Tag Archives: Twilight

We need another Harry Potter.

It is nearly sixteen years since the publication of the first Harry Potter novel and few would argue the immense impact of J.K. Rowling’s series in every corner of the globe. Indeed, there are some young Muggles who cannot remember a world without the famous boy wizard. Whilst the success and cultural influence of the Harry Potter series is undeniable, of late there has been a noticeable shift in the place young Harry and his friends occupy in the hearts of the young.

Harry Potter

The first hint I had of a waning preoccupation with Harry surfaced upon the release of the final movie back in 2011. During a wide-reading lesson, my class of Year 7 boys were discussing the upcoming film release with much anticipation. During the ensuing discussion, I discovered the majority of boys had not read the final book in the series and furthermore, had no intention of ever doing so. They all reported quite cheerfully that they had been waiting for the film’s release to “see how it ended”. Thank you, Hollywood.

Apparently this reluctance to read the actual book is not restricted to boys. A recent change of school now sees me enjoying wide-reading lessons with girls and, much to my dismay, I have discovered a similar avoidance of Harry. The prevailing reason given for not bothering to read the books is “we’ve seen the movies; we don’t need to read the books”. Again, thank you, Hollywood.

Regular readers will know that I am a fan of the movie tie-in, as it frequently sparks eager interest in a book. A fortunate side-effect of the hoopla surrounding certain blockbuster films is often the rush of fans to the bookstore, impatient to read the book and/or series. The Hunger Games is a recent example of this movie-inspired hype.

Sadly, the rush to read Harry Potter appears to be at an end. The story has reached saturation point and as such has created a disturbing predicament for both educators and parents: like Neville Longbottom’s cauldron in potions class, Harry Potter has gone off the boil. The exhilarating whizz-banging blast of spells has faded away to a sad fizzle.

At the height of its popularity, the Harry Potter series was nothing short of a phenomenon. Rowling’s imagination, clever characterisation, warm wit and resounding themes captured the hearts of readers and non-readers around the world. Children ran around playgrounds shouting Expelliarmus! and Wingardium Leviosa! College students created their own Quidditch league, Hermione made going to the library cool, and the word Muggle entered our lexicon forever.

Indeed, there was a time back in the early part of the 21st century where it was hard to find anyone who hadn’t read some or all of the Harry Potter series, or at least expressed the desire to read it. In short, Harry got both kids and adults reading. And as my Reading Rules explain, often all it takes to trigger a lifelong reading habit is enjoyment of and engagement in one book – and Harry Potter was certainly the trigger for a generation of readers.

The majority of these Harry Potter readers are now in their twenties, members of the so-called Generation Y. They grew up reading the print editions of Harry Potter, eagerly anticipating the release of each subsequent book. Later, they were the first fans at the midnight screenings of the films, resplendent in their Gryffindor scarves and Death Eater masks.

Despite receiving bad press for various traits, Gen Y is an incredibly smart and articulate group. I am constantly blown away by the intelligence and critical thinking abilities of this generation – the Harry Potter generation. Of course Harry Potter didn’t create these smart kids – but maybe their habit of sustained, deep reading had a profound influence on the way they turned out.

The world of reading has undergone significant changes and challenges since these Gen Y readers were children. Today’s children often read from a screen and not from the printed page. Whilst I maintain that any reading is good reading studies are beginning to discern a difference between reading from a screen and the printed page, as this Scientific American article reports. Indeed the National Literacy Trust in the UK believes that children’s reading progress is hindered by Kindles and e-books.

Further studies into the long-term effects of reading from non-print sources are clearly needed. But it is irrefutable that a child reading an e-book from a connected tablet such as an I-pad or Kindle Wifi has to compete with many distractions whilst reading – checking social media sites, online chatting and gaming. The ability to become totally immersed and absorbed in a good book is lessened by constant distraction – and this must detract from the enjoyment of the reading experience. Does this lack of immersion and subsequent lesser enjoyment of the reading experience explain the decline in reading among our children? What will be the societal result? Will reading decline to such an extent that we become a post-literate society?

Since the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007, the final book in the series, there has been a void in the reading world. Yes we’ve had the Twilight craze, but this was far more popular with girls than boys. John Green is arguably the most successful author for teens at the moment, in large part due to his clever marketing via social media (a big hello to any nerdfighters out there). Green is undoubtedly an exceptional writer. His novel The Fault in our Stars is being made into a movie, and there is a currently great deal of online hype about this. But few adults will have heard of either the author or the book. Perhaps the nearest rival we’ve had to the Harry Potter phenomenon in recent times is The Hunger Games. But with sales of 26 million against the 400 million of Harry Potter, the comparison is almost embarrassing.

