#365PictureBooks Day 31 Goodnight already!

Wanna play cards?”
“Watch a movie?”
“Start a band?”

Bear can’t wait to go to sleep. He’s exhausted, but his persistent next door neighbor, Duck, is wide awake and wants to hang out. Each time Bear is just about to fall asleep, Duck comes back with some great plans. Will Bear ever be able to catch some zzz’s?” Publisher: HarperCollins NZ

Sometimes you come across a book which is so darned cute you ALMOST don’t want it to get checked out? I, mean if it is checked out then you can’t share it with every other kid and class you love…

I had borrowed a copy of this from Auckland Libraries but have now purchased one for our school library picture book collection.

I love the bear in this story as much as the bear in Jon Klassen’s I want my hat back. The illustrator has made this bear come alive on the page through very simple changes in expression – you can almost feel his eyes suddenly opening on the page. The story reminds me of parenthood and those years with young children who are  particularly talkative in the middle of the night. Somehow just when you were at your most tired and the planets seemingly aligned for you to get a full night of sleep something would happen and your small person would have you up all through the night. It’s the same for beart. You can almost feel the cosiness as he is getting ready to sleep and you know exactly how luxurious and lovely that feeling is. But then you identify with the perky, almost caffeine fuelled, wide awake duck who wants to party long after bedtime. Poor bear ends the book looking positively jet lagged (NZers will recognise that wide-awake but asleep look we get when travelling for 24 hours to get from the southern to the northern hemisphere).

Sleep deprivation aside, this book is one kids and their parents are going to love.

This is pure fun!

P.S. Check out The terrible two by Jory John and Mac Barnett – a great funny middle grade book. I bought it for school in ebook format but it went out before I could get it first – darn it!

Bibliographic details:

Goodnight already! / Written by Jory John and illustrated by Benji Davies.

Published by Harper Collins, 2015.

32 p.


NZ RRP $29.99 Available widely in bookstores or borrow a copy from your public library.



#365PictureBooks Day 30 The Treaty House by LeAnne Orams

‘Treaty House isn’t special’, Olley declared. Imagine his surprise when the house talks back!

Journey with Olley as he learns not only is the Treaty House special, but so are the events that have happened in and around it, events that have shaped New Zealand to become the nation Olley is part of today.

Publisher: PenguinRandomHouseNZ

Today’s post is a little different…

It is a plea for out of print New Zealand Non-fiction to either be reprinted or released in ebook format (which would not cost the publisher very much as there wouldn’t be any printing involved!)

Every year, I angst over sharing one extremely rare copy of the Treaty house by LeAnn Orams amongst all the classes in my Junior School. Not only is it written for younger readers but so much care has been taken in the research by the illustrator and the author.

Author website: LeAnne Orams

I’m really delighted to see the new book on the Treaty published By New Holland Publishers and written for younger readers by the awesome Philippa Werry:

Waitangi Day – the New Zealand Story : what it is and why it matters.

It is written and published in a very similar style to her equally awesome “Anzac Day“.

You can find teaching notes to accompany the book here.

Bibliographic details:

The treaty house / written by LeAnne Orams and illustrated by Roger Twiname.

Published by Raupo Publishing NZ Ltd (formerly Reed and an imprint of Penguin Books NZ), 2007.

32 pages


Out of print. Borrow a copy if you can, from your local public library.

Waitangi Day – the New Zealand story (what it is and why it matters) / Written by Philippa Werry

Published by New Holland, 2015.


RRP NZ$ 25.00

Widely available for purchase (although the bookseller I rang today to try and get extra copies was sold out – fab news for a NZ non-fiction book!)



#365PictureBooks Day 29 The name jar by Yangsook Choi

“The new kid in school needs a new name! Or does she?

Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it—Yoon-Hey.”

