Sunday, November 11, 2012

War Poetry

There's a video here of Sean Bean reciting Wilfred Owen's WW1 Poem "Anthem for Doomed Youth."  It's a wonderful poem  and his superb reading of it sent tingles down my spine.

If you haven't read Owen, do so — he wrote some wonderful, poignant and often heart-wrenching poetry.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Simpson and his Donkey

When we were working out what stories we'd write for series #5, the specifically Australian series, we wanted some stories that would be useful as a springboard for some themes that come up year after year in a class. War is one of those themes; it comes up on ANZAC Dat (25th April) and Remembrance Day (11th November.)

For this we chose Simpson and His Donkey — a well-known and beloved story of a man who didn't quite fit the army, but whose bravery was legendary. As well, there's a donkey, and we've noticed that readers of PageTurners love stories about animals. Finally there's the question of justice — a built-in discussion at the end of the story that can lead in to all sorts of other topics.

Click here for a google image search on Simpson and his Donkey and look at more pictures.

Or if you want to discuss something different in class, you might want to read about Ned Kelly, who was hanged on November 11th. I'll be blogging about him soon.

Friday, September 21, 2012

It's Racing Time

It's spring carnival racing time in Australia and what better story than that of the immortal Phar Lap, a horse still beloved many years after his death.

Most Australians have only ever seen Phar Lap in a glass case at the Melbourne Museum, but he's still one of the most popular exhibits and his story continues to fascinate.

In a time of economic hardship, Phar Lap was an inspiration —he won and won and won.

He and his trainer, Tommy Woodcock were very close. Tommy loved the horse.

The drawings above are by our own Moira Hanrahan, of course. There are lots more in the book.

Visit the PRACE PageTurners website to hear the story read aloud.
Order the book.
Look at more books in the PRACE PageTurners Aussie Series.

Monday, May 14, 2012

On feeling good. . .

The other day I posted this quote on the PageTurners face book page;
My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places. 
― A.A. Milne

And afterward I was thinking about it, and it reminded me of something I used to do with my  literacy students at the end of the semester — list one thing they could do now that they couldn't do before.

We used to make the list into a poster, and every time I saw it, I'd smile.
It said things like:

 I can spell Wednesday. (And every time I think of this one I grin, remembering the rant this student had made about stupid spelling!)
I can fill out the bank form by myself.
I read a book on my own.
I can work out some big words without asking.
I can read my son his favorite story.
I can leave a note for my daughter. And she can read it. (That's two things)

I wish now I'd kept those posters. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Handful of Sand

Anne here, talking today about another of our series #5 Aussie topic books, A Handful of Sand. It's about indigenous land rights — how the Gurindji people got their traditional land back.

As the back blurb says: It started as a struggle for pay and turned into a struggle for land rights. It took nine long years but finally the Gurindji got their land back. Read how they did it.

The book was written by Chris Malakar and, as always, illustrated by Moira Hanrahan. I have to say, I think Moira's drawings are getting better and better and this book contains some great examples.

Here's a drawing of the Gurindji stockmen mustering cattle. It was hard, dusty work and they got terrible pay for it.

The book is also one of our new pale green cover readers — it's longer than most of our books, but still has the same limited word count as the Green level 4 books — 300 unique words. (For an explanation of how we arrive at our levels, go here)

The Gurindji walk-off was a turning point in Australian indigenous history. If you want to read more about it, there's some information here.

There's a very moving you-tube here that gives you a brief look at some of the main events and some of the people involved.

There's a brilliant song here about it by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly.

And if you'd like to hear the book read aloud, there's an audio file here.

You can also order the book.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ANZAC Day — Simpson and his Donkey

ANZAC day is coming up and you might want to read a story that's about the ANZACs — Simpson and his Donkey. It's a true story about Jack Simpson, a young man who joined the Australian army, hoping for a trip back to England to see his mother.

Instead he found himself landing in Turkey, at Gallipoli, under intense fire.

Jack Simpson wasn't exactly the perfect soldier — he didn't like taking orders, and he loved a good joke. Here he is posing with a skeleton for a photo. He often got into trouble.

He was a big, tall, strong fellow, so the army put him in the Ambulance Corps (corps means group of men.) His job was to work with a partner to carry wounded soldiers to the hospital tents.

But the fighting was on very steep ground and they were being shot at all the time, so it was hard to rescue the wounded soldiers. This is a real photo from 1915.

Simpson saw some donkeys running free and it gave him an idea. He caught a donkey and started carrying wounded soldiers to safety. Using the donkey he could rescue three times the men than he could  with a stretcher.
But this was against official orders.
He was very brave, and rescued many wounded soldiers in very dangerous situations.
The ordinary soldiers thought he was a hero.
His commanding officer agreed. He recommended Simpson for a medal.

But the top army brass didn't agree. 
They wouldn't give a medal to a man who was disobeying orders,  by using a donkey instead of carrying a stretcher.

Simpson became a legend.
He's on a gold coin, on stamps, and there are statues of him.
But Simpson never got his medal.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Series #5, an all Australian series

Anne here, writing to let you know that Series #5, our All Australian Series is now on sale. We had a number of problems and delays with the printing, but all that is behind us, now, and it's all OK.

There are 10 new titles, and we're hoping they'll be popular with Aussie readers in particular. For all you overseas readers, don't worry, Series #6 is in production as we speak and should be on sale in the first half of 2012.

In the next few weeks I'll talk about each of the books in turn, but in the meantime, here's a look at the covers. Both stories in level 1 (Yellow covers) are set in the desert, Australia's vast inland.  Running With Boats is about the famous Todd River Boat Race in Alice Springs, a race held on a dry river bed. It's a crazy event and people there have lot of fun.
 The Camel Man is about the Afghan and Indian cameleers who helped open up much of the outback, bringing goods and supplies to the isolated people living there.
Fire, one of our level two (red) books is about a danger many Australians are touched by every year — bushfire. Liz, Anne, Ian and Greg get caught up in a bushfire. It's based on a true story. This really happened to me and my friends.
On The Goldfields is a story from history, about life on the goldfields in the 1850's and gives a small insight into how it was for women.
Next, in level 3,  we have the story of Cyclone Tracy, which hit the city of Darwin on Christmas Eve.
And Moira has Would I Lie to You? — a tale of the Furphy tank, a water carrier that gave rise to a common expression "that's a furphy."
In level 4 we have the story of Australia's most beloved racehorse, Phar Lap. He died before most of us were born, but people still love Phar Lap. 
Finally we have three books at a new level. They're longer books, but we've kept the unique word count to the same as level 4, so they're longer to read, but not too hard, we hope. 
A Handful of Sand is about indigenous land rights -- it's the story of the Gurindji people, and how they fought to get their land back. 
Simpson and His Donkey is a beloved story from Word War One -- an ANZAC story, about Private  Jack Simpson and the donkeys he used to rescue wounded soldiers. In this book we use  a lot of historical photos from WW1, as well as some of Moira's cartoons.
 Lastly we have the story of Australia's best known bushranger, Ned Kelly. This book is entirely illustrated from historical photos and illustrations from Ned Kelly's own time, and are of interest in themselves.
 We're very proud of this new series. We hope you enjoy it.