Book Review – Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally

Book of the Day

Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally was a very dry read.  It was drier than the cheapest plonk at the pub during happy hour.  Now before anyone starts collecting rocks to stone me, I would challenge them to read the book too and then comment.  

I am not denying that the material in the book is powerful.  I definitely acknowledge that the book is filled with names, places and intense facts.  But it is not prose. Upon thinking this further, I recollect the subject of the book and wonder if there is a reason for that.  If the author, in this case Thomas Keneally was aiming for an emotive piece, it would be a character lie. By all accounts, Oskar Schindler was a hard drinking and reckless businessman who cheated on his wife with regularity (Hurvitz & Karesh, 2016).  He destroyed his family business, sought to cheat, lie and swindle his way back into a life of comfort. Quite frankly, by all tokens, this man was an immoral and wasteful character. Then Schindler went on to save almost 1300 Jews from the concentration camps during those dark days in Eastern Europe.  This man, who by the standards of his time, and now; unworthy of attention; put his own life at risk to save others. His actions have been immortalised in a book, a major Spielberg movie production and the term Schindlerjuden or Schindler’s Jews, which is still used to refer to the descendents of those that were saved.   

So when you consider all these facts, the dryness of Keneally’s “Schindler’s Ark” makes sense.  It would be a lie if the book was anything other than prosaic. Instead, its matter of fact manner of describing the main character’s traits ensures that the reader does not view him with rose framed lenses.  The reader is made fully aware of Oskar’s failings as a man and a husband. It is in viewing these failings that Schindler’s true heroism is seen. The plain language allows the reader to envision the fear hiding between the stalwart words.  Conversely, the plain language also allows readers with little imagination to read the book without being overwhelmed.  

“Schindler’s Ark” was a very dry read for someone who is a lover of prose.  As an avid reader of fiction, I found this novel to be more informative than anything else.  I also found it heartbreaking, just like the sadness I feel when the happy hour wine is just awful.  But whilst this book was a struggle for me, it would be ideal for reluctant teens who struggle with engaging with fictitious stories.  The language, style and format of the book resemble information books and thus may satisfy their need for ‘facts’.  But whilst the Guardian review suggests this book as appropriate for 8-12 year old children, I would probably restrict it to students over 14-15 years old.  This would then correlate well with the year 10 HASS’s World War 2 and Holocaust unit especially the ACDSEH025 elaboration.  It would also work well in the Biographies and memoirs unit in Year 10 English.  


Alannahbee, (2013). Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally – review. The Guardian. Retrieved 16th March, 2020 from

Axelrod, A. (2013). Schindler, Oskar. In Encyclopedia of World War II, vol. 2. New York: Facts On File. Retrieved March 16, 2020, from

Hurvitz, M. M., & Karesh, S. E. (2016). Schindler, Oskar. In Encyclopedia of Judaism, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File. Retrieved March 16, 2020, from

It was the moment I fell in love…

kaboompics / Pixabay – Falling in love


I fell in love for the first time with a boy named James Winthrop Frayne II.  I was 11 years old and madly in love. He was 16 years old, tall and very smart, with red hair, green eyes and a slightly crooked smile. 

PlushDesignStudio / Pixabay – In love with books.


Unfortunately for me, James or Jim, as I lovingly referred to him, was a character in my favourite book series “Trixie Belden”. In fact, my love for Jim Frayne was so embedded into my mind that I ended up marrying another lovely redhead (he says honey-blond) who also happened to have James in his name.  And whilst I was falling in love with Jim Frayne…

I fell in love with reading books. 

Now when I say I love books, I say this as an adult who reads on a daily basis. 

I have never spent a day in my life as far as I can remember without reading or food.  In fact reading and eating are interwoven rather closely in my life. I have eaten my way through many books and I have read my way through many meals.  Even now as a mother of three, dinner table conversations are still second place to a book. So for me, books are a need, like food and water. I indulge that need with classics and new authors; old favourites and popular series.  But series fiction holds a dear spot in my heart. As a child, series fiction gave me Jim and Trixie, Harry and Hermoine, Frank and Joe, Nancy and Bess, Laura Ingalls, Anne Shirley, Lucy, Pollyanna, Heidi, George and Timmy, Darryl and Sally. As an adult series fiction brought me Doc Scarpetta, Tempe Brennan, Ayla of no people, Falco, Jamie and Claire plus many others into my life.  Whilst I have loved the classics and other stand alone titles, series fiction brought me the greatest joy.   

{silence} {crickets} {crashing cups of tea and chairs} {my career as a future TL fading into the sunset}

Yes, as an adult who is also a fledgling teacher librarian, I am voicing out loud my deep and ardent affection for serial stories.  Now, once everyone has picked themselves off the floor and righted their tea cups; I will explain my thoughts.

