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Secret-powered Book Week at Wenona

From author talks, to cartooning workshops, to writing competitions, to book character parades, our talented librarians organised lots of fun and inspiring activities this week for book lovers of all ages.

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The theme of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) is Reading is my Secret Power. And who better to attest to this than award-winning author of novels like Looking for Alibrandi, Melina Marchetta.

In one of her talks at the Independent Theatre on Tuesday, Ms Marchetta took Year 7 and 8 students ‘behind the scenes’ of her novels to show them where her stories come from and how she thinks, writes and creates them. As she explained, “I always knows how a story begins, and how it ends, but I don’t always know how it gets there.” For Ms Marchetta, it is about the discipline of writing every day, constantly revisiting and rewriting her words. “I always go back to what I’ve written the next day and I probably get rid of 80 percent of it. But there’s about 20 percent that is pure gold.”

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Ms Marchetta stressed to the students how important it is to get the rhythm of sentences right when writing dialogue. And she also showed them how something as simple as a change in tense can radically transform a piece of writing.

Perhaps the most useful advice that Ms Marchetta gave to students was how to deal with failure. As she said, “I don’t like failure, but some of my greatest successes have come from failure.” Her manuscript for Looking for Alibrandi was rejected at least eight times before it was finally accepted by a publisher. “Every year, publishers receive about 2,000 manuscripts and they probably only accept one or two of them. When I submitted my manuscript, I’d never even won a raffle. Something just made me carry on sending it. I’ve often wondered what my life would be like if I’d given up after that first rejection.”

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In the lead up to Book Week, Librarians Mrs Porter, Ms Scott and Library Technician Mrs Blamey worked with Digital Learning Leader Mr Kolbe to help Junior School students record a video explaining why reading was their secret power. Mr Kolbe gave them a lesson on camera angles, lighting and different techniques that they could use to make their video clips come to life. It was a great way for the students to review their favourite books with insight and charm, while encouraging their classmates to read other books that might be outside their comfort zone.

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Earlier in the week, students from Years 5 to 11 came together in the Library under the guidance of Head of Library, Ms Stevenson to ‘Write a Book in a Day’. Forming teams of up to 10, the students had 12 hours to write and illustrate a book for children in hospitals across Australia to read, while also raising money for The Kids’ Cancer Project.

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Each team was given five parameters for their story. This included two human characters, one non-human character, a setting and an issue. They also had to include five random words in their story. Primary School teams had to write between 2,000 to 2,500 words and Senior School teams had to write between 4,000 to 5,000 words for their books to be eligible.

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The students spent the morning brainstorming and storyboarding their storylines before getting to grips with writing and illustrating. It was incredible to see how much they achieved in such a short time.

To help raise money for The Kids’ Cancer Project ‘Write a Book in a Day’ competition, the students held a Cake and Candle sale last week, with all candles handmade by Annabelle in Year 7.

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This morning, Yvette Poshoglian - the bestselling author of over 30 books for children and young readers, including