Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

Teen Blog

Reading, Wellington, and whatever else – teenblog@wcl.govt.nz

Category: stuff to learn

New Simultaneous Collections on OverDrive!

We heard a rumour that you guys might quite like books. We also like books. So, we’ve created a new collection of always-available eBooks and audiobooks for you to enjoy any time, anywhere. Check out the Teen Book Club Reads section on OverDrive or Libby for the full list, but for now, here are some of our faves:

Overdrive cover Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan (ebook)
{LGBTQ+, romance, slice-of-life}
Two Boys Kissing is a cornerstone work of queer YA literature. Told from the perspectives of four boys “under the watchful eyes of a Greek chorus of a generation of men lost to AIDS,” this book explores questions of identity and emotion, and the often intimate connections between history and the personal. While you’re drying your eyes and restoring your breathing patterns to normal following this essential book, check out our LGBTQIA+ Fiction booklist for your next literary fix.

Overdrive cover Aspiring, Damien Wilkins (ebook)
{NZ author, small town, coming-of-age}
We’ve already talked about our enduring love for this book, which is a finalist in the 2020 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, on a previous post on this very blog. Trust us when we say that you will not regret immersing yourself in the unforgettably wry and observational voice of 15-year-old Ricky, crafted and shaped by Damien Wilkins’ bold and beguiling prose.

Overdrive cover Monster, Michael Grant (ebook)
{dystopian, science fiction, action}
From the author of the crazily popular Gone series comes this new trilogy, available for the first time on OverDrive as a Book Club read. In the aftermath of the Perdido Beach meteorite and the deadly wave of mutations that followed, Earth is once again being struck by meteorites bearing an even more deadly virus. This time, the whole world is exposed, and humans are beginning to change, again, some gaining unfathomable power. Sound like your kind of thing? We have the follow-ups Hero and Villain available for your delectation as well.

Overdrive cover You Can Do a Graphic Novel, Barbara Slate (ebook)
{non fiction, art, creative writing, comics}
If you’ve ever been interested in the art of creating graphic novels and comics, this nifty guide is meant for you! It starts at the start — with the story — and shows you the ropes as you move through the whole creative process, from drawing techniques and layout/structure tips, to how to deal with creative block and building strong and recognisable characters. Who knows, we may just see your work on our shelves in the zine collections at Arapaki, He Matapihi, and Newtown Libraries!

Overdrive cover Feminism, Nadia Abushanab Higgins (ebook)
{non fiction, feminism, social sciences, women}
This book is a concise and well-written introduction to the concepts and movements embodied by the word ‘feminism,’ which author Nadia Abushanab Higgins describes as “America’s new F-word.” Although it does have an undeniable focus on the history and contemporary definitions of feminism in the United States, it still provides a useful international perspective on the movement through really interesting profiles of pioneers including Gloria Steinem, Rebecca Walker, Elizabeth Stanton, and more. If you’re interested in the intersectionality between feminism and the Black Lives Matter and #GiveNothingToRacism movements, we have a great introduction for you here.

Fighting off the boredom with PapersPast

Are you really, incredibly, horrendously and hyperbolically bored? I know. Me too. Lockdown is still, absolutely, the right thing to be doing but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or fun or not boring.

This is just a teeny blog post but the resource I’m highlighting here can provide hours of interesting scrolling. There is a site called PapersPast that anyone can access for FREE and it is a digitised and readable form of hundreds of the newspapers and magazines from Aotearoa/New Zealand’s past. It’s a resource from the National Library of New Zealand and is a great example of how informative and interesting archival material can be.

This site is for you if:

  • You want to learn more about local history.
  • You’ve got really hooked on researching genealogy, what with ancestry.com being available from home at the moment and all!
  • You want to read newspapers but are, sensibly, limiting yourself to current news intake as there is only so much news it is healthy to consume at this time.
  • You’re bored and want something to do.
  • You’ve become increasingly interested in news and the media and the role it plays in the world through seeing the impact that is has at a time like this.
  • You’re studying history at school and you need to find some primary sources for a project.

NOTE: Old school newspapers may not be quite what you expect. Back in the day they were such a foundational and unique resource that people and communities put all sorts of stuff in there. Sometimes they feel more like blogs or Facebook feeds than they do contemporary print media. If someone loses their favourite knitted beanie ...they probably didn’t call them beanies back then… where does the word beanie even come from?...  on Cuba street back in the early 1900s, everybody knows about it! That kinda thing. It’s weird and fascinating. We’re keen to see what kind of stuff you’re able to find!

Doing Classics at School? We got ya!