I acknowledge that series fiction, whether for adults or children, has often been regarded as literary rubbish.  Often viewed as the ‘Mills & Boon’ of literature, series fiction is derided for its repetitive structure, predictive plot and lack of character development (Westfahl, 2018).  Some would even argue that its presence on bookshelves is a betrayal of literary values (Westfahl, 2018). But these people are snobs! Books do not always have to be among the lexicons of literature.  Books, especially fiction books, should be able to satisfy cognitive, emotional and the developmental needs of the reader and series fiction definitely addresses the emotional needs of both fledging and proficient readers.

But before I elaborate deeply on how series fiction changed my life; I would like to clarify a few technical issues.  There are three main types of series fiction. Firstly, there is the progressive series; where a longer narrative is broken down into shorter novels and the sequence of titles is important to the reader and storyline (Wooldridge, 2015).  Then there are the successive series, where the plot repeats itself continuously and lastly, the accidental variety where the author reluctantly writes prequels and sequels to comfort the crazies.  

Rowling’s Harry Potter, Marsden’s Tomorrow when the war began, Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and Wilder’s Little house books are some examples of progressive series.  These book concatenations had a definite end which saw the characters grow and develop along with the reader.  I was one of those readers that grew up with Ellie and Harry. I devoured John Marsden’s series in a matter of months.  My poor high school teacher librarian was continuously pestered to get the rest of the series once I got hold of the first one. Poor man!  Lucky for him, by the time I discovered Harry, I had a job and a library membership! I was 13 when the first HP book was released and as Harry grew up, so did I.  Harry, Hermoine and Ron were more than just book characters, for me they were friends.  

Successive series examples include the famous Diary of a wimpy kid, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, Babysitters club, Animorphs, Famous Five, Secret Seven, and Bobbsey Twins.  These series have a foreseeable story patterns with comforting characters and obvious plots (Wooldridge, 2015).  Whilst these books may seem formulaic (they are!), it is their predictability that makes them popular. Series fiction offers children constancy and security in a world full of upheaval (Wooldridge, 2015).  Children develop a sense of trust, an affection with the character and possibly even a relationship with the author (Wooldridge, 2015). So while they themselves grow up through the tumultuous years of puberty, series fiction with its predictability offers an escape, a playdate with an old friend.  

I developed this type of relationship with Enid Blyton after being introduced to the Famous Five. The sheer joy received from reading that series led me to trust her writing style and with it I discovered Secret Seven, 5 find outers and it, Mallory Towers, Twins at St Claire’s, Wishing Chair, Enchanted Tree, Amelia Jane and so many more.  For an awkward immigrant kid with poor social skills, these books allowed me to escape to places where magic and friendship abounded.  My daughter is also a big Blyton fan. Every time she picks up a book authored by Blyton, I know that she will most likely gain the same level of emotional satisfaction that I did and so develop her love of reading.  There is also a great deal of enjoyment to share with her the books of my childhood.

The last main type of series fiction is the accidental variety.  These are books that the author only planned on one, and then somehow their popularity has meant sequels and prequels were soon requested by adoring fans.  George M Martin’s Game of Thrones is such a series, spawning an TV run that lasted several years and ended before the last book has even been published.  Diana Gabaldan’s Outlander series is currently stalled at the near publication of its 9th book and only time will tell if the tenth book will ever eventuate (especially since the first book was published almost 20 years ago!).  Other accidental series include Baum’s Wizard of Oz, Norton’s The Borrowers and P. L. Traver’s Mary Poppins.  Because these series were accidental and not planned, their storylines do not always make sense and can appear a bit jerky at times.  Sometimes they abruptly end if the author or readers lose interest.  

Series fiction has been around for a long time. As much as some literary snobs would hate to admit, there are some current classics that used to be serials.  Dicken’s Pickwick Papers and another seven of his other titles as well as Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes started off as series but then were condensed into a novel several reprints later (McGill-Franzen & Ward, 2018).  Even further back to the folklore stories such as mythical twelve tasks of Hercules; the thousand and one stories of Scherazade and adventures of the Round table are varieties of series fiction.  So to all those literary snobs that believe series fiction are rubbish… well… pffft to you.  

If you think about it from a practical viewpoint it makes sense if you have a recipe that works to use it!  Edward Strathmeyer had such a recipe back in the boom days of series fiction. He planned outlines of books and then organised cheap ghost writers to write the stories, and oh boy… did it work!  The whole Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys production is based upon this magical recipe (Westfahl, 2018).  The recipe had some key ingredients. Characters are kept the same age; have the same small town holistic upbringing; go on amazing adventures, travel the world but always come home safely to a loving family.  These books allowed children and teens (mainly aimed at Caucausian middle class Americans) an avenue of escape from their groundhog day lives. As these book characters all suffered from perennial Peter Pan syndrome, they have never lost their appeal even in its trillionth reprint nearly ninety years after the first copy (Finnian, 2013).  I will mention here that whilst racial demographics and family structure has evolved significantly since the first Stratemeyer book was published in 1927, their popularity has not changed.  The plot pattern remains the same but the settings and dilemmas have evolved with the times.  Obviously the recipe still works!

