My latest iPad app book finds - enjoy!:
Mirror World - Cornelia Funke's fantastical world explored in stories, video and with interactive elements. Beautiful app but be aware it does take up a fair bit of space. The app was developed in full collaboration with the author and that shows in the quality of the content.
Captain Underpants - the ever popular Dav Pilkey character now has his own app produced by Scholastic. The app retains the effervescent sense of fun that is apparent in the books, the actual story progresses in an organic way with no page turns just a smooth continuation and the added games (you can create your own music using various sounds including passing wind!) help to make this a must have for boys.
The Guardian of Imagination - Stories, pictures and games that can only be unlocked one by one by finding the key to the next box in a stack by reading tales. Can be read in English, Spanish, Catalan & Italian. First story tells of a world where no colours exist because people have stopped imagining and is very lyrically told.
Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus - This story uses the character of the beloved detective and has a contemporary steampunk edge, with audio and animations and quite exquisite illustrations. You can either read it yourself or explore along with quality audio narration.
Wild About Books - A pop up picture book app, Wild About Books tells the story of a mobile librarian who finds herself in a zoo and encourages all the animals to read by lending them wonderful books. I love the references to other children's books within the text and the jolly rhyming text.
Mr Tickle - I just love the Mr Men! the fact that the story is narrated by none other than David Walliams is the icing on the cake for this app, it's full of colour and is very joyful, as it should be!
(I will be showing all of these apps and more at the course on encouraging reluctant readers I am running with author Andy Robb at Peters Booksellers on the 3/7 ....hope to see you there!)
It is Roald Dahl Day this Friday, 13th September which is Dahl's birthday. I will probably celebrate by reading a little of my favourite Dahl book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or I may tweet some Dahl jokes from a wonderful collection I've bought in ebook form. Perhaps I might rewatch the film of Charlie (has to be original Gene Wilder version for me, although the Johnny Depp one is wonderfully weird) and I am certainly looking forward to watching the Puffin Virtually Live event which is to be hosted by Michael Rosen. I recently read about a fantastic themed afternoon tea that you can have at One Aldwych but sadly won't be indulging this week. There are some fab suggestions for activities on the Roald Dahl day website. If I was still working in a school library I know I would have wanted to make use of the iPad to help my students enjoy the day but there aren't any Dahl apps as yet so I got to thinking what I would do - here are some of the ideas and apps I thought I would use:
Cloudart or Tagcloud - create wordclouds of Dahl titles, characters or use a passage from a Dahl book. Write a book review using only adjectives about the book & create a cloud - invite others to guess the book.
Animoto or iMovie - Video students acting out scenes from Dahl books or talking about his life and create video. Create a book trailer to encourage others to read the books.
Puppet Pals - tell a Dahl story using the app or use one of the characters from a book to tell Dahl's life story
Word Mover or Instant Poetry - write poetry in the style of Dahl's Revolting Rhymes using the words provided
Hope everyone has a fun Roald Dahl Day ;-)
When it comes to story books for younger readers there are so many on the app store that it's hard to know when to stop downloading. These are my personal favourites:
1. Hairy Maclary - One of my children's favourite series many years ago so I was already prepared to fall in love with it and luckily it more than met my expectation. Read by David Tennant (a bonus!) the book features colouring pages, you can record your own narration and clicking on individual words will cause them to be repeated. All of the dogs have different barks too, which is a nice touch.
2. Elmer's Special Day - Another old favourite, the colourful patchwork elephant translates beautifully onto the ipad screen. Tapping on the pictures brings up additional vocabulary and you can opt to have the story read to you or read it yourself.
3. Winken, Blinken and Nod - A twist on a classic storybook this one won't advance until you read the words on the screen aloud. Wonderful for early reading practice and speaking and listening.
4. Wheels on the Bus - One for every parent that's ever been exhorted to 'read/sing it again!' Interactive element on every page, but I warn you the singing will become.....irritating and unfortunately with this one you can't just 'lose' the batteries!
