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Night of the Reading Dead

November 28, 2012

A youth event with a difference highlights the community value of libraries

There is no-one in the library when the children arrive.

Jagged letters are chalked across the door: SAVE YOURSELVES.

Blood is pooled on the front step.  Within, bookshelves have been knocked to the ground, their contents spilled across the carpet.

The air is thick with summer heat and silence.

The children suspect a prank.  They’re quick to investigate, eagerly picking over the vandalised interior, quizzing their teachers:

“Is it a murder mystery game?”

“Did you fake a burglary?”

Before the adults have time to answer, a terrible cry comes from the street outside.

The children run to the library doors.

They see figures approaching: gruesome, deformed individuals from the ranks of the walking dead. Zombies attack!  The children scream as the teachers hurry them inside and barricade the doors.

Only the library can save them now… Read more…

Join the twitter reading group tonight to talk about the reading which makes you cry

November 27, 2012

Cry Baby :(

There will be a live twitter discussion tonight, 27 November, starting at 8.00pm Australian Eastern Daylight Time.

Key facilitators of the monthly discussions include @wateryone @ellenforsyth @vaveros @13helenc.

To participate , or follow along, simply use the tag #NYR12 as you discuss your #cry reading. We look forward to talking to you tonight.

Can I have a romance that won’t make me cry

November 22, 2012

One of the hardest requests I’ve had was to recommend romance fiction that was not going to make my reader cry.

Several years ago, I had two requests for romance fiction that was only happy. One was from a borrower and the other was from a friend (who was also a borrower at another branch in my library network) both of whom were having chemotherapy for breast cancer. Both of them had said “I just don’t want to cry. I need to stay positive and I really want to read some happy romance”.

Now this may seem to be a simple task for the non-romance reader for romance is perceived as pleasurable reading, it is light, it has a happy ending. But to achieve a happy ending and to keep the reader engaged most romances delve into some dark emotions and unbelievable sadness and betrayal. These obstacles can seem insurmountable, heartbreaking, tear-jerking and emotionally distressing so much so that the reader is left exhausted before the author brings the feeling up again.

Photograph from Flickr user PinkSherbet/original owner “D Sharon Pruitt” Creative Commons License

I could never recommend Sherry Thomas’s Not Quite a Husband with the heart-wrenching lack of communication between Leo and Bryony to these women – yet it is a brilliant romance. I have read many Julia Quinn novels that are light and fun Regency romances yet to blithely recommend any of her books would mean I could inadvertently have a reader crying their eyes out over the Michael’s unrequited love for Francesca in When He was Wicked.

Book reviewers are always keen to tell you if a book is a tear-jerker but they rarely indicate when a book has brought a tear to their eye, particularly if the protagonists overcome their sad situation to have a happy ending. If I had not been asked for romances, I think I would have been more successful in finding books that were not sad. Any fiction that is based on characterisation and relationships has the potential to make the reader cry whereas I feel that this is less likely in reading an action adventure tale.

Knowing this, I felt that I needed to have read the books that I was recommending to both my borrower and my friend. I gave them both Rachel Gibson’s See Jane Score and Susan Elizabeth Philips’s Match Me if you Can. Both came back happy with those books and asked for more. I gave them Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation but I made note to not give them The Cinderella Deal. We seemed to do the loops with these three authors with me carefully vetting each book recommendation first. After a while my borrower made her own way with her choices and we would chat at the circulation desk. Since I finished at my previous workplace I have not heard from her or how she has been.

I started lending my own books to my friend and though we didn’t get to see each other as much as I would have liked, our rotation of happy reads (delivered through another friend) continued. Sadly, a year and a half after I was first asked to recommend romances that would not make her cry my friend passed away. About two months later I received a small bag with the last four books I had lent her, one still had her bookmark left in it. As much as Rachel Gibson used to make me laugh with her wry observations and her funny dialogue, I can no longer read her books without have a cry first.


