Tony Thompson visits MHS

Reading Assembly

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A celebration of reading and writing was a focus of last Junior Assembly. We were fortunate to have a visit from Melbourne author, Tony Thompson who shared his own journey to the dream job of being an author. No doubt many of our boys would have felt inspired by Tony’s evident love of literature and passion for writing. During Assembly Tony presented Reading Awards to the following students for sustained and balanced reading, across a range of genres and including some very interesting and challenging reads.

Patrick Phung, 9C                                                       Xavier Kelly 9F
Nikhil Chalisgaonkar, 9F                                             Sean Wong 9G
John Li, 9J                                                                   Noel Augustine 9K
Callum Wigg, 9L

Kevin Kim 10A                                                           Vaibhav Malhotra, 10A
Sam Loh, 10J                                                             Nick Wang 10K
Mahen Pathirana, 10L

Writing workshop

Many of our keen writers signed up for a double period workshop with Tony focussing on the challenging aspect of interacting characters with settings. In a series of carefully constructed writing activities students produced some very engaging and intricate story lines. Equally impressive was their delight and generosity in sharing unedited first drafts with the group and with us:

Activity 1: Creating a setting

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The man sat in the corner of the room looking towards the opposite wall. The room itself was silent, save for the shallow breathing of the man and the occasional rasping of chairs as he adjusted positions. The sun never slanted through the narrow grill in the top left corner, never tried. A dark puddle had formed a few feet away from the man, flies lazily buzzing above it; not even the flies would pay any attention to him. And yet the man kept looking, transfixed, towards the opposite end of the room. The ‘End’, they called it, the name of the man’s predicament. He himself had no home; it was easier to forget that way. Leo Year 9

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The room was of an explicit design, unlike anything I have ever seen before. A pristine chandelier hung low from the ceiling, while the walls were lined up with old furniture filled with cobwebs and a layer of fine dust on top of them. In the epi-centre of the room, an out-of-place object drew my attention. It was a workspace and a bed fused together. I touched the angular and odd shapes that made up most of this fusion, and a shock was instantly sent up my spine. This bed, no, this weird piece of furniture, looked like some high-tech death machine had been sent through time and space to this room. This room was an uncomprehendable blend of old and new. No, “out-of-worldly” would be a better, more accurate word to describe the room, and I was not sure if I liked it or not. I sat down quite cautiously on the bed. The blanket looked just like a regular one, except it felt like liquid in the form of a solid, giving a rather strange feeling. Fused to it beside the bed… Bryan, Year 10

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The room is quiet, with air of silent watching. The vivid colours of the painting sharply contrast with the dull colours of the walls behind them. The couches in the middle of the room are littered with whiney travellers and children who seem like they’ve been looking at the same thing for hours. The paintings look so real, like if you turned around they would pull a face at you… Noah, Year 9

Activity 2: Introducing a character

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The valley was bathed in darkness. It was too late to start a fire; the trees blocking out all the starlight. The travellers were becoming restless; they’d been warned by the occupants of the previous village of strange disappearances in nearby forests. First it was a small child, then a group of men. Now, with darkness playing tricks in their ears and eyes, slowly the travellers began to disintegrate. One ran off. Two collapsed. Only one remained standing, rooted to the spot. And that was just the beginning. It was too late to start a fire.   Leo, Yr 9

He was falling. The wind whistled as the clouds flew further and further away. The snow had faded into stone, melting into thunderous yet glorious falls. There was an air of freshness that eased his mind. The bright sun shone dimmer down here. His eyes closed as he fell into the soft hands of his giant father. Daniel, Year 9

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From a distance the primary school, unlike any other, looked like a fortress dwarfing all other buildings within close proximity. I strolled casually towards it, and the school soon pulled me as …, into the circle of buildings it dominated. I stood before the rusty gate which towered exactly one metre over me, and stared at it. I was expecting something to happen based on my experience, but it only stared back at me plainly, as if it was not acknowledging my presence at all. Hesitantly I touched the lock to open it and… Bryan, Year 10

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One had never been in this museum before, but had been in museums all around the world. He was used to the atmosphere that these places had. He quietly observed a painting by one of his favourite artists, Claude Monet. The use of colour and space and lighting that was always found in Monet’s artwork was astonishing. One looked around the room at some of the other paintings, then back at the painting in front of him. Something was different about it this time, not something he had not noticed, but as if the painting had moved by itself… Noah, Year 9