Source (including image): Goodreads

This is one of those ‘oldie but goodie’ picture books and a great title to use at the start of the year. It fits with the PYP Learner attitudes tolerance and independence, and is wonderful used with a selection of picture books on friendships, differences and acceptance. It is very useful in a school like ours which has a lot of children new to New Zealand – many children have a Korean or Chinese name and an adopted english name and it is also a good reminder to their peers about the importance of names, cultural differences, kindness and acceptance.

Other resources:

Teaching children philosophy

Corkboard connections 20 reading skills to teach with the name jar

Here’s a book talk on video from reviewer Kelsey Andrewjeski


Bibliographic details:

The name jar / by Yangsook Choi

Published by Random House, 2003.

40 pages

ISBN:9780440417996 (paperback edition)

NZ RRP $35.50

This paperback edition is till in print and available via Library Supppliers or the Book Depository or to borrow from Auckland Libraries.

#365PictureBooks Day 28 – Wild by Emily Hughes

“You cannot tame something so happily wild…”

In this beautiful picture book by Hawaiian artist Emily Hughes we meet a little girl who has known nothing but nature from birth – she was taught to talk by birds, to eat by bears and to play by foxes – she is unashamedly, irrefutably, irrepressibly wild. That is, until she is snared by some very strange animals that look oddly like her, but they don’t talk right, eat right, or play correctly. She’s puzzled by their behaviour and their insistence to live in these strange concrete structures known as ‘apartments’. There’s no green here, no animals, no trees, no rivers.

Now she lives in the comfort of civilisation. But will civilisation get comfortable with her?” Publisher: Flying Eye Books

This is beautiful – one of those picture books where you and your favourite small person will spend hours looking at the details in the illustrations.

Lovely story of a “feral child” who lives a wild but innocent life in a beautiful forest with animals she loves and who love and care for her. Strange two-legged animals arrive in the forest and take her to civilisation where they try and change her and make her conform to societal norms regarding dress and behaviour, without regard for her nature and happiness. She returns to the forest with the unhappy dog and cat from the same household.

This book is in a ton of ‘best of lists’ and deservedly so.

Please see this gorgeous post from Brain Pickings which shows the illustrations beautifully.

Take a look at the author website – Emily Hughes has produced some beautiful work for other books and authors.

I think we might need a few more Flying Eye books in our collection….

The story reminded me the book “Wild Child” by Jeanne Willis as both are the story of a wild girl child – but they are totally different in terms of story and style of production. It might be interesting to compare the two with older students looking at picture books as a format as some of our students do in Year 10 for design studies.

Bibliographic details:

Wild / Written and illustrated by Emily Hughes

Published by Flying Eye Books, 2013.

32 pages.


NZ RRP$33.50

I borrowed this copy from Auckland Libraries





Genrefication in the School Library 101

I have had a few queries about how we went about the process of genrefication, so here goes!



Genrefication – is when fiction is arranged by genre rather than by author name in one overwhelming A-Z sequence.

See the post by Jennifer LaGarde:

Five MORE Conversations [About School Libraries] That I Don’t Want To Have Anymore

The section on genrefication was my touchstone – every time I had a twinge of self-doubt during this process I referred back to Jennifer’s comments.

“Simply put, we need to remove the secret code that stands between our students and the resources they need and start organizing our spaces based on what’s good for kids (not librarians).”

The objective of genrefication is to make finding a book much easier for students. In a student-centered Library you want students to spend their time enjoying books not searching for books (which usually means wandering the shelves and feeling frustrated, and taking a book…any book…. because their teacher tells them they have too). Not being able to find books they like is one of the biggest barriers to kids becoming readers.

In a genrefied collection students will discover other authors and books similar to their favourites and it is possible to lead them to other genres by helping them appreciate the crossover factor between them e.g.  “Oh you liked the part in the time travel book where it was set in the Middle ages?…”  perhaps a cue to explore historical fiction. Students ask for books by genre more often than by author “Where are the funny books?” being the request I hear most often.

It is far more fruitful working one on one with a student exploring a genre and its possibilities, within the physical space and distance of a few shelves, rather than trying to remember author and series names on the fly. No more rushing around the shelves with the child in tow – one can calmly talk about the options and make choices right there.

