Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Quizmas? Book related activities for kids

Merry Christmas one and all! If you have children to entertain, here are a few book-related activities which might occupy them for, ooh, two minutes at least!

So this is Quizmas comes from Book Trust and is described as "fiendishly difficult". I wouldn't say that exactly, but I only scored 14/20 so must try harder! There are loads of other quizzes onsite too.

The Guardian children's book pages are also good for activities, including Christmassy ones. They have a quiz too, Christmas presents in children's fiction. I did even worse here, 4/10, which brought the message "Ho Ho Ho, oh no! You need to start reading more Christmas books!" You can also find a lesson in how to draw Father Christmas from Jessica Ahlberg on the same site. 

National Literacy Trust has a whole page of  Christmas activities, some with prizes.

Finally, Scottish Book Trust, the Herald and Turnberry Resort have teamed up to launch a story writing competition for children in three age groups, 5-8, 9-12 and 13-17. The themes are "The Holiday Secret", "Strangers in Town" or "New Beginnings" and the closing date is 14th January, so the Christmas holiday is the perfect time to enter.

I think this will be the last post for 2012 so Merry Christmas once again, Happy New Year and see you in 2013.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Engaging teenagers with book trailers: course report

Book trailers are an excellent means of engaging teenagers in reading and writing. Gordana Nesterovic recently attended a course about them and has shared her report:

I recently attended this CPD session which was organized by Scottish Book Trust as a follow up to the ReadIT course on digital storytelling. ReadIT was a pilot scheme aimed at developing teachers’ skills through the inclusion of ICT tools and digital storytelling techniques in classroom practice. Students and teachers from Denmark, Italy, Romania, Turkey and Scotland took part.

The first part of the CPD session was a video-link presentation by Shirley Brice Heath (linguistic anthropologist and Professor of both English and Dramatic Literature) who talked about young people’s reading habits, preferences and how they choose to interact with texts. I thought it exemplified an interesting approach in trying to encourage teenagers to read and write by "finding them where they are most comfortable" – in social media websites. In creating book trailers, students are applying knowledge gained outside the school back into academic achievement. Creating a book trailer is a form of translation, shifting something from a page in the book into a different medium and timescale. It shows multi-literacies at work: music, visual effects, movement, animation and character portrayal. This method makes the students think of what the book is about, rather than what the book says. Shirley Brice Heath also mentioned ideal outcomes of trailer production: pupils identify with the "good company" of other authors and artists, and take on roles other than that of “pupil” by becoming imaginative, creative and artistic, and by acting as critics and definers of their own work.

The second part of the session was a presentation by two Scottish teachers who took part in this course. They talked about their experiences in implementing these ideas and their feedback was very positive. The children enjoyed the project and the project brought out the best in them. It worked really well with reluctant readers and children who generally came across as being very shy. It developed their analytical, artistic and technical skills. I thought the example of a school that did it as cross-curricular project was very good, it got the Art, Computing and English departments working together which showed the possibility of using this tool in teaching other subjects, not just English. I do not work as a teacher or in a school library, but I can see how this example would be interesting for student teachers and would shed an inspirational light on teaching practices.

Here is an excellent example of a book trailer, as mentioned at the IBBY UK/NCRCL MA Conference Beyond the Book a few weeks ago. It's for A monster calls by Patrick Ness:

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Getting books to kids at Christmas

Any books in these parcels?
I don't need to tell readers of this blog about the joy of books and the importance of getting children reading, nor that many children do not have the advantages of growing up in a house full of books or with parents that take them to libraries. Libraries, are of course, very important - for one of the best, recent arguments of this, read Jeanette Winterson's impassioned piece in the Guardian - but there's something wonderful about holding a book that you actually own, especially if it's your first. I've come across a couple of initiatives that aim to put books in the hands of children who otherwise wouldn't have any this Christmas.

Books for Kids for Christmas is linked to the charity Children First.
Last year they raised over £3300 to buy books for vulnerable Scottish children at Christmas, as a result of which 380 children and young people received a book of their very own from Santa. The appeal runs until Sunday 2nd December. Nicola Morgan writes about Blackwell's Children's Book Tree - you can join in by phone if you don't live in Edinburgh, Oxford or Cambridge where they have branches - from which you choose a request from a child in difficult circumstances, and that child receives the book for Christmas. These are just two ideas - Zoe at Playing by the Book lists 125 book and literacy charities and, going off the book topic altogether, did you know that John Lewis has a gift list so that children in refuges get Christmas presents? List no 522953.