Cry Babies

November 15, 2012

Don’t be a cry baby because the National Year of Reading is almost over, its OK, you (and your children) can still keep reading! If you do feel like a good cry anyway, there are lots of childrens books which may bring tears to your eyes. (These are known as “onion effect” books). Remember, when you are reading, you might start crying because a book is so moving, so sad or because it is just so funny! You may even cry because you’ve finished a really good book and wanted to read more! Try reading some of the books listed below with your children, you might be surprised just how much you enjoy them too!

Before you get reading, check you have:

  • Tissues
  • Someone to read with (just in case your eyes well up with tears and you can’t see properly to keep reading)
  • A book, of course! One that will make you cry, with sadness or laughter…

Sad Childrens Books

Nana upstairs and Nana downstairs, Written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

 Charlottes Web by E.B. White

 Just a dog by Michael Gerard Bauer

 The Little Prince by Joann Sfar; Translated by Sarah Ardizzone

 The velveteen rabbit by Margery Williams

 The giving tree by Shel Silverstein

 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

 It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom you know. The books listed below are so funny you’ll be crying with laughter!

 Funny Childrens books

Captain Underpants series by Dave Pilkey

Round the twist series created by Paul Jennings

Lockie Leonard series by Tim Winton

Don’t call me Ishmael by Michael Gerard Bauer

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

Wayside school series by Louis Sachard

Do you have another favourite tear jerker you would like to add to the list? Tell us about it in the comments!

 ( By Children’s Library Staff in attendance at The National Year of Reading Unconference – Mission Impossible, 2012).

Crying over books

November 8, 2012
tags: ,

Have you ever found yourself nearly crying because you have finished a book (or the last of a series of books)? Do you find yourself remembering scenes and characters that have captured your heart and become quite real in your imagination?  Have you found yourself reading something where you dread getting to the last few pages of the book, because you just don’t want the story to end?  You may even feel unable to move on to read another book as you need to take some time to let go of your last read.

When a book is well written, it is as if the author has the power to weave a spell over you, enticing you further and further into a book, causing you to become emotionally invested with the story and characters.  Before you know it, the story ends, and you find yourself remembering scenes, characters and quotes from the book, feeling sad and bereft that you can no longer pick up this book and read more.  I guess this is one reason why series of books and fan fiction are so popular.


Have you ever found yourself fighting back tears, maybe even crying, as you mourn the death of a fictional character?  Do you find yourself imaging alternative scenarios where the character survives?  Although causing the demise of particular characters  is certainly an effective (and often convenient) ploy used by authors to draw the reader in,  it can be absolutely heart wrenching and so sad!

How easy for people to say it’s just a book, or it’s just a fictional character, they’re not real!  They just don’t understand.  Often these characters have become like friends, whom you can relate to, think and care about; albeit that they are friends that solely inhabit the pages of a book.

It is a compliment to the authors that they have the ability to evoke such emotion with stories and characters created from their imagination, even if they do make us cry.   It is a comfort that at least we are able to re-read these stories, time and again, and for me, this is one of the reasons  I love  reading.

So next time you decide it’s time to re-visit these books, make sure you don’t forget your tissues!


Comics: exploring the future of space, word, and image

November 6, 2012

A guest post by Dr Matt Finch

Snoopy was my first comic book hero.  Before I could read, before I could even follow the stories from frame to frame, I used to flip through the dozens of Peanuts books we had lying around our home, hunting out the pictures of Charlie Brown’s taciturn dog.

Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, was a master cartoonist who could convey volumes with a minimal number of pen strokes.  The image above, capturing Snoopy in a soaring act of imagination, is potent because, though wordless, it belongs to the world of storytelling (and therefore literature) as much as art.

It took time for my infant self to fully make sense of Charlie Brown and company, but once I did, there was another mystery waiting for me – the inscriptions by my Mum and Dad in every edition.  It took a few years for me to realise that my parents were writing to each other.  That these books had been the gifts they exchanged when they were first dating.  And that it was probably better for me not to fully decode the in-jokes and allusions of my parents’ courtship!

