Archive for the ‘Reading the World Challenge 2011’ Category

Reading the World Challenge 2011 – Update 4, wrapping it up

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

So, 2012 is now rolling and it’s time to wrap up our Reading the World Challenge for 2011

So did we complete it – yes, by the skin of our teeth! Older Brother spent a couple of hours on Saturday finishing off Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin (The Young Reader’s Edition adapted by Sarah Thomson, Puffin Books, 2009). It was clear that it had a profound effect on him by the way, all the way through reading it, he would tell us about different parts of the book at mealtimes; and he was much struck by the interview with Mortenson’s daughter Amira and her involvement in the project.

The other two books he read to complete the Challenge were Secret Heart by David Almond; and Bird by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Shadra Strickland (Lee & Low Books, 2008). He was moved by both of them. Secret Heart was ultimately uplifting but Bird made him “really sad”. When I asked what it made him think about drugs, he said, “I don’t know how to explain or describe it, but NO!” A fairly incoherent but nevertheless eloquent response.

Younger Brother combined his local and non-fiction criteria into one book, The Dinosaur Coast by Roger Osborne and Alistair Bowden, and published by the North York Moors National Park Authority (2000). For his poetry book, we have read together Where the Steps Were by Andrea Cheng (Wordsong, 2008). I have blogged about this wonderful book before – suffice to say here that Little Brother was captivated. In general, he is very much drawn to the conciseness of poetry, and he became very caught up in the narrative here – the blend of history, the relevance of that history to the children, and the children’s individual concerns. He managed to keep tabs on each child’s voice much better than I did!

Our last two books for reading all together were Children of the World by Anthony Asael and Stéphanie Rabemiafara (Art in All of Us / Universe Publishing, 2011) and the third of Susanne Gervay’s Jack Books, Always Jack (HarperCollins Australia, 2010).

We have so enjoyed dipping into Children of the World, which was PaperTigers’ Book of the Month in November. We have looked up countries at random, picked countries out of the air, looked through for places we’ve never heard of – and in all cases, the boys have found the pictures and poetry written mostly by children around their age to be inspirational. We’ve also had some interesting discussions about making generalisations, particularly arising from the last two of the three sentences under the title banner – “We eat…”, and “We play…”, and particularly with reference to the UK pages!

Always Jack was another great read. We loved the previous two books in the series, especially I Am Jack, so our expectations were high and we were not disappointed. Jack himself is, as ever, a well-rounded blend of confidence and insecurity, determined to get the last word with one of his (usually) funny jokes. Several highly charged themes run through the book, including cancer (Jack’s mother), dementia (his Nan), and the Vietnam War (through Jack and his best friend Christopher’s joint school project into their family histories). The book made us laugh; it made us sad (and me cry); and it made us think. Both my boys empathised with Jack every step of the way and were delighted when his Mum’s wedding to Rob went ahead – not only because it meant she had won that particular battle against cancer, but also becasue it signified an end to all that mum, sister and best-friend Anna stuff of taking months to decide what to wear etc! Always Jack is an enjoyable, easy read and the book will be a very useful tool to give to children who may be going through similar experiences in their families. It also highlights the importance of keeping the channels of communication open, in the case of illness in a family, or indeed of creating those channels between generations in the first place. In Always Jack, Christopher’s parents had never before spoken to him about their journey from Vietnam for a new home in Australia; for his mother especially it had been too traumatic. Jack himself did not know the story behind his grandfather’s medals. By entrusting these stories to the younger generation, family ties were tightened and wounds had a chance to heal. So yes, Susanne has done it again. All three of us wholeheartedly recommend Always Jack and just wish there could be more.

And what about other participants in the Challenge? Sandhya over at My Handful of the Sky has completed it, both on her own account and with her daughter. You can follow links to her posts on all the books they read in her round-up post here – definitely worth delving into.

If you took part in the Challenge, do let us know how you got on, if you haven’t already – and look out for the post (imminent) for the PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge 2012.

Reading the World Challenge 2011 – Update 3

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Since my last update on this year’s PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge, we have added some great books to our list.

Together, we have read two new autobiographical picture books: Allen Say’s Drawing from Memory (Scholastic, 2011) and Ed Young’s The House Baba Built (Little, Brown and Company, 2011) – both wonderful, and I’m not going to say much more about them here as we will be featuring both of them more fully on PaperTigers soon. Those are our reading-together non-fiction books for the Challenge.