Happy giving!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Book Week Scotland - what will YOU do?

The first ever Book Week Scotland is nearly here - 26th November to 2nd December. How will you celebrate it? Or, in the words of the clever advert, where will you go? Check out the programme on the official site or, for updates, go to the BWS Facebook page or follow @BookWeekScot on Twitter (and use the hashtag #BWS2012 to join the conversation).

Here are some highlights for readers of all ages:

Celebrations in schools
Every Primary 1 child will be given a pack of three free picture books by Scottish authors. For secondary school students, a Poetry Slam will be broadcast live on Thursday 29th at 11 am - register via the link. Expect a new spin on the traditional notion of poetry with three poets, Dizreali, Paul Lyalls and Elspeth Murray, waging verbal battle against each other. There's sure to be lively debate, quick wits and lots of laughs. You can also download free learning resources to accompany the event.

The Reading Hour
This St Andrew's Day, Friday 30th November, stop what you are doing at 11am and pick up a book for The Reading Hour. This idea could also be used in schools (and there's another resource pack for that) - after all, reading is not just entertainment. It enhances the memory, improves vocabularly and opens the mind to worlds beyond our own. Not sure what to read? Two more ideas! Get a free copy of My favourite place  from your local bookshop or library - it's a collection of stories about Scotland's best loved places by members of the public and celebrities such as Sally Magnusson, Michael Palin and Alexander McCall Smith. You can also read the stories online accompanied by a photo gallery. Alternatively, contact the League of Extraordinary Booklovers for advice. The youngest of these is Edward Colvin at just 5 years old - that would make a good story for the classroom!

Reader Portraits Competition
While you, your friends or family are doing all this extra reading next week, why not take some photographs? Enter your reader portraits in the competition and you could win a Nook Simple Touch GlowLight.
Local events Your own local library might also have events on - here's the programme for Glasgow for example. I'll be helping them out on Monday morning by handing out goody bags to people spotted reading. I'm also intending to take part in the Reading Hour. What will YOU be doing?

Acknowledgment Thanks, as ever, to the wonderful Scottish Book Trust for organising Book Week Scotland. Here's hoping for every success!

Stop Press! Since writing this a couple of hours ago, I've discovered that the mysterious Edinburgh Book Sculptor has created 5 more sculptures for BWS treasure hunt. They'll be hidden around Scotland and clues will be released on the website every day next week. Read more in the Scotsman - happy hunting!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Katie Morag on TV!

The BBC might be taking a kicking at the moment, but here's something great it is doing! Mairi Hedderwick's wonderful Katie Morag stories are to be made into 26 fourteen-minute live action films for CBeebies - read more here. Katie Morag lives on the fictional Scottish Isle of Struay, but the themes will be familiar to small children everywhere - sibling rivalry, losing a favourite toy, and so on. If you haven't read these books yet, try your local library - the films won't go out till the end of next year so there's plenty of time to catch up.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Congratulations Seven Stories: National Centre for Children's Books

I've blogged before about Seven Stories, the fabulous Centre for Children's Books in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Well, now it is officially the National Centre for Children's Books. I congratulate the centre on its accreditation and urge you to visit if you are ever in the area. If you can't do that, check out its website - it's the next best thing!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Can we save the tiger?

The School Library Association celebrated the 2012 Information Book Award on Monday 22 October 2012 with a prize-giving event at the Free Word Centre in London. The full list of winners is here, with the most successful book undoubtedly being Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Vicky White and published by Walker Books (ISBN 9781406319095). It won its section (7-12) in both the Children’s Choice and the Judges' Choice as well as continuing its clean sweep as the Overall Winner in Children’s and Judges' Choices.

Coincidentally, guest blogger Gordana Nesterovic recently sent me a review of this book - here's what she had to say:

After attending a book judging event, I feel the way I look at picture books has changed forever. My impressions of this experience were still fresh when I came across Martin Jenkins’ book Can we save the tiger? with illustrations by Vicky White. This is a non-fiction picture book that tells us about endangered species, wildlife and other aspects of conservation. It focuses on the reasons some species have become endangered and acknowledges the difficult choices faced by humans, sympathizing with, rather than vilifying them, for the decisions they make. It explains difficult concepts very clearly and gives positive examples of what has been achieved so far. While not attempting to teach everything there is to know about the subject, it does offer so many ideas that it inspires one to find out more.

