Illuminae Series – Performance Masterpiece

What a team! The writing partnership between Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is flawless in the Illuminae Files – a science fiction series aimed at YAs but certainly engaging a much wider audience.

I have listened to all three books in the series and browsed the print editions. Both formats provide memorable, original and totally engaging versions with unique qualities making them separate yet complimentary entities.

This snapshot of Illuminae #1 provides some glimpses of the stunningly original presentation of the print version of the first book and summary of the plot. It is worth accessing these print versions to enrich the listening experience as you engage and read the various transcripts — not always an easy task as you can see. Penguin Random House provide further insights on the design of Gemina.

Hailey in Bookland. (2015, December 30). Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: Spoiler free review [blog post]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/6KjBC4I5Luc

Now a look at the audio performances in the Illuminae Files.

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Listening Library draws on a full cast, harnessing multiple narrators to represent the main and major secondary characters with clear distinctions between each person, the reading of different written formats including manuscripts, court transcripts and emails, along with the memorable, mechanical, yet increasingly humanised voice of AIDEN – the Artificial Intelligence Defense Analytics Network.

The productions go well beyond ‘retelling the story’ as each volume is supported and enriched with orchestral support  along with mind blowing sound effects to capture the personalities, events, tensions and climactic moments across the series. Imagine the soundtracks of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Battle Star Galactica and Star Wars for background, and at times front-line, audio immersion. I am sure I ducked a flying bullet or dodged a spaceship in some of the battle scenes! Adding further to the musical accompaniments, there are the sound effects – sirens and alarms, blasters, explosions, collisions and gunfire, gasping breaths in a failing envirosuit and the haunting and terrifying cries of the the afflicted soles rampaging through the ship.

The Illuminea files present a record of violent and deadly events with strong language (edited but recognisable) from the ‘edited transcripts’ that provide the storylines. There are a number of gruesome scenes and sexually inferred encounters. However; strength of character, responsibility, survival, ethical choices and a driving desire to see justice done dominate throughout. The audio versions offer a unique and immersive listening experience that is quite different from reading and engaging with the multifaceted print texts – both are worth a read!

If this has caught your interest, Amie has also teamed up with Meagan Spooner in crafting the Starbound trilogy. Watch an overview of the series and look out for the audio versions of these gripping stories as well. With three narrators to represent the different lead characters, accompanied by appropriate sound effects to capture the action, environment and otherworldly anomalies, you will be taken on a voyage of discovery and adventure.

Between Chapters. (2017, March 24). Starbound trilogy: Spoiler free series review [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/mc3AYtpVPF4

aurora rising

And recently released, Aurora Rising, #1 in The Aurora Cycle is also available in audio – another one for my ‘to listen’ pile!

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Raising Readers – Megan Daley

raising readersRaising Readers: How to Nurture a Child’s Love of Books has been written by Australian teacher librarian Megan Daley. Daley brings years of professional and personal experience to this engaging and highly readable book. She successfully addresses multiple audiences – parents, teachers and teacher librarians – through a mix of anecdotal stories, professional experience, informed research and guest narrators. These include well-known Australians and experts who speak with authority on a range of topics and add breadth and variety to the coverage.

Her intent is clearly stated in the title and the book’s structure and organisation takes the reader through strategies and approaches from birth through to the teenage years in an exuberant and lively manner. To get a feel for Megan’s style, dip into an extract from Chapter 2: Reading and school – When it all comes together.

Sections are clearly structured and the detailed subheadings also support dipping into areas of particular interest. Specific topics in the first part of the book include the early years, reading and school, the school library, spaces to encourage reading and building reading stamina. Later chapters explore ways to make reading fun, an embedded part of daily life (at home and at school), with a great coverage of different formats and genres. There are also many tips along the way that embellish the discussion with practical examples and strategies to engage with the text and explore its features. The section on reading the visuals encapsulates many of the advantages of keeping picture books in the reading diet throughout primary and secondary years and also provides succinct coverage of visual techniques that illustrators employ that many teachers will find particularly useful to address English outcomes. Megan’s passion for children’s literature shines throughout the book, and there is a fantastic and highly practical “How-to” guide at the end. Check out the book party themes and book week costumes for some instant inspiration then head to Megan’s website, the Children’s Book Daily and explore the blog categories and get some visual party ideas.