The Genres we are using are based on student preferences – the genres in bold were made first and then sub-genres added later:

  • Funny
  • Realistic fiction
  • Realistic – Sports fiction
  • Realistic – Girlszone (BFFs, Crushes etc )
  • Mystery
  • Historical
  • Historical – War stories
  • Spooky
  • Animal stories [currently this contains animal fantasy e.g. Warriors…this may change to a subsection in Fantasy]
  • Animal stories – Horse & pony stories
  • Science-fiction
  • Action and adventure
  • Fantasy
  • Fantasy – Dragons
  • Fantasy – Based on fairytales

So how did we physically genrefy and change the collection?

My approach was a little unorthodox. I didn’t even bother printing off lists from our LMS to start this project. I had done a few tentative searches but discovered many books had multiple subject headings for multiple genres. I also wanted to approach our shelves as our students do. It was an eye opener for me. Many books are very difficult to  identify by genre in an A-Z sequence and students don’t have the benefit of the inside knowledge we do e.g. when you see a row of spines of books by a particular author it usually equals a particular genre!

Our Fiction collection is small (2500 titles) as we had already split off early readers and first chapter books earlier in the year, so I didn’t think it would be too big a project. I had been living and breathing genrefication for some time before hand. Every time I handled a book I would consider which genre it belonged to and thought long and hard about where titles would be placed based on the preferences and reading habits of the students who liked to read them.

Firstly, I created new collections in our LMS for the main Genres – so as well as the existing collection of Junior Fiction we now had a specific collection for each genre. Please note that initially Realistic, Animals and Fantasy weren’t split further into sub-genres as they are now. The Junior Fiction collection will disappear from the LMS once every book has been changed. The genres also reflect the curated genre collections we have used in our OverDrive collection.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 8.59.04 pm

I walked around our shelves and pulled out all of the funny books and series I recognised and knew. These were kept in alpha sequence on a trolley (cart).

I scanned all the barcodes into the LMS, searched for the matching copies and came up with a set. I then performed a ‘global change’ and changed the collection from Junior Fiction to Junior Fiction Funny. Immediately after this (to avoid duplication and rescanning), I ran a report and generated new spine labels for the set making sure this was in alphabetical order according to the cutter number and printed it off. As the books were still in alpha order by cutter, it was easy peasy to add the spine labels (which were in alphabetical order too).

I then added the appropriate colour code for the genre. The orange dot has been used in our library to identify Junior School Books. We are still using this as if and when the Middle/Senior Library genrefy it would be desirable to use the same colour strips (e.g. they could use the same blue for science-fiction as the Junior Library and add an appropriate label sticker for a sub-genre of dystopia – keeping the genre collections continuous between the collections and presenting a cohesive experience for students graduating from Junior to MS/SS Library). In a Middle/High School Library I would consider using themes as well as genres.


I pretty much followed this process for each genre. If I discovered something that belonged to a genre I had already done – these titles were put in small piles and processed in batches. (The books currently on loan will be processed each day as they are returned).

After I had pulled out the books where I was confident about the genre they belonged to, then it was then a matter of going through the books that were left on the shelf and checking them individually – I used the Auckland Libraries catalogue, GoodReads, Publisher websites, consulted with colleagues and asked students for their opinions to help with this.

Tackling one genre at a time made the process feel far more manageable than pulling every book off the shelf and kept the overwhelming piles to a minimum. It also felt more strategic than tackling a single shelf at a time. By batch processing the spine-labelling and stickering for each genre it  was an efficient process and easier to coordinate help for this task. (This approach would work for a Library wanting to gradually genrefy – choose the most sought after genre first and work through).


I left Fantasy until last as it was not only our biggest genre, but also had the most titles that could possibly fit into other genres (in particular, spooky, and science fiction). I split off books about Dragons and those fantasy titles based on Fairy tales, as we get asked for these often. The main Fantasy genre still looks large (it is 1/3 of our fiction) so I am considering splitting off the titles based on myths and legends. Many books were weeded during this process – but some books have been given a second chance at life. If they remain unchecked at the end of 12 months after exposure within a genre and promotion they will be weeded.


