Monday, 22 November 2010

Short Story Surprises

National Short Story Week starts today.

Short stories are special for they encapsulate in a very short space all the very best elements of storytelling for they have a plot, characters, wonderful language and also some amazing settings. In the space of just a very few pages they can tell a complete story or leave the reader yearning for more.

Some short stories make up a whole narrative - think of the 1001 Arabian Nights, one story told each night so, by its very nature it had to be short! Then there is the traditional from whence they came - oral story telling - again these stories were meant to be short and succinct to appeal to their listener. Perhaps the most famous shrot story writer is Aesop. His Fables have been handed down over generations and are some of the most famous we now have. We should not however forget Kipling and his Just So Stories - also great classics this time explaining how the animals of the world came to be.

Not all short stories are 'classics' or old however. Dickens and Hardy, our great Victorian and Edwardian novelsists wrote short stories for their public audience and many of these were published in magazines of the day. Roald Dahl and Malorie Blackman have written volumes of short stories for the modern reader. there are many collections of themed stories which provide wonderful reading for all ages and my favourite short story writer of the moment is Toon Tellegan whose books have also been beautifully illustrated and are perhaps best described as a combination of Aesop and Kipling - charming moral stories that once you start you just can't put down. And being short they are very easy to finish!

An additional joy of the short story is the ability of the reader to dip into a volume at any story and read as many or a few as time permits - it is a great reading journey, a great way to be intorduced to new stories, genres and writers and a wonderful way in which to explore your imagination.

Pick up a short story this week, look at the National Short Story Week website and enjoy yourself - who knows where this adventure may take you?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

We all Love Funny Books

Well its true, I hope, and the best thing about today is that we have learnt that funny books can also be lovely books (and that Louise is obviously the name to have).

What am I alluding to? Well the Roald Dahl Funny Prize of course which was won yesterday (17th November) by Louise Yates, in the under 6 category, for her wonderfully funny (of course) and quite simply charming picture book, Dogs Love Books (Jonathan Cape).

I was thrilled to read that Louise had won, being a big fan of this story as I may have mentioned before!
Not only did Louise win this category but she also pipped to the post Quentin Blake, the long-time Roald Dahl illustrator and, she says, one of her own inspirations!

In the 7-14 category the winner was Louise Rennison with Withering Tights, a shamelessly laugh-out-loud story. Her heroine comments with wit and insight on the world around her whilst continuing to be carried along with it so there is plenty of humour in this book on many levels.

Judge and award founder Michael Rosen commented on the freshness and humour in these winning titles which were just one aspect of a wonderful and varied shortlist. I strongly urge you to visit the Book Trust website for more detail and to investigate the shortlisted as well as winning titles further.

In the meantime well done to the Louise's and thank you for bringing so much humour into our lives!

Monday, 15 November 2010

The Richness of Storytelling

Sometimes I am amazed at the speed in which word can travel with the Internet and email. I wrote about my 'Book of the Week' for the school newsletter and sent the piece to the editor for publication on Friday of last week (we have a weekly newsletter), then that very same afternoon I had a parent in the library, who having seen the recommendation wanted to borrow the book. As it was 5.30pm on a Friday afternoon and I had shut down the catalogue I could not give her the book for the weekend but one was on the go and they could wait until Monday I was assured. Today the young boy in question came to get his book and as soon as I had it on my desk another teacher and another pupil both wanted to borrow it.

Is it the cover, the author name or the title I wonder? Perhaps it was my glowing recommendation. Whatever the reason this book is proving popular with my readers already so I felt that I really must recommend it to you - my Armadillo followers.

So what is this mystery book that is attracting so much attention? It is the new title from the widely talented David Walliams. The author of The Boy in the Dress and Mr Stink has now written Billionaire Boy. Published by Harper Collins this book looks like a big novel. It is a thick hardback with quite a few pages but open the book and find that it is a story packed with the wonderful illustrations of the much loved Tony Ross and a story that could be read by readers as young as 7 or as old as 77 for it is funny, accessible and a good read. It also conveys an important message about money - it really isn't everything, as Joe, the really, really rich main character is about to find out.

So do get your hands on a copy if you can, and let me know what you think too!

Friday, 12 November 2010

More About those Greeks

Sadly much of the material remains of the Ancient Greek culture we viewed in Athens had been badly damaged over the centuries, the result of many wars, but happily ancient Greek myth, culture and stories have remained popular.

In fact it is the stories and myths which have come down to us that have extended the life of this ancient culture and continue to bring it to life in our modern world. It seems to me that children do learn about the Greeks and Romans in school but they also want to learn about them. So often when we have classes on these subjects the children are desperately keen to share their knowledge of the stories.

For all these children, and others yet to discover their love of ancient Greek stories I have two excellent books to recommend. The first is probably not for purists but The Comic Strip Greatest Greek Myths by Tracey Turner and Sally Kindberg is a wonderful introduction to the subject which contains all the most famous myths in a brand new light - through comedy and graphic pictures. Great for reluctant readers, struggling readers and anyone who enjoys taking a new angle on something old!

On the other hand a book which is most definitely for sharing and would make a wonderful gift for the enthusiast is Ann Turnbull's Greek myths. With stunning and sumptuous illustration from the pen (or pencil?) of Sarah Young this is a beautifully written and stunning collection of some of the most famous Greek myths. It is a book to be shared and treasured. With 17 stories there is something for every reader and it acts as a great introduction to the world of the Greeks and their stories - I urge you to find this, pick it up and delve in - you won't be sorry and maybe one day you too will find yourself in Athens or Greece admiring the many places where these stories are set.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

All things Greek

Now I may have been absent from your screens for a couple of weeks but I promise that I have been busy and yes, reading too!

In fact I began by being in Athens where I was awed by the Acropolis, Parthenon and more (and I have the pictures to prove it too)!!

After this it was a busy half term catching up with lots of reading for my MA and this week it has been school as well as preparing the next edition of Armadillo that has kept me from you.

However never fear for I am now back (unlike Mr Schwarzenegger who always threatened to come back) and I will be here again tomorrow to tell you more about the ancient Greeks and some books too!

Until then, have a good night ....