The style of writing makes it easy to understand the problem and the impact it might have, and would appeal to a wide range of abilities as the typography is cleverly used to give as much or as little information as the reader requires. The main statements are made in a large font and are very catchy, but as more details are given, the font gets smaller and it changes shape. This allows the reader to dig deeper into the subject and find out more facts, but also makes it fun to look at, keeps interest going and is very aesthetically pleasing. Some pages have larger block of texts, some have very few words, and some just a double spread of illustrations which add powerful images to the text. They are mainly pencil drawings on cream coloured paper, with only a few in colour, and they really capture the spirit and beauty of each animal as well as showing the dangers they face. Some pictures are accompanied by captions containing facts about each animal, again, with clever use of typography.

This book is so well done that it could provide a tool to teach many other topics, not just conservation. It could be used in art classes, or it could be used to teach non-fiction writing, as a prime example of how text and illustration work together, complementing and bringing out the best in one another. It would be nice to find a similarly effective way of teaching other important issues. In the meantime, look out for other books by these authors: Martin Jenkins, a conservation biologist, has written several nonfiction books for children, including Ape, Grandma Elephant’s in charge, The Emperor’s egg, and Chameleons are cool. Vicky White worked as a zookeeper for several years before earning an MA in Natural History Illustration from London’s Royal College of Art. She made her picture book debut with Ape.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

A gate reopens on National Poetry Day

In this guest post for National Poetry Day, Alison Forde writes about a seminar she attended with the world's first professor of children's poetry.

I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar on children's poetry with the worlds first (and possibly still the only) professor of children's poetry, Morag Styles, of Cambridge University. Morag is the author of several texts on children's literature including From the Garden to the Street: Three Hundred Years of Children's Poetry, Cassell, 1998. Morag treated us to a brief run-down of this history with readings from Bunyan's Country Rhimes for Children (1686), through to works by the current poet laureate Carol Anne Duffy. Throughout this three hundred year history authors producing work specifically for the consumption of children, which has ranged from the moralising and didactic to some of the most beautiful and timeless, have found their works marginalised and excluded from general anthologies compiled for the appreciation of poetry in the English language. The poems we looked at in the seminar which struck me with their timeless quality included those of Christina Rossetti, whose beautiful lullaby rhythms would still sooth many a baby to sleep, and R.L Stevenson, whose work in A Child's Garden of Verses demonstrated his ability to think himself back into childhood in writing for children. Ann and Jane Taylor writing for children around 1800, who found considerable fame in their own time, are now almost forgotten, despite Jane being the author of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, now often infuriatingly attributed to “Anon”.

For the second part of the seminar, Morag invited us to examine two examples of work from Carol Ann Duffy: First Summer and Star and Moon, both featuring mother and child relationships. Voicing one's opinions on poetry to the world's first professor of children's poetry could have been quite daunting, but I found myself, no longer at school and looking for the correct answer, liberated to give a genuine response to the works, albeit a response mediated through the lens of motherhood, which was also a stimulus for Duffy to write much of her poetry for children. Which brings me to one of the key dilemmas of the critical study of children's literature – it is written for children, and yet it's is impossible for the adult author, parent or teacher to know exactly how a child reads and experiences children's literature, including poetry.

I considered myself to be someone not much concerned with poetry. Like many adults, the last time I devoted much thought to it was at school, although I have read and enjoyed poetry written for children with my own family. The seminar with Professor Styles has reopened a gate into the garden of children's verse.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A celebration of reading: choosing books for Carnegie and Greenaway

In this guest post, Gordana Nesterovic describes an event to choose nominations for the prestigious Carnegie and Greenaway awards, and concludes that the methods used would be transferrable to other situations, such as the classroom or a children's book club.

I attended this free event in the Mitchell Library last week along with about 14 other participants. It was organised by CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) in order to decide on the Scottish nominees for CILIP's Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards for 2013. The event had a party theme, so the first part of it was set up as a game – there were 20 props for guessing book titles, all previous award winners. Some of them were really hard to guess, but some, like I will not ever never eat a tomato or Each peach, pear, plum were easy, and all of them provided a great sense of achievement once completed.

