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Remembering Mal Peet

March 5, 2015
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Mal PeetWe’re saddened by the news that children’s author Mal Peet has died, aged 67.

Regarded as one of the top young adult fiction authors in the UK, Mal came to writing fairly late after a varied career which included teaching. Having started to write and illustrate short books with his wife Elspeth to see off “his old enemy, boredom”, he decided to try his hand at a bigger work. This turned into his first novel Keeper, centering around the world of football and charting the rise of ‘El Gato’ from the poverty of the South American rainforests to become one of the world’s greatest goalkeepers.

Keeper garnered great success, not only winning major accolades including the 2004 Bransford Boase Award and leading to two further books The Penalty and Exposure, but also came to be well-loved by thousands of readers worldwide. The book was chosen alongside Peet’s second novel, the Carnegie Medal award winning Tamar as the titles for The Reader Organisation’s Liverpool Reads, a city-wide, intergenerational reading project taking place in 2008. Both books captivated readers of all ages in the hugely successful project during the National Year of Reading, with Mal visiting Central Library and Walton Prison to read from the books and answer questions.

Mal's books, Keeper and Tamar, were read across the city as part of our Liverpool Reads 2008

Mal’s books, Keeper and Tamar, were read across the city as part of our Liverpool Reads 2008

Mal went onto write Cloud Tea Monkeys, a children’s picture book described as ‘an emotionally resonant fairy-tale story [which] begs to be read aloud’ and Life: An Exploded Diagram. Last year his first novel aimed at adults, The Murdstone Trilogy, was published to great acclaim. Though the majority of his work was geared towards younger audiences, the refusal to stick to categories and sheer variety apparent in his writing – from a tale of mystery and espionage set in the Second World War to a modern retelling of Othello set against the backdrop of celebrity culture – meant that he reached audiences far beyond the expected boundaries.

The news was met with immediate tributes online from fans and fellow authors, including Meg Rosoff, Patrick Ness, John Green, and Frank Cottrell Boyce.

We’re very proud to have been able to share the brilliance of Mal’s books with readers across Liverpool and beyond and know that they will inspire and enchant entire generations for years to come.

We’d highly recommend taking a look at Mal’s top 10 books to read aloud for children and young people, compiled for Guardian Children’s Books site in 2011. Plenty of great titles perfect to share as a belated celebration of World Read Aloud Day and World Book Day, which is today.

An online condolence book has been set up on Mal’s website, and will be open for a few weeks: http://malpeet.com/

Reading for the ages – and sexes

March 4, 2015
by

tinyreadsAhead of World Book Day, some recent surveys have revealed some interesting findings on reading amongst the generations and genders.

To celebrate the day dedicated to children’s reading, Sainsbury’s carried out a survey amongst 2,000 people to compile a list of 50 ultimate books that make up a child’s catalogue of reading. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory topped the poll, followed closely by Alice in Wonderland and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Roald Dahl proves to be a popular choice for kids and adults alike with four of his other works appearing in the list, and while contemporary titles such as the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series make appearances there’s a strong nostalgic flavour to much of the list that indicates that parents are choosing to share their own favourite stories from childhood with their children, passing on a love for classic tales through to the next generation.

We especially loved the finding from the survey that nearly three quarters of parents questioned believed that bedtime reading is one of the most important ways to bond with their children.

Read the full list of the 50 books every child should read before they’re 16 here

Yet even though many boys and girls read the same titles at a young age, growing older seems to set a distinction in the types of books the sexes favour. The Nielsen Bookscan Books and Consumer Survey 2015 shows that although nearly half of all books bought last year were for males, only 39% of adult fiction books were specifically targeted towards men – reinforcing the idea that men favour the factual in their reading, whether it be about politics, history or hobbies.

man readingTelegraph Men have asked whether men have fallen out of love with books in a world where thinking and feeling in-depth about emotions is still viewed as part of the female domain and instances of depression, anxiety and loneliness amongst men is on the rise. In our shared reading groups, great literature is open to everyone – male and female, young or older. The texts we read, from classics by Dickens and Eliot to contemporary short stories, create a safe space where emotional matters can be explored but the literature itself is always at the centre.

We welcome along lots of male readers to our weekly groups, some who have rediscovered reading after years. They may come to while away an hour and a half, but often find there’s much more to the groups than meets the eye:

“It’s done me a lot of good. It’s all right going the pub and having a laugh with your mates but sometimes you’ve got to, y’know, enrich your soul. I don’t sleep well at the best of times but this helps me relax. It’s a lot better than taking a Prozac!” – one of our shared reading group members

Following up from the article, The Telegraph has come up with a list of 19 books that make good reading for men, including Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe.

“It has confirmed for me that I am as good as anyone else…I am becoming the man I should have been.”- see how literature and shared reading can make an impact on male readers by taking a look at our Reader Stories

Featured Poem: The Voice by Thomas Hardy

March 2, 2015

As this week celebrates World Read Aloud Day (one of our favourite days), we thought it’d be apt to showcase the aural in written form. Voices are instantly recognisable, comforting or sometimes jarring – for instance, when we think we can hear whispers in the dead of night but it turns out to be the sound of the wind (which would be easily mistaken for a person with its force at the present time). Voices give the human presence to words that have been written long ago, and that’s one of the reasons why reading aloud is such an important factor in helping us to feel closer to literature and one another.

