Short on library staff?

It’s the start of the new year here in Australia.

For many libraries, particularly school libraries, a shortage of qualified and capable library staff is a real issue.  So for many of us, Pepper may just be the perfect ‘extra hand’ needed to jazz up the library!

Pepper is appealing, informative and knowledgeable – as long as you teach it everything it’s likely to be asked!

And that’s exactly what’s happening at Dudley Denny City Library in Mackay, North Queensland, Australia.  Library staff there have introduced this new staff member to their library patrons and have taught it to dance, play games and share historical stories with library patrons.

Currently, Pepper is only one of two humanoid robots in Australia.

At just 1.2 metres tall, Pepper has arms and hands similar to that of a human being. It moves around on wheels, and uses eye colour to indicate whether it understands a message.

Read more about Pepper at Dudley Denny City Library or check out this video below where Pepper shows of its talents at a meet the staff of the Financial Times briefing earlier last year.


Now that the long summer break has finally arrived, I’m starting to think about all those ‘projects’ that have been hanging around on my ‘to do’ list for some time.

One such project is sorting through the massive pile of cook books I seem to have accumulated and are now overflowing from three separate book shelves around my house.  Maybe it’s time for me to go through them, digitally store the few recipes that are standouts in some and to then – finally – move those no longer needed onto another hungry cook book lover.

Contemplation of the task reminded me of a post I read a while ago on Open Culture which featured a 1585 recipe for pancakes.

1585-panckae-recipeIn between sorting my cook books, I just may have a go at making this yummy treat for those around over the holidays.   The recipe ‘translation’ provided by Open Culture will make it that little bit easier to experiment!

Take new thicke Creame a pine, foure or five yolks of egs, a good handful of flower and two or three spoonefuls of ale, strain them together into a faire platter, and season it with a good handfull of sugar, a spooneful of synamon, and a little Ginger: then take a friing pan, and put in a litle peece of Butter, as big as your thumbe, and when it is molten brown, cast it out of your pan, and with a ladle put to the further side of your pan some of your stuffe, and hold your pan …, so that your stuffe may run abroad over all the pan as thin as may be: then set it to the fire, and let the fyre be verie soft, and when the one side is baked, then turn the other, and bake them as dry as ye can without burning.”

Fingers crossed I get this holiday project started and done!  It will be a relief to clear some shelf space so I can, of course, buy more cook books!!

Have a safe and happy holiday.  See you again in 2017.

PS.  I’ll let you know how the pancakes turn out!!


The book game!

Even though we are nearing the end of the year, it’s not a bad idea to have a few ideas up your sleeve for classes coming in for wider reading sessions first week back  in the new year!

“The Book Game” which I saw on a couple of websites recently may just be right for a fun session with your classes.

Given that it will take a while for each student to have a go, it may be a good idea to break the class up into groups of 4, 6 or 8.  However you organize the class, the format of the game is the same.

Each student should have a book, a pen and some paper.  One student from the group is nominated as the first player and is referred to as Player A.

  1. Player A shares their book with the others in their group by reading the title, showing the cover and reading the book’s blurb.  Without the others seeing, Player A writes the first sentence of the book on a piece of paper.
  2. Other players in the group must then make up what they think would be the opening sentence to the story.  Have them focus on the tone and mood of the book to help their thinking.
  3. Player A collects all of the opening sentences and mixes them up together with the ‘real’ first sentence which they copied from the book and numbers each one so as to identify it.
  4. One by one, Player A reads the sentences out to the group who record the number of the one they think is the ‘real’ sentence.
  5. Player A then reveals the ‘real’ first sentence and scores the responses given by others in the group.
    • One point is scored to those guessing the correct sentence.
    • A variation for point scoring could be given to those who guess the same fake sentence.

the-girl-in-the-blue-coatSet in Amsterdam during World War II, Hanneke expresses her defiance of the overbearing invasion of the German Army into her homeland by secretly sourcing and delivering sought after black market goods, a job she has taken to support her ailing parents.  When one of her customers begs her to help locate a young Jewish girl who mysteriously disappeared from a hiding place in her home, Hanneke starts to see the reality of what is taking place in her home.   Monica Hesse writes with clarity and empathy.

Rating:  *****
Theme Fiction: 
Historical Fiction
Suitability:  Year 9-12+

Fourteen year old Lorenzo, a loner who tries very hard to ‘fit in’ tells his parents that he has been invited to go on a skiing holiday for a week with a group of kids from school.  Instead of going, he hides out in the cellar of his apartment block.  All is well until his half sister, Olivia, appears and wants to share his hiding place.  Ammaniti is a gifted writer who chooses difficult issues and confronts them head on.  The Italian title of this book is “io e te”.

Although this could be a somewhat confusing read for a YA reader, the message it sends is powerful.

Rating:  ****
Theme Fiction: 
Social Problems
Suitability:  Year 10-12

murder-in-mt-marthaNick Szabo, who enlists the support of an elderly man he was randomly paired with by local council to help him glean a picture of what life was like in the ‘50s, discovers a ‘cold case’ of an horrific murder of a young girl which occurred in 1953.  Unfortunately, with many characters introduced without sufficient dialogue to connect them to each other and the chapters constantly slipping back and forth between past and present, I found it hard to keep a handle on who was who.  While the writing style is an excellent exposition of a real life murder which actually occurred in Mt Martha in the ‘50s, I found Simpson’s novel somewhat disjointed.

Rating:  ****
Theme Fiction:  Mystery
Suitability:  11-12+

The Last Bookstore

I came across a post about The Last Bookstore on Open Culture a couple of months ago.

Apart from being an interesting story about how a young paraplegic decided he wanted to open a bookstore in downtown LA, there are some absolutely awesome display ideas featured in this bookstore.

The video is quite long, so if you are interested in the display ideas, watch the first minute or so.  If you’re interested in the story of how and why this young man set up this bookstore, just keep watching.