We were then put into three groups, each with a pile of books to look at and discuss. We started with the books suggested for the Greenaway award for illustration and were given guidelines on what we should base our judgements on: for example not to look at the story, but to look at the illustration, how it works with typography and how expressive it all is. This was great fun to do, but also a way to learn about some new books as well as looking at them from a different perspective than when one is actually reading for oneself or to a child: one did not need to have read the book. It was really interesting to see how quickly people become passionate about books that they had just seen for the first time. Groups moved around the piles of books and once they had seen them all, each group had to choose two that they wanted to nominate and then present their case. Everyone then had one vote to give to their favourite book, and in the end I want my hat back by Jon Klassen (for its simple but very expressive and effective illustrations) and Black dog by Levi Pinfold (for the lovely colours and very atmospheric pictures, also for how well the pictures were arranged around words) came out on top. Again by Emily Gravett was a very strong contender as well as Jack and the baked beanstalk by Colin Stimpson. The old classic Around the world in eighty days, illustrated by Robert Ingpen, caught my attention because it was the only book nominated for illustration that was not a picture book. The quality of illustration was outstanding and really captured the time of the story with the style of the drawings and colours used. Even though we did not choose to nominate it for the award, I was sure this would make a fantastic Christmas present for a book lover of any age.

The second part of judging was for the Carnegie award – the best storyline and how well it was told. I wish I had known the shortlisted books longer in advance but, all the same, enjoyed hearing about them and was certainly inspired to go and look for them. The decision was made much more unanimously with two books emerging way ahead of all other nominations: Far rockaway by Charlie Fletcher and  The weight of water by Sarah Crossan. Charlie Fletcher’s book was reported by all who read it (and most people did) to be a gripping story impossible to put down. The story features a very strong female character and would appeal to all, but especially to girls. Crossan's book is written in verse and was liked by people who would not normally like that style. It is a story, again, with strong female characters which explores relationships on many different levels. Morris Gleitzman's After was also highly commended. It is the fourth in a series but is a great story on its own as well. Several people mentioned the storyline in Crimson Shard by Theresa Flavin about unexpected turn of events during an ordinary visit to a London museum, which reminded me of Hollow Earth, a book that I recently reviewed here.

I think this model of judging is transferable and could be recreated and interpreted in different settings and in a variety of situations. I kept imagining children’s book club meetings or using it as a model for discussing books in the classroom, or choosing and deciding on the ‘book of the month’, for example. Teachers might like to use it in conjunction with CILIP's Shadowing scheme to get their students involved in the awards. I also feel this could also be a good team building exercise as such a lot happens in a very short time. I left the Mitchell Library beaming and inspired, having had a great time. I enjoyed looking at the new books and felt that I had also learnt a lot. I was pleased to know that Strathclyde University Library, where I work, already held several of the shortlisted books, and since the event, its catalogue shows many more as 'on order'.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Next week is packed with book events!

Next week is packed with book-related celebrations. It's Children's Book Week from 1st - 7th October - follow the link for posters (see illustration, left, by Rebecca Cobb) and resources. This year's theme is "Heroes and Heroines".

In the same week falls National Poetry Day - Thursday 4th - for which the theme is "Stars". There are lots of Star poems on the official site and the Scottish Poetry Library has some fabulous posters to download. Even though I am no longer working in an Education Library I intend to put some of those up. No reason why agriculture students should not enjoy a good bit of poetry!

Next week is also Banned Books Week. This is a US event, but books can be challenged in this country too, sometimes for very unexpected reasons. The University of Strathclyde has an excellent reading list Banned: controversial books for teenagers and children which is worth investigating for more information. As Oscar Wilde said: "There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written, that is all." Do you agree?

Finally, an ongoing event to bring to your attention is the exhibition Take Five Illustrators at the Scottish National Gallery which features Alice Melvin, Cate James, Barroux, Sara Ogilvie and Bruce Ingman, all of whom work on books for children. It's been on all summer and finishes on 30th October, so there's still time to catch it. No excuses, then, not to do something book related next week - there's plenty to choose from!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Wolfie and the string of coincidences