So what is the benefit of series fiction?  Besides emotional satisfaction, series fiction allows the reader to build their literacy skills.  McGill-Franzen & Ward (2018) believes that the predictable plots assist in developing word recognition which in turn boosts vocabulary and reading confidence.  The formulaic story pattern allows the reader to easily identify any explicit reading conventions present. This expanded vocabulary and confidence then allows the reader to successfully use their increased literacy skills in other areas. 

Series fiction makes it simple for readers to identify titles they are willing to read because they identify with the author.  Reluctant readers are more likely to pick a book they are familiar with by the same author; than a title by a new author. They are also more likely to try other titles by that author because of the relationship that was previously established.  A great example is John Flanagan, author of the fabulous Ranger’s apprentice series.  Teens who enjoy that series often move onto the Royal Ranger series as well as Brotherband because they trust the author. The same can be said for Rick Riordan and the plethora of books he has published.  

The impact of series fiction is clear.  Children and teens who read more books end up being more adults who read.  Remember, committed adult readers were hooked onto reading as children by series fiction (McGill-Franzen & Ward, 2018).  And whilst reading of insightful novels that provokes critical thinking complements a wide reading program, it cannot replace it.  Pushing the classics onto children and teens before they are ready is unlikely to work. But offering them an opportunity to connect with an author or a series they can engage with may put them onto the pathway towards literature.  After all, children do age out of one series and into another (McGill-Franzen & Ward, 2018). They grow from Blyton’s Magic Faraway tree to Rodda’s Rowan of Rin, to Rowling’s Harry Potter to Marsden’s Tomorrow when the war began to Davis’ Falco, Cornwall’s Scarpetta and Reichs’ Bones and Hume’s Arthur and Merlin series and eventually they reach the classics. Why do I know that?  Cos I did just that.  

I fell in love with reading as a child.  I have stayed in love with reading as an adult.  Are you in love with reading? If so, when did it happen?


Finnan, Robert (2013). “Unofficial Nancy Drew Home Page”. Retrieved 14th March 2020. 

McGill-Franzen, A. & Ward, N. (2018). To develop proficiency and engagement, give series books to novice readers. In D. Wooten, B. Cullinan, L. Liang & R. Allington (Eds). Children’s literature in the reading program: Engaging young readers in the 21st century, (5th ed., pp. 153-168). Retrieved from Proquest Ebook Central.

Westfahl, G. (1999-2018). Series fiction. World of Westfahl. Retrieved from

Woolridge, T. (2015). Series fiction and Sallly Rippin’s Billie B Brown series: The ‘Most important continuous reading children do on their own’. mETAphor, 3, 30-35. Retrieved from


YA – Did you ?

My knowledge of children’s literature is as extensive as my personal library. 

I have shelves groaning with ‘golden books’( a remnant of my childhood), Blyton, Nesbit, Grimm, Anderson, Wilder (another remnant), Montgomery (mine), Alcott (yes… also mine), Lewis (mine), Anh Do (definitely not mine – Child #2), Harvey, Keene, K Kenny (mine), J Kenny ( not mine – Child #1), Dixon and Rowling to just name a few authors. This is not including the shelves full of board and picture books (child #1, #2 and #3) that have appealed to my minions thus far.  But as I ponder this, and glance lovingly at my home library, I realise that I went straight from children’s books to the classics and then onto adult fiction. I had completely skipped the YA stage. 

A whole series that revolutionised children’s books.


Young adult fiction as Tyle (2014) points out are books that are written for teenagers aged between 12-18 years old and (mostly) have teen protagonists as central characters.  Compared to books aimed at children and adults, YA fiction should be able to present a teen’s perspective without sounding condescending or patronising. Pattee (2017) although prefers to call YA as emerging adult fiction or new adult fiction as she feels that this developmental phase could be more applicable to young adults between 18-25 years old.  Her reasoning for this shift in age range is based upon when confusion and conflict occurs in identity as per Erikson’s psychological theory. Pattee (2017, p.220) suggests that a true identity crisis occurs later in life than in teen years as per previous theories.  

A childhood favourite of mine


This makes sense to me.  It’s common knowledge that the brains of young people are not fully grown till their mid-twenties.  After all, due to the increased risk of rash decision making, most car insurance companies charge younger drivers a higher excess compared to their older compatriots.   Another thought to ponder is the age that modern ‘new adults’ actually start adult-ing (Pattee, 2017). With millennials delaying settling down with a partner and setting up their homes till their late 20’s and early 30’s; the time period for identity conflict and resolution is definitely being delayed.  