So, school is still a thing? Right?! I’m betting it is pretty hard to do school stuff from home as well as be around your family/bubble crew all day, as well as deal with what’s going on in the world. Lots of stuff happening, we can all agree. As I’m sure you know your teachers are doing everything they can in these hard times to keep your education ticking so be sure to say a massive thank you to the teachers in your life whenever you get a chance!

I thought I would put together a list of resources for anyone who is a CLASSICS student and is studying The Big Three.

Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, you ask?… (remembering the good ‘ol days of Percy Jackson)

No. The Odyssey, The Iliad and The Aeneid. These are three really common texts for senior High School Classics students to come across. If you’re doing something else at school -I’m sorry!- I’ll include some general resources in the bottom of this post.

Note: just like Shakespeare there are lots of different versions of ancient texts, with different page numbers, line numbers and even order of events. If you remember that a lot of these works are actually works of epic poetry it makes sense that depending on interpretation there might be quite different methods of presentation.  Remembering that some of it is poetry helps with reading it too, stick to the beat and rhyme rather than getting caught up in all the particulars and then later on go back and look up individual words you need to.

So: Check with your teacher what version of the text you are meant to be using!!!

Also: Heads up! Lots of ancient texts contain stories and imagery of violence and sexual violence, so look after yourself and check ratings of stuff (or avoid it completely if you need, talk to your teacher) if you are watching film versions.


Odyssey / Homer

Overdrive coverMini bio: Odysseus, after fighting in the Trojan War, tries to return back home to Ithaca and his wife Penelope, but because a lot of weird stuff happens to him, it takes ten years…you heard that right: ten years! 

  • This is a foundational example of a heroes quest.         
  • Odysseus is repeatedly shown to have the traits of Ancient Greek heroism through the ways that he defeats and overcomes the trials/tasks of his journey.
  • This story has been incredibly influential on storytelling since and is considered a fundamental text in our understanding of the time and ideas around manhood, heroism and what a quest is. In the end this is ultimately an adventure romp with villains, monsters, hot women with ulterior motives and a fair bit of magic.
  • In the context of this time and story, Odysseus’ decisions (somehow including the seven year fling) are meant to show that he is ultimately faithful to his his wife and overcomes temptation. I know, I know…MASSIVE double standards for men and women around sex and marriage… but back then they thought he did good!

The Iliad / Homer

Overdrive cover

Wee bit back in time from The Odyssey. Essentially a prequel to it with overlapping characters but different leads. Takes place during the Trojan War.

Mini bio: This book is set in the final weeks of the Trojan War, which if you think about it it a pretty interesting plot device, to start at the end of something. Lots of previous events are spoken of and implied but not shown. Essentially the Greeks are surrounding Troy because Paris, a prince of Troy took Menelaus, the King of Sparta’s wife Helen back with him from Greece to Troy. She is ‘the most beautiful woman in the world blah blah blah.’ Spoiler: the Greek side wins because of the horse, you know the rest. It’s in pop culture big time.

Featuring famous characters like: our old friend Odysseus, Achilles, Hector, Paris, Helen, many other mortals and a whole bunch of gods such as Zeus, Hera, Athena, Aphrodite…

If you want to see a film version of this with some seriously famous leads watch 2004’s TROY. Not a substitute for reading the text, the plot varies a bit, but a pretty fun movie.


The Aeneid / Virgil

Overdrive cover

While the other two are GREEK stories this one is ROMAN. This story is written to detail the story of the founding of Rome. So basically when the Greeks storm Troy via a very crafty wooden horse, most of the Trojans are killed but Aeneas gets together a group of survivors who escape and sail out of Troy go on an adventure and eventually make it to Italy where he founds Rome. Dido, who is the Queen of Carthage falls in love with Aeneas for a period, eventually the gods remind him of his destiny and he leaves her to continue on his journey to Italy.

Importantly this story has as much to do with the Roman politician and ruler at the time, AUGUSTUS, as it does the foundation of Rome. There are constantly parallels made between Augustus and Aeneas and the Roman political state of the time this text was being written. It can be understood as political propaganda in this way, a statement and praise of Virgil’s political moment in time. This said, Virgil’s motives and ideas are not that straightforward and he also uses this text to comment negatively on the politics of his time, it’s a double whammy.


In summary

Episode one: The Iliad, The Greek armies win the war against Troy with a wooden horse. Lots of other stuff happens.

Episode two: The Odyssey, Odysseus takes a really ridiculously long amount of time to get home after fighting in the Trojan War. He does get home eventually. Lots of stuff happens.