I'm a sucker for book competitions, as long as I don't have to do too much to win! Retweeting, making a comment on a blog or sending a simple email are about my limits - slogans and other brain-troubling demands are not for me. And I have a pretty good track record - at least once a month a new title wings its way towards me. I read them all, and those that I don't keep get passed on either to friends or to the library. That way, more people get to hear about the authors so I think it's great publicity for them.
My latest acquisition is Wolfie by Emma Barnes (Strident, 2012). This is how the blurb describes it:
"Lucie has always longed for a dog. But not one this big. Or with such sharp teeth. Or with such a hungry look in its eyes. Lucie realises her new pet is not a dog...but a wolf. Not only that, but a wolf with magical powers. A talking wolf is not an easy thing to hide from your family and friends. Or from the bully next door. And as Lucie grows to love Wolfie, she also realises that her new companion is in terrible danger…"
Intrigued? I was. Mind you, at first I wasn't too keen on Lucie who was looking forward to her uncle's visit only because she knew he was bringing a present (the "dog"). However, her relationship with Wolfie soon proves she's not as self-centred as I thought, but is loving and loyal. The pair are very protective of each other because of the secret they share about Wolfie's special powers, and Lucie has to use all her ingenuity to prevent it being found out. Along the way, they have some magical experiences, make some good new friends and outwit Marcus, the bully next door. Although all the ends are tied together at the end, Wolfie's parting shot is "Something tells me this will not be the last of our adventures!" so I think we can look forward to a sequel.

Who else would like this book? Confident readers from about 7 onwards - apart from the power of the story, it's not too long (132p), the type is clear and it's illustrated throughout by Emma Chichester Clark whose style many young readers will already be familiar with from her picture books. For more information about Emma Barnes, see this interview on Books Events for Children. Her own website is here and she also writes on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, including this post which is very supportive of libraries.

And where do the coincidences come in? Well, I won this book from the publisher (Strident) whose Managing Director wrote to say: "We had entries from all around the country, but when my London-based colleague gave me your address details I found she’d chosen a winner who lives around the corner from our editor and works in the library near the building my father used to run (Jordanhill College). And Strident is based not so very far away in East Kilbride. You couldn’t be closer!" I glanced at his name - Keith Charters - and instantly remembered his father, Graham Charters, who was College Secretary when I first went to Jordanhill. In my reply, I mentioned that I had previously worked in East Kilbride Libraries. Turns out Keith takes his six-year old son there! Maybe not coincidences exactly, but it does show the intertwined, and friendly, nature of the book and library world.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

John and Carole E Barrowman: Hollow Earth - a review

Guest review by Gordana Nesterovic:

I recently listened to the audio book Hollow Earth, read by one of the authors, John Barrowman.  I usually listen to audiobooks while walking my dog and I can say that my dog had the walks of his life with this one, as I stayed out for ages wanting to hear more and more of what happened.  I enjoyed it so much that I then read the print copy to make sure I did not miss anything.

The main characters are twelve year old twins, Mat and Em who have very special powers. The story begins in the National Gallery, in London, where they live with their mother, a talented artist who does a restoration work. Once the extent of their powers is discovered, they are forced to flee to an island off the west coast of Scotland to be protected by their grandfather who has certain powers of his own.

The story twists and turns and is truly gripping. The facts are intertwined with fiction in a wonderful way and the book is inspiring. This amazing story could be a useful tool for teaching different subjects. I could see that children (and adults) would want to visit the National Gallery in London as well as other art galleries after reading it, and I think they would look at art work in different way. I would hope that children would want to be on a train journey from London to Glasgow and on to the small coastal town of Largs from where you could be taken on a boat trip to neighbouring islands. This book could help teaching about Scotland and its history, about art or just get the imagination flowing. I, myself, could not help wondering what artwork was the inspiration for which scene in the book, what was real and what was fiction. I also liked how, at the end of the book, the authors acknowledge that feeling, and give a few facts about where the inspiration for certain things came from. I am sure that the book will make children want to draw as well, and maybe the drawings will be an inspiration for stories of their own. The relationships between some of the characters are heart-warming, as well as thought provoking, and could provide a platform for discussions on many different levels.

The book is aimed at children aged 9 do 12, but I would not entirely agree with that. I think it is a wonderful story that would appeal to young adults and adults as well in a similar way to the Harry Potter series. The end of the book does not give us all the answers and I hope we will not have to wait very long for the sequel. I could also imagine a film. Both versions of the book, audio and print, can be found in the Children's Literature Collection of Strathclyde University Library, or try your public library. For more information, including a link to the Hollow Earth website, see John Barrowman's Books page.

Happy Roald Dahl Day!