My first encyclopaedia


When thinking back to my earlier readings I recall that children’s literature should address the behavioural, cognitive and emotional development of children.  A good children’s book helps children grow and understand themselves and the world they live in. So a good YA novel should also do the same for young people. It should help them grow into adulthood.  It should help them deal with coming of age issues like sexuality and relationships.  

So back to my bookshelves of children’s literature.  I would be the first to agree that my knowledge of children’s books are dated.  But whilst I do feel its part of parenting that we share our favourite authors, soundtracks and movies with our children, we must also keep our minds open to them finding their own favourites.  So my children and I have an agreement. Every time we go to the library they borrow whatever books they want to read, and then I get one I have enjoyed and then read that to them. This way they share with me their favourite books, I can share my love of literature, and at the same time expand my repertoire of titles. 


I think yes.


Pattee, Amy.Children’s Literature Association Quarterly; Baltimore Vol. 42, Iss. 2,  (Summer 2017): 218-230. DOI:10.1353/chq.2017.0018

Tyle, Leonie. Following the Michael L. Printz award Leonie Tyle muses on the definition of young adult fiction [online]. Magpies: Talking About Books for Children, Vol. 29, No. 4, Sep 2014: 16.

50 shades of Mr Darcy

I fell in love with Mr Darcy as a teenager. 

Colin Firth as Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy in 1995 BBC’s Pride and prejudice TV series. Courtesy of Jane Austen Centre, Bath.


Not the Austen version of Mr Darcy, but Colin Firth version in the BBC mini-series of Pride and prejudice.  His smouldering eyes, broad shoulders and clipped accent was enough to make this girl blush and we all know I am too brown to blush!

With that started the greatest love affair I’ve ever had. 

I INHALED the TV series, read the book, devoured any adaptation,version and variation I could find.  I looked for sequels, hunted for parodies and searched for spin offs. I realised that my infatuation had gone beyond just the Austen version. I watched and read anything that remotely was associated with this book including ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ and the Bollywood adaptation of ‘Bride and Prejudice”.  

But this new subject of mine made me ponder how the various versions and adaptations would be organised.  Then I came across an acronym – FRBR that boggled my mind. 

FRBR – Functional requirements of bibliographic records is a conceptual model of thinking about resources that are similar (Hider, 2018).  The model seeks to separate resources on different levels depending on their relationship to the original version. As a theoretical model rather than a standard, FRBR forces the cataloger to identify the line in which a new work differs enough from its original form.  

In perfect truth, this whole concept was so puzzling to me at first.  I struggled to understand how the pieces all connected together. Then whilst on my winter break I started to read another adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ but from Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy’s point of view.  I thought that if I placed all the versions in a table, I would maybe understand it all a bit better.


Equivalent  Derivative Descriptive 
Original  Same work Catalogued as new work 
Original  Variations or Versions Adaptations Change of Genre Reviews, criticisms, evaluations, commentaries
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, 1813.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Arawa Edition, 2016

Oxford University Press, 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 

Penguin English Library, UK Edition, ebook 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame Smith and Jane Austen

Emoji pride & prejudice by Katherine Furman, Chuck Gonzales and Jane Austen

Darcy swipes left by Courtney Carbone and Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice, BBC TV mini series 1995

Pride and Prejudice, film, 2005

Death comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

The Independence of Mary Bennett

By Colleen McCollough

Bride and Prejudice, film, 2004

Bridget Jones Diary, film,  2001

A study guide for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Cengage Learning Gale, 2017. 

Pride and Prejudice SparkNotes Literature Guide by SparkNotes, 2014. 

It made sense to me, that line between original work and versions be organised under the original author’s name but adaptations, parodies and commentaries need to be catalogued with citation to the creator that did the ‘new work’.  But this is where tagging comes in use. Cataloging needs to be precise and organised so that the source can be easily identified and found. Tagging/Subject headings, when indexed, allows the user to search for similar items even though the author and or titles may vary.  For example, on the right side of this webpage, you can see the tags that are linked to various blogs on this site.  The tag allows the user to search up all related posts to that tag.  It is less specific than a title and or author search in finding a resource. 

I broke down three resources further to illustrate how the metadata varies between them.  You can see that the tags “women in England – fiction”as well as some others would be useful in finding Austen adaptations.

Title Pride and Prejudice Emoji pride & prejudice: Epic tales told in tiny texts Darcy swipes left
author Jane Austen Furman, Katherine.

Gonzales, Chuck.

Austen, Jane.

