Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

Teen Blog

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

Month: March 2008 Page 2 of 3

The Uganda Skateboard Union

The Uganda Skateboard Union is “setting out to combat idleness and boredom among the youth of Uganda by providing a new, positive and fun outlet for them. This outlet is Skateboarding. The Organisation will focus on teaching and training Ugandan youth how to skateboard.” Their blog has many cool photos of kids grinding, kickflipping, McTwisting, and varial heel flipping.

 The library holds a few skateboarding magazines in the Young Adult section: Transworld Skateboarding  (website) and New Zealand Skateboarder. By the way.

Top 10: Antiheroes

So what’s an antihero? Counter-intuitively, an antihero isn’t a villain, they’re just a regular character with regular (and sometimes major) failings. We’re so used to reading about perfect characters in novels (see for example Peekay in The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay) that when we find one that’s kind of human they can sometimes seem worse than they really are. Personally, I find antiheroism a much more rewarding read. Here are some goodies:

  1. Sir Percy Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel by the Baroness Orczy. “They seek him here, they seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven or is he in hell? That demmed elusive Pimpernel”. Poor Lady Blakeney; she thinks she’s married to the biggest, most cowardly git in Europe. Little does she know! The Scarlet Pimpernel is an absolute classic novel set in the reign of terror following the French Revolution.
  2. Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. The best antihero since Percy (see above), I think. Never has a man worried more about his hair and his clothes in the midst of imminent disaster and an incredibly messy home.
  3. Book CoverVictor Frankenstein in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Poor old Dr Frankenstein, all he wanted to do was create life. What he got was a (largely misunderstood) monster, and several generations of people who think that Frankenstein *is* the monster, not the creator. There are really two antiheroes in this novel; Dr Frankenstein, who gets more than he bargained for and reacts badly, and the monster, who really only wants to be loved (a nature versus nurture-type thing plays out to a grim conclusion). If you haven’t read it, Frankenstein’s great.
  4. Ed Kennedy in I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. Ed’s an underage taxi driver living with a very smelly dog who plays a lot of cards with his mates (Ed, not the dog). At the beginning of the book he almost accidentally apprehends a bank robber, and his life takes some really weird twists and turns from there.
  5. Book CoverAnd on the subject: Death in The Book Thief, again by Markus Zusak. I was thinking it’d be a bit unfair to call Death a villain, so if Death’s not a villain then perhaps antihero is a better label? Check out Death in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett as well.
  6. With death on the brain now; Gabe Nevins in Paranoid Park by Blake Nelson (this has been made into a movie by Gus Van Sant). Here a young skateboarder “gets mixed up in a fight that leaves someone dead”. How do you handle that sort of secret guilt when you’re just an average teenager? If you like this you should give Right Behind You a go (Gail Giles): Kip McFarland accidentally sets someone alight; they die, and this is his huge and terrible secret.
  7. Holden Caulfield, narrator of The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger. All that whining and moaning: honestly, who could put up with it? But The Catcher in the Rye is a great read mostly because of old whiny, moany Holden. If you like The Catcher in the Rye, try King Dork by Frank Portman.
  8. Book CoverEnder Wiggin in Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Can Ender save the planet?
  9. Troy in Fat Kid Rules the World by K L Going. Making fun of the fat kid’s an obvious and tiresome sort of thing to do, and being made fun of can turn you into a most interesting antihero. This book’s got some good reviews and if you’re into music it’s worth a read.
  10. Gen in The Thief and The Queen of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner. Cocky, brash and extremely uncooperative, Gen is incarcerated for stealing from the king himself. But what happens when the king is the one in need of his services? In The Queen of Attolia, Gen rots in an Attolian prison awaiting his comeuppance… with unexpected results.

Okay, so they’re all male. Why is this, I wonder? Maybe the expectations of a patriarchal society hinder women from revealing their flaws? Maybe female writers can’t bring themselves to admit that girls do have the odd flaw? But that doesn’t make any sense. Would a female antihero work? Are there female antiheroes out there? Will keep investigating.

p.s. if you’re looking for a challenge then read The Astonishing life of Octavian Nothing, traitor to the nation, Volume 1: The pox party by M. T. Anderson, set in Boston in the 18th century during the American Revolution.

SUBTXT Review Number Nine

Night’s Child : Wicca 15
Cate Tiernan
318 pages
I feel that it’s kind of supernatural, fantasy, horror, and a bit of romance mixed together. This is the same for the other books in the Wicca series – I have read them all.

Recommend?: Once you start reading the book, you won’t want to put the book down. Because you would be caught with the same emotions as Moira as she finds out about her mother’s past and what it means for her. It is the same for Morgan (the other main character) who has to rescue her missing soul-mate of 16 years thanks to her half-sister.

