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A Happy St Patrick’s Day to you all!

March 17, 2017
As I write this, a soft Irish rain falls on Sydney.
Fitting for this month’s theme of #waterread. Fitting also as Ireland is blessed with many beautiful waterways.
We will begin our water tour with a sample of the Rivers Shannon, Foyle and Liffey and work our way to the sea – the wild Atlantic, no less. There will be birdsong, music, poetry, swimming, an old piano and several lighthouses. And if we’ve worked up a thirst, there will be something to drink.
We start with the longest river in Ireland, the Shannon.I do not often wake at dawn – but this little excerpt from the series The Secret Life of the Shannon by Ireland’s National Broadcaster RTE is a good advertisement for getting up with the birds. It is a lovely meditation to begin the day and our travels:
And now to the fast-flowing Foyle.In this unusual BBC Northern Ireland video, musician/composer Ryan Vail tells in words and music the sweet story of a 90-year-old piano making a final journey on the River Foyle.
And for our last river, to Dublin and the Liffey – no stranger to literature – and the subject of this dream poem by Jessica Traynor, Liffey Swim. You could spend many a good hour dipping into the University College Dublin Library’s online archives of Irish poetry readings.
I love “stout-bottle waters”.
But I promised you the ocean.  And here it is in all its fierce glory.  This video features lighthouses from along the Atlantic coast.   I have always loved lighthouses.  Perhaps because of the journey by sea to Australia when I was a child.  But also because when we arrived, Palm Beach and Barrenjoey Lighthouse were amongst our new favourite places.  The video features a quote from Western Australian born author M.L. Stedman of The Light Between Oceans fame.
Water is an essential ingredient in the green landscape for which Ireland is justly famous.  And water is also an ingredient in a number of equally famous drinks.
Irish whiskey – “the water of life” – has been around for a while – since, say, about the 12th century – thank you Wikipedia.
A more recent invention is “the black stuff”, Guinness. Though its makers say look closely and you will see it is “dark ruby red”.  It is made from water from the Wicklow Mountains.
But today I am tea-powered (leaves, please), so I have chosen the other black stuff for our final toast.  We do like our tea.
Ireland’s per capita tea consumption ranks amongst the highest in the world.
Once I went home to find a note from my parents saying the teapot had broken and they had gone to buy a new one before the shops shut.
A cautionary tale – best to keep a spare.
So, put the kettle on and enjoy this Tea Song by singer/songwriter Roisin O featuring clips of Irish people living abroad and enjoying a comforting taste of home.

by Kathleen

Get involved in the interactive fiction #OdysseyJam in March

March 2, 2017
horseserpent-tweakTo tie in with #WaterRead in March we are also doing something a bit different – an online interactive story writing challenge with a watery theme, specifically Homer’s The Odyssey – an ancient tale of Odysseus’ journey home across the seas after the Trojan War, with a mix of fantastical mythical creatures, gods and mortals. The challenge will be hosted on the game site and will run from 11th March, with the deadline for final submissions being 27th March 2017 . Full details of how to join the writing challenge and submit your entries can be found here.
It is open for anyone at all in the world to submit an entry… whether you’ve written interactive fiction before or not. All types of text based games are welcome, including interactive fiction and visual novels. Even though the focus is on creating a written interactive story, it can include other media too – images, sound, video etc. If you’re looking for visual inspiration we’ve sourced hundreds of ancient Greek images from the British Library, which you can use freely in your entry if you want to. If you do use them, be sure to give the British Library a mention in the credits of your game.

The Odyssey was epic, but your entry into #OdysseyJam doesn’t have to be a long piece of work. It also doesn’t have to cover the whole of the Odyssey – you could create something that focuses on a small part of the story, and you don’t even have to set it in ancient Greece, just use The Odyssey for inspiration. For example, this French/Japanese cartoon Ulysses 31 took the original Odyssey story off into space. Why not take this epic tale somewhere new?