As our local book, we tried reading a book of folk tales from the North York Moors, where we live in the UK, but discovered the stories formed part of a tourist guide, including instructions for getting around… we extracted what we could but it wasn’t a very satisfactory read. It has made us not take beautifully illustrated and retold folk tales for granted!

Older Brother has read Rainbow World: Poems from Many Cultures edited by Bashabi Fraser and Debjani Chatterjee , and illustrated by Kelly Waldek (Hodder Children’s Books, 2003).  He dipped in and out of it through the summer break and we had to renew it from the library several times…

Older Brother has also been totally captivated by A Thousand Cranes: Origami Projects for Peace and Happiness. After reading the story of Sadako for the Reading Challenge way back in its first year, he’s wanted to know how to make the cranes but I have two left hands when it comes to origami – or at least I thought I did, until I received a review copy of A Thousand Cranes from Stone Bridge Press.  Recently revised and expanded from the original book by renowned origami expert Florence Temko, it’s a super little book, with good clear instructions for beginners like us, and giving background about both the offering of a thousand origami cranes as a symbol of longevity, and specifically the story of Sadako and the Thousand Cranes.  Older Brother, now that he is older, (more…)

Reading the World Challenge 2011 – Update 2

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011


During the couple of months since my last update, we’ve included several books for the PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge in our reading.

As well as Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which I blogged about last week, we have read Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord together, an exciting read from beginning to end. It’s the story of two German boys Prosper and Bo, who, after the death of their mother, run away from the aunt who wants to give a home only to the younger Bo. They go to Venice, because their mother filled them with stories of the city’s magic, and there they end up living in an abandoned cinema with some other stray children, under the protection of Scipio aka the Thief Lord, who is not much older than them. They find plenty of adventure and magic of their own, not to mention a certain amount of disaster and worry, before the story reaches its ultimately satisfying conclusion.

Bedtimes stretched out as we found it harder and harder to put the book down, and it was just as well we reached the school holidays about 80 pages before the end, because we were then able to swallow the last eleven chapters whole in one wonderful morning!

Little Brother (10) has read his non-fiction selection: three of the books in Fifth House Publishers/Fitzhenry and Whiteside’s wonderful The Land is Our Storybook series. Here’s what he says about them:

We Feel Good Out Here by Julie-Ann André and Mindy Willett, Photographs by Tessa Macintosh (2008):

I liked the story about how Atachuunkaii, the man in the canoe tricked a giant called Ch’ii Choo.

The Delta is My Home by Tom McLeod and Mindy Willett, photographs by Tessa Macintosh (2008):

I enjoyed the bit about the muskrat push ups – it was really interesting and I liked the pictures because they were funny – and impressive because Tom McLeod drew them himself.

Come and Learn With Me by Sheyenne Jumbo and Mandy Willett, photographs by Tessa MacIntosh (2010):

I liked the “Clean Socks” story about Ashley and Selena, who was her mum. Sheyenne wrote it – I haven’t read Robert Munsch’s book called Smelly Socks, which is actually what inspired her – but her story is about new socks – also because she can’t get socks where she lives.

All in all: (more…)

Books at Bedtime: Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

As one of the books in our PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge (and I’ll be bringing you a full update on that later on in the week), Younger Brother and I have read together Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie (Granta Books, 1990). My brother gave a first edition to my boys several years ago but this is the first time we’ve read it – and I see that it is now available in many editions, with a lovely array of book covers, which I can’t resist including here (and see this project book cover/splash page from Art Slug).

But back to the story. We both adored it. I was practically tied down at bedtimes and made to read on. For any child (or adult) who loves words and playing with language and ideas, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Haroun’s father, the Shah of Blah, has lost his story-telling Gift of the Gab because his wife has left him. Haroun, who has become a little jaded with his father’s focus on fiction himself, soon finds himself in possession of Iff, a Water Genie’s Disconnector and spinning into a spiral of adventures. He discovers that stories are physically real and that the balance of human happiness is being threatened because the menacing land of Chup, where it is always night, is poisoning the Sea of Stories, despite all the attempts to keep it clean by the happy land of Gup across the water, where it is always light…

Haroun meets a wonderful array of characters – as well as Iff, there is Butt, the oxymoronically magical mechanical hoopoe depicted on the book’s cover; Bagha and Goopy, two of the plentimaw fishes who swim in the sea (don’t you just love it?!), Mali the Head Floating Gardener, and many more – and of course, there are also the often shadowy baddies, led by the terrifying Khattam-Shud. Despite all the P2C2E, Processes Too Complicated To Explain (I told you you’d love it!), Haroun finds a way to help his new friends, and in so doing restores the balance of happiness to his own life.

