What next

I’ve retired from teaching again – this time from supply work rather than a permanent post. It was all just too “Groundhog Day” for my liking (been there, done that, have the tee-shirt). Hopefully, while job hunting, I’ll be able to begin regular posting again and reboot the music and iBook work.

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RIP UKLG

I’m currently knee deep in supply teaching work and trying to work on the Earth Balm Music material, learning much about the limitless possibilities of music software and my limited abilities on the piano keyboard on the way. I have a day’s break today and just as well because I feel compelled to post about the passing of the great Ursula K Le Guin. The news has finally made up my mind for me – she is my favourite author of all that I have read (and she is in some high calibre company with Rosemary Sutcliff, Joan Aiken, Susan Cooper, Philippa Pearce etc.). Her characters are so well developed, her books explore ideas about social systems and politics so subtly and she handles big plot moments so delicately. I’m about to radically thin out my book collection and I’m keeping all of my UKLG books as I know I’ll only regret losing them if I pass them on. Please, let her be known as more than just a science fiction / fantasy author because she was so much more.

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Photograph of author Ursula K Le Guin. Source Wikipedia, credit Gorthian.

Here is a quote from Ursula’s Wikipedia page:

Le Guin exploits the creative flexibility of the science fiction and fantasy genres to undertake thorough explorations of dimensions of both social and psychological identity and of broader cultural and social structures. In doing so, she draws on sociology, anthropology, and psychology leading some critics to categorize her work as soft science fiction. She objected to this classification of her writing, arguing the term is divisive and implies a narrow view of what constitutes valid science fiction. Underlying ideas of anarchism and environmentalism also make repeated appearances throughout Le Guin’s work

Narrative text illustration

One of the reasons that I was an avid reader of narrative writing in my childhood was the quality of book illustration in the 1960s.  I was reminded of this recently when re-reading one of my favourite children’s anthologies: Philippa Pearce‘s “What the Neighbours Did“. The illustrator for my edition of the book is Faith Jaques and I love this work. I’d like to post a scan of one of the drawings and hope it will not offend / contravene any copyright.

Victor G Ambrus’s work has also been an inspiration and a source of enjoyment.

More recently, I have enjoyed Peter Bailey’s illustrations for Corgi Yearling‘s editions of Philip Pullman‘s children’s books and Dick de Wilde’s illustrations in Bill Naughton‘s anthology “The Goalkeeper’s Revenge“.

It is probably just nostalgia but I’m sure that the scratchiness and quality of line in these black and white illustrations have more character than modern digitally created work (Ooh! Did I really say that?).

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Illustration by Victor Ambrus from “Russian Blue” book by Helen Griffiths (copyright Hutchinson Books).
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Illustration by Dick de Wilde from “The Goalkeeper’s Revenge” by Bill Naughton (copyright Puffin books).
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Illustration by Faith Jaques from “What the Neighbours Did” by Philipa Pearce (copyright Puffin books).

Tyke Tiler

There was very little on TV last night that I considered worth watching so I went to bed and re-read Gene Kemp’s “The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler“.

It’s so obvious that the author worked as a teacher, the book is full of references to everyday life in a primary school that are as true now as when the book was published in the late 70s.

Kemp’s characterisations are well developed without the need to describe the children in great detail – their actions speak for themselves. The teachers featured in the narrative are such accurate characterisations – we all know a teacher like each one of them. I might even be able to recognise myself in one or two of them. Other people might recognise me in different ones :).

And even though I knew of the revelation on the penultimate page, it was still as enjoyable and still as much a surprise when it came. On re-reading, the clues are there throughout the narrative.

If I still had year six, I’d be using this as a class reader.

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Snow Spider finished

I finished reading the “Snow Spider” trilogy by Jenny Nimmo a few days ago but have been too busy with school work to post.

It’s a great trilogy and the book comes to a well written and plotted end that ties all plot lines together. There was no over-blown finale just a gentle kind of conflict with characters who regretted having to choose a violent solution. That much reminded me of Ursula K LeGuin’s “Earthsea” series.

I’ve found a copy of Joan Aiken’s “The Scream” in the school library so I’ll be starting on that book next.

I’m also on a 2 week break so expect me to be making a nuisance of myself posting to this blog.

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Jenny Nimmo – Snowspider

I finished reading the second of Jenny Nimmo’s “Snow Spider” trilogy mid week. “Emlyn’s Moon” turned out to be a well told and plotted novel, much darker and creepy than the “Snow Spider” novel itself. It helps that it has a female protagonist – Nia and the story is told very much from her point of view (but in the third person). The final book of the trilogy “The Chestnut Soldier” is even darker and more menacing. Nina is once again the main character and Gwyn (from the first book) takes very much a back seat.For me it’s suitable for children a little older than the other two novels although I’m sure that my ‘adult’ reading of elements of the plot would go over the head of most child readers. Again, I’m looking forward to seeing how the plot resolves itself.

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Emlyn’s Moon

I’m currently reading the second book of the “Snow Spider” trilogy – “Emlyn’s Moon”. It’s a great read. It’s more about the character Nia than the titular Emlyn at the moment. There are some truly effective passages that I know I’ll use in the future with my class(es) as exemplar of descriptive writing. There’s a kind of spiritual awakening for the main character Nia through the book and I’m looking forward to reading the resolution of her personal problems. The book is much more about the characters than the first in the trilogy. The narrative is less linear than “The Snow Spider” too.

Apologies for my ‘lumpy’ expressions in this post but it’s difficult to express my enthusiasm for this book in the trilogy.

Edit: just to explain and to clear up any misunderstanding, I love this book!

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