At the same time as I discovered this unexpected intimacy, I was also bonding with an icon of popular culture.  Many of us will know Snoopy at a glance.  Some will recognise that, in the image above, he’s indulging one of his fighter-pilot fantasies, his kennel becoming the biplane in which he duels the villainous Red Baron.  Snoopy’s kennel-top dogfights were so popular that they even got their own song.

In “The Tears of Doctor Doom”, a piece for the journal Overland, the Melbournian screenwriter and critic Martyn Pedler asked, “What is it about superhero analysis that brings out the autobiographer in its theorists?”  Why do we see ourselves reflected so clearly in the pulpy, popular images of comics?

Is it childhood nostalgia?  The pervasive corporate reach of mass media entertainment?  Or something more deeply tied to the medium?

In his seminal book Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud argues that the simplicity of cartoons encourages our identification with the figures on the page: “We don’t just observe the cartoon, we become it.”

Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics

Is it possible that when we read comics, we in fact think differently to readers of prose?  Nick Sousanis, of Teachers College, Columbia University, believes this might be the case.

Image from Nick Sousanis’ PhD, written in comic book form

When Nick and I spoke back in June, he suggested that comics, by ordering image and text in space, offer new ways of making meaning: “the very act of working spatially and visual-verbally facilitates creative discoveries otherwise obscured when limited to a sheet of lined paper or my keyboard.”

We can take a simple example from the pages of Peanuts.

Here’s Snoopy having his day spoiled by Lucy:

If we re-arrange the same images, we can make Snoopy more resilient:

In a multimodal world, where words and pictures come at us from web pages, apps, menu screens and blended media, could comics be the most useful tool for us to explore space, image, and text?

Enough talk. Enough words on a screen!  It’s time for you to find your own answer to that question.

Jessica Abel and Matt Madden have developed Panel Lottery, a great activity that lets even the least confident cartoonists explore storytelling by arranging images in order.  You can find Panel Lottery at their website, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures.  Try it out!

While you’re putting pencil to paper, you can also reflect on the possibilities of the comic book medium at The Comics Grid, an online journal whose many delights include the weird world of pictureless comics.  You can also find more from Nick Sousanis and other comics artists, critics, and educators at my site,

Pick up your pencil. Open a comic book.

Whether you read comics or make them, maybe, like Snoopy, it’s your time to soar.

Matt Finch is a British writer and educator, who can be found online at  His all-time favourite comics are James Robinson’s Starman and Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For.

Explore reads Wrap up-Twitterchat recommendations

November 2, 2012

October was the NYR month to explore reading. Plenty of suggestions were offered for readers to explore. A great discussion explored books, movies, social media, online tools and pictures. Food, Goodreads,  travel (Lonely planet Guides vs Eyewitness Guides) and settings. Eventually some  participants deciding to explore sleep…

“Signing of now to explore the back of my eyelids- catch you next month” sharonu

Check out the discussion (including great pictures, quotes and photos) on rwpchat storify.

So much to explore….

  •  Travel and learning

“When we travel we need to find the goriest, bloodiest stories to keep them interested in our trips” love2read

” Following Greek tweets and news services is helping me improve my lapsed Greek language skills” Vassiliki Veros

  • Natural disasters “Natural disasters have me searching google maps and reading on their geography” Vassiliki Veros
  • Mexican history and great food.
  • Exploring TV/ movies or documentaries can start an exploration of books and reading.
  • Food, recipes and menus.