Yes, this is definitely one of the most wonderful readalouds we’ve shared. The prose is like poetry – you almost chew the words. We relished the huge, unanswerable questions that the book explores – what is Reality? What is Story? Who is that character, that person… who am I? – as well as the allegories of light and darkness (which make this so relevant to an adult as well as a young audience), environmental responsibility and empathy. And we revelled in each little bit of wordplay, from character names to gleeful patter.

If your child enjoys stories of worlds within worlds, like Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, or the Harry Potter series, they will love Haroun and the Sea of Stories.

Reading the World Challenge 2011 – Update 1

Friday, March 25th, 2011

It’s not too late to join this year’s Reading the World Challenge if you haven’t already – just take a look at this post for details.

In our family we have all joined together and read picture books set in Mongolia, which is our current focus on PaperTigers. I had to hunt around a bit but we came up with a good selection. I’m not going to go into a great deal of detail here as they are all gathered up in my Personal View, Taking a step into children’s books about Mongolia. We have really enjoyed delving into the culture and heritage of Mongolia and these picture books have been read all together and individually.

One bedtime Older Brother read Horse Song: the Naadam of Mongolia by Ted and Betsy Lewin (Lee and Low, 2008) to Little Brother – quite a long read and they were both engrossed. Watching them from the outside, as it were, I came to an added appreciation of the dynamics of Ted and Betsy’s collaboration, both in the energy of their shared enthusiasm and participation in the events surrounding the famous horse-race, and also of being struck by a busy, crowded scene one page and then giggling at the turn of expression on an individual study’s face the next.

And I’ll just share with you Little Brother’s reaction to Suho’s White Horse, which you can read about in a bit more detail in my Books at Bedtime post earlier this week:

It was a moving story. The governor made me angry because he broke his word and was cruel to Suho and his horse.
[Listening to the musical version played on the Mongolian horsehead fiddle, the morin khuur] Once you know the story, you can tell which part of the music is telling which part of the story. How do they make that music with just two strings? It fills me with awe.

I also read The Horse Boy: A Father’s Miraculous Journey to Heal His Son by Rupert Isaacson (Viking, 2009), an amazing story of a family’s journey to Mongolia in search of horses and shamans to seek healing for the torments that were gripping their five-year-old autistic son’s life: as Isaacson puts it with great dignity, his “emotional and physical incontinence”. If you have already read this humbling, inspiring book (and even if you haven’t), take a look at this recent interview three years on from their adventurous journey. Now I need to see the film!

And talking of films (which we don’t very often on PaperTigers, but I can’t resist mentioning this one), The Story of the Weeping Camel is a beautiful, gentle film that takes you right to the heart of Mongolian life on the steppe. Who would have thought a documentary film about a camel could be so like watching a fairy tale? Don’t be put off by the subtitles – our boys love this film. Take a look at the trailer -

But now it’s time to leave Mongolia and find out what everyone else has been reading… (more…)

Reading the World Challenge 2011

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Well, here it is at last, this year’s PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge. I know some of you have been on tenterhooks but there’s one advantage to announcing it a little late. All your other challenges should be well assimilated by now, and adding one more shouldn’t be too much of a trial… Anyway, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it ;-)

The Challenge for the last two years has revolved around geographical boundaries, as is perhaps to be expected of a World focused challenge – however, following deep consultation with Little Brother (9), we have come up with an extra geographical consideration this year. We have also decided to make the time factor as flexible as possible, in the hope that some teachers/librarians might be tempted to engage children in the Challenge during school term time. So without further ado, we present the PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge 2011:

1. Choose six books from/about/by or illustrated by someone from different countries anywhere in the world, 3 of which must be in different continents.

2. Choose one book from/about your city/district – as local and as relevant to your geographical setting as you can find.

3. You should choose at least one book of each of the following: fiction, poetry and non-fiction.

4. Have the books read aloud to you or read them yourself; share them as part of a book-group or in class. Combine your choices with other reading challenges.

5. There is no time limit for this year’s Challenge, apart from completing it by the end of the year.

Do join us, and keep us posted as to how you’re doing – we love reading all your posts. You can find lots of ideas in the PaperTigers Reviews and Reading Lists sections, as well as in many of our Personal Views – or do let us know your own suggestions.

Happy Reading!

And P.S. If anyone would like the code for adding the button to their blog, please email me – marjorie(at)papertigers(dot)org.