This is a highly readable and engaging book to guide, inspire and support parents, teachers and teacher librarians to engage children and teenagers with literature. Megan Daley draws on personal experience as a mother, teacher, teacher librarian and awards judge to provide a fascinating narrative comprising of personal experience, professional expertise and research in the field. The added inserts from experts in the various fields she covers add alternative perspectives and suggestions to support home and school reading engagements. Chapters deal with different age groups at home and in school, the significant role of the school library, reading spaces, stamina, competitions and social engagements between young readers, balancing the reading diet, multimodal and digital reading and the power of visual stories. It would be easy to compartmentalise this as a book for early years and primary aged students but it is much more than this. Sage advice transfers into the realm of the teenage reader. Sections are supported with interesting and varied book lists of Daley’s favourites rather than just the better known titles and the latter sections provide lists of practical advice on all things bookish. Highly recommended for every parent’s bookshelf and all school and public libraries. Grab a copy today and enjoy the read and the insights.

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The Silhouette and the Sacrifice – Boone Shepard’s encore!

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A truly satisfying conclusion to Boone Shephards’ misadventures left me feeling sated and satisfied. Thanks Gabriel Bergmoser for this masterful tale that ties the many threads of the first two books into a complex tapestry in The Silhouette and the Sacrifice. I have been captivated by the droll humour of the lead characters, the unexpected, unpredictable and dastardly twists within, without and beyond what one could possibly expect and the robust ending of these adventures. And if you are in any doubt that this is the end just read the blurb:
My name is Boone Shephard. This is the end of my story.”

Predominantly set in 1967, with time travel to old haunts included, Boone and Promethia are on a 48 hour deadline to stop a killer – someone who is killing journalists. Is Boone to be the next? What dastardly secret is driving this killer? Be surprised as Boone and Promethia revisit previous settings in different times, meet past friends, grapple with old enemies and face a new and far more dangerous threat – to themselves, London, . . . the world. As can only be expected, our heroes leap from one life threatening event to the next on a roller coaster of madcap, daredevil deeds to right wrongs, learn from past tragedies and save mankind. What more could you ask for between the covers of a book.

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Boone Shepard’s American Adventure

PictureSome time ago I had the pleasure of being introduced to Boone Shepard in  his first slapdash and madcap adventure as he travelled across time, and sung the book’s praises on this blog. I missed the release of the second saga: Boone Shepard’s  American Adventure and have just had the pleasure of reading it this summer. Gabriel Bergmoser presents a masterful adventure that transports Boone, and the far too clever and feisty Promethia Peters, out of the English proverbial pan (with a death sentence on  his head), into an 1884 wild west fire where the duo are roped into rescuing the residents of a small Texan town.

Watch the trailer for an insight into this great read, and a taste of Bergmoser’s tongue in cheek, humorous and intriguing writing style.

What I love about Bergmoser’s writing is that it is good fun, entertaining, complex but also carefully executed and memorable. The many threads of past adventures are deftly woven into a new tapestry with new and old villains and some famous characters thrown into the mix. Oscar Wilde in his fluff pink dressing gown and “the King’  who steps in to save the day. . . ” Well, it seems to me they made a deal with the devil in disguise to get you into the heartbreak hotel, but they didn’t count the King to kick on his blue suede shoes and stop you from being caught in a trap” (p. 100) Can you guess who?

Boone and Promethia show both strengths and weaknesses as they battle against evil, try and all too frequently fail, to do good and demonstrate that it is OK to be human and make mistakes – presented so eloquently within the lighter more humorous prose. “Making mistakes doesn’t define us Jessie. Making mistakes is the most normal thing in the world. What defines us is how we choose to deal with those mistakes” (p. 97).

With an abundance of serious contemporary young adult fiction and dark themes in the dystopian arena flooding the market, it is wonderful to sit back and have a romp with two wise cracking and engaging characters. Grab a copy and sit back and enjoy the ride. Picture

P.S. I have the final adventure on the top of my “to read” pile – keep an eye out for a post on the third adventure: Boone Shepard: The Silhouette and the Sacrifice.