5. The Monster at the End of This Book - How could you not love an app that stars Sesame Street's Grover? Very cleverly done, Grover's character comes across strongly, and if you don't turn the pages quickly enough he reminds you to do so.
6. The Lettermen go to the Seaside - This series of books have always been popular and the app is bright, colourful and fun to read. There's a spelling task on each page and you can choose to have the narration on or off as with most titles.
It was hard to choose just 6 but these are a good starting point for little ones I think.
Tomorrow being the 14th February it's going to be a day that's all about luuuurve! Yep ok classically it is a day for sweethearts and couples but it will also be a day for lovers of a different kind - book lovers. It is International Book Giving Day, a day designed to get new, well loved or borrowed books into the hands of as many children as possible. You are asked to give a book to a child you know, maybe leave one in a waiting room somewhere or to find some other way to surprise a young person with something new to read.
When I was a child my dad worked in London Bridge train station and every now and then he would pop into Smith's on the way home and buy me a new book, often on the subject of animals. Wonderful books he bought, full of bright pictures and information and they meant even more to me because they were presents from my beloved parent. We would look through the books together and I still have most of them, and will never part with them. When my own children were small my husband and I didn't have much money and toys were usually kept as birthday/Christmas treats but both of the kids knew that their chances of getting mum to buy them a new book or comic whilst out shopping were very good! Sweets - often no, reading matter - always yes!
Tomorrow I intend to gift some books to my local public library for local children to enjoy and also will send a couple in with my husband for a work colleague's very young daughter. After nearly 25 years of marriage Valentine's day is perhaps not as exciting as in my younger years but the thought of encouraging young people to share my book love is always thrilling!
(Information about International Book Giving Day can be found on the Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/BookGivingDay or you can follow @bookgivingday on Twitter).
The Guardian has today published a list of 10 books chosen by former librarian Ellen Ainsworth to encourage boys to read. There are some brilliant titles there and yes I agree they have all been popular with boys in recent years but I would have liked to see more new books there. Also I was disappointed to have the list narrowed down to boys - reluctant readers can be boys or girls! The books suggested do seem to be a bit adventure heavy too, I don't think we should generalise about boys reading tastes. This is the list I would have chosen (and note the title mentions young people, not just boys!)
1. Scream Street, Tommy Donbavand - I would describe these books as comic horror, with plenty of gross out humour for those that like it. The main character is a boy called Luke Watson who much to his dismay begins to transform into a werewolf at very inopportune moments. Luke's adventures with friends Cleo (a mummy) and Rhesus (a vampire) will have kids chuckling out loud. There's a good website for the books too, www.screamstreet.co.uk
2. Young Samurai, Chris Bradford - Full of adventure and battles won and lost these stories , centred on shipwrecked Jack Fletcher and his subsequent samurai training, provide a thrill a minute. There is a strong female character too, Akiko to keep the girls interested. Another great website too , www.youngsamurai.com
3. Bare Bum Gang, Anthony McGowan - the title's a winner straight away - what's not to like about books with the word 'bum' in the title?! One of them even has instructions on how to make fart bombs......yes I know a few boys and girls that would have hysterics at the very idea.
4. Bone, Jeff Smith - graphic novels are one of the easiest ways I've found to turn non readers into bookworms and this series are very popular whilst not giving any worries about inappropriate content. Whether it's a comic, graphic, non fiction title or story they're reading doesn't matter in my opinion, as long as they are enjoying the experience.
5. Invisible Fiends, Barry Hutchison - What if your imaginary friend from childhood suddenly came back ....and wanted to harm you? Scary right from the very first paragraph I love these books but youngsters might want to sleep with the light on whilst reading them!
6. Hero.com/Villain.net, Andy Briggs - these two series run alongside each other giving the differing viewpoints of the same events from the perspective of a superhero and a supervillain. The series starts with children finding a website from which they can download superpowers, and the differing ways they decide to use their powers for good or evil prove very interesting.www.whichsideareyouon.co.uk
7. The Knife That Killed Me,Anthony McGowan - gritty title that deals with bullying, gangs and violence. Sadly of course a book that is on the subject of knife crime is all too topical, the story is tense from page one until the end. A film is now being made of this one and I can't wait to see it.
