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Teen Blog

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

Category: B. Spinach

Rick Riordan Presents… Some Seriously Good Stories

If you’re a fan of the Percy Jackson universe, or any one of Rick Riordan’s intertwining demi-god fantasy worlds, you’ll know that what he specialises in is taking a mythology (Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian…) and putting it in the contemporary world. Cue heroes, gods, teens with powers and some excellent action sequences. He’s a well known writer and he’s written a lot. A whole lot, I just Googled it and it’s over 40 books at least, yikes.

Here’s something I just found out about him: he is also involved in Rick Riordan Presents which is a publishing project under the Disney-Hyperion umbrella. These books involve the mythologies (in a broad sense) of a range of underrepresented cultures and backgrounds and are written by authors with the cultures and backgrounds they are writing about. It is an amazing way for Riordan to use his platform to get voices, who might otherwise be unheard, into the mainstream.  As his website says: it’s about letting people tell their own stories. Riordan acts as an editor for these works but they are entirely the property of and ideas of each individual author. How cool would it be to be a young/up-and-coming author and have your work picked up by Riordan?!

In fact the Korean NZ author Graci Kim is having a book published through Rick Riordan Presents next year that centres on a clan of Korean-American witches living in LA!  This will be Kim’s debut novel (first book). It sounds amazing, read the blurb here so you can get all hyped about it before it comes out next year in May.

A few things about the Rick Riordan Presents books: NO they are not set in the Percy Jackson world. YES they feature mythology and action in the same way that Riordan’s books do!

Rick Riordan reckons you’ll like them and so do I. The library has many of these books available in hard copy and also some online from one of our book borrowing apps called OverDrive.

Dragon Pearl / Lee, Yoon Ha
“A sci-fi adventure about a girl who stows away on a battle cruiser to solve the mystery of her missing brother. Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents Yoon Ha Lee’s space opera about thirteen-year-old Min, who comes from a long line of fox spirits.
But you’d never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times.
Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.
When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.
Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.
This sci-fi adventure with the underpinnings of Korean mythology will transport you to a world far beyond your imagination.” (Catalogue)

The storm runner / Cervantes, Jennifer
“A contemporary adventure based on Maya mythology from Rick Riordan Presents! Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents J.C. Cervantes’ contemporary adventure based on Maya mythology.
Zane has always enjoyed exploring the dormant volcano near his home in New Mexico, even though hiking it is challenging. He’d much rather hang out there with his dog, Rosie, than go to middle school, where kids call him Sir Limps a Lot, McGimpster, or Uno–for his one good leg.
What Zane doesn’t know is that the volcano is a gateway to another world and he is at the center of a powerful prophecy. A new girl at school, Brooks, informs him that he’s destined to release an evil god from the ancient Maya relic he is imprisoned in–unless she can find and remove it first.
Together they return to the volcano, where all kinds of crazy happens. Brooks turns into a hawk, a demon attacks them in a cave, and Rosie gives her all while trying to protect Zane.
When Zane decides to save his dog no matter the cost, he is thrust into an adventure full of surprising discoveries, dangerous secrets, and an all-out war between the gods, one of whom happens to be his father. To survive, Zane will have to become the Storm Runner. But how can he run when he can’t even walk well without a cane?” (Catalogue)

Aru Shah and the song of death / Chokshi, Roshani
Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents best-selling author Roshani Chokshi and her sequel to Aru Shah and the End of Time.
Aru is only just getting the hang of this whole Pandava thing when the Otherworld goes into full panic mode. The god of love’s bow and arrow have gone missing, and the thief isn’t playing Cupid. Instead, they’re turning people into heartless fighting-machine zombies.
If that weren’t bad enough, somehow Aru gets framed as the thief. If she doesn’t find the arrow by the next full moon, she’ll be kicked out of the Otherworld. For good.
But, for better or worse, she won’t be going it alone. Along with her soul-sister, Mini, Aru will team up with Brynne, an ultra-strong girl who knows more than she lets on, and Aiden, the boy who lives across the street and is also hiding plenty of secrets. Together they’ll battle demons, travel through a glittering and dangerous serpent realm, and discover that their enemy isn’t at all who they expected.” (Catalogue)

Newly 18? Not 18 yet but want to know more about the election?

Hello to the newly 18-year-olds (and anyone else) who wants to know a bit more about the upcoming election…

2020 is an ELECTION year for Aotearoa/New Zealand! The election is on SATURDAY THE 17th OF OCTOBER.

Voting in the election is one of the main ways that you as a person who lives in Aotearoa/NZ get to have your say about what happens in your country. Everyone has different priorities, backgrounds, beliefs and opinions which inform how they vote in the election.

This year as well as voting in the General Election you get the chance to have your say on two REFERENDUMS, the Cannabis Legalisation and Control referendum and the End of Life Choice referendum. You get to have your say on these at the same time as you cast your vote in the General Election.

It can be really exciting voting in your first election but it can also be kind of daunting. The best thing you can do for yourself, so that you know that you’re making a vote that aligns with the things that are important to you, and for the wider community by making an informed vote, is to get some information about the POLICY each of the political parties is putting forward. A good place to start can be going to each of the parties official websites and reading through their policy section, this is a good way to gauge what each party stands for and what ideas they each have about Aotearoa/NZ’s future.

Make sure you also put some time and thought into learning more about the referendums and reading through them. There are some great resources that outline what these referendums mean in straight forward terms and answer some common questions about them.

Make sure you’re ENROLLED TO VOTE, KNOW WHAT YOUR ELECTORATE IS (what region of the country you are voting in),  KNOW WHERE YOUR LOCAL VOTING PLACE IS and have done some solid information-seeking so you’re ready to cast your vote on the day!

For bonus credit, if you’re 17, you can actually fill out an enrolment form now, and then the moment you turn 18, you’ll automatically be added to the electoral roll. Find out how here!

Vote.nz or Elections.nz are key places to get information

https://vote.nz/

https://elections.nz/

Information on Both Referendums

https://www.referendums.govt.nz/

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.

Who Are We Really?

Dear readers, none have asked, but some may have wondered: who are the strange and wonderful people who write for this illustrious publication? Look no further. We’ve delved deep underground, into the very lairs of these mysterious bloggers, and we’ve brought forth poetic riches the likes of which have never been seen. That’s right, I forced them all to write haiku about themselves to introduce themselves to you! In alphabetical order, no less. Here goes.

First we have the ever-wise B. Spinach. When she’s not tirelessly working the fields to bring more of that herbaceous delight into her house and onto her plate, she can be found somewhere in the pages of Louis Sachar’s The Cardturner:

Aspires to paint a
mural, but so far just makes
tiny paper planes.

Next is the indomitable Catherine, whose book-treat of choice is Margaret Mahy’s The Tricksters:

I had to write a
haiku; this is the result.
Let’s all blame Stephen.

Truly moving. Next up is the enigmatic Maiph. Purveyor of knitted goods and slayer of the leviathan, their literary musings chiefly concern the excellent The Owl Service by Alan Garner, and their inscrutable poetic waxings and wanings are represented below:

Inscrutable, yet
easily scruted when I
am tangled in yarn.

Finally, it is I, Stephen, your humble administrator. The title that sparks the most joy for me currently is Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe:

Moonlight falls softly
upon a nerd; He sleeps, eats,
but mostly he sleeps.

You, too, can write a haiku. Or a novel. Join us over at our online creative writing group at the NaNoWriMo Young Writers’ Programme (classroom code is CWRNJDZH), and don’t forget to join our Discord once you get in!

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.