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2019: International Year of Indigenous Languages

untitled.jpgUNESCO and partners will focus on the importance of indigenous languages through 2019 and provide a range of resources and support on a dedicated website. There are language teaching resources under the share button – discover the Spikit app for starters.

Resources worth investigating

  • Discover more of the significance of this focus from a Maori perspective.

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language hotspots

Getting started with an Australian focus on Indigenous languages

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  • When We Go Walkabout by Rhoda Lalara, illustrated by Alfred Lalara. Set on Groote Island, the reader is invited to look for animals in different habitats throughout the course of one day exploring the varied local landscapes. There is also a recording of Rhoda Lalara reading the story in Anindilyakwa, the local language; also accessible via a QR code in the book.
  • tjaranyroughtailTjarany Roughtail by Gracie Greene, Joe Tramacchi and Lucille Gill. First published in 1992, this book offers a collection of Tjukurrpa (Dreaming) stories of the Kukatja people of the Kimberley region of Western Australia, Tjarany Roughtail is a bilingual illustrated narrative in which the pictures speak as powerfully as the words.
  • Corroboree by Angus Wallam and Suzanne Kelly, published in 2004, tells the story of a young Aboriginal boy called Wirrin, and his family, as they prepare for a corroboreecorroboree, which extended family and friends would attend. The text presents the language of the Nyungar people of Western Australia and English with a glossary of both included.
  • The Noongar Language Centre (Boodjar Language Cultural Aboriginal Corporation) has a number of resources (some still under development) and publishes picture books in Noongar dialects.

I am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you come across other quality resources that could add to this post please share via the Contact form under the About Me tab. It would be great to add more literature examples.

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Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee is a wonderful example of historical children’s fiction that explores the plight of refugees over time; drawing parallels between circumstance, persecution, emotional and physical hardships through the stories of three refugee children and their families. Drawing on three distinct periods of time and catastrophic events in different locations in the world Gratz explores the harrowing experiences of each family through the eyes of the young teenage narrators as they flee their homelands in the hope of finding safety and freedom elsewhere.

Germany in the 1930’s: Josef, a Jewish boy and his family, faces persecution fleeing the Nazis as they board a ship bound for Cuba on the other side of the world. But docking in Havana is not simple and their journey becomes more complicated and their family more distressed. When they reach land they are not wanted.

Cuba in 1994: Isabel, lives under Castro’s rule and economic crisis. There are riots and unrest plaguing her country, and her father is a wanted dissident. She and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety and freedom in America but the trip is fraught with difficulties and loss. When they reach land they are not wanted.

Syria in 2015: Mahmoud city of Aleppo is torn apart through civil war and he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe where they are unwanted and mostly ‘unseen’. When they reach land they are not wanted.

The book trailer introduces the three main characters and their circumstances.

Unfolding in tandem, each protagonists tells their personal of persecution, escape, journeying and reaching a destination. Despite the 85 year time span the similarities in circumstances and the driving forces of each teenager to reach not only a place of safety but also a place of acceptance present a poignant message on everyone’s need to be feel safe. The three stories are seamlessly interwoven with threads connecting events, locations and characters unravelling as the book progresses.

With so many refugee stories being published as a response to current global unrest, Alan Gratz has presented an alternative, historically accurate and heartfelt account of three asylum seekers. A wonderful read for all young adults and adults alike.

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The Dam – David Almond & Levi Pinfold

The Dam by David Almond

A masterpiece by David Almond and Levi Pinfold

The Dam is stunning – in conceptual design, story line and illustrative techniques. Based on a true story, the reader joins a father and daughter on a final journey to the now deserted homes in the valley that is about to be flooded. Each house is filled with the haunting music of the girl’s fiddle, the father’s voice, and a sense of wonder as the spirits of townsfolk bid goodbye. This is a last farewell to a drowning village but also a story of hope, renewal and rebirth as the lake becomes a place for families to visit and spend time together. A very powerful look at progress – the immediate impact and long term gains – that supports historical and sustainability discussions with older primary and secondary students.

David Almond provides the historical context in the back of the book, and on his website.

Levi Pinfold’s website includes some images from the book – amazing!

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