It’s clear that nothing comes close to Harry. And that is a problem. Because anecdotally most educators will tell you that this generation is not reading as much as previous generations. And when they do bother to read, many of them are reading e-books. More studies need to be done on the effect of reading from screens and personal devices, but all teachers will tell you that nothing beats sustained reading and it is difficult to become immersed in an I-pad when Facebook, Twitter and Angry Birds are beckoning.

We need another Harry Potter! We need a new series which will tap into the imagination of children (and adults) around the world. And we need a few years between the publication of the book and the release of the inevitable movie so that kids have to make an effort and read the damned book first! Will the next J.K Rowling please step forward?

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Top 10 favourite book quotes from children’s and teen’s fiction

There are obviously too many quotes to choose from, but these are among my favourites. Some will make you think, others will just bring a smile.

Hopefully they will all make you read the book.

 

1.No offence, but I’d rather kiss the horse.”  

Alex Rider in Point Blanc, Anthony Horowitz.

2. “I hope you’re pleased with yourselves. We could have all been killed – or worse, expelled.”

Hermione in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. J. K. Rowling.

3. “If I win, I’m a prodigy. If I lose then I’m mad. That’s the way history is written.”

Artemis Fowl in Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer.

4. “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”

 Pooh in Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne.

5.  “I’m wondering what to read next. I’ve finished all the children’s books.”

  Matilda in Matilda, Roald Dahl

6. “I don’t go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds me.”

 Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling

7.  “Sometimes you’re a little strange, Bella. Do you know that?”

 Jacob, New Moon, Stephenie Meyer

 8. “That’s what Hermione does. When in doubt, go to the library.”

 Ron, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling

  9.  “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Horton, Horton Hears a Who!, Dr. Seuss

10. “Curiouser and curiouser.”  

Alice, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll

 

 Special mention to the master of the one-liner Rick Riordan, with this gem from Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief:

“The entrance to the Underworld is in Los Angeles.”

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How many of these books have your kids read?

Dymocks recently published its list of the Top 51 books for kids. You can see the original list here with recommended reading ages.

I’ve added a few annotations to the list – how many books on the Top 51 list have you and your children read?

 1. The Harry Potter series. J. K. Rowling.

First place is really no surprise and reflects the popularity, quality and longevity of the Harry Potter series. (The first book was released fourteen years ago). Perhaps these are the reasons why the Harry Potter books also rate a mention on nearly every one of my Top 10 lists .

2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Eric Carle.

A classic picture book first published over forty years ago. It should be on the bookshelf in every child’s room.

3. The Very Bad Book. Andy Griffiths

This is classic Andy Griffiths, and definitely a book that to which some parents and teachers will need to apply Reading Rule no.6  – loosen your filter.

4. Where is the Green Sheep? Mem Fox & Judy Horacek

This is a great book to teach younger children that despite external differences we are all the same.

5. The Vampire Academy novels. Richelle Mead.

These books are extremely popular with teenage girls which is clearly reflected by their place in this list. They also hold third place in my Top 10 books for teenage girls .

6. The Hunger Games trilogy. Suzanne Collins.

This is a fabulous series, equally popular with girls and boys. The much anticipated movie release due in 2012 will only serve to heighten both the awareness and popularity of the book.

7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Jeff Kinney.

Hilarious for all ages and great for sharing at bedtime.

8. Anne of Green Gables. Book 1. L. M. Montgomery.

A classic novel with a delightfully clever and precocious protagonist.

9. Possum Magic. Mem Fox.

One of the more famous Australian picture books. This is the book I send friends overseas when they have a baby.

10. The Tomorrow series. John Marsden

This series makes my Top 10 books for teenage boys and my Top 10 books in the library lists. It is one of the most popular literary series for YA ever written in Australia.

11. Where the Wild Things Are. Maurice Sendak.

A powerful picture about the magnificence of childhood imagination.

12. The Twilight Saga. Stephenie Meyer.

Put aside your literary snobbery (Reading rule no. 5) and celebrate a series that has sold over 100 million copies and got kids around the world reading.

13. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl.

Pure Dahl genius combining every child’s fantasy with a message about honour and integrity.

14. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. Mem Fox.

Published only a few years ago, this has quickly become a new Mem Fox classic.

15. The Chronicles of Narnia. C. S. Lewis

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the first and best known of this seven book series. Fantasy at its best.

16. The Magic Faraway Tree. Enid Blyton.

Children of all ages just adore Moonface, Silky and the Saucepan Man.

17. Goodnight Mr Tom. Michelle Magorian.

A beautiful book set in wartime England.

18. Green Eggs and Ham. Dr Seuss.

Loved by all ages, this is the first of a few mentions of books by the celebrated Seuss.