‘Reading aloud makes me feel close to everyone in the room. Our heads get stuck in the story and we’re all sharing the adventure together. We laugh, we smile, we sometimes cry – it’s exhilarating and makes you feel ALIVE!’

Why not get your vocal chords warmed up in time for World Read Aloud Day on Wednesday by reading this poem by Thomas Hardy?

The Voice

Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.

Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!

Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever consigned to existlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?

Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward
And the woman calling.

Thomas Hardy

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We hope you’ll join us in reading something aloud to celebrate World Read Aloud Day this year. You can let us know what you love about reading aloud by tweeting us @thereaderorg and adding the hashtag #WRAD15

Featured Poem: Seeking Beauty by William Henry Davies

February 23, 2015

Another month is nearly coming to a close, and with the approach of March around the corner we can look forward to lighter nights, bursts of Spring sunshine (we hope) and flowers and a renewed vibrancy all around. In these final days of Winter, it’s worth remembering that beauty can be found everywhere we look – perhaps sometimes it takes a little more than a passing glance to seek it out and it may even change from one day to the next, but it’s there to help keep us buoyed through the last icy blasts.

If you’re having trouble finding something beautiful to muse on this Monday, then it’s well worth reading this poem from William Henry Davies – and as St David’s Day is coming up at the weekend, it’s all the more appropriate (lots of beautiful things to be seen in Wales, where we’re sure W.H. Davies got some of his inspiration for this verse from).

Seeking Beauty

Cold winds can never freeze, nor thunder sour
The cup of cheer that Beauty draws for me
Out of those Azure heavens and this green earth —
I drink and drink, and thirst the more I see.

To see the dewdrops thrill the blades of grass,
Makes my whole body shake; for here’s my choice
Of either sun or shade, and both are green —
A Chaffinch laughs in his melodious voice.

The banks are stormed by Speedwell, that blue flower
So like a little heaven with one star out;
I see an amber lake of buttercups,
And Hawthorn foams the hedges round about.

The old Oak tree looks now so green and young,
That even swallows perch awhile and sing:
This is that time of year, so sweet and warm,
When bats wait not for stars ere they take wing.

As long as I love Beauty I am young,
Am young or old as I love more or less;
When Beauty is not heeded or seems stale,
My life’s a cheat, let Death end my distress.

William Henry Davies

The Globe on Tour presents Romeo and Juliet at Calderstones Mansion House

February 19, 2015

“Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;
Being vexed, a sea nourished with loving tears.
What is it else? A madness most discreet,
A choking gall, and a preserving sweet.”

Valentine’s Day might have passed for another year but we’ve got one of literature’s greatest love stories very much on our minds with some exciting news…

After two previous spellbinding visits, we’re delighted to announce that Shakespeare’s Globe is returning to Calderstones Mansion House this summer with the Bard’s classic and arguably most popular tale of two star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet.

r&j print

Following the versions of King Lear and Much Ado About Nothing that proved to be surefire crowd-pleasers with audiences in Liverpool, The Globe on Tour will visit the Garden Theatre again in July to present the tragic but compelling story. Following performances on the Globe’s stage, a small troupe of travelling players are taking to the road to perform a stripped-down version unlike anything seen before, breathing new life into one of the greatest of all love stories.

We’re sure you’re aware of how the tale goes, but in case you need a reminder…

An ongoing feud between two noble families, the Montagues and the Capulets, sets the scene for
Shakespeare’s first great tragedy on the streets of Verona. A violent street brawl between their rival families is the prelude to Romeo’s first encounter with Juliet. Despite this, and the fact Juliet has been promised to another, they fall in love. But any plans for their future happiness are cruelly destroyed by renewed violence between their families and tragedy begins to unfold.
The honour of playing the famous lovers falls to the appropriately named Samuel Valentine as Romeo and Cassie Layton as Juliet, joining a list including Adetomiwa Edun (Merlin, The Hour) and Ellie Kendrick (Game of Thrones, Being Human, The Diary of Anne Frank) who starred in The Globe’s previous production and of course star names including Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in what is considered to be the most-filmed play of all time.
If last year’s reviews are anything to go by, the Garden Theatre at Calderstones will provide the perfect romantic backdrop to set the scene:
Had a brilliant night watching ‘s ‘s beautiful outdoor theatre at . Magical!
Tickets for Romeo and Juliet at Calderstones Mansion House are now on sale, here’s the information on how you can get yours:
Performance dates:
Friday 24th July, 7.30pm
Saturday 25th July, 2.30pm
Saturday 25th July, 7.30pm
Ticket price: £20
(£15 concessions)
To purchase tickets online, please visit the Shakespeare Globe’s website. Note: there is a £2.50 transaction fee for online bookings.