Jane Austen

Courtney Carbone

SCIS no 1534030 1838651 1838656
ISBN 9780198329961 9781631063244 9781101940532
Publisher Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010 New York, New York, Race Point Publishing, 2016 New York, Random House Children’s Books, 2016
Publication date 2010 2016 2016
series Rollercoasters Condensed classics OMG classics!
Edition Hardback edition. 1st edition
Subject tags Women in england – fiction

Social classes – fiction

Family relations – fiction

Dating (social) – fiction

Brothers and sisters – fiction

England social life and customs – 19th century – fiction

Women in England – fiction

Austen, jane – adaptations

Austen, jane – parodies

Women in england – fiction

Brothers and sisters – fiction

Social classes – fiction

Family relations – fiction

England social life and customs – 19th century – fiction

Austen, Jane – adaptations

Austen, jane – parodies

Women in england – fiction

Brothers and sisters – fiction

Social classes – fiction

Family relations – fiction


England -social life and customs – 19th century – fiction

This whole exercise has been very useful for me to understand this task and subject.  It also has helped me find some other versions of Mr Darcy.  I am not yet quite up to the 50 shades of Fitzwilliam Darcy, but I am definitely getting closer!


Hider, P. (2018). Information resource description: Creating and managing metadata (2nd ed.). London: Facet.

Library vibes

I’ve always taken my kids to the library.  My eldest first visited when she was six days old. I was a new nursing mum and desperate for reading materials to keep me entertained through those numerous breastfeeds.  Throughout her infancy we visited different libraries on rotation.  Some had great books.  Others had great coffee nearby.  Some had social groups that I was interested in.  Either way the local library was where I felt relaxed and welcome.

Fast forward to mothering toddlers and then preschoolers, the library was where we did ‘Rhyme time’, ‘toddler time’, and ‘storytime’. Each session was eagerly awaited by mother and enjoyed whoheartedly by child and then, children.

Now as a mum of three, my library visits are less regulated mainly cos life is busy. But I do believe that my children are thriving, because of their lifetime access to books.

I just read this amazing article about Kids and libraries do mix. 

Local libraries are more than just a warehouse of books.  They are an escape from the mundane, a breath of fresh air, and most importantly, a welcoming space.

So I dare you.  Go to a local library.  Take the kids and watch the magic happen.

Modules 2 & 6 -13 reasons why – censorship and selection

Student: “Miss, why don’t we have the book ‘13 reasons why’?”

Me: Err…. well. It was not deemed suitable for this library.  

Student: Why?”

Me: Well it promotes suicide and that goes against the moral and ethical values of the school.

Student:“Thats dumb miss.  Oh well, I will just watch the series on Netflix”.

13 reasons why – a popular series on Netflix and was based upon a book by Jay Asher that highlights the controversial topics of suicide, bullying and consent.  The book was released in 2007 but did not reach widespread usage till the series aired on streaming channel Netflix in 2017 (Goodreads 2017). Suddenly the world exploded into anarchy because the children were reading such content.  Would somebody please Think of the children!

Gomez (2018) found that the popularity of the book and series was precisely because it caused such controversy among communities.  It is understandable that concerned parents and well meaning bureaucrats were worried that this show would promote suicide in a sub section of society already plagued by mental health concerns ( but the blanket ‘Ban the book’ is not useful.

 Arguably,  the book is contentious and also contains other morally debatable issues such as “drug and alcohol use, sexual content, suicide” and is definitely inappropriate for younger children (Gomez 2018). Many schools in the USA banned the book citing unsuitability for their readers and its promotion of self harm (McMahon 2018).  Granted I would not give my 9 year old this book as she is definitely too young for its content but I feel like just banning a book based upon fear is nonsensical. Personally, I would keep the books like these in a restricted section for our older readers and place it on a ratings continuum that corresponds to age and maturity levels.

Banned books often highlight controversial issues that society fears or tries to hide (McMahon 2018).  The banning of books in itself is very disquieting. Besides the simple fact that it stifles expression of thought and the exploration of ideas, it is simply censorship.  In a world where minorities still rarely get heard, and injustices occur worldwide, the banning of such books just move to hide these issues from the rest of the world. The American Library Association have established an annual event “Banned book week” to celebrate the inherent right for readers to have a choice.  Besides promoting freedom of choice of reading material, this week also promotes the value of access to information to all. It seems foolhardy to restrict access to book choices for older readers if maturity is not in question (

So in the spirit of this post, I am going to list 13 books that have been banned and explain why I think they provide value to a collection within a high school library.

