Category Archives: Education

Whose Shakespeare?

We moved Shakespeare upstairs over the weekend. Mostly this was because the bookcase he was in ascended, and Shakespeare is rather large, so needed the big shelf. He’s now in Son’s room, should the boy ever be able to return to it.

Anyway he went, along with the three-volume poetry collection from Linlithgow.

There was a most beautiful piece in Thursday’s Guardian, written by Aditya Chakrabortty, about his mother who died recently. I’m sorry for Aditya’s loss, but infinitely grateful that he shared his lovely memories of his mother with the newspaper’s readers.

Mrs Chakrabortty was a teacher. As her name suggests, she was not born in the UK, but she definitely did more than her share for this country and the people already here as well as those who arrived after her.

According to Aditya his ‘mother’s love of Shakespeare and Hazlitt was not an attempt to fit in. She claimed them as she claimed all of world culture.’

This set me thinking of how some people view Shakespeare, believing he’s there exclusively for the English. We all know Shakespeare in some way or other. His plays have been translated into many languages, and Hamlet is everyone’s prince; not just that of ‘cultured English’ people. We all have the right to know and enjoy Shakespeare’s work.

I would like to think he’d see it as an honour to be the favourite of a woman such as Mrs Chakrabortty.

Best and whackiest

It’s rather a mouthful to say or write, but Yvonne Manning who is Falkirk Council’s Principal Librarian for Children’s Services, is the winner of the 2020 Scottish Book Trust Learning Professional Award!

I know I always say this about winning librarians, because they are all so great, but I don’t believe there is one greater than Yvonne. Congratulations!!!

Finding this out now, made my day a lot better. It’s the kind of news we need when things are tough, and Yvonne is the kind of librarian we need at all times, but mostly when things are tough.

Yvonne is the one who organises the Falkirk RED book award, and she’s kept it going in the face of the ever disappearing money that has been the death of so many awards and book events. If you watch this video, you’ll discover for yourself what she’s like, and that giving up because the funding went away isn’t her style.

I’ve occasionally wanted to be Yvonne, what with her endless energy and her gorgeous, somewhat whacky, coats.

The event to celebrate her award that obviously isn’t happening right now, would have been the best. I can see myself there, having a great time. I’m sure there would have been deep fried cauliflower.

A book for World Book Day?

Not being blessed with school age children, I tend to overlook the advent of World Book Day (UK version). Some time later this week, I understand?

We always used to take part, because you don’t want to disappoint your child, and – even more – you don’t want to be told off by school staff for not entering into the spirit of the thing. But you can [try to] make do with clothes you already own, and go more for dressing up as a book character that you can find the right stuff for, than your child’s most favourite character, unless they are the same.

So, Son as the Mad Hatter wore the same jacket Daughter as Hermione Granger did some years later.

A few days ago my Hermione Granger pointed me in the direction of a picture on social media, which suggested that with so many children owning no books at all, then surely it would be better to spend any money you have on a book for your child, rather than a ready-made literary outfit?

Yes, surely???

Off my trolley

Things change.

And, yeah, you and I both know I don’t much like change. But this isn’t one of those changes.

Back in the infancy of Bookwitch – the blog, not so much herself – she wrote by hand, and she sat in her comfortable armchair and read books. Oh, the innocence of it all…

Daughter was still at school, and she needed to build me a piece of furniture for her GCSE tech. The teachers were still raw from her brother’s triangular table, so there was a complete ban on triangles of any kind. She designed a Bookwitch trolley to sit next to my chair, and where everything would go, from mug of tea and spectacles to current books and paper and pen. It’s on wheels, so I could push it around. It’s what I do best.

But now, I don’t do these things, apart from the pushing.

The trolley leads a more sedate life, mostly holding maps and large books for the Resident IT Consultant. It stands quietly, next to the two Oyster catchers in the window.

That’s life, I suppose. Needs change. Still love the trolley, and Daughter. Also still have the triangular table. (It’s behind me!)