19. The Percy Jackson series. Rick Riordan

This refers to the first series of five books, loved by boys and girls alike. The second series, Heroes of Olympus is proving equally as popular.

20. The Ruins of Gorlan. Book 1 of the Ranger’s Apprentice series. John Flanagan.

This fantasy series has eleven books in it, with another due out in November 2011. Very popular with teenage boys.

21. The Cherub series. Robert Muchamore.

The most recent book in this series is currently the third most borrowed book in the library. I have trouble keeping this series on the shelves.

22. Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy. Lynley Dodd.

The very popular picture books about a lovable dog and his friends.

23. The Gruffalo. Julia Donaldson

Another picture book about the power of childhood imagination. Fantastic rhyming.

24. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll.

Always popular, even before Johnny Depp became the Mad Hatter.

25. Artemis Fowl. Book 1. Eoin Colfer.

Artemis Fowl is a 12 year old criminal mastermind. These books have great plots and terrific humour.

26. The Mortal Instruments series. Cassandra Clare.

This series is extremely popular with the boys in the library.

27. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Michael Rosen.

A fantastic picture book for reading aloud (Reading rule no.3). This was a favourite in our house when our children were little.

28. Winnie-the-Pooh. A. A. Milne

A favourite of children and adults everywhere.

29. Wombat Stew. Marcia K. Vaughan.

Like Possum Magic, this is another classic Australian picture book, a modern folktale.

30. Obernetwyn. Book 1. Obernetwyn Chronicles. Isabelle Carmody.

Classic fantasy, and in my experience more popular with girls than boys.

31. The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. May Gibbs

This book has never been out of print and contains the most beautiful illustrations in Australian literary history.

32. Stormbreaker. Book 1. Alex Rider series. Anthony Horowitz.

I love the Alex Rider books. Alex is intelligent, decent and funny.

33. Dear Zoo. Rod Campbell.

A picture book for early readers, great for reading aloud.

34. Diary of a Wombat. Jackie French.

I laughed out loud the first time I read this book. A picture book for all ages about a wombat with serious attitude.

35. Oh, the Places You’ll Go. Dr Seuss.

More classic Seuss. No explanation necessary.

36. Grug. Ted Prior.

Over thirty years old, this story set in the Australian bush is still a favourite.

37. Guess How Much I Love You. Sam McBratney

A beautiful book which has become a worldwide phenomenon selling over 18 million copies. I even have a copy in German.

38. Hush, Hush. Becca Fitzpatrick

This book is for teenage girls who enjoyed the Twilight series. It meets the needs of the current interest in the paranormal.

39. Treasure of the Emerald Eye. Book 1. Geronimo Stilton. Geronimo Stilton.

An adventure story for primary aged children.

40. Wolves of Mercy Falls series. Maggie Stiefvater

Fantasy romance series about (in the words of the author) “werewolves and kissing”.

41. The Cat in the Hat. Dr Seuss

My all time favourite Dr Seuss. I learned it off byheart as a child and can still recite most of it. I must have driven my parents mad. 

42. The Hobbit. J. R. R. Tolkien.

Lord of the Rings is more popular in the library, but The Hobbit is an all-time classic.

43. The Witches. Roald Dahl.

Dahl’s witches are the original and the best.

44. Zac’s Moontrip. Book 1. Zac Power Test Drive. H. I. Larry

Primary school boys love Zac Power.

45. Maze of Bones. Book 1. The 39 Clues. Rick Riordan.

Whilst this series hasn’t taken off in the library, it has been incredibly popular elsewhere. Riordan knows how to write great mystery and adventure.

46. Each Peach, Pear Plum. Janet and Allan Ahlberg

A more stylish Where’s Wally, where children read the poem for clues to help them find a character hiding in the illustration.

47. The B.F.G. Roald Dahl

The third Roald Dahl on the list. He is the original and one of the best.

48. The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Beatrix Potter

Peter Rabbit is so cheeky, and Mr McGregor is the classic cranky farmer. Accompanying the entertaining story are the beautiful and very famous illustrations.

49. Magic Beach. Alison Lester

Alison Lester is a prolific writer of picture books and a  favourite of teachers who love her work. This book explores the perfect beach.

50.Little Women. Louisa May Alcott

This book has stood the test of time due mainly to the character of Josephine March who makes my list of Top 10 heroines for girls.

51. Five on Treasure Island. Book 1. Famous Five. Enid Blyton.

I am so glad that the Famous Five made this list! Every child should read adventures involving smugglers and spies, washed down by lashings of ginger beer.

It’s a well-rounded list including a mixture of the old and the new; books for early readers, primary school children and young adults. Adults too actually, as I’ve read most of them. The ones I haven’t are now on my list.

How many have you read?