8. Wereworld, Curtis Jobling - one for fantasy lovers now, the nobles in Wereworld can transform into animals when riled and our main character here becomes a wolf. This is an interesting take on the werewolf genre, thoroughly enjoyable and with something for everyone - a little romance, battles, shocks etc. Can't wait for the next one!
9. Beast Quest, Adam Blade - when I worked in a school library I couldn't keep up with demand for these, they just flew off the shelves. Encouraged more reluctant boys to read in that school than any other series.
10. Noughts and Crosses, Malorie Blackman - romance but with an edge of class divides, prejudice and subversion. I cried at the end of this book and I have recommended it to so many people since, both young and old. Everything Ms Blackman writes is first class but this series is amazing.
It's hard to keep to 10 but these are my absolute favourites and I think they would keep any young person happily enthralled for hours - what would you have suggested? please let me know in a comment.
I have just begun my celebrations for National libraries day by pre ordering the Library Book from Amazon. Looks like it will be a genuinely good read and with profits going to the Reading Agency it should provide that glow inside of doing something good at the same time. I was shocked to read on a blog from Ian Clark (http://infoism.co.uk/blog/2012/01/no-national-libraries-day-in-kent/ )that the Kent Libraries will not be celebrating National Libraries Day .....or was I? My local library is in Greenhithe, it's in a small building that is set back from the road and is extremely easy to miss. Once you do realise that it exists a warm welcome greets you when you go in. The staff are friendly and helpful and I always enjoy chatting to them. The stock however wouldn't encourage anyone to pop in - to be honest I often struggle to find anything vaguely current to read and the books are looking tired and uncared for. Their funding in the last few years must have been nearly non existent and the books are sadly out of date. There are always people there when I visit but then as the library is only open for 2 afternoons and 1 morning a week I suppose they are making the most of it.
The library is just opposite the entrance of Ingress Park estate and I would have thought that it would be overrun with customers. Apparently one of the staff approached the libraries service with a plan to leaflet the area to make people more aware of the resource they have on their doorstep, but this plan was denied as any literature has to be standardised and approved - so nothing was done. The neglect of the library is saddening and a crying shame but as there are plans afoot to close some Kent libraries it's not hard to see why no effort at promotion has been made by the council.
The fact that there is no mention of a day that has been organised to celebrate the contribution libraries make on the Kent Libraries webpage is an utter disgrace - and seems to be a cynical political decision. Kent County Council you should be very ashamed!
Only a few days until the big day and I can't wait! I'm well known for being a festive freak and I've been reading themed books for ages to get ready for it. Thought I'd share some of my favourites here;
A Pussycat's Christmas - when my daughter was young she was asked to read this to her whole primary school, with the pictures on overhead projector sheets and I can still see her now, so seriously reading. It's a beautiful book.
Tosca's Christmas - by the same author, illustrations are delightful and Tosca looked similar to Lady, our cat at the time
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey - moving story told without too much sentimentalism and the pictures are quietly wonderful
Spot's First Christmas - who can resist Spot? my son certainly couldn't and we read this book so many times, we probably all learnt it off by heart!http://tinyurl.com/bntuehc
Santa's Twin & Robot Santa - I read a lot of Dean Koontz when I was younger and was delighted to discover these two picture books written by him about Santa's naughty brother http://tinyurl.com/cjcpxfl http://tinyurl.com/cg9dl4t
The Night Before Christmas - classic of course, we always read it as a family on Christmas Eve before bed, even though my kids are grown now. We still have this old copy of it that was published in the year my son was born and it is much cherished.
I'm not ashamed to admit it, I find romance makes for very relaxing reading, especially books that have a festive theme and these have been my favourites this year:
Christmas at Tiffany's - loved the glamour and travel description in this book, didn't want it to end
1225 Christmas Tree Lane - I only discovered Debbie Macomber this year , her books are as comforting as a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows on a cold night and this book was no exception, left a warm fuzzy feeling lol.
