Wednesday 31 October 2012

Our family Halloween Favourite Reads

Our family Halloween Favourite reads

Happy Halloween, All Hallows Eve, Samhain, Martinmas, and if you’re a witch then Happy New Year!

So with pumpkins carved and at the door, it’s time to celebrate Halloween, and so with that in mind I thought I share some of my families favourite Halloween reads.  The books were chosen by my small people and the words are all their own too…

Small Person Number One, Age eight.

‘Bedtime Monsters’ by Emma Harris and Paul Cherrill.

This is Halloweeny because it’s all about monsters, little scary ones that like hiding in a particular place. The reason they’re hiding in that particular place is their mum is trying to find them to put them to bed.

Winnie Witch books by Valerine Thomas and Korky Paul

The Winnie books are good for Halloween because there are witches and they do silly magic tricks, well not magic TRICKS – BUT ACTUAL MAGIC!

Small Person Number Two, Age Six.

Meg and Mog Books by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pie├▒kowski

Because they are FUNNY!

My Choices…

This is so difficult because there are soooo many great Halloween reads but my two favourite are…

‘The Graveyard Book’ By Neil Gaiman

I only discovered this book this year and, well, was absolutely blown away. The first line is one of the best openings ever… and had me hooked…

‘The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, both the blade and the handle were wet.’

Then the wielder of the knife goes to finish the job, but his final target the baby has gone, climbed out of his cot, down the stairs, out the open door and into the grave yard. The baby is found by the residents of the graveyard – the dead, who raise him giving him the freedom of their home. The story follows the baby, called ‘Nobody’, as he grows and as he interacts with the graveyard residents and has adventures.

The story is as beautiful as it is macabre, with real emotion and brilliantly crafted writing. But for me it’s the fabric of the story which gives it it’s strength. Its originality, woven together with legends and mythology create a rich narrative. I can’t tell you how excited I was when Nobody’s tutor, ‘Miss Lupescu,’  turned out to be a ‘Hell Hound’ – (well I actually shouted YES very loud in a hospital waiting room *cringe*)

The last thing I’ll say is the character Silas, Nobody’s guardian, is fabulous – not once in the whole book does it actually say what Silias is, but let’s see what you think. Silias unlike the other graveyard residents is not dead –although he’s not alive either – has the ability to leave the graveyard as he pleases. Silias is pale, imposing; he eats only one thing (which is unspecified). He also moves like…

 ‘…a familiar shadow swirled beneath the street lamps. Bod hesitated, as a flutter of night-black velvet resolved itself into a man-shape.’

Anyway this is a fabulous read any time of year, but especially at Halloween.

My other choice is ‘Chibi Vampir’e by Yuna Kagesaki.

These are fabulously illustrated Manga graphic novels, about Karin, a vampire with a difference. Unlike the rest of her family, Karin does not like the dark, she loves garlic, and she doesn't drink blood, instead once a month she has an abundance of blood and has to bite people and give them her excess.

The books are YA Gothic Contemporary Comedy’s, and are fun quick reads, and well worth checking out.

And finally a firm family favourite published this year, nominated by my husband; 'The Totally Terrifying Three’ by Hiawyn Oram and David Melling. It’s a colourful tale that’s Halloweeny not matter how hard they try, The Terrifying Three will not scare your small people!

Happy reading on Halloween!

Friday 12 October 2012

Dyslexic Protagonists

Celebrating National Dyslexia Awareness Week 2012

Dyslexic Protagonists

So for my last blog in celebration of National Dyslexia Awareness Week I thought I’d write about dyslexic protagonist in books, I can’t find too many so here is a few…

Hank Zipzer -  Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever series -  Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

Henry Winkler is best known for playing The Fonz in the 70’s – 50’s nostalgia TV show ‘Happy Days’.  Henry is dyslexic and upon a suggestion from his agent to write children's book with a child dyslexic protagonist he teamed up with Lin Oliver author of the ‘Who Shrunk Daniel Funk’ series to write the Hank Zipzer books. The books are about Hank and his mishaps caused by his dyslexia and have been based on Henrys experiences as a child. In ‘Holy Enchilada!’  The sixth book in the series  Hanks tries to hide his dyslexia in an effort to impress a visiting student from Japan cause while making enchiladas for a Multi-Cultural Day lunch, but Hank makes an error reading the recipe and has put wrong about the amount of chili powder. To see an interview with Henry Press Here.