One of the immediate benefits is that I can now see  exactly what we hold in each genre and what state it is in. As a result, we will be purchasing more for the sports fiction and the spooky collections and reducing the number of fantasy titles purchased this year. It will be interesting to see the number of loans vs the number of titles in any genre. Seeing a genre as a whole makes weeding a breeze!

If a student or teacher is uncertain about where to find a specific title it will be necessary to search the catalogue. All fiction is now clearly identified in the online catalogue with the genre included in the classification:

for example….



Each genre is colour coded and each new spine label includes the genre name. If a genre is split into sub-genres then a picture sticker is added. Misfiled books are now very obvious to our student shelvers. (Redoing the spine labels for every book in the new style and tidying up misplaced orange spot labels etc has given the whole collection a fresh look). As we went through this process I also doubled checked to see if we were missing parts of a series and reordered them and I weeded vigorously at the same time.


We are still using the first three letters of an author’s name to keep an author’s books or series together within a genre.

Some authors are now shelved in more than one location (e.g. you will find Michael Morpurgo stories in Animals, Historical and War stories and Jacqueline Wilson in both Realistic-girlzone and Historical). This is a positive thing as it is a great way to introduce students to another genre.

What still needs to be done before students arrive back from vacation?

Signage (the black wire stands on top of the shelves are waiting for new BIG signs) and we need to make QR code links to connect the physical genre collections to the digital titles we own in OverDrive.

Watch this space!

Other links:

My previous post on the sports fiction genre

See Michelle Simm‘s posts on genrefication in her library

Mrs ReaderPants

Tiffany Whitehead

Library Grits (Diane Mackenzie) – roundup of school library rockstar resources on genrefication

Jennifer LaGarde’s article was also published in a special edition of SLANZA’s Collected Magazine. I recommend a thorough read of this for examples of other innovative changes happening in NZ school libraries. See also the brief article about genrefication at Cambridge Highschool.

School Library Journal

Labels: Book Protection Products (Auckland NZ)

Combat Zone – the new Rugby Academy series from Tom Palmer

Two years ago I wrote about a wonderful new book that I had recently purchased for my school library written by Tom Palmer and published by Barrington Stoke. That book was Scrum, and two years later I am still heartily recommending it to my students.

Tom has gone on to write other great sports books for Barrington Stoke and we have purchased every single title for our collection. The success of these books with my mainly struggling boy readers encouraged me to buy more Barrington Stoke titles including many titles with more ‘girl appeal’.

The benefit of these books are three-fold : the books are dyslexia friendly without looking like they are “special”; the books appeal to struggling readers or those needing hi-lo material, as well as those kids that just don’t like reading but are more likely to pick up and try a short book; lastly and most importantly, the stories are so well written and so good that they appeal to readers of mainstream fiction as well as dyslexic and struggling readers.

Rugby Academy

I was really excited when I learned that Tom was writing a series for children with a Rugby theme. Despite living in a rugby mad country like New Zealand, there really isn’t enough children’s fiction written and published that connects younger readers with their sporting and other interests.

The first book in this planned trilogy is ‘Combat Zone’ set in England, the second book ‘Surface to air’, set in  Toulon France, is due out in February 2015 and the final book ‘Deadlocked’  is set in New Zealand!!! and is due mid-year around the time of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Publisher’s description:  “Borderlands is no ordinary school. All of the students boarding there have parents in the armed forces, and the UK is drawing perilously close to war in the Central Asian Republic.

New boy Woody is desperate to escape, but his dad has been mobilised and now football-mad Woody is stuck in a school where everyone is crazy about rugby. Worried and unhappy, Woody tries to make the best of his situation. But will rugby be his unlikely saviour?

Tom has explained more about the trilogy on his website:

Sort of a children’s World Cup to run alongside next year’s Rugby World Cup.