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Top 10 books for teenage girls

In terms of books which will get girls reading, this is my current Top 10. There are a lot of vampire books here, as they really are popular at the moment. I have tried to balance these with all-time classics and other favourites.
 
  1. Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling – because girls love this series as much as boys. Thank you J.K. Rowling for creating Hermione Granger – the strong, intelligent female protagonist without whom Harry would not have survived.
  2. Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer.
  3. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead.
  4. Any book by Jodi Picoult
  5. Before I fall by Lauren Oliver. Every teenage girl should read this book.
  6. Sisterhood of the travelling pants series by Ann Brashares
  7. Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
  8. Any book by Jane Austen
  9. Fallen series by Lauren Kate
  10. Any book by Meg Cabot

With special mentions to The Vampire Diaries by L.J.Smith, Peeps by Scott Westerfield, The Mortal Instruments series by  Cassandra Clare, The Notebook  by Nicholas Sparks and authors Margaret Clark and Sarah Dessen.

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Reading Rule 5

5. Don’t be a snob.

A literary snob that is. This blog contains the rules for getting your child to read. It is about the joy of reading. The idea of reading for pleasure: pure and unadulterated pleasure.  Nothing irks me more than people who scoff at ‘popular’ reads and believe that the only ‘real’ books are those with great literary merit. It is true that in the realms of books and fiction, there is a vast difference in the quality of writing on offer. It would be ridiculous to compare wordsmiths like Howard Finkler or Tim Winton with Matthew Reilly or Janet Evanovich. But I don’t believe the Reillys or Evanovichs of the world expect or want to be compared with writers of great literature. Writers are story tellers. How they tell their story is irrelevant when we are talking about reading for pleasure. If we want to encourage children to read, then it doesn’t matter what they read. If they want to read popular fiction that you don’t think carries much literary merit, don’t worry. Let them read whatever they want. You will be surprised what the popular fiction will lead to.

I am a reader and read everything: great literature such as Booker prize winners to airport fiction, such as thrillers and what I refer to ‘three page chapter’ easy reads. It depends on the mood I am in. All books are worthwhile and valuable, and it doesn’t matter what book your child chooses to read – as long as it’s the right book.

You have to find the right book. It is fair to say that that J.K Rowling single handedly got more kids reading that the combined education authorities across the world. Why? Because Harry Potter was the right book. It grabbed kids, it was readable, it appealed to most tastes and it was a series – read one and you’re more likely to read the next. (It is no surprise that the majority of children’s and young adult novels being released these days are always part of a series, or franchise. This is where authors and publishers can hook a market and make some money). Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series was also responsible for getting kids, especially girls reading, and Robert Muchamore’s Cherub series continues to hook many boys.

The point is that if you find the right book, your child will read it and probably continue to read other books. I’ve had so many parents tell me that the first book their child read was Harry Potter. Note that they say the first, because their child discovered the joy of reading and kept on doing it. But Harry Potter is not the only book to capture the imagination of young people. I know one Year 9 girl who had not read a book since primary school, and those books were thin, very easy to read volumes. Then Twilight became popular and she was determined to read it. She ploughed through it, going on to read the remaining books in the series. This was no easy feat, considering the last book in the series Breaking Dawn is a hefty tome of 754 pages. But this wasn’t the end of her achievement: she then went on to read another 80 books that year! Now, you will hear many people question the literary merit of Twilight, but I say any book that gets a girl reading 80 books in one year is a masterpiece!

It is not really all that difficult to find the right book. I always tell my students that if they have read a few chapters and they really, honestly can’t get into the book they should bring it back to me and I will find them another. I don’t want a child ploughing through a book they are not enjoying, as I believe it does more damage than good. Reading should be a pleasure. It should be something to look forward to. A good book should have you thinking about it when you’re not reading, anticipating the moment you and the book can be at one again, sharing the story.

If this means cashing in on trends such as Harry Potter and Twilight, then do it. Even if you prefer your child to be an individual and avoid peer pressure, reading should be exempt from this.

Movie tie-ins are another great way to entice kids to read. If a child has seen a movie and enjoyed it, they are familiar with the plot and characters which gives them a sense of comfort and confidence to tackle the book. Books contain much more detail than movies, so the book can be the icing on the cake after seeing the movie. Or the movie can be an inducement:  “read the book and I’ll take you to see the movie”.

A recent example of a successful movie tie-in is I am number four. This book was purpose written as the first in a series of books which will become movies. The book is easy to read, with a great plot and lots of suspense. It doesn’t hurt that the leads in the movie are popular and good looking actors, who have been in other popular movies or television shows. I am number four has a high interest level for both boys and girls – most boys at my school have seen or heard of the movie. They love the book (there are 4 copies in the library which are always on loan or reserved) and one reluctant reader read it in one weekend. All the boys cannot wait for the next book.

© Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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