Episode three (takes place at the same time as The Odyssey, kind of in a wiggly ancient history way, well at least starts after the Trojan War like The Odyssey): The Aeneid, Aeneas takes a really ridiculously long time to get to Italy and found Rome after he escapes from Troy after the Trojan War. Lots of other stuff happens.

If you want to learn things and read something entertaining check out Stephen Fry’s Mythos and Heroes! For something less serious, Courtney Carbone’s Greek Gods (#squadgoals) really hits the spot.

Overdrive coverOverdrive coverOverdrive cover

Five Days in the Life: A Review(ish) of MangoLanguages

Hello, B. Spinach here. Another week in lockdown Wellington is upon us and I’m really starting to feel sad that a Spanish language course I had signed up for, and is obviously not running, has been postponed. I was really pumped to meet new people and get my brain, mouth and thoughts around a whole new set of sounds to communicate with. So I have decided to do something about it with —drum roll please– one of Wellington City Libraries awesome resources: MangoLanguages!

You might be familiar with the app DuoLingo? It’s a goodie. The Italian and French courses that I did (only to a very basic level) were invaluable when I was travelling in Europe last year. So for that DuoLingo, Merci beaucoup! Well MangoLanguages is a little bit like that, but like all online language learning software it’s got its own particular format and way of doing things. It’s a really effective and well designed programme that offers 71 different language courses all of which you can access for free if you are a WCL card holder (it just takes your library card number and your PIN and you’re good to go my friend). I would like to point out that MangoLanguages is an American-run app and does not have a te reo Māori course or Pacific languages from our part of the world, so it won’t be the right tool to fulfill your reo needs.

I’ve gone for the introductory Spanish module. Firstly I am very mono-lingual so this is quite new and exciting. Secondly this post is only going to track five days and five lessons which is a WOEFULLY small sample size, but hey, hopefully it’s interesting for you to see what it’s like to dip your toes in this software and also useful for me to make sure that I stick to my plan.

To give you a feeling of what this looks like introductory Spanish is divided up into five main units, which are in turn divided into chapters inside of which there are lessons. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, don’t worry! For Spanish, the five units are: Introductions, Connections, Community, Lifestyle, and Ambition. For this blog I’m just doing the smallest sized chunk I can, because this seems sustainable, so I am doing a single lesson every day. I should mention also that there are additional units with tantalising titles like: Romance, Text Talk, Medical, Spanish for Librarians… I know we’re all drooling about that last one.


Day UNO

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty tired today and it has been hard to focus generally. Regardless I did a lesson and managed to to do the whole thing happily. I really like the format of these lessons. There is a timer feature for you to practice the words after first being introduced to them. This seemed stressful at first but even on a tired brain I managed to happily piece together the sentences with individual words I had learned. The timer kept a good pace, I like it.

“Hello, how are you today?”                                                                                                       “Hola, ¿cómo estás hoy?”

I will be interested to see how much sticks in my tired brain for tomorrow but is quite a testament to the lesson that it grabbed my attention easier than all the chirpy TV I have been struggling to focus on today. Buenas noches.


Day DOS

So I have more energy today, excellent. I have gone for a run, done some work, watched YouTube, played frisbee, written an email, cooked food…you know, general adult stuff… and now it’s time for Spanish. Though the energy is higher today the word I related to the most is cansado, which means tired. Hmm… maybe I do need sleep after all.

Some thoughts:                                                                                          – I’m really impressed with the sound quality (would recommend headphones).
– I’ve remembered a surprising amount since yesterday, cool.                                          – – The rate of repetition is excellent. Just when something is slipping out of your brain it comes back into circulation. Doesn’t feel like a chore, more like a game/ 10/10.


Day TRES 

Day three, whoop! A beautiful Wellington day. Today’s Spanish was good, it’s really fun getting my mouth around the Spanish words. It’s worth listening carefully to the demo, just to get the softness of the T’s and get just how the double L (ll) sounds, and other letters that are said differently in English.

P.S fun fact! Did you know that llamas…yes those cute giant furry animals…are actually meant to be said with a Y sound. So like Ya-maas, if you’re sounding it out. Cool right!


Day CUATRO

Took me four days to realise this but if you click on any of the Spanish terms a little box comes up with how you say this phonetically! Don’t wait four days to work this out, it is very helpful. Also I’m on to slightly more complicated sentences now and it is helpfully showing the literal vs. equivalent phrase when word orders vary between the languages.


Day CINCO

I made it. Mini celebration. A smooth run today, I’ve got into the swing of it and am really milking the review section to keep on top of words I learned earlier in the week.

Final fun fact: Days of the Week are not capitalised like they are in English. There you go, now you know a new thing too!