The reason for the titles of the books gives away the second theme to the series.  The Royal Air Force.

Most of the boys in the Borderlands team have parents in the RAF. The series is set during a conflict a little like what is going on now in Syria and Iraq. A sad coincidence, I’m afraid.

So the books are about being part of a rugby union team, but also about being the child of a forces family.

What did I think about Combat Zone?

I loved it. I think the three main plot elements ( the struggle to switch from playing football to Rugby Union and the hardships of being sent to boarding school and coping with the worry of a family member fighting in a war) mean that the story has plenty of action and angst. That is perhaps the aspect that makes me like this so much – it isn’t “just a sports story”. The reader may pick it up because of the hook of a story about rugby, but they are exposed to a lot more – the same empathy inducing plot that they would find in realistic fiction combined with a great sports story!

Every time I read one of these books I am amazed at how the power of the story shines through, even if it contains far fewer words and chapters than the average book for the same aged reader. The author makes every word of the text count. There must be an art to this – how to tell a story using very spare prose? It is certainly something this author does very well and why I am eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series.

These books fit perfectly in our newly genrefied sports fiction section. Rather than have them in a collection of dyslexia friendly books, as we have done previously, they are shelved with the other sports titles. Should I need them for a dyslexic student they are easy to find, but they can be read by any reader at any time. As I have said previously – the stories are so good, the dyslexia friendly format is a bonus!

Verdict: Heartily recommended (and for me – an essential purchase.)

You can read the first chapter here:

This PDF file helpfully shows you the special yellow paper and dyslexia friendly font used in the books.

Resources and links:

Tom Palmer website (we are obviously sympatico – we have the same WordPress theme…I suspect the use of black means Tom really is rooting for the All Blacks to win the Rugby World Cup 2015!)

Barrington Stoke website take some time to explore and discover all the wonderful well known authors who have chosen to write for this audience. (Cornelia Funke, Tony Bradman, Jean Ure, Frank Cotterill Boyce, Anthony McGowan and many, many more)

Tom’s Literacy resources based on the Rugby World Cup

Bibliographic details:

Combat zone (Rugby Academy, Book 1) / Written by Tom Palmer with illustrations by David Shephard

Published by Barrington Stoke, 2014.

101 pages.


NZ RRP $17.99 If not in stock at your favourite independent book store most would be happy to order this for you.

Barrington Stoke classification : Reading age: 8 / Interest age: 8-12

#365PictureBooks Day 27 Grandpa Green by Lane Smith


From the creator of the national bestseller It’s a Book comes a timeless story of family history, legacy, and love.
Grandpa Green wasn’t always a gardener. He was a farmboy and a kid with chickenpox and a soldier and, most of all, an artist. In this captivating new picture book, readers follow Grandpa Green’s great-grandson into a garden he created, a fantastic world where memories are handed down in the fanciful shapes of topiary trees and imagination recreates things forgotten.
In his most enigmatic and beautiful work to date, Lane Smith explores aging, memory, and the bonds of family history and love; by turns touching and whimsical, it’s a stunning picture book that parents and grandparents will be sharing with children for years to come“. Publisher: Macmillan

I really love this book – it is a lovely one to share on Grandparents Day. It is also a very lovely book to share with children and to talk about how things have changed between the generations and also to gently explain about memory loss and aging.

The illustrations are gentle and calming. This isn’t a picture book to be read in a hurried fashion and the lush green topiary and the connecting branches and other objects that lead from one phase of the grandfathers life to another support this slowness. I have always loved topiary and it is wonderful how the horticultural imagery connects with the story elements.

This is a perfect title to use with our Year 2 PYP Unit of Inquiry : Where we are in place and time:  “Then and now”

Life is changing

  • How our family traditions have changed over time
  • Similarities and differences between generations
  • Artifacts, heirlooms or rituals that have meaning in a family

Bibliographic details:

Grandpa Green / Written and illustrated by Lane Smith.

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2011.

32 pages.


Available to borrow from Auckland Libraries.