Can’t say the same for the rest in this photo, which has a certain antique value. Wrong room. Wrong house. Young-ish looking witch. Much of the furniture is gone and the lamp has had its foot removed, but you’ll be pleased to learn I still wear the Crocs…

Eleven years on, we are coming up for Bookwitch’s 13th birthday, and there might be changes. I’m already at war with someone about Bookwitch’s looks (I don’t mean her in the photo).  We’ll see how that goes.

Bookbugs and more giveaway books

It’s not only country singers who give away books. The Scottish government has been handing out book bags to different age groups of children for years now, and the 2020 Bookbug Picture Book Prize, The Station Mouse by Meg McLaren, is one of this year’s books.

‘The Bookbug Picture Book Prize celebrates the most popular new picture books by Scottish authors or illustrators. The runners-up were The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears by Alastair Chisholm, illustrated by Jez Tuya, and Sophie Johnson: Unicorn Expert by Morag Hood, illustrated by Ella Okstad.’

A free copy of each of the three books was gifted to every Primary 1 child during Book Week Scotland in November, in the Bookbug P1 Family Bag.

Dolly and the teaspoons

I find it hard not to like Dolly Parton.

First, though, over to Sölvesborg in the southeastern corner of Sweden. According to Teskedsorden – which basically is an organisation that wants to do good things, even if it is a teaspoonful at a time – the political parties on the right came up with the idea of saving money by not letting its libraries order books in the many mother-tongues of the town.

In fairness, I have to say I’ve not been able to find out whether this decision was carried through, and many people doubted the legality of it all. But to go against the knowledge that letting children read in their first language as well as in Swedish benefits them in how well they will do in life, is plain wrong.

Then we come to Dolly. To stop the high school dropout rate in her Tennessee home town, she essentially bribed the fifth and sixth graders (in 1990) to complete high school. They were to pick a buddy, and if both of the children graduated high school she’d pay them $500. It worked. It still works, apparently.

The next thing she did was to pay for teaching assistants in every first grade for two years, with an agreement that the school system would continue with this if successful.

And then Dolly founded the Imagination Library (in 1995), sending a book every month to every child in her home county of Sevier from when they were born until they started kindergarten. This has now spread to all of the US and to Australia, Canada and the UK.

That’s more than 100 million books, from the child of a man who couldn’t read or write.

Know Thy Star, Know Thy Planet – Disentangling Planet Discovery & Stellar Activity

Thought I’d treat you to another of my – our – Christmas present books. Rather than offer any kind of review, which would be fairly hard to do, I will show you some of my photos of it! The title is a bit of a mouthful, but I gather academics, even scientists, like that sort of thing. It’s called Know Thy Star, Know Thy Planet – Disentangling Planet Discovery & Stellar Activity.

As you will have worked out, this is Daughter’s thesis, and it was generous of her to let us have a copy. I believe they cost a fortune.

Dr Giles has her foreword in no less than three languages, which is one more than they demanded. (Apologies for any mistakes in the third one; I don’t really speak ‘science’ in any language. And the visible mistake is all my fault…)

Because astrophysics is such a male subject, she worked hard to put women scientists in there, from Dr Nirupama Raghavan who is the Resident IT Consultant’s cousins wife’s cousin’s mother-in-law (!), and who was Director of the Nehru Planetarium in New Delhi, to Dr Jessie Christiansen, an almost peer from CalTech.

I like heavenly bodies to be eccentric; it sounds fun. And in the index I discovered that Daughter’s surname puts her right after some G Galilei chap.

Also, the book is purple!

With the Fire on High

Not poetry this time, but a prose novel about Emoni, a young single mother still at school, living with her grandmother and working really hard to keep afloat both as a high school student and as the mother of a toddler.

Elizabeth Acevedo, With the Fire on High

Elizabeth Acevedo has written another fabulous book, that I would like to think many teenagers will love. The topic is interesting and the writing is great. While the short chapters make it easy to read, they also make it hard to stop. ‘Just one more chapter. All right, just another chapter then. And one more.’ I could have read on and on.