Activity 3: Streetscape description

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My street is a rather quiet one, which is strange considering I live in the bustling suburb of Glen Waverley, a popular destination and hub to which many immigrants from all over the world introduce their cultures and ways. In the court four giant houses dominate the rest, occupied by billionaire tycoons who spend every day salivating over the flow of the money river. Bryan, Year 10

The Melbourne skyline looked the same as it always had; big cranes, bigger buildings. The sunrise was immense with the hot air balloons coming up in front of it. Flinders Street Station was packed with the endless stream of people wanting to touch off their mykis. The boats of the Yarra coming in with the rich people and their exclusive parties. And there was Felix, no one noticed Felix. Not until he fell out of the sky… Noah, Year 9

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Thanks to Miss Morton for the photographs

 

100 great novels by living authors (and more) – 3 lists compiled by Blair Mahoney

Hello there. I hope you’ve been enjoying the freedom of the Summer holidays. I definitely have and so this blog has been dormant for quite some time. It’s okay; we all need a break.

So to start off the year I thought I’d share Mr Blair Mahoney’s updated reading lists – looking fantastic in Medium. Just beautiful. And so I give you (drum roll…) : 100 great novels by living authors. Not that you’ll get through that list for a while, but I’m also sharing Mr Mahoney’s 100 great novels by dead authors and 100 great graphic novels.

That should keep you going for a while.

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

CBCA Book of the Year winners announced

The Children’s Book Council of Australia announced their Book of the Year winners today.

The winner in the Older Readers category is Fiona Wood with Wildlife.

16 year Sibylla embarks on the outdoor education program for the term at her high school, having recently transitioned from forgettable geek girl to newly cool model. With her on this ordeal are the reclusive new girl, Lou, and her new crush, the popular boy Ben. This book is their story of surviving not only the elements, but each other. Realistic and emotional.

While it is not a book we have in our collection at the moment, we do have the prequel, Six Impossible Things.

14 year old Dan’s world has been turned upside down: his dad announced he is gay, the family business has gone bankrupt, and he has a crush on his unattainable neighbour, Estelle. Exuberantly charming.  

In the spirit of the CBCA 2014 Book Week, Connect to Reading, Reading to Connect, I am recommending other great fiction titles based on the theme of: Geek Boy in search of Love

Another CBCA shortlisted book for 2014 is Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil.

Wannabe screen writer and hard-core gamer Sam is happily avoiding life until he meets new girl at school, Camilla. Camilla is the ultimate cool girl, she wears vintage clothes, is friendly to everyone, her dad is a music reviewer, and she’s into World of Warcraft. Quirky, cool and fun.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

Charlie is starting high school and is awkward, geeky and shy. He falls into friendship with free spirits who lead into finally having a go at life in the middle of the party. This story delves into some hard-hitting emotional issues, and is  not an easy read.

Looking for Alaska by John Green.

15 year old Miles decides he wants an adventure, and insists on attending the same boarding school his dad did. There he meets the infuriatingly troubled and teasing Alaska, and is hopelessly in love with her. Cool and smart teenage characters, story  packs a punch. 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

Karou is an art student boarding in Prague, who comes from a family of mythological monsters. She falls in love with an angel, Akiva, and an epic and ancient battles ensues. Romeo and Juliet meets The Hunger Games. Awesome.

Look for for Mrs Saunders dressed as the main character Karou for the Book Week costume parade!

Battle of the borrowers. Reading is a dangerous sport.

An interesting development since we moved to the library management system, Infiniti, is that the awareness of ‘top student borrowers’ has led to a rivalry of sorts. Currently Noah and Muhammad (Imad) are battling for first place in the apparently coveted spot for prolific readers.

A battle of readers is a most civilised battle. We approve.

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Blind date – with a book!

 

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The library can be an exciting place – as this photo demonstrates. We try to engage our boys in reading through different strategies. In this case you can see the excitement on our year 9 students’ faces as they participate in a ‘blind date with a book’. I have to say that it felt like Christmas! Thanks to CJ for the idea.

Back to handwritten cards

Sometimes the old fashioned handwritten cards are the best. I think they’ve become even more desirable over time. Here are some of our handwritten hooks for our new fiction. Oh, and glossy, coloured stars are obligatory. Thanks to Barb for these.

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