My conclusion

I really like MangoLanguages! I know, a surprise right? But no, in sincerity, being in lockdown has been a really strange time for me finding any kind of focus let alone learning something totally new, and even so I have really enjoyed MangoLanguages. It is going to become a proper habit, like brushing my teeth or drinking coffee every morning. Anyway, B. Spinach out. Hope lockdown is treating you all okay and you’re finding ways to be really nice to yourself and everyone in your bubble and the world outside.

What do you say?/Was sagst du?/He aha tō whakaaro?

You’re back at school now, you might be learning a language, you might not be learning a language, you might want to learn a language… Well! For any of you interested in starting, or brushing up on a language you started a while ago, or trying to launch yourself to the top of the class, we’ve got some tools to help you with that! And these online tools that we offer do not come with a threatening and eerie owl that accosts and harangues you until you meet your language goals (even though ominous owls are something I’m particularly interested in, it’s best to be safe in these circumstances).

Anyway. The two resources I’m writing about are LanguageNut and Mango Languages, which can be found on our language resources page. Both are free for you to use, all you have to do is plug in your library card number and your pin and you’re away.

Mango Languages has many languages for you to choose, from Greek (Ancient) to Greek (Modern), from Bengali to Yiddish, from Irish to Tamil, there’ll be something to interest you. You can even learn to talk like a pirate, or insult someone the way Shakespeare would have!

A screenshot taken from Unit 1, Chapter 1, Lesson 2 of the Pirate language course. The phrase in English is "Stop your messing around and quickly align the ship with the wind!". In Pirate the phrase is "Belay yer carousin' and haul wind smartly!" A screenshot taken from Unit 1, Chapter 1, Lesson 8 of the English (Shakespearean) language course. The phrase in English is "No, as they dare. I will give them the finger; which is an insult, if they take it.". In English (Shakespearean) the phrase is "Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at them; which is a disgrace, if they bear it."

LanguageNut has fewer languages, but they’ve got a fun selection of games and activities to help you revise before you test yourself. And they’ve got a good selection of Pasifika languages, including Māori!

So what language will you choose? You could learn Spanish, German, Japanese, and Hebrew to catch up with Natalie Portman, or Greek, Spanish, and French to catch up with Tom Hiddleston. Seriously. Some friends of mine started teaching themselves German in high school because of a German pop rock band. And they still remember some of the language that they managed to teach themselves in that eight month period! What have you got to lose?

And we’d love to hear from you, in whatever language you’d like to use. Get in touch with us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram and give us your best Shakespearean insult, your most carousin’ piratical expression, or just let us know what you’ve been up to during the lockdown!

 

Check Your History with Bridget Williams Books

You know those little white books with coloured spines you see by the counter at bookshops?  -back in the day when you were allowed to leave your house to go to bookshops and libraries, two weeks and a different world ago- Well, those little books are some of the amazing books published by Bridget Williams Books (BWB).

I think that lots of people never really think about the people who are involved in editing and publication.  They slip under the radar a lot. We think about the person or people who wrote the book and who end up reading it but the truth is that a LOT happens to the book between someone writing it and you reading it! If you’re a creative writer or do much writing for school you’ll probably know that it is an entirely different headspace and process between writing and editing. I wrote a very rough draft of this blog post in a scrappy old paper book before I ever touched the keys.

Bridget Williams has been publishing in Aotearoa/New Zealand since 1976. If you’ve ever read or seen The Oxford History of New Zealand, Tangata Whenua:  An Illustrated History or A History of New Zealand Women, she has been involved in all of these. These days she is the director and publisher of BWB and continues to be part of the creation of some of the most important local writing that’s being made.

BWB has a focus on telling stories from this country and puts emphasis on publishing with and for Māori. They are interested in exploring the experience of people who live on these islands and being a platform for voices that have historically not had a platform to speak from.

(Side note: Try looking at all the books on your/anyone’s bookshelf and count how many of them are: written by someone from Aotearoa/New Zealand, written by women or genderqueer people, written by indigenous people, published in New Zealand, have an LGBTQ+ author or content … Also how many different languages are on your bookshelf?)

As you can’t run down to the library right now (even though I know you really really want to) and check out these books in person, what you do have access to is their  amazing online resources. If you’ve got a research project for school, or are just looking for some words to fill the extra time you’ve got at home, these are awesome resources to explore: just plug in your library card number and your PIN and you’re good to go!

Bridget Williams Books – Text Collection: for all your bookish needs — we all know you have them!

Bridget Williams Books – The NZ History Collection: for all your historical needs.

Bridget Williams Books – Treaty of Waitangi Collection: for all your Te Tiriti needs.