Celebrating the freedom to read – gearing up for Banned Books Week

We’re gearing up for Banned Books Week next week when we celebrate the freedom to read, and the freedom for all people to access information, by highlighting books which have been (or are) banned in different parts of the world. Basically, it’s a time to collectively insist on the free expression and exchange of ideas.

We have a designated area for people who wish to be photographed reading a banned book. Don’t miss out on your turn to make yourself comfortable on our royal chair (replete with velvet seat and gold-painted arm rests) to read (or pretend to read) the banned book of your choice.

Image (2)

Image (3) Image (4) Image (5)

be seen

10511312_10152736460908281_77118760020918605_n 10599376_10152736462718281_3796442694539235543_n 10612836_10152736462963281_8591199533332896520_n 10615470_10152736462613281_4007509211275199449_n 10616377_10152736461433281_4943820062621328795_n 10626669_10152736462923281_1291805785145126817_n 10653560_10152736462783281_6250540386125402624_n 10653579_10152736462403281_3109441835008358656_n Image (1)

Don’t fancy being killed in a traditional duel? Then Tea Duelling is for you! Coming soon to MHS

Photo source

Michael Pryor (Master of Steampunk) will be visiting us on October 17. We have decided to host the Inaugural MHS Tea Duel to celebrate this event and enter into the culture of Steampunk. Tea Duelling has become an integral part of Steampunkery; there are very strict rules & codes of conduct to be adhered to when duelling. Students, if you think you are up to the challenge, first watch the following videos, then come into the library to read the rules and sign up.

Respect to Denise Beanland for having the strength of character to read through the guidance on the organisation of official tea duelling competitions – not for the faint hearted. The rules of the duel are to be found in the articles of the honourable association of tea duellists (third edition 1899) – as compiled by the signatories of The Hague Convention, December 1899.

I’ve included some of the specifications:

  • The only permissible beverage is tea. Coffee and chocolate are strictly prohibited.
  • This beverage should be no less than 65 degrees at the time of competition
  • The drinking vessel, known as “The Keg” shall be no less than three and one quarter in depth
  • The Tiffin Master shall supply the bisquits. Ordinarily these are “Malted Milk”
    otherwise known as “Cows”
  • On the command “choose your weapons” the dunkers will each select a single
  • if the Tiffin Master is happy that there has been a clean dunk he shall count to five.
  • Once five has been counted and the bisquit removed the dunkers shall attempt to eat
    the bisquit. 94% as adjudged by the Tiffin Master must end up in the dunker’s mouth for a clean

If this sounds like an activity you would enjoy, and you are a student at Melbourne High School, please come to the library and sign up.

These videos give you an idea of how it all works:

Visit The Honourable Association of Tea Duellists for more information.

Review: Mao’s Last Dancer (Li Cunxin) by Michael Nguyen

Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin

Young Reader’s Edition

Just this week I had finished reading the autobiography novel, ‘Mao’s last dancer’ by Li Cunxin. I found the book to be a very interesting read as it was very inspiring and emotional. What I find most interesting is the fact that Li Cunxin published three editions of the book, a picture book edition, a young reader’s edition and a more advanced edition targeted at adults or mature teens.

Li Cunxin brings to us a simplistic yet very interesting and captivating autobiography. He writes the story so well that readers can step into his shoes and imagine out the adventure he took experiencing the many hardships and obstacles that Li needed to overcome. Because of this, I was unable to put down the book.

Li Cunxin was the 6th of 7 sons born to a poor family in rural China. When Chairman and Madame Mao started their “cultural revolution” and decided to revive the Peking Dance Academy, they sent representatives throughout the country to find promising musical and artistic talent specifically from the children of peasants, workers, and soldiers. Li was chosen at age 11, taken from his family, and sent to the “big city” for rigorous training to become a good ballet dancer. He overcomes homesickness, with lots of motivation and experience is able to over obstacles to eventually become a world-class ballet dancer.

I found the storyline to be very emotional yet inspiring. One of my favourite parts would be where Li was leaving the family. He had the choice to stay, or leave and build up a better future to later support his family. In this section of the book, there is a lot of tension and makes the reader want to find out what choice he takes.

Another part would be where Li finally reaches the milestone. With lots of hard work, courage and determination, Li was able to become a popular dancer known in American theatres. This part of the book really inspired me as it pretty much tells us how anything is possible a long as we work hard to earn it.

Something interesting about the book was the photos, it helped me to get an even better visualisation of the story and a better insight of how things were like for li throughout his young life. I’ve also watched the movie so that helped me even better to understand fully how his life was.

I felt like the book was different to other books that I have read because I was able to somewhat relate my life to it. Perhaps its because the author is asian, that my life is somewhat similar to Li’s childhood, but because of this, I’ve been able to learn how to overcome the obstacles in life.

Four literary dystopias by Zachary Sunter

We have all heard of and read 1984, but George Orwell’s acclaimed novel is merely the tip of the iceberg for renowned dystopias in literature. For centuries, writers have provided perspective on what they envision a dystopian future to look like; typically in terms of an oppressive government that restricts individual freedoms and suppresses human rights. However, every dystopia is unique and different from another, even if grounded in the same violation of basic principles that we take to be common rights in our modern society.

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is easily one of the most famous dystopian novels after George Orwell’s 1984, precisely because the reader is able to recognise the immoral and distorted facets of the society while being able to empathise with the majority of characters who simply do not know any better. Huxley takes the utilitarian stance of attempting to obtain maximum happiness for as many people as possible to extremes, in terms of rampant drug use and promiscuity. The ‘brave new world’ that Huxley envisions is a world that defies our moral and ethical conventions yet is able to appeal to the primitive human psyche, where faithfulness and intellectual stimulation are secondary to happiness and pleasure.
Huxley’s Brave New World portrays a world that reinforces societal class boundaries with biological ones, deciding the future jobs of every human through genetic engineering. Furthermore, every individual is psychologically conditioned to respond positively and negatively to certain stimuli, leading the reader to question what defines each person as individuals when their feelings, thoughts and fears have been manipulated by someone else.