You can also work as part of a team, or it can be a solo effort.

Want to join in but never made a text based game before?

Why not try using some of this free software – all of which are focused on creating interactive fiction and text adventures.

As Homer said in the Odyssey “There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.” … and now’s the time for writing many words for #OdysseyJam.

If you post anything on social media please use hashtag #OdysseyJam.

Join the #waterread discussion for this month’s #rwpchat

March 1, 2017
Reading by the sea

Image Sarah Ross/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)


“How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean.”

– Arthur C Clarke
With water covering 70% of Earth’s surface there’s huge scope for us to discover more about it through reading, watching and playing.
Consider the following aspects when you’re thinking about #waterread.
The science of natural bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes, oceans, and how they shape the landscape of our planet.
The vessels that travel on the surface or under it – river boats; ships; hovercrafts; submarines.
Travelling the seas to discover new places and people; for adventure; or for the transport of products. Alongside this we also can see the development of shipping, ports, harbours, and how naval history has been shaped. Sometimes though, unfortunate vessels and those aboard never make it to the end of their journey, and the seas contain the remains of many shipwrecks.
As well as discovery across the oceans, we can explore beneath the surface of them and other bodies of water too. Jacques Cousteau gave us insights into life and the creatures who live beneath the waves, and technology enables us to watch live footage of locations such as the Mariana Trench.
More recently Roger Deakin gave a unique perspective in his travelogue, Waterlog, when he swam through the British Isles.
The devastating effect water and lack of it can have on the planet and its inhabitants in the forms of  tsunamis, floods, and drought.
The desire to understand and take advantage of the benefits of water through engineering in the form of dams, hydro-electric power generation, bridges, canals, and irrigation systems.
Water plays an important role in sustaining life on the planet, and impacts greatly on our own health. It ensures we are able to grow food we need to survive, as well as keeping us hydrated.
As well as the benefits of technology we also have the negative impact industry can have on water, in the form of pollution.
Do you fish, and do you prefer freshwater or sea fishing? What’s the biggest one that got away from you?
The control of sources of water, the desire for countries to have control over specific bodies of water, naval battles, and the Cod Wars all highlight how politics has an impact on water too.
Water sports such as swimming, diving, boat racing, surfing. You can participate in them, or find out more about those people whose lives are focused on excelling in these sports.
Maybe you’re a fan of tear jerkers – did Love Story make you cry?
What’s your favourite water themed novel? Is it a classic such as Robinson Crusoe, Moby Dick, or Three men in a boat, or is it something more recent?
If you like your fiction with a fantastical twist try Waterworld, Pirates of the Caribbean, or The Day of Creation. Or discover more about myths and legends associated with water, including Atlantis, mermaids, selkies, the Kraken, the Loch Ness monster, and other mythical creatures.
Do you have any authors you like to read when you’re around water? Maybe when you’re relaxing by the pool or on a beach. Or when you’re relaxing with a good book what’s your preferred drink? Tea, coffee, a glass of wine, perhaps?
Water and horror can be a lethal mix – the killer shark in Jaws; Piranhas; Sharknado (you’re not even safe when you’re miles away from the sea); and The Fog.
There will be a Twitter discussion on 28 March starting at 11am and 8.00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 12.00 noon Central European Summer Time, 9am – 11am BST.  Note this is a staggered discussion.
Use the tags #waterread and #rwpchat as you discuss the reading, watching playing that is your experience of #waterread, so others can join in the conversation too.
As well as the Twitter discussion, during March we’re also running an interactive storytelling writing challenge with a watery theme, which is open to everyone. Find out more here.

top 10 fave Queer YAF and JF titles #diverseread #rwpchat

February 28, 2017

Sometimes you want a story that echoes your journey, and sometimes you want to connect with someone else’s journey.

Just in the nick of time to wind up February’s #diversereads; here’s our top 10 fave Queer YAF and JF titles. Enjoy!