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If you are (or you know someone who is) aged 15 – 17 (as at August this year), interested in science and/or the environment and are up for a free three-week trip to Japan in August read on.

The Japanese government is offering a chance to travel all expenses paid to Okinawa, Japan and study the natural environment of the place with 75 other young people from around the Asia-Pacific region. They’re looking for applications from anyone interested – Arigatou gozaimasu!

Visit here for the ‘further information’ document. Contact Tessa at the Global Education Centre for further info: 04 496 9510.

Little green things

Passionate about saving the planet? You can make a difference! Why not take part in the Sir Peter Blake Youth Environment Forum 2008 and Earth Hour 2008?

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Sonya Hartnett wins a whole lot of money

Australian author Sonya Hartnett has won the sixth annual Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, walking away with a cool 5 million kronor ($965,600!). Hartnett is an intelligent author who’s not afraid of tackling some tricky subjects. So congratulations to her, and to all those writers out there: keep working at it and one day…

I’d like to teach the world to sing…

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company
I’d like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace throughout the land
That’s the song I hear
Let the world sing today
A song of peace that echoes on
And never goes away

–  (Roger Cook, Roger Greenway, Bill Backer & Billy Davis)

On March 21, 1960, between 5000 and 7000 demonstrators gathered outside the Sharpeville police station (in South Africa) to protest apartheid “pass laws”. These laws required black South Africans to carry passes, restricting their movement and increasing segregation.

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Top 10: World War II

There’s a surprising amount of fiction about World War II, much of it inspired by true events.

  1. Book CoverThe Boy in the striped pyjamas by John Boyne. Currently everyone’s favourite Holocaust novel. How to describe without spoiling it? A story told from the perspective of an innocent boy who doesn’t realise he’s caught up in monstrous times.
  2. Milkweed, Jerry Spinelli. Again, having an independent, innocent narrator telling the story of one of the most terrible times in recent history results in a compelling novel (this time set in Warsaw, Poland): brace yourself if you’re the kind of reader who doesn’t cope well with sad stories! See which you like better, this or The Boy in the Striped Pyiamas.
  3. Falling by Anne Provoost; translated by John Nieuwenhuizen. About Holocaust denial and racial tension. The book’s won several literary awards in Europe.
  4. Yellow star, Jennifer Roy. The true story of the author’s aunt Sylvia’s experiences in the Lodz ghetto during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
  5. Book CoverThe Book thief, Markus Zusak. World War II and its fallout from the point of view of Death. We keep recommending this book because it’s good.
  6. Robert Moran, Private by Ken Catran. A New Zealand perspective.
  7. Escaping into the night by Dina D. Friedman. A horrible title, but a good book. Loosely based on actual events, the story’s about a 13 year old girl who escapes from the Warsaw ghetto. There’s adventure, mystery, and a pretty cool heroine.
  8. Book CoverEmil and Karl by Yankev Glatshteyn ; translated by Jeffrey Shandler (children’s fiction). Originally published in 1940 in Yiddish, which makes the story unique to say the least. Two boys (one Jewish, one not) find themselves family-less in Vienna (Austria) on the eve of World War II… suspenseful. This is in the children’s fiction collection, but worth a go.
  9. Maus, Art Spiegelman (graphic novel, adults). I might be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure this was the first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize. Maus tells the story of Art Spiegelman’s father’s experiences during World War II.
  10. The Dark Room, Rachel Seiffert (general fiction). Again I keep recommending this one – people must be getting sick of me. This is a really thoughtful book about the lingering guilt of being German post World War II. It’s also a really, really good example of “less is more” writing. If you’re interested in creative writing and you don’t like it when people attach three or more adjectives to everything they describe then read Rachel Seiffert. We can do with less of that flowery, over the top stuff.

Cheers, G.

Cook it, just cook it

Sam Stern has written three cookbooks for teens – and he is only 17. His recipes are fairly easy to make, and (if the photos in his books are any indication) are always delicious. We have all three books in the library: Cooking Up A Storm – The Teen Survival Cookbook; Real Food, Real Fast; and Get Cooking. His website is full of recipes from his books, new recipes, and even video recipes. 

Another handy site for recipes, by the way, is Cuisine magazine’s recipe finder. Enter in up to four ingredients and it will recommend something delicious and extravagant to cook.


If you have lots of books – or you live in a house full of books – why not organise them by colour? It looks very striking. It probably wouldn’t work in a library, what with the dewey system and all that, but at home it can’t fail!

If you do rearrange all the books at home like this, do ask your parents first (they might mind). Unless you want to really surprise them.

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