the PC, it asked if I wanted to go to the furthest page read on my phone!

The whole download process (for both the program and the books) was relatively quick and painless, giving lots of time to get into reading straight away. It’s certainly worth trying before buying an ereader (Kindle or otherwise) – but I’d better go now – I have even more books to read (though the piles aren’t as obvious)!

Have you tried ebooks? What’s your verdict?

Lisa Shanahan – Parenting a Picturebook.

daddy.jpgHave you ever wondered what it is like to produce a picture book? And how it is possible for more than one person to  involved in its creation? How do authors and illustrators work together? And whose book is it anyway when it’s finally finished???

These were some of the questions which were answered by Australian children’s author, Lisa Shanahan, as she spoke at the NSW Australian School Library Association conference this weekend at the King’s School.

The focus of her session, ‘On knitting a vision: picture book collaboration’, was the way in which author and illustrator were both intensely involved in the birth of a picture book. Following this analogy through, Lisa likened a good collaboration to a good marriage, where both partners are involved in bringing their offspring into the world, and dedicating different time and talents to the resulting ‘child’. She even spoke of 2 births for the book – the first being when the writer has finished (the first edited draft at least), the second when the artist has completed their interpretation of the text of the book.

Lisa described the source of her first inspirations (a child’s comment, a snippet of conversation in her head) and how she develops the story by asking why? how? and what if? Much of her writing is triggered by dialogue, and relying on her aural instincts to develop her stories. With an inner recognition – a tingle, she allows a story to evolve.

With reference to books such ‘Bear and Chook’ and ‘Daddy’s Having a Horse’, Lisa then spoke of the partnership, and how a good illustrator contributes to a book. She believes that illustrator, Emma Quay, helped widen the perspective of ‘Daddy’s having a horse’ with her interpretation of the reaction of Lachlan and his sister to the imminent birth of a baby in their family. Clever additions to the pages as the story progressed, display Lachlan’s inner world realistically,  and also give a true picture of family life once the baby arrives. 

Very often, the visual story extends from the text – lending further meaning to the story, (as with Caitlin’s development of love for her baby brother, after initial indifference and disappointment). Wordless comments are also possible with the illustrator’s interpreation giving great impact, even to the end pages.

The relationship between author and illustrator appears unique, and when combining great talents like Lisa Shanahan and Emma Quay or Wayne Harris, both parties can sometimes be in for a surprise. It can also be valuable to to be open to changing parts of the story – especially after trialling books with young friends and family. Thus, there is professional sharing from both sides as the story reaches its birth. And aren’t we glad when the parents are as talented as Lisa, Emma and Wayne?

Have you ever wondered how a picture book develops? Have a careful look at some of Lisa’s books and try considering the parts (text & illustrations) in isolation? Then comment on the whole.

NB Visit Inside a Dog and you can read/listen to a chapter of Lisa’ novel for young adults, ‘My Big Birkett’.

Can’t find the right word?

There may be times in your writing when you just can’t find the right word. Yes, you could right click and use the synonym/thesaurus option in Word, but there is a more exciting option out there.


Visuwords is a great online tool which helps you to not only understand the meaning of a word, but to see the relationships between words. As mentioned by Judy O’Connell (Hey Jude), it is a great visual tool which will have immense appeal to many – and for many different reasons.

Being easy to use and fun to play with, it should prove wonderful for anyone facing a writer’s block. Students might also like to use it to collect ideas for a brainstorm at the beginning of an activity e.g. defining the term ‘journey’ for HSC English Area of Study.

And developing writers could use it to broaden their vocabulary – much quicker than compiling a long list of words to use instead of ‘walk’! Even hobby or sports fans could use it to review the areas to cover when discussing their favourite. Try typing in ‘cricket’!

Many thanks for the alert, Judy!

Try it out and let others know how you have used it.

You’ve seen the book – now read the movie!

Over the Christmas break, there were a number of movies released which began their life as literature. These included:

  • kite.jpgBeowulf, an old English poem dating from the tenth century AD
  • The Golden Compass (Northern Lights, Philip Pullman)
  • The Waterhorse, Dick King-Smith (author of Babe)
  • Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
  • Even Alvin and the Chipmunks began life in a different form – as a comic strip!