1)      Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz

One of the most beautifully written books. The quality of the writing is excellent. And there’s a sequel on it’s way.

2)      If I was your girl – Meredith Russo

A first novel by this trans author; this is a well written teen romance, with a trans main character.

3)      Flywheel – Erin Gough

Set in Sydney and with a dyke main character, this Australian author has written a story of school, work, friendship and crushes that any teen looking for romance novels would be happy to read.

4)      Girl Mans Up – M-E Girard

Pen might look like a boy but she discovers what it means to be herself despite the influences of her dodgy ‘friends’ and her traditional parents, and with the help of her supportive brother. Modern, relevant dyke coming-of-age story.

5)      One in Every Crowd – Ivan E. Coyote

A series of short stories by a celebrated gender-queer spoken word artist.

6)      WillGrayson, Will Grayson – John Green and David Levithan  (and companion book: “Hold me Closer: the Tiny Cooper story” – David Levithan).

A times touching and often hilarious, these two books show a strong range of characters including a variety of gay male leads. Unapologetic and life-giving.

7)      Princess Princess ever after – Katie O’Neill

A children’s fairytale graphic novel, starring two very different princesses who find their ‘happily ever after’ together. Read it online here.

8)      George – Alex Gino

A novel with a trans main character for mid to upper primary children. Nicely done. See also: Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

9)      I’ll give you the Sun – Jandy Nelson

Fraternal twins Jude and Noah alternate the telling of this beautifully written but intense story.

10)   Been here all along – Sandy Hall

A light, fast and fluffy read with about best friends and neighbours.

– Yasmin Greenhalgh and Eliza Luciano

embrace diverse characters and themes for #diverseread #rwpchat

February 28, 2017

I’d like to share some of my favourite books and authors who are from diverse backgrounds and who embrace diverse characters and themes. These titles are not exhaustive but represent some of my favourites that I’ve shared at story time, read to family or on my own. Reading and accessing diverse books is essential at story time and at school.  It is necessary for young people to identify  themselves in the characters and to be aware that all the emotions and trials that stories can embed in us are theirs and can enrich them like all stories can.  It also encourages all young people to read, learn and enjoy these stories too.

I have a vivid memory when I was in year two at our end of year presentation receiving an award and book as a gift.  I remember the book with fondness,A Nice Walk in the Jungle’ by Nan Bodsworth. I was transfixed by this book as the characters  comprised of students who looked exactly like students in my class, ethnically diverse and  who were one by one gobbled up by a cheeky boa constrictor without the teacher noticing.

‘Ramadan Moon’ by Na’aim Roberts

This exquisite designed book combines paper collage and drawing with a beautiful story. ‘Ramadan Moon’ is about the acts of fasting, charity, and prayer during Ramadan. Narrated in the first person, a girl takes us through the month of Ramadan illustrating acts that are fulfilled during this special month.

Watch the story


‘Handa’s Surprise’ by Eileen Browne

I read ‘Handa’s Surprise’ at our bilingual story times, usually as a bilingual English and Arabic book at my library because it’s such a fantastic story. Handa who lives in a village, is on the way to meet her friends with seven delicious fruits in a basket. As she walks to meet her friends jungle animals slowly take each of the fruits without her knowledge. But then a goat charges at a tangerine tree and fills Handa’s basket with fruit to her surprise. Richly illustrated and full of beautiful fruits and wild animals, ‘Handa’s Surprise’ is the perfect read  for young children.

Watch the animation of this story here:


‘Mirror’ by Jeannie Baker

This book had me at the cover, or should I say covers, a story amazingly and intricately designed to tell a story of two boys, one in Sydney, Australia and another in Morocco, North Africa. ‘Mirror’ reflects two lives that seemingly have little in common but when the stories are simultaneously read, more and more is revealed about what binds the boys together. If you ever thought a book could not do this then you definitely need to experience ‘Mirror’.