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why written by Jay Asher
    Australia has shockingly high statistics about teen mental health.  With suicide the most common outcome for death in the 14-24 age group and supersede car accidents, I think we need to talk about suicide more.  (ABS 2014)
  2. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    A graphic novel about a transgender child.  Well, considering we have a transgender child within our school community, I think this book needs to be included in our school collection.  Part of our library development policy is to ensure we have addressed the needs of our all learning community.  (ALIA 2017)
  3. The Kite Runner written by Khaled Hosseini
    This book is amazing.  The senior students do study this book as part of their Senior English course and whilst it does highlight sexual violence, it is exceedingly well written.  It does also comment on that boys can be victims of sexual assault and that just being a spectator does not absolve you from guilt. It definitely plays a role in acknowledging the #metoo movement.
  4. George written by Alex Gino
    Another book that was banned because it included a transgender child. Urgh, such drivel! Transgender children are already at a much higher rate of mental disease and are also more likely to commit suicide compared to the cis-gender counterparts (  Isolation and social exclusion is commonly cited as reasons to this so it seems ludicrous to ban a book because of a character in the book. Transgender children need to feel normal and included across all aspects, even as characters in books.
  5. Sex is a Funny Word written by Cory Silverberg.     Oh wow. Lets stifle all normal dialogue about sex with children and leave it to Playboy and the internet.  I feel frustrated as sex was and always will be a integral aspect of life. Rather than leaving children to gain their information elsewhere, mostly wrong and often inappropriate, this book talks about sex in a fun joyful manner.  Sex is more than just ‘birds and the bees’. It is about consent, boundaries, emotional and physical connections (  
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee
    A classic story and has been well read and loved across the world as it highlights injustice and inequality before the law.  But get this… This book IS STILL BANNED AT SOME SCHOOLS even in 2017 because it promotes immorality (Bellot 2017). Thankfully here in Australia, this book is often studied in Year 10 as a school text.  Phew!
  7. The Hate U Give written by Angie Thomas    Inspired by the movement #blacklivesmatter this book highlights racial prejudice, activism, police brutality and media misrepresentation.    Yes there is swearing, violence, sex and drugs. But its 2019 and most of us know that our young people are already aware of these topics. I think many indigenous students would resonate with this book considering the prejudice many of them face themselves in their dealings with the law.
  8. And Tango Makes Three written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole
    Based upon a beautiful story of two male penguins who love each other and raise a chick together from an abandoned egg.  Banned because of its same sex relationship storyline, the censors feared that penguins would rampage their blatant sexuality in our sensitive faces. Can you feel my sarcasm?  Well it is 2019, and even Australia has legalised same sex marriage so this should not even be an issue within our country. Morris (2016) in her article in the SMH pointed out that the iconic children’s TV show Playschool was featuring same sex couple as part of their families segment.  Unfortunately the same TV program aired a similar storyline back in 2004 and was slammed by the then PM John Howard as “foolish” (Morris 2016).  Thankfully times have changed and we as a society are more accepting.
  9. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    Another book banned because it highlights gender issues. Enough said.  
  10. Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald                           This book was and still is often challenged because of the sex, alcohol consumption, violence and language content.  Lombardi (2019) points out that the story challenges the fairy tale of ‘the American dream’ where wealth and fame does not always have a positive outcome.  A bit of a slur against a nation that prides itself on capitalism.
  11. Alice in wonderland by Lewis Carrol                                                                                       I struggled to recall what part in this book would lead to censure from various societal groups.  But it appears the book contains references to sexual fantasies which was actually based upon the author’s lifestyle vs actual content in the book.  The story also has animals that talk which has caused subsections of Chinese society to believe that it brings animals up to the level of humans and thus cause great disharmony in the minds of unsuspecting children. Bah! Drivel! The last reason is that the book promotes drug use as a hookah is present in a scene, well it has a talking animal using a hookah (Melendez 2018).  Considering this book is based on literary nonsense, I find these reasons to be just that.. Nonsense.
  12. Harry Potter by J K Rowling.                                    Well, the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom has definitely seen enough challenges to this book series with calls to have it banned and even burned (Peters 2017).  Challenged for its tales of sorcery and witchcraft, it is mostly religious zealots that feel that this book series is an affront to their world. But considering I was one of the early faithful and so far have not yet been burned at the stake nor have had my broom stolen, I think I can dismiss their angst. J K Rowling inspired so many children, teens and adults with her books and HP was the driving force of an entire generation of readers.  A brilliant story of the fight between good and evil, friend and foe, individual and society where it is love that conquered all, has such meaning in our world today (McMahon 2018).
  13. Hunger games by Suzanne collins                                    Violent it is.  This book series is truly terrifying.  Not in the violence it portrays but rather the dystopian society it highlights.  The disparity between the different districts shows symmetry between the haves and have nots in our real world and the way the elite feed off the suffering from the lowest members in society. The point of the ‘hunger game’ is to defeat your opponents at all cost even if they are more vulnerable than you is what I struggle with.  Whilst this series is distasteful on a personal level, it is an important addition to the collection due to the critical thinking and ethical discussion it invokes with critics and readers (McMahon 2018) .