A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange is perhaps best known for its adaptation into one of the best horror films by arguably one of the best directors of all time, Stanley Kubrick. However, Burgess’ novel is, in itself, a masterpiece that probes into the boundaries a government is willing to stretch in order to maintain power. A Clockwork Orange is simultaneously simple and complex, using words mostly borrowed from Russian to simulate a language used by the youth of the future, while telling a story of the rehabilitation rebellious youth – Alex – who enjoys rape, pillage and slaughter.
Burgess draws upon the concept of conditioning, similar to Huxley, imbuing the futuristic super-state with a capacity for evil by extending this concept from electric shocks to visceral film footage of murder and carnage. To an extent, the experimental technique involving exceedingly violent images used on Alex is a kind of brainwashing, with the objective of forcing him to reevaluate his personal beliefs about his actions. The method achieves some success, causing Alex to feel nauseous even when considering the act of murder. However, the reader is forced to question the ethics and morality methods employed by the political regime that push social and scientific boundaries in pacifying dissidents and maintaining power.

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is simple and funny, yet clever, self-aware and powerful, a book about a future in which books are censored by a totalitarian regime. Where Brave New World and A Clockwork Orange are centred around the attempts of a government to control individual freedom and liberties, Fahrenheit deals more directly with the censorship of information and knowledge and the profound effects that this change has on human civilisation. Montag, the protagonist, is a fireman – he burns the books inside houses instead of putting out fires. However, when he a girl named Clarisse, he acquires a new perspective on his job and reconsiders the harm that he is causing to society. Bradbury argues that books are integral to an educated and fully-functioning society, and Fahrenheit is a scary image of what is to come if we prevent the circulation of information due to censorship.
Ray Bradbury’s greatest fear in Fahrenheit 451 is society’s eventual lack of interest in books, a fear that is becoming more relevant in our modern age as the mediums of TV and movies become increasingly popular. This is exemplified through the character Captain Beatty, who arguably is of greater symbolic significance than Guy Montag himself. Beatty grew up as a child enthralled with books, but is unable to find the answers that he truly desires within them as he grows older, and begins to develop a hatred for one of the things that he once loved. Beatty becomes a captain of the fire brigade, willingly burning books that contain countless amounts of information, stories, poetry because he despises the act of reading. Perhaps, Bradbury’s fear will soon be realised, as we continue to progress away from books towards digital media.

Feed – M.T. Anderson


Feed stands out on this shortlist as a modern young-adult novel compared with the three other older dystopian novels focused towards older audiences. However, Feed has a specific power, and that power is much like A Clockwork Orange – language. Anderson uses language typical of the youth of the current generation – superfluous ‘like’s and so on, but also introduces words like ‘mal’ (bad) which are unfamiliar to signify a linguistic transformation in parallel to a time-based and societal one. Unlike Clockwork Orange, the words are more easily inferred by context, and forces you to concentrate on what Titus is attempting to say without being swamped by incomprehensive and needing to use look up the words online. Anderson flawlessly implements a language that is very similar to our own, yet has its subtle differences, and it is these differences that prompt us to the realisation that the world he has created is different from our own.
Anderson’s use of language is what truly allows the reader to visualise a future in which people have become so integrated into the digital world that it literally exists as a physical part of their body. The ‘feed’ is a chip planted into your brain; a full-body implementation of what we currently have as laptops, smartphones and TVs. It allows you to listen to music, what ‘feedcasts’ (the equivalent of TV shows) and access information wherever you are. However, the feed is a business-motivated initiative, and allows advertisers to promote their products at all stages of your life, and waters down individual preference and taste to a single monoculture. By attempting to promote goods and services that promote to a wide audience, individuality is collectively reduced to form a society that is seemingly similar to our own, but without true individual expression or freedom. Feed is perhaps more terrifying than the other books I have listed because the future it portrays is easily imaginable and seemingly not that far away, a distant possibility that can occur when capitalism is permitted to literally invade our bodies and control our thoughts and decisions.

Posted by Zachary Sunter

Experience the power of a bookbook

Ikea takes off Apple advertising to make us laugh. This is a worthy tribute to books in general in this age of e-everything. By the way, we have plenty of these things in the library. Come up and browse – they’re getting restless. Thanks to all who have shared this gem on social media.

Words, poetry, action!

The Immigration Museum was the venue for our select group of students attending the  Melbourne Writers Festival writing workshop. The Museum has wonderful stories from people all over the world who have migrated to Australia. With it’s outdoor memorial area and fascinating exhibitions, it’s certainly worth a visit.

15057708725_965336d99b_z (1)



15057356342_3b7f20234a_zWe explored the exhibition Identity: yours, mine, ours – who we are and who others think we are…….






…… and added a wish for our future life to the Japanese wishing tree.



Then the workshop with author Arnold Zable began! Our task was to interview him and compile an interesting report. Questions from the group included ‘What is your heritage? What inspires you to write? Was it hard for you when you came to Australia?’




Some of our really interesting notes from the interview ……


…. and Andre’s writing, which Arnold termed Painting with words.



Thanks to Arnold for his inspiration and the Immigration Museum for hosting the workshop.


Our next stop was Federation Square where we joined other students at the Poetry Slam finals. Congratulations to Melbourne Girls College for being The greatest poets in all the land!!