What else have I read this December? well I have returned to an old favourite, Rumpole at Christmas, his irascibility and the dry humour in John Mortimer's writing are very amusing. Finishing with the best I am also re reading Christmas Carol but on my ipad this year, excellent Padworx version that I am very much enjoying.
Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas, hope you get all the books you've been wishing for (I'm hoping Santa will bring me the Amazon voucher I've been hinting at!)
Whilst browsing Twitter this morning I came across a link to a new app for the iPad; The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore and decided to have a look. I have numerous apps on the iPad, some that are functional, some that are for fun but none of them are in any way near to the quality of Morris. This is the most beautiful, moving app I have ever seen , it made me laugh and I'm not ashamed to say, at the end of it I even shed a tear. It is the first app released by Moonbot Studios and at £2.99 is a real bargain. I can't wait to show it to .......well everyone really, it is that good. This app has justified my spending on the ipad all by itself, I defy anyone , child or adult to not be captivated and spellbound by it. I will eagerly await more apps from Moonbot but not sure they can top Morris!
Now, I am not a political animal. Politics and politicians normally do not impinge on my life at all - yes I know that is a shameful admission but to quote Bob Dylan 'the times they are a changing'. This government seems to be contradicting themselves at every point, one moment saying literacy for all is one of their key goals, in the next breath taking away funding from organisations that promote reading and writing to young people. The latest ridiculous idea is that primary schools are to be given a set list of the books they must study - what a sensible idea that is ...not! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-13320661 How can you decide on certain books that will appeal to all children, boys and girls from every area and cultural diversity and who is going to make this decision? Surely we should have faith in teachers and librarians to have the specialist and local knowledge to be able to choose books to study that will appeal to children in their school without dictating to them about their book choices - after all they know the kids in their school best. Children are not 'one size fits all' and they are all at different stages in their reading journey, will this be taken into account? I suspect not. Having set texts at secondary school has had the effect of turning lots of young people away from reading - even a great work of literature that would normally appeal to a certain age group becomes boring and tedious when one 'has' to read and indeed, dissect it endlessly. Yes we should be encouraging children to read widely, there are so very many fantastic books written for primary kids from brilliant authors that really understand how to enthrall kids but to generalise and say 'all seven year olds should read this book' is quite ludicrous and will not encourage students to explore authors and genres to find things that excite, amuse maybe even terrify them and 'turn them on' to reading as a pleasure for life . If the government want to encourage more primary school kids to learn to love books perhaps they should be looking to ensure that every school has a visit every week from a knowledgeable, enthusiastic, qualified librarian - this would have far more impact than dictating which books should be studied.
Today to show my support for Save Libraries Day I joined my local public library which is only 10 minutes walk away. I'm ashamed that I have not done so before, but in my defence it is only open for roughly 9 hours a week and is very poorly publicised. It is small, rather shabby outside and sits back from the road and I'd be surprised if many of the other residents are aware that it even exists. The residents association website doesn't mention the library and apparently the council publicity department are aware of this but haven't yet got round to writing anything. (Funny that, you would almost think they don't want to increase loans............) . Whilst I was there a young girl was getting some help from the librarian to choose books from different genres that she had on a list and two people were engrossed in surfing the internet.
The stock shows a lack of funding for the last few years at least but there are still gems to be found - I took out 14 books of the possible 30 I am allowed. Browsing the shelves encouraged me to break out of my usual favourite genres (although naturally some slipped into the bag!) and I'm looking forward to curling up with them. Didn't borrow any DVDs this time but will do in the future.
The librarian was lovely, so welcoming and she lives very local to the library so is a mine of information. She told me that a new toddler group they have recently set up is very well attended. The area around is full of new housing and there must be hundreds of potential borrowers but they do need to be shown that the library is there!
At the moment I don't think the library is at threat of closure but the policy of making libraries in the area self service will inevitably have an effect. The librarian, Ms Jones is the biggest asset this poor forgotten library has - long may we keep her in Greenhithe!