West Vancouver Secondary Students filled the Kay Meek Theatre today to hear Booktopia 2016 author Ruta Sepetys tell the story behind her newest book Salt to the Sea.
In Salt to the Sea, three teens are fleeing the Russian advance in World War II. They are adrift from their family and their countries as they head towards the Baltic Sea in hopes of evacuating by boat as part of Operation Hannibal. Their heartrending journey reminds us of all that is lost in war but also the hope that somehow endures. “Just when you think the war has taken everything you loved, you meet someone and realize that somehow you still have more to give.” Alternately gut wrenching and uplifting, this story will stick with you long after you read it.
Sepetys’ goal in writing is to illuminate hidden history. The hidden history exposed in Salt to the Sea is the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff and the loss of 9343 lives to the Baltic Sea at the end of World War II. Sepetys’ books shine a light on the stories of the victims of vengeful regimes, especially the innocent children. She does meticulous research and listens to survivor stories and then skillfully weaves them into her storyline and characters. She sees telling these stories as a way to build empathy with the victims and let them know that the world has not forgotten their story. Sepetys says she chose the young adult genre as she feels students are the best ones to illuminate these stories.
Both Salt to the Sea and her first book, Between Shades of Grey, are very personal for Sepetys. They are stories of Lithuanian refugees. They are the stories of her family.
This is Sepetys third bestselling book so you might be surprised to find out that she wasn’t trained as a writer. In fact, she revealed that a bad experience she had in grade three stole her courage as a writer and that it was 30 years before she got it back. Sepetys began her career in the finance sector of the movie business. Increasingly though she was drawn into the creative side of the industry and ultimately spent many years helping musicians tell their story through music. It was one of those musicians who prompted her to tell her own story, and her Lithuanian relatives who encouraged her to write the story that became Salt to the Sea.
Sepetys advice to the young writers in the audience: “Turn yourself inside out and expose your thoughts and feelings to others. Learn how to face failure, criticism and rejection, and how to turn it into motivation. Be vulnerable. Let the wind blow through the hollow places. Find and preserve your own story.”
Booktopia is a program of the West Vancouver Memorial Library supported by the West Vancouver Memorial Library Foundation and local sponsors.
Libraries set up in three Kenyan Schools by Afretech, stocked with books donated from West Vancouver Schools
What’s in these boxes and why do these students look so excited?
The boxes are filled with donated books from West Vancouver school libraries and the students are excited because they are about to enter a school library for the first time!
West Vancouver School District library cataloguer Trish Jacquet has just returned from a three-week trip to Kenya with Afretech. While there, she helped set up three school libraries with books weeded from West Vancouver elementary and secondary school libraries. Students in Kenya learn English starting in grade 3, so having a library of English books is a real asset. Students and teachers at the three schools were excited to receive these books and to have a school library for the first time.
Afretech is a non profit volunteer run organization providing resources to schools and medical centres. In addition to the books donated by West Vancouver Schools, they also raise funds to buy books that reflect the local culture and language.
For more information on Afretech, check out their website http://www.afretech.org/
Posted by L. Ward, WVSS Teacher Librarian
School libraries are changing and the name is changing too. The change reflects not only the physical transformation of the library space, but how we work and learn in that space. The Learning Commons movement is championed in North America by library leaders Carol Koechlin and David Loertscher.
The West Vancouver Secondary Library began its transformation to a Learning Commons model four years ago with the creation of a large collaborative working space. Mobile tables and chairs allow for multiple configurations for student learning. The library website, the virtual learning commons, provides access to quality academic resources. Print books are used along side online sources, so a diverse collection of print resources in both fiction and non fiction remains an essential component of the learning commons. The teacher librarian’s role is to collaborate with classroom teachers to help students with their reading needs and research inquiries.
Want to know more about this new vision for school libraries? Two Vancouver Teacher Librarians wrote the book on it. Check out their report: From School Library to Learning Commons.
Posted by WVSS Librarian Lindsay Ward
West Vancouver Memorial Librarian Shannon Ozirny was buzzing as she introduced this year’s Booktopia speaker, Jacqueline Woodson, to West Vancouver Secondary students. It wasn't long before everyone in attendance shared her enthusiasm.
Woodson has written 31 books and won just about every award you can win in children’s literature. Her most recent book, Brown Girl Dreaming, is the story of her life growing up as a “brown girl” in New York and the American south. The book also details her genesis as a writer and the teachers and stories that influenced her as a child.