Today is Roald Dahl Day. There are celebrations at Scottish Book Trust and, although it might be too late to join in live, follow the links on their page to find out how to access the event afterwards. SBT also offers the chance to win a 15-book Roald Dahl box set from Puffin. Simply tweet your top three favourite Roald Dahl books to @ScottishBkTrust using the #Top3DahlBooks hashtag or email with your three choices. There's still time for that - enter by 17:00 Friday 14 September 2012. The winner will be chosen at random. Good luck!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Children's Laureate Library Tour

This is another guest post by my friend and former colleague, Gordana Nesterovic:

Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson will be embarking on a national tour of 35 libraries in England, Wales and Scotland, from the Highlands to Penzance, over six weeks. The tour begins today with an event at Thurso Library in the Northern Highlands and will celebrate libraries as a precious community resource at a time when a great many are threatened with closure. The full list of the libraries that Julia Donaldson will be visiting in this autumn's Children's Laureate Library Tour can be found here (events are aimed at groups of school children who will be able see Julia bringing her characters to life, but who will also have a chance to perform to Julia - so not all events will be open to public.)

Julia will also be visiting local independent bookshops, celebrating community relations between libraries, bookshops and schools. To coincide with the launch of her libraries tour, Julia will also be launching a new website for teachers (details yet to be announced) to help them to use drama and performance to bring picture books to life in the classroom. I feel this will be of particular importance as teachers, as well as librarians, are in position to help each child find the right book for them and ignite the spark of enjoying reading that will last a lifetime. The author of Gruffalo, amongst 75 other books, has always been very passionate about libraries and has worked very hard campaigning against library closures, including sending an open letter to the newly appointed Culture Secretary.

Yesterday, the Sunday Telegraph published the list of five of the best children's books about libraries, chosen by Julia Donaldson : Otto the book bear (2011) by Katie Cleminson, Delilah Darling is in the library (2007) by Jeanne Willis, Library lion (2008) by Michelle Knudsen, Wolves (2006) by Emily Gravett and Little Bo Peep's library book (1999) by Cressida Cowell.

If you are a Strathclyde University Library member, you will find the first four book in stock in the Children's Literature Collection. The last one is out of print at the moment, but might be found in your local library.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Scientists in fiction – creative or crazed geniuses?

This is a guest post by my friend and former colleague, Gordana Nesterovic:

I attended this event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 22nd August. It was announced as a forum which would discuss, with its panel and audience, how scientists are portrayed in fiction, looking at young people’s literature in particular.

Panelists included: Sophie McKenzie, an author who has written about genetics in her Medusa project and Blood ties series, and whose books are aimed at teenagers, Dr Alistair Elfick, Director of the Centre for Biomedical Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, and Dr David Kirby, Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at the University of Manchester.

The event lasted an hour during which David Kirby, who chaired it, introduced panelists to the audience and talked a little bit about their work. It was an interesting choice of panel, promising  to provide food for thought from all sides, both from the author’s point of view and the scientist’s way of looking at it, and also to give an insight into how science is communicated in the media, film and literature – how scientists see themselves portrayed and what artists are interested  in when trying to portray the scientist.

Science is perceived in school and by most people as a ‘facts and figures’ discipline which is very linear, but in fact it is a rich source of innovation and it requires a huge amount of creativity. Terms ‘day science’ (presentations of achievements) and ‘night science’ (countless unsuccessful experiments) were mentioned as well as a member of the audience pointing out ‘science of the dungeons’ (endlessly filling grant application forms).

Sophie McKenzie mentioned her research for the Medusa project on science forums. Material for her book came from debates of scientists who were all ‘for progress of the society’ and not ‘good scientists fighting evil ones’. Equally, she uses the characters and plot of her stories to explore the emotional and ethical implications of scientific experiments.

I enjoyed the event and felt that the panelists were very good, but the discussion did not go in the direction of providing answers as to why scientists are described in this way other than it being the expression of the fears and insecurities of society.

I would say that it could be described more as popularising science through talking about different aspects of scientific work, rather than answering questions and discussing how scientists were portrayed. In fairness, one hour is not enough time for a discussion that could go in so many different directions. I also hope that people will continue to think and debate how scientists are portrayed in children’s literature in particular, and search for heroic role models in fiction who are scientists.

If you would like to read Sophie McKenzie's books, they can be borrowed through your local library or, if you are a member of Strathclyde University, check what is available through SUPrimo.