Emoni has a talent for cooking. It’s what she does to relax, and it’s what she wants – needs – to do for a living, once she graduates high school. But there’s Babygirl, there’s ‘Buela who’s struggling to make ends meet, there’s Emoni’s absent father, her best friend Angelica, Babygirl’s dad, and then there’s the new boy at school, Malachi.

I could identify at least four ‘problems’ that would need solving by the end of the book. Elizabeth surprised me, again, by taking the story somewhere a bit different, and the plot did its own thing, and it was exactly right. Emoni is a first rate role model for young girls, having learned the hard way to stand up for herself.

This is lovely and life affirming. Single mothers are a good thing. So are young ones. It’s not age or marital status that makes or breaks a parent. It’s the world around them.

And I wouldn’t say no to some of Emoni’s food.

Another new decade

My eighth, it would seem. No, I’m not that old, but I discovered somewhere that if I counted decades – and I did – I’d be able to tot up eight of the things. No wonder I feel done in.

But, I hasten to add, in a terribly catty way, I have far fewer wrinkles than Jamie Lee Curtis. (You can tell I went to see Knives Out, can’t you? I wasn’t impressed.)

It went fast, that last decade. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing what others have done on social media, and list ‘all’ that I did during those ten years. Just not sure I can remember, or that I have the time. I have some hoovering to do, and bits of food to see to.

The last ten days have also gone far too fast. But at least we’ve enjoyed some time with further flung relatives, and had a hilarious morning coffee over which we discussed how hard it is to get out of Texas, and meeting the Benedict Cumberbatch ‘lookalike’ at no. 10. Not that I have personal experience of either.

I visited the place I can only think of as Butcher’s Corner, where I asked the lady behind the cheese counter if she could tell me which cheese I bought there last Christmas. Before the straight-jacket came out, I worked out it must have been Fat Cow. Memorable name. I’ll have to remember it.

Our quiz books still come out most afternoon tea-times, and in the evenings we’ve sat down to Christmas University Challenge, where it seems I can’t support both Jo Nadin and Lucy Mangan. Just let it be said that children’s books make people particularly able to deal with Jeremy Paxman.

Let’s see what the next weeks and the new decade have to offer.

That’s Noble, that is

‘Who on Earth is the Princess Sofia?’ I asked myself a week or two ago. Odd, as the Resident IT Consultant and I, prompted by a viewing of The Crown, had just a day or two earlier discussed how big the Swedish royal family is. And by that we meant how many of them actively go out cutting ribbons and the like. I guessed an answer, but exile doesn’t help with names of new royals.

I follow Kungahuset on Facebook – yes, really – so should be better at names. Anyway, I read that Prinsessan Sofia had opened a primary school. Or was it a secondary school? It was one she has attended as a child, now rebuilt or enlarged or improved. She’s the ‘ordinary’ girl who married Prins Carl Philip, son of the King. A few days later I learned it was her 35th birthday.

And then, after a few mutterings from Daughter on Tuesday night, I cyber stalked a bit more and discovered Sofia was the one who was escorted into the Nobel dinner that evening by none other than Didier Queloz, who you all know shared the Nobel Prize in Physics. Hence the mutterings all the way from Berlin.

Prins Carl Philip med Esther Duflo, Nobelpristagare i ekonomi, Prinsessan Madeleine med William G. Kaelin Jr, Nobelpristagare i fysiologi eller medicin och Prinsessan Sofia med Didier Queloz, Nobelpristagare i fysik. Foto: Pelle T Nilsson/SPA

His former PhD supervisor Michel Mayor was also in Stockholm, at the same dinner, since they shared the prize. He, in turn, got to share Crown Princess Victoria at dinner with the third, but first, Nobel laureate in physics, James Peebles.

Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz are Daughter’s former colleagues from Geneva, and they have – more or less – done research on the same kind of thing. The other two have a head start on her, so we’ll have to wait.

But what I really wanted to know was whether my Cousin GP was there, pouring the wine.