Woodson gave powerful recitations from a number of her books and talked about her process as a writer. Woodson says she learned to write by reading which is of course what every teacher librarian wants to hear! As a child, Woodson was influenced by reading Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant” because she said it was the first book that she read that didn’t have a happy ending. For Woodson, “as long as there is hope somewhere in the story, it doesn’t have to have a happy ending.” Surprisingly she says she doesn’t plan or outline a book, she just starts writing and sees where it goes. The trade-off of this is that she sometimes has 20 or 30 edits!
Naturally curious, Woodson says she writes because she has questions – not answers. She also believes that literature can be a powerful way to introduce complex or controversial issues because “once you read it in a book it is less foreign in real life.”
Her advice to student writers; “write it down before it leaves your brain.” She also advised students to stick with their writing when it all falls apart because that moment is inevitable for all writers.
The WVSS Library has copies of : Brown Girl Dreaming, If you Come Softly, Locomotion, Miracle’s Boys, From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun, Feathers, and Beneath a Meth Moon.
Posted by L.Ward
CBC Books’ Canada Reads is off and rolling for 2015. The theme this year is breaking barriers, “books that can change perspectives, challenge stereotypes and illuminate issues”. The debates, hosted by Wab Kinew, are March 16-19, so there’s time to read one or two of the selections.
For more information on the books, click here: http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadareads2015/
We have copies of Ru, Inconvenient Indian, When Everything Feels Like the Movies, and And The Birds Rained Down. Intolerable is being reprinted and should be available soon.
If you are reading one or more of these titles, we would love to hear your feedback in the comments, or send us a review and we will post it here in the blog.
Posted by Ms. L. Ward, Teacher Librarian WVSS
Authors are like rock stars to me. But in this case, the author of Where I Belong really is a rock star. Alan Doyle, one of the founding members of Great Big Sea, has recently written a memoir of his life growing up in a small town in Newfoundland. I was lucky enough to meet Doyle during his recent book tour at an event put on by the Vancouver Writers Festival. After a heartwarming presentation, Doyle spent hours signing books and interacting with fans. When it was my turn, I handed him our library copy of Where I Belong. He reacted with overwhelming enthusiasm. He was thrilled that his book was in a library! I think the expression on his face says it all!
My Review of Where I Belong, posted on Library Thing.
Where I Belong is a testament to the power of a sense of place. It is a love letter to Newfoundland from “Alan Doyle of Petty Harbour.” In Where I Belong, Doyle chronicles his adventures from being a cod-tongue cutting alter boy hanging out at the wharf in Petty Harbour, to being a religious-free-agent and museum guide in St. John’s at the genesis of Great Big Sea. Throughout those years, he more than lived up to his mother’s send-off pronouncement; “be good.”
Coming from “the musical Doyles of Petty Harbour”, it is not surprising that Doyle would become a successful musician. Throughout the book though, you come to realize that his success comes not just from his natural talent, but from his hard work, positive outlook, kindness towards others, and genuine good nature. What he attributes to a lucky break seems more likely a recognition of these qualities by others.
Though the book ends where Great Big Sea starts, it will certainly appeal to fans of the band and Doyle’s solo work. It should also be required reading for all Canadians to better understand what it means to be a Newfoundlander. It is also a pretty good inducement to visit the province that “Canada joined” in 1949.
Click here to see my other reviews on Library Thing.
Posted by L. Ward WVSS
Food for Fines is back this holiday season!
During the month of December, you can clear up your library fines by making a donation to the North Shore Harvest Foodbank. For each non-perishable food item you bring in, we will deduct $1 from your library fine.
The Harvest Project provides food for North Shore families in need through their grocery depot. Find out more at http://www.harvestproject.org/
One Native Life by Richard Wagamese
Reviewed by Arlene Anderson
For himself and for Canada! Richard Wagamese says he wrote his memoir, One Native Life, in part for personal reasons: to find light in the shadows of the abuse and abandonment he experienced as a child, but also to let Canadians see the "character, the spirit, and the soul of native people all across the country." On both counts, it would appear, he has succeeded.
"One Native Life" is much less an account of the facts of the author's life than it is a telling of his life's philosophy. It is grounded in his tribe and the land. His words paint a landscape that holds the mystery of our existence. It is here, on the land, we sense, he is most at home with himself. "When you walk the territory of your being," Wagamese says, "the truth is everywhere around you."
How connected are you? Would you take your phone to bed so as not to miss a message or call? If you said yes to that question, you are not alone. A recent survey of Canadian youth indicates just how extensive online culture is in the lives of young Canadians. See the infographic below and then follow up with a visit to the Media Smarts website where you can read the full story.