Please contact The Globe’s Box Office on 020 7401 9919 if you want to book for a Group; if you require access bookings; if you have children U18 or would like to use Theatre Tokens.
N.B. Concessions do not apply to Senior citizens for theatre performances. Discounts cannot be applied retrospectively.

 

Shared reading group members and volunteers

The Reader Organisation has a limited number of £15 discounted tickets for shared reading group members and volunteers which can be obtained through your group leaders. Please note: these tickets are not available through The Globe’s website, only physically through group leaders.

The performances will take place outdoors so please bring a picnic rug or low-backed seat and suitable clothing for all weather conditions. The plays will go ahead in all but the most extreme weather conditions.

Tickets are likely to go fast, so make sure you snap yours up quickly!

We’ll keep you posted with all the news in the months to come, but in the meantime you can join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtags #RomeoandJuliet and #GlobeOnTour

Featured Poem: The Dreary Change by Sir Walter Scott

February 16, 2015

We’re advocates of poetry being read everywhere at The Reader Organisation – on the bus or train, in a park (as quite a few of us have done at our HQ at Calderstones), in the bath (though you run the risk of the words getting soggy)…the wonders of technology have helped overcome the pitfalls of the last option, and recently a wider-scale innovation has brought verse to the physical world. To mark the 300th anniversary of the 1715 Jacobite uprising, one of Sir Walter Scott’s poems has been projected onto the landscape in the Scottish highlands. On the Massacre of Glencoe commemorates one of the most significant events of the first Jacobite uprisings in the country when 38 members of the Clan MacDonald were killed by visiting government troops, and is just one verse of many tributes and songs to do so.

The rather breathtaking marriage of literature and nature is something to behold, especially when the words have such resonance with a certain area, such as Scott’s verse with Glencoe. You can view the beautiful effects of the projection here (thanks to Brain Pickings). Here’s another of Scott’s poems which casts an eye out to nature, relating it closely back to the person.

The Dreary Change (The sun upon the Weirdlaw Hill)

The sun upon the Weirdlaw Hill,
In Ettrick’s vale, is sinking sweet;
The westland wind is hush and still,
The lake lies sleeping at my feet.
Yet not the landscape to mine eye
Bears those bright hues that once it bore;
Though evening, with her richest dye,
Flames o’er the hills of Ettrick’s shore.

With listless look along the plain,
I see Tweed’s silver current glide,
And coldly mark the holy fane
Of Melrose rise in ruin’d pride.
The quiet lake, the balmy air,
The hill, the stream, the tower, the tree,
Are they still such as once they were?
Or is the dreary change in me?

Alas, the warp’d and broken board,
How can it bear the painter’s dye!
The harp of strain’d and tuneless chord,
How to the minstrel’s skill reply!
To aching eyes each landscape lowers,
To feverish pulse each gale blows chill;
And Araby’s or Eden’s bowers
Were barren as this moorland hill.

Sir Walter Scott

Love Between the Pages: Literature and Valentines

February 12, 2015

fitzgerald quoteValentine’s Day is around the corner, and it may be said that this most romantic time of year is best suited to the world of literature with all its declarations of love and legendary figures.

To give you that loving feeling, here’s a collection of loved-up literature lists from the internet that should warm your heart and perhaps help to woo the (other) book lover in your life…

Top 50 most romantic lines from literature (Stylist.co.uk)
The greatest works of literature are chock full of sentences to make you swoon and also stay within your soul once the chocolates have been eaten and the flowers have wilted. This selection includes beautiful lines from books and poems such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Wuthering Heights, Stop All The Clocks by W.H. Auden, and even Winnie the Pooh.

What is the Best Portrayal of a Marriage in Literature? (NY Times)
Writers Charles McGrath and Leslie Jamison give their take on what they believe to be the best fictional representations of matrimony in literature. Though not always the happiest of tales, they offer a number of recommendations including the Palliser series by Anthony Trollope.

25 Painfully Unrequited Love Stories from Literature (Flavorwire)
Love Against the Odds in Books (The Guardian Children’s Books site)

The path of true love never did run smooth, and tragic love stories can seem to be more common in literature than those that are blissful (take Romeo and Juliet as a prime example…), and it could be argued that it’s the tales of heartbreak and loss that resonate with us the most. Flavorwire presents a heartwrenching choice of literary love destined to go unfulfilled (no matter how many times you read them), while The Guardian presents stories that are full of romantic obstacles for any number of reasons, such as Pride and Prejudice and Noughts and Crosses.

16 Hilarious Dating Profiles of Famous Fictional Characters (Hodder and Stoughton)
Even wondered what it would look like if certain characters decided to sign up for online dating? Well, wonder no more, as some of the most well-known have had their profiles created. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day they remain something of a mystery – could you figure out who ‘Trimalchio17′ and ‘meek_and_mild82′ are?

And if all of this romance talk has left you rather forlorn, then remember that there’s always a place where you’re guaranteed to find love… (photo courtesy of @nationalbook)

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