Sunday, August 17, 2008

Marta Sisay saves the world

This is an entry that I originally put on my classroom blog. For some reason, it hasn't registered on Google yet and Marta is a wonderful student. She wrote this piece about the day her class went tree-planting in Science Week. I've done minimal editing so you can get her voice. Enjoy!

Save our planet by planting trees

On Thursday 14th of August 2008 we went on excursion to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air by planting a tree with students and some teachers. We went by bus with Mr. Smythe and Mrs. King. When we got there we saw two women standing with the equipment that we were going to use, some of the equipment included water, gloves, shovel and a hammer. We started the day by the two women telling us why we were planting trees and what difference it will make, and then we were partnered and I had Madit as my partner. After that we started digging a hole to put the plant in and when we finished digging a hole we put the plant in the hole and we water it. At the end me and Madit we planted about 8 trees and then it was back to school and into work.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Boys and non-fiction

I wrote this letter to the Age newspaper in response to an article by that wonderful children's writer Paul Jennings, which was published in the education section one Monday. My letter was published, although the next time I saw the article it had the same list of suggested books. And don't get me wrong, they were great books, but there seems to be some idea that if it isn't fiction, it isn't reading. Or, at best, they say with a rolling of eyes, "Oh, well, at LEAST it's reading..."

But non-fiction is still story-telling, as I've found out over the years as a writer of non-fiction for children. It's just telling a story that is true.

I've found that my students will usually shut up when I'm reading to them - but it has to be true. The weirder the better - it has to be so weird it could almost BE fiction ... but it's not. And they read the newspapers or watch the news on TV. Quite often, they'll say, "Oh, yeah, I heard about that on the news ... on Sixty Minutes... "

So, off to find something else "stranger than fiction, perhaps in MX or in the Age Odd Spot which I will follow up in Google News, to present to my class.

Meanwhile, here's the letter:

"I enjoyed Paul Jennings' article on encouraging boys to read. Mr Jennings is one of Australia's best writers for girls and boys alike. What he says is absolutely right, as far as it goes. Teachers can't do all the work. Parents need to be involved. And yet... your recommended reads for boys included not one non-fiction book.

Boys love non-fiction. As a librarian I have watched English teachers yell at boys to put down that book on soccer or cars which would have engaged them and get a novel - right now! As a teacher myself, I've seen a noisy, almost-all-boys class hush and listen when I read them some bizarre news story, followed up by, "Miss... is that true? Really?" I've been at children's literature panels where participants grumbled, "Oh, well, at least they're reading..." implying that they SHOULD have been reading fiction.

All right, I admit it: I write non-fiction. Two-thirds of the sales on my latest book have been through Book Club, where children can choose what they want. What does this suggest?

If you want boys to read, you have to offer them what they want to read."

Saturday, August 02, 2008

St Kilda on Sunday

This morning I had to get an MRI scan to work out why my left leg is still hurting a couple of months after some idiot in Hobart knocked me over while daydreaming as I crossed at a green light. After I'd had the snapshots of my knee taken (listening to soothing Rimsky-Korsakov and Chopin), I decided it was too late to go to the Continuum meeting in Carlton, so I took the 16 tram down to the beach.

I'd earned a break, after spending all of yesterday on my computer, fixing up and editing my manuscript for my new book, which I'm doing for Ford Street Publishing. No title so far, because neither of us really knows what to call it. Paul likes: Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly. I still have eight chapters and the "Did You Know...?" file to finish, plus some more "Did You Know...?" entries because Paul Collins, my publisher, keeps worrying we might have left someone out on the list of Australia's famous criminals and I keep finding amusing snippets, such as the story of the forger who was Australia's first artist and forged cash on the way to Australia to get extras for himself and his friends in chains,and the fact that our Prime Minister has convict ancestors. But it should mostly be over by the end of this week, because the typesetters are on holidays for a month and Paul wants to get it all out of the way before September (though I'll still have to do my index).

The Sunday craft market was in full swing. I saw the Dutch Blue Delft stall and asked the lady there - the artist - if she could bring me a full-sized teapot, which I can buy as part of my wedding gift to my sister's best friend's daughter. They're very beautiful and I have had one for many years, still used for Saturday morning breakfast cuppas.

The gentleman who makes Australian animal stuffed toys was next on my stop list - I have a wombat of his, plus I have bought other toys for children. One of his wombats went to England, for the daughter of my penpal, Joyce Cluett. Tricia is grown now - perhaps she has kept it for her own kids. I hope so. I have also had a recent e-mail from my American "honorary cousin", Walter Bursztynski, who has a second grandchild. I could perhaps send a wombat for the new child, Paige, and a possum puppet for young Chase, her brother - it's great, you put it on your hand and drape it over your arm and it looks as if you're cuddling a possum. He'd love it!

I did consider some painted glassware for Maia, the young woman who is marrying, but the man only had two of everything on the stall, his partner makes them as the mood hits her and two wine glasses are useless for the Shabat table. Pity.

Next were the wonderful wooden chopping boards, but Maia has one - I gave it to her for her engagement.

For myself I bought several pieces of handmade soap and two CDs of soothing harp music, from the lady who recorded it and gave me two for $10. A win-win situation - it would have cost her about $1.00 to burn and most folk selling their music charge a lot more. I look forward to playing them. I do like to support local artists.

Then down to the beach for a walk. Unfortunately, the newly-built walk has taken up a large chunk of what was beach. They have knocked down the small round shelter that has been at the start of the pier for years and had a Mirka Mora mosaic in it - I hope they at least preserved that somewhere! There is nowhere to sit along most of the walk and for the moment, at least, no designated bike path, so cyclists just zoom along wherever they please and walkers have to leap out of their way. I know we're supposed to be all for bikes because they're more environmentally friendly than cars, but I just CAN'T like the things when they're on the footpath. Elderly people have been known to get killed by some idiot cyclist who thinks they own the path.

I shouted myself lunch at the Stoke House restaurant on the beach - barramundi, quite nice, but not as good value for money as the barramundi at the Presse cafe near my home, which comes in a bigger piece and lots of salad/potatoes/whatever, and four dollars dearer.

I remember when the Stoke House was just a pleasant place for afternoon tea instead of a rather upmarket restaurant. You could get huge scones fresh from the oven, lots of cream and jam and a massive pot of tea or coffee. Or Sachertorte or bienenstich... Yum! No more, alas! But it is a nice, if expensive, restaurant.

I am writing this in a local Internet cafe on Sunday afternoon, before going home to clean the house and do some more editing ... Work never ends!