ABS Causes of Death, Australia, 2012 (2014). Underlying causes of death (Australia) Table 1.3. Retrieved from

ALIA (2017) A manual for developing policies and procedures in Australian school library resource centres. 2nd Ed. Retrieved from

Commonsense Media (2015) And Tango makes three. Retrieved from

Bellott, G. (2017) Why are schools still banning To kill a mockinbird still banned in 2017? Shondaland Retrieved from

Beyondblue (N.D) Stats and facts. Retrieved from (N.D)  Sex is a funny word. Retrieved from

Goodreads (2017) The hate u give. Retrieved from

Goodreads (2017) 13 reasons why Retrieved from

Invaluable (N.D) 15 Banned books and the reasons for their censorship. Retrieved from

Lombardi, E (2019) Why was the Great Gatsy controversial? Thought co. Retrieved from

McMahon, R. (2018) Why your kid should read banned books? Commonsense media. Retrieved from

Melendez, D. (2018) Why Alice in wonderland was banned throughout the 20th century. Entertainment Retrieved from

Morris, L. (2016) Playschool segment to feature gay fathers. SMH. Retrieved from

National LGBTI Alliance (2016) The Statistics at a glance: The mental health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Australia. Retrieved from


Module 1 – Library Collections

I discovered a new word today. Tsundoku, according to Macmilland Dictionary (2017) is the habit of purchasing and piling up books that never get read.  This seems rather wasteful when most libraries are suffering major budgetary concerns to waste precious funds on resources that are rarely used. Unfortunately in many school libraries the two biggest curriculum resourcing issues are that staff and students under utilise the resources followed quickly by funding pressures  (SCIS 2014).

I know at my school, we have an impressive 100 000 print copies of books plus additional eResources such as Wheelers ebooks, online databases, newspaper subscriptions and access to Clickview for interactive videos.  It is disappointing that even though our library is so well resourced, teachers and students seem to prefer to use google and youtube instead of accessing information from our library catalogue.  It seems preposterous to me that many of the school community were unaware we even had a library management system.  Their ignorance of the platforms we have in place, could extrapolate to acknowledging that lack of resource usage is proportional to the ability of the staff and students to use the OPAC system to identify and select resources.  

Something needs to change.  But what? The library collection development policy at the school endeavours to create a balanced collection that promotes teaching and learning as its primary goal.  Other aspects such as catering to diverse learners and fitting into the budget are also relevant. All the physical and digital assets meet the policy guidelines, which is why we have this policy but what is the point if they are under utilised? What else can we do in the library to promote our resources to the staff and students?  What can we do to remind them that we are not practitioners of Tsundoku?

I was musing about this problem when it occurred to me that many libraries fail in promoting their resources and capabilities.  How were the staff and students going to know about new or fabulous resources in the school library? How would we remind them of what is held within and what can be accessed?  It was then i remembered this post from Hamm (2016) who sends newsletters out to the faculty regularly advising them of the new and popular resources within the library. This idea seems magnificent to me as our school has several teachers who had no idea that we even subscribed to databases.  Their looks of pleasure and interest peaked when I explained how they could access with ease them from both work and home with just their device and password.  A quarterly newsletter published on the staff page of the school intranet would greatly improve our circulation at little cost to the library itself.  

So with these thoughts in mind I thought that for my particular independent high school library in the ACT there needs to be certain parameters necessary before a resources are added to the collection.

Firstly the information source MUST match the needs of the learning community.  It seems superfluous to point out that a resource is unlikely to be used if it is not relevant to the teaching and learning needs and must meet learning outcomes.  The next step is to ensure that the learner traits are accounted for. We have a wide range of student learning ‘attributes’ ranging from varied literacy levels, physical and mental handicaps that need to be catered for in a variety of formats to ensure equity is maintained for the entire student body.  One thing in particular our school library has done is acquire graphic novels of most of the major literature texts.  With many students of varying literacy levels and acknowledging our ‘reluctant’ readers still need to be able to engage with the text, we are trialing out graphic novels in print forms in several titles including classics such as Macbeth, Hamlet, To Kill a mockingbird and the Diary of Anne Frank with the student body.  Our Inclusive Education Team informs the library staff which students have been identified with low literacy levels and then these students are provided with audio books on an iPod as well as the physical text for their class work.  For our reluctant readers, graphic novels are popular as the combination of the text and imagery holds greater appeal. The inclusion of these texts has bolstered up our borrowing rates and appears to help students understand the task ahead.  We have also recently added Wheelers elibrary to our catalogue.  This has not been as popular as predicted but has provided access to resources for our vision challenged students.  Due to the nature of the licensing, only two ‘copies’ of a book can be ‘borrowed’ out at any particular time and this is restrictive with class texts.  The last consideration mentioned by Hughes-Hassel, S & Mancall (2005) is budget. Resources must fit within the budget in order it to be a viable purchase for the school.  We are very lucky in our school to have a principal that values education and our library budget is consistent.

We need a shift in attitude from Tsudonku.


Australian School Library Association / Australian Library and Information Services Association. (2001). Learning for the future. (2nd ed). Carlton South, Vic.: Curriculum Corporation.