    For some people, seeing the movie often spoils, or challenges, the images they held from their reading of a novel (did you really visualise Harry Potter in the image of Daniel Radcliffe?). Others watch the movie with the intent of picking up mistakes, critiquing missing parts, or trying to see if their personal images match those of the film-maker. And others simply reflect on the different aspects of each media, and what they can each bring to a tale.

    What were your impressions of the latest release of Books-to-Film in the holidays? Were you satisfied? Challenged? Annoyed? Or do you simply hate to see the movie after reading the book? Or are you drawn to the book after seeing a good movie?

    How’s your Reading Fitness?

    exercise.jpgThe New Year has come and gone and by now many of your New Year’s resolutions may already be broken. Or you may be like me, and have only just decided to ‘get fit’.

    It’s hard isn’t it – taking those first few steps after making a decision to do something? But with perserverance, you begin to see improvements (I’m still waiting, but it’s only a few days since the exercise started…) Have you ever thought about your ‘Reading fitness’?

    An article in the Sydney Morning Herald ties in a little bit here, The never-ending story: reading in the holidays, SMH , December 30, 2007, encouraged students (and parents) to keep up the reading habit in the holidays, after a study in the States discovered a drop in students’ reading skills after a long holiday break.

    Reading is a bit like that, isn’t it? Leave your text books alone during a holiday break, and some of the technical terms may be a little foreign when school goes back. For learner readers, it may be individual words or sounds that are temporarily forgotten. Thus, researchers are suggesting that students need to keep up their reading practice, whether at infants level or within the senior school and beyond. We all need to keep up regular exercise to keep fit – and it seems reading is no different!!

    What do you think? Are you a holiday reader or do outdoor activities get in the way? How could you squeeze a little more reading in your holiday time?

    Reading and vocabulary – improve yours…

    One of the great things about reading good literature is how you can unwittingly expand your vocabulary. You can often work out the meaning of a word by considering the context in which a new word is used.

    In today’s world another option is available on the internet. In a game form, you can test your knowledge of words, while at the same time working to end world hunger – this is the Free Rice game.

    FreeRice is a sister site of the world poverty site, and it has two goals:

    1. To provide English vocabulary to everyone for free. 
    2. To help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

    It’s worth a visit for the challenge and the chance to encourage the sponsors of the site to contribute to world hunger issues by donating free rice. (The rice is paid for by the advertisers whose names you see on the bottom of your vocabulary screen.)

    WARNING: This game may make you smarter. It may improve your speaking, writing, thinking, grades, job performance, etc. Try a visit yourself, and let us know what you think – have your word skills improved? Don’t forget to check out the rice tally too.

    Reading writers; writers reading…

    maharaja.jpgIt’s not too late. You can still read the musings of fantasy writer, Sophie Masson, on ‘Inside a Dog?’ this month. It will soon be time for someone else to take over, but you can catch up on all the things she has to say about writing at:

    It’s been interesting to hear her speak of the things which inspire her to write, other authors she enjoys, and perhaps a few hints as to why she writes fantasy. An insight into the activities of her daily life also make you realise how writers continue to learn from others – both reknowned writers and those of the modern age.

    As you read her jottings, try to think about what influences you daily, and how that might impact on your writing journey. Is it the books you enjoyed as a cild, the tales you were told at bedtime, or the stories that have been introduced to you by significant others in your life.

    Who or what have been the forming influences on you as a reader or writer?

    Have you found her latest book – Maharaja’s Ghost?

    That’s why I wrote this song… (Book)

    gervay.jpgAt a recent ASLA conference, I had the pleasure of hearing Susanne Gervay speak about her latest book (That’s why I wrote this song) which is a book she wrote in collaboration with her then teenaged daughter, Tori.  Susanne took us through the journey she experienced as she wrote – with her aim being to give voice to the many complicated emotions experienced by  adolescents, and in her words, to “use music as the voice of youth”.

    Continue reading

    INKYS – Vote NOW!

    inkys_for_web1.jpgAt last – a chance for teens to vote for their favourite read. Here’s your chance to voice your opinion on some of the latest offerings for young adults from both Australian and international authors in the Inky awards.

    You can vote via the web or SMS for both the Gold Inky (for Australian authors only) and the Silver Inky (a list which includes international authors). Check out the lists and details for voting at Inside a Dog and cast your vote!