Watch it here :

‘Azzi in Between’ by Sarah Garland

‘Azzi in Between’ is about a refugee child who is forced from her wartorn country to another country. We witness Azzi’s alienation at primary school. We feel for her demoralised father who is not allowed to work in this country and we rejoice as their family life improves. It is story that isdeeply moving, transcendent, and empathetic.

I love Me” by Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina

I love reading any story written by Sally Morgan or Ambelin Kwaymullina and when these two talented authors join together, they are bound to craft an inspiring and positive story.  In ‘I Love Me’, these authors have created a fabulous and powerfully worded story of self-esteem and self-acceptance for indigenous and non-indigenous kids everywhere. This story is perfect to share at story time.

We’ve all heard about the hashtag #weneeddiversebooks, a movement that was established with the aim to promote and to ensure more kids have access to and read books that are inclusive and feature diverse characters. You may also have heard of the hashtag #loveOZYA a hashtag to promote the importance of Australian authors in young adult literature, many of whom are diverse or come from diverse backgrounds.  These movements that highlight diversity are fabulous and necessary as they present an alternative to what is currently available for young people to read. These movements also highlights the importance of diversity, that is, of including rich, deep, and often wildly beautiful literature that engages, inspires and moves ALL young people.

What other stories are your favourite? Which are the ones you keep going back to and sharing with young people? What other diverse stories could be shared at story time?

Let’s chat via Twitter @kanjhiba

Hiba Kanj


join the #diverseread discussion today for #rpwchat

February 28, 2017


There will be a Twitter discussion today. 28 February starting at 11am and 8.00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 12.00 noon Central European Summer Time, 9am – 11am GMT.  Note this is a staggered discussion.

Use the tags #diverseread and #rwpchat as you discuss the reading, watching playing that is your experience of #diverseread, so others can join in the conversation too.

“Make up a story… For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.”

Toni Morrison, The Nobel Lecture In Literature, 1993

“Doctor Who: You want weapons? We’re in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world. This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself!

(from Tooth and Claw in Season 2)”

Russell T. Davies

This month, arm yourself with diverse reading.

How diverse is your reading?  Are you reading about people who are different to you? Are you watching films and documentaries about diverse subjects and ideas.

We need diverse books because we are all different and more diverse reading can help us see our communities and environments differently.  It can make us more understanding of others.

This month is #diverseread, but we hope that for every other theme this year you will be making them a #diverseread as it makes all reading more interesting.  It is also a great idea for watching and playing too.

When did you last read:

  • a horror book
  • a nonfiction book about science
  • a collection of essays
  • a book out loud to someone else
  • a children’s book
  • poetry
  • a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel
  • a book originally published in the decade you were born
  • listen to an audiobook
  • a book over 500 pages long
  • a book under 100 pages  
  • a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender
  • a book that is set in the Middle East  
  • a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia
  • a book of historical fiction set before 1900
  • the first book in a series by a person of colour
  • a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years
  • a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie
  • a book which has been translated from another language (and preferably written in the last ten years)
  • a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes
  • a book with a main character that has a mental illness
  • a book with a character with a disability
  • a book by an Indigenous person
  • a book by someone from your town?

Thanks to Bookriot for their list which was used as the basis for the above one.

For fiction, do the characters you read about reflect the diversity of what is possible and the diversity of who is in the world as well as who is in your community? For non-fiction are you sure you are getting the whole story?

There are some wonderful young adult books to read…
2005 Powwow

In the USA there has been a lot of coverage about the need for diverse books, all readers need diverse books, and diverse watching and playing.

There is much to explore in fantasy, …and if you are still not sure what to tryGoodreads presents a brilliant range of diverse reading too.


How will you participate in World read aloud day? #wrad2017 #rwpchat

February 16, 2017

Today is World read aloud day. Who will you be reading to today? Will you be making it a #diverseread?

World read aloud day - image courtesy of LitWorld

World read aloud day – image courtesy of LitWorld