Friday, 30 November 2007

The role of books in our school curriculum

At school we are only expected to read a novel for the exams. Our class read To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. This was so we could learn the importance of racial equality.

In second year we also read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. This book really got people in my class reading as it was funny, interesting and well written. Everyone enjoyed reading it.

However, there are not enough books in school to promote reading. The only book that’s on the course is the one for the actual exam, and it tends to be very academic, even boring.

I think that more books like Heroin (Maverick House, 2006) should be used in my school and other schools across the country. They should give us books that we can enjoy reading and can learn something from.

This year I’m in Transition Year and there is more free time, both during and after school, to read. My year head told our class to bring our own books to read when we have a free class. This is a great opportunity to get pupils reading. However, I appear to be the only one grasping the opportunity. Is this because most of my class mates were never really encouraged to read in the first place?

Perhaps, if it had been done earlier there would be more of us reading today. Even so, I think there is still a chance. By introducing more exciting, interesting, closer-to-home books, such as Heroin, the numbers of teenagers reading will rise. This way we will both be encouraged to read and to stay off drugs.

by Rebecca-Rose (15), Ireland

Friday, 23 November 2007

My experience with the Mavericks

Ever since I was seven I knew I wanted to be an author. It started when my mother was reading a magazine and I looked over her shoulder to see what she was reading. And suddenly, after seven years of illiteracy, I read out the whole article word perfect, and found out that I had a reading ability of a 12-year-old. After that I spent day and night thinking up stories in my head, and I still do till this day…..

So, nine years later, when I found out that I got into Transition Year, and would be doing work experience, I knew I wanted to do something to do with writing or books. So when Mom told me that she knew someone who owns a publishing company and asked me if I wanted to do work experience there, I instantly said yes.

So here I am on my last day with Maverick House Publishers. I really enjoyed my time here and really felt part of the team, instead of just a third wheel. I thought that everyone was friendly and made me feel welcome. Everybody took the time out to teach me as much as they could about publishing. This really meant a lot to me as they probably had better things to do than teaching a teenager. It was much appreciated.

I now feel that I can be a better writer after all the tips they have given me, even if only in English class.

I don’t know if I will actually take up publishing, or even writing, but this experience was still invaluable. I hope I will be able to take everything I have learnt from here and really apply it to my writing.

So thank you to everyone at Maverick House for putting up with me and giving me this fantastic opportunity. You have all been great; every moment was a pleasure and I will miss you all.

Thank you once again,

Rebecca-Rose Santamaria

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Musings from a book fair

Frankfurt Book Fair (2007) - After days of trying to keep up as our editorial director wheeled and dealed with distributors, publishers and sales agents from around the world, I finally got a chance to explore some of the thousands of exhibitions at the world’s biggest book fair.

I stumbled across a hall reserved exclusively for children’s books, and I was amazed by the extravaganza of colour, gimmicks and packaging on display.

Under the influence of coffee and orange juice (or should I say kaffee and orangesaft), my bitter inner child awoke as he realised how deprived he had been. I don’t remember my middle-class parents spending a baht on fancy activity books with stickers, magnets and sound effects; they only bought textbooks for school.

Yes, they did value education; however, to them, education did not include fun or bright packaging.

The hall was full of adults making deals and drinking wine in the fairy-tale setting. Standing there made me realise, business and profit aside, how important books are in shaping young minds, and I was particularly pleased to come across a book about a young girl named Camille, whose series of illustrated tales were a language unknown to me. From what I could gather, the book recounts how she befriends a black classmate, playing seesaw with him. In return for her hospitality, the boy offers Camille a candy. A lovely little story, isn’t it?

Perhaps children’s books shouldn’t be called children’s books, but rather books produced by adults for children. Then again, it is our obligation to teach children new things we weren’t taught when we were young, for the world is ever changing. (Perhaps the next mum-and-cub polar bear tale should include a thing or two about the effects of global warming?)

In contrast to the happy-go-lucky themes found in children’s books, most grown-up books are damn serious: genocide, wa, etc. Plus their pages are full of small letters. Boriiiing!

The contrast between adult’s books and children’s made me wonder: if everyone had read Camille’s story, would the world be a better place by now? I believe books are meant to educate readers’ souls and minds. How do we then go from decades to centuries without any real progress? The world seems to be a darker place with each passing day. After who-knows-how many years of passing on our mistakes and virtues from generation to generation through literature, shouldn’t we be making progress? Or are we just innately violent and cruel, no matter how many books we read?

-Pornchai S