“yes-its hard not to think about food when reading about Hobbits and how much they eat or think about eating” Ellen Forsyth

“reading the menu is good but eating your way through it is better” Paula Grunseit

  • Armchair travelling
  • Movies  and TV
  • Exploring one book  leads to another…


Most retweeted:

RT@Anita Heiss: “Salt’s Top 20 Bestsellers of all…

RT@coslib”I read books because…..I don’t know everything. Day 8 of Subiaco Library’s blackboard”.coslib

RT @scootes81 “Reading  ‘The Stand’ and ‘The Passage’ led me to explore the US through google maps to see where all those towns were”. Scootes81

RT@sharonu “listening to author talks by authors I’ve never read will sometimes lead me to #explore them as reading material”.Sharonu

RT @Vaveros “Armchair travelling is a favourite past time for me. I can spend hours in the 910’s in the library. Vassiliki Veros


The Count of Monte Christo by Alexandre Dumas “The epic tale of the suffering and retribution of Edmond Dantes”. love2read.

Zero Hour by S.D Perry

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

How to ditch your fairy by Justine Larbalestier

Reclaiming the American West by Lawrence B. Lee “Photos and essays about mined landscapes” Jenn Martin

Tin Tin’s pyramid of the sun by Hergé

Stories I only tell my friends: The autobiography by Rob Lowe “#explore the life behind the actor” sharonu

Sleeping around: a couch surfing tour of the globe by Brian Thacker

The hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien “Leads onto other interesting too, Like second breakfasts” Ellen Forsyth

Live and let die by Ian Fleming

The girl in steel-capped boots by LorettaHill  “allowed me to explore the Pilbara region through the eyes of a girl on a man’s world” sharonu

Percy Jackson “Allowed my boys to explore Greek mythology and Deadly Unna -Racism” L.I.T Ladies

Deadly Unna by Phillip Gwynne

Lonely Planet Guide for Italy and Spain “Great way to explore before travelling”love2read

Spirit Sisters:Australian women reveal true life stories of the paranormal by Karina Machado “Allowed me to explore the other side” sharonu

Horrible Histories

The Silmarillon by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Penguin book of the road edited by Delia Falconer “Allowed me to explore Australia by road stories” sharonu

The Lonely Planet Guide to micronations

Into the wild by Jon Krakauer

The Stand by Stephen King

The passage by Justin Cronin

Americana series by Janet Dailey “with a romance set in every US state, has contributed to my knowledge of the US” Vassiliki Veros

Ride with me  by  Ruthie Knox   ” Cyclist romance doing the Trans American trail. Great geography + love (hubs enjoyed it too!)” Vassiliki Veros

The confusion by Neal Stephenson

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson “Great exploration of history and places” Jenn Martin

Travel Guides

Lonely Planet


Jetlag travel guides “with their fictional made up countries are always very funny” Vassiliki Veros

“Dif travel guides provide dif levels of detail. I < 3 the density of Blue Guides. Each traveller needs to explore what suits them” Vassiliki Veros

Cook books

Jamie Oliver

Claudia Roden

Ballymaloe cook book(modern Irish)


Mem Fox

“Listening to author talks by authors I have never read will sometimes lead me to explore them as reading material” Vassiliki Veros

Jesse Blackadder

Matthew Reilly

Peter Watts “Wonderful storyteller, will have to explore his books” sharonu

TV show

An idiot abroad


Fitzcarraldo by Werner Herzog

Online tools  to help explore




Links to explore

Book Chook

Book Chook collection: Literacy games on pinterest

Salt’s Top 20 Best Sellers of all time

A good book should leave you…?  go to Love2read Facebook page to find out!

I read books because…..I don’t know everything. Day 8 of Subiaco Library’s blackboard.

A quote about heritage from National Trust W.A

The @booktopia and #celebratereading pile… busy days ahead. Emma Jane Phillips

The book slooth

love2read2012 wordpress blog

“Books make a home, in this case quite literally! ” Literacy Centre

Clip from Shellharbour City Libraries “I believe in reading-love the spooky spin” love2read

Jennifer Byrne presents “The Harry games” “Enjoyed YA Discussion with Jennifer Byrne and have explored YA fiction”. love2read

The thorn tree a travel forum from Lonely Planet