BBC News (2018) Tsundoku: the art of buying books and never using them. Retrieved from

Department of Education and Children’s Services, Government of South Australia. (2004). Choosing and using teaching and learning materials: guidelines for preschools and schools. Hindmarsh, South Australia : DECS Publishing

Hamm, S (2016) Library newsletters. Retrieved from

Hughes-Hassell, S. & Mancall, J. (2005). Collection management for youth: responding to the needs of learners Retrieved from

Johnson, P. (2009). Fundamentals of collection development and management [American Library Association version]. Retrieved from

SCIS ( 2014) Survey of school library collections. Retrieved from ://

Resources for School Librarians () School library promotion through advocacy, special events and bulletin reports. Retrieved from (2015) Word Nerd: Tsundoku. Retrieved from

Macmilllian Dictionary (2027)



#IWD2019 #Balanceforbetter


This years theme is #BalanceforBetter, a summon to seek equal rights for both sexes in in all aspects of life.  Notionally, Australia does have significantly better equality among the sexes compared to countries such as Yemen or Saudi Arabia (Haines, G. 2017).  But out of the top twenty countries listed, Australia does not get a mention but oddly enough Rwanda is in the top 5, which one could speculate that both sexes suffer equally in this war torn nation.  Before I digress too much from the reliability of this source, in land down under, we as women are encouraged to hold gainful employment, permitted to vote and drive as well as have access to health care in comparison to Jordan and Pakistan.  All reliable indicators of an equal opportunity. But as the Australian Human Rights Commission image in Figure 1 illustrates, women are still trailing behind in wages and in positions of power. The AHRC (2018) and Haines, G (2017) depict women in Australia at a high risk of personal safety. AIHW (2018) finds that that biggest risk factor for illness, injury and death for Australian women aged between 25-44 is not childbirth or war crimes, but rather just the presence of a partner in their lives.  This fact is horrendous and continues to be a major issue across all Australian states and territories. One only needs to recall the tragedy of Dr Preeti Reddy’s brutal murder in Sydney this week as a frightening reminder of the brutality that can occur behind closed doors ( Gooley G., & Stewart S., 2019).

Figure 1 – Infographic AHRC (2018)

I was musing these thoughts as I was setting up my display for #IWD2019 and one of my regular lunch time visitors interrupted me.  *Rick (name changed) could not understand why I was setting up the book display as “I had it good”. Whilst I was inclined to roll my eyes and tell him to shuffle off, I refrained.  For those that know me, tact and discretion ARE NOT one of my strong suites so this was an unusual occurrence for me. Instead I asked him to help me with the rest of the display and racked my brain with what I was going to say.  

#IWD2019 display

It then occurred to me that out of the roughly ten thousand items we have in our library, I struggled to find biographies of modern women to put in my display.  Granted we have a few books about Elizabeth I, Boadicea, Mary MacKillop, Cleopatra and Florence Nightingale; but our collection of biographies about strong successful MODERN women was limited.  Even though the majority of our regular readers are girls and young women, we seem to have a plethora of books about male sports stars, political leaders, heroes and inventors, but scanty sources solely dedicated to women and their successes.  

I recalled this video I saw a few years ago that illustrated the lack of book choices for our girls that portray strong female protagonists aka rebellious girls.  Then it made me realise that unless our young girls are given the option to imagine being intelligent and tenacious, they will continue to shoebox themselves into the roles of damsels in distress or tire women of great men.  Magras, D (2019) in her article  surmises that strong female characters in books and movies show our young girls that their voices matter and that gender stereotypes can be challenged. It is common knowledge that books stretch the imagination, and it would amazing if books could challenge and inspire our girls.  

Back to Rick* and his statement… Well in true Trish form, I plonked him on my chair, showed him the infographic I had put aside for this blog and then played him the youtube clip.  Once it was over, I asked him what he thought of the video. He hummed and tried to vacillate but eventually settled for “guess you may be right Miss”. I have not have convinced him to become a feminist but maybe I challenged a stereotype in his mind about the need to push for a #BalanceforBetter future.



Australian Human Rights Commission (2018) Face the facts: Gender Equality 2018.  Retrived from   accessed 6/3/19

AIHW (2018) New national statistical report sheds light on family violence.  Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia, 2018 Retrieved from accessed 6/3/19

Gooley, C & Stewart, S., (2019) Sydney dentist Preethi Reddy’s body found in suitcase, ex-boyfriend dies in fiery car crash. ABC News.  Retrieved from accessed 6/3/19

Haines G., (2017) Mapped: The best (and worst) countries for gender equality. The Telegraph UK.  Retrieved from accessed 6/3/19

Magras D., (2019) Feminist AF: Hearing Their Voices: Supporting Female Empowerment in Middle Grade Fiction for Tweens and Teens. School Library. Journal.   Retrieved from accessed 6/3/19

Rebel Girls (2017) The ugly truth about children’s books.  Retrieved from accessed 6/3/19

Saner E., (2017) Books for girls, about girls: the publishers trying to balance the bookshelves. The Guardian. Retrieved from accessed 6/3/19.