Standish Treadwell - Maggot Moon – Sally Gardiner

Sally Gardner is the dyslexic award winning author of ‘I coriander’ she is also works closely with Dyslexia awareness campaigns.  In her most recent book Maggot Moon the protagonist Standish Treadwell is dyslexic.  The story sees Standish Treadwell standing up and making a stand against the oppressive motherland when his best friend Hector is taken away. Standish must over come all obstacles including dyslexia and lead his grandfather and a small band of rebels.

Percy Jackson - Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series
Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan wrote the first book in the series, ‘Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief’ for his son, who has both Dyslexia and ADHD. Percy Jackson is a normal twelve year old who is struggling with his dyslexia and ADHD, finding school difficult,  Click here to see a Manilla Bulletin Publishing Corporation’s article on Dyslexia in The Percy Jackson books. During the book (and now major motion picture) Percy discovered that he’s son of Poseidon  and therefore a demigod, and that his apparent learning disabilities are actually to his advantage as his head is ‘ Hard-wired for ancient Greek’ on English.  The books show the struggles that dyslexics have within the educational establishments and yet have a positive empowering message and even making dyslexia cool – who wouldn't want to be a demi-god?

Thursday 11 October 2012

Typing Dragons, Paperless Books and Coloured Paper a Dyslexics Tool Kit

Celebrating - National Dyslexia Awareness Week 2012

Typing Dragons, Paperless Books and Coloured Paper

a Dyslexics Tool Kit

I'm a technophobic - or at least I hate the idea of new things – ‘I’ll never own a DVD –What’s wrong with Videos!’  And well, now I have over 600 and no videos in site.  Same thing happened with Blue-rays, CD’s, Mobile Phones, the list goes on. However despite my reservations about new technologies I have to acknowledge that technology is actually a huge and liberating part of my life.

I write and well if I had to write in hand or even type it on a manual typewriter – I couldn’t. Why? Well if I hand write anything the likelihood of anyone being able to decipher the story from between the spelling errors, bad grammar and appalling handwriting is very low (even I can’t read my own writing.)  Even a type writer would not be much help as you can’t go back and edit. So I write on the pc, and then edit and edit some more – and some more, and repeat the process until the manuscript is in a version of English that other people have a fighting chance of reading.

This got me thinking about technologies that enable people with dyslexia to meet their potentials, so here are a few things that help me and other dyslexics I know…

Typing Dragons - Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Although I love the idea of writers dictating their stories as a dragon types it in to the PC, the reality is not quite that exciting but nevertheless a great tool. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a PC program that allows you to talk, and it will then type out what you dictate in a word processing program. In the earlier editions you had to ‘Train your Dragon’ to understand your voice, but I’ve been assured by friends who use it that the newer versions need no training – that you simply choose from a list of local dialects and then you’re good to go. My friends that use this in the work place say it helps them keep on top of reports and stop the backlog from piling up.

There is also now TEXT HELP software specifically designed for educational market.  There is a completion for students to win a copy of text help running this week, to see more press here.

Paperless Books - Kindles and E-readers

I have to say that due to my nature I’m not a great fan, but one of my friends dyslexic daughter finds that it enables her to read. The Kindle/e-readers have features where you can change the font, font size to one of your own choosing that is easier for you to read. You can also change the background colour to which ever colour makes grounds the words, again making it easier to read. Another plus is that while reading on a kindle/e-reader no one can see what you’re reading or how quickly you’re reading it stopping dyslexic children and teenagers being embraced and teased.

Coloured Paper

As an artist/painter there is nothing I find more intimidating than a pristine white empty gallery. As a writer there noting more daunting than pristine white paper. White – so perfect – so full of expectation. White – so happy to allow the letter to dance merrily over it so you have no chance of reading or writing them down in the proper order to spell anything correctly. There is a simple solution - adapted by Roald Dahl and adopted by many dyslexics – Coloured paper. Roald Dahl used yellow (as do I or cream) anther friend uses lilac.  It’s cheaper than the other technologies but can be a real help – as it get you less panicked before you begin and helps ground letters and words.

Thanks for reading and if you have any tips or tricks that help you combat your dyslexia please share them…

Tuesday 9 October 2012

How Three Dyslexics Shaped the Modern Fairy Tale

Celebrating National Dyslexia Awareness Week 2012
How Three Dyslexics Shaped 
Modern Fairy Tale

Here is my second blog in celebration of National Dyslexia Awareness Week 2012.  Part of raising people awareness about dyslexia is to change people’s perceptions of it – and what better way to do this than celebrate the achievements of dyslexics. Now there are so many dyslexics who have achieved so much it was difficult to know where to start but given the premise of my blog 1.writing, 2.Fairy Tales, 3. Dyslexia – so this had to happen.

A Celebration of three men that was instrumental in the shaping of modern fairy tales who were dyslexic; Walt Disney, Hans Christian Anderson and Roald Dahl

Hans Christian Anderson 1805-1875

Hans Christian Anderson was like many dyslexics, creative by nature. He was in his early years an actor, and he was an avid paper artist. He had the fortune to have his education funded by Frederick VI -  King of Denmark, but like many dyslexics, he found schooling difficult.  Despite the hurdles imposed by his dyslexia, Hans went on to become an author, his most famous and most notable works, being his Fairy Tales, which include ‘the little Match Girl’, ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Thumbelina’.  His fairy tales are inspired whilst preserving the darker elements of their forefathers.  

1952 his life was made in to a musical called ‘Hans ChristianAnderson,’ and his fairy tales have inspired many re-writes, dramatizations, animations and movies on IMDB there is list of at least 230 movies based on his works. His works still inspire next year will see the realse of two animations based on his tale ‘The Snow Queen’ one of the same title by Wizart animation the other by Disney called ‘Frozen.’

Walt Disney 1901 -1966

Walt has been cited as being dyslexic, although it has never been definitively proven.  It is apparent that he had difficulties at school after which he went to pioneer animation making the first feature length animation ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ in 1937. Disney although not the most sensitive in his adaptations of classic fairy tales, had a creative commercial vision changing people perception of fairy tales. Walt for instance was the first to bestow names and personalities to the dwarfs.  Under his supervision, many fairy tales were given the ‘Disney Makeover’ and now long after his death the Disney Corporation is still rolling them out – with the recent ‘Tangled’ and upcoming Frozen.

Roald Dahl 1916 – 1990

Short story and screenwriter turned children’s author. Roald Dahl ‘s children’s book are some of the most loved for people of my generation and are still adored by children today. Many of them have been adapted for small screen and in to movies and even musicals. Roald was dyslexic, and  one of his methods to combat it was to write on Yellow Paper. Roald also wrote a book called ‘The Vicar of Nibbleswick’ where the protagonist is dyslexic; the book was illustrated by Quinton Blake and released in 1991 with proceeds going to Dyslexia Institute in London (now Dyslexia Action).

Roald made an impact on the perception young people had on fairy tales when he realised ‘Revolting Rhymes’ and ‘Rhyme Stew’, where he had re-written many well know fairy tales, with his particular humour – who can forget Red Riding Hood whipping a pistol from her knickers? When they came out parents were shocked – I recall many heated conversations between my parents and other adults about how ‘inappropriate’ they were. However to us kids of the time they made stuffy predictable fairy tales exciting.

So here we go a celebration of three king of Fairy Tales, whom were all Dyslexic! But before we go here’s just one more bit of fairy tale wisdom by another dyslexic…

Monday 8 October 2012

Let’s Celebrate Dyslexia Awareness Week 8th-14th October 2012

Let’s Celebrate Dyslexia Awareness Week 8th-14th October 2012

Dyslexia is far from something to be ashamed of, people who are dyslexic use their minds in a slightly different way to non-dyslexics, and this it’s self is something to be celebrated. Many of the most loved and inspired writers throughout the years have been dyslexic, see illustration.

With dyslexic’s using our minds in a different way, we can often see thing differently creating interesting and unique stories, and that’s what really matters.

That I can't spell is a great irritant to people having to deal with my manuscripts, but it's the ideas that count."
Sally Gardner Award Winning author of ‘I Coriander’

There is now even a publishing imprint the RASP that specialise in publishing works penned by dyslexics.  

That’s not to say that Dyslexics don’t have difficulties we do, most notably spelling see my, Notes from the Slushpile blog for more Press Here…

But spelling can be corrected, and with the right support dyslexics can find ways to manage these obstacles. The British Dyslexia Association for example is running a campaign for appropriate and adequate training in dyslexia for teachers to help their cause press here to sign their petition.

Spreading awareness about dyslexia and recognising dyslexics earlier, so they can be assisted to find coping mechanisms and fully meet their intellectual potential is surely a worthwhile cause, not just for those who will become writers but to those destined to be engineers, doctors, teachers and so on.  

So please get involved help spread Dyslexic awareness, and sign the petition. Also why not celebrate dyslexic writers – why not pick up a book by a dyslexic writer (for a list of dyslexic writers Press Here) and read it this week, maybe even Tweet or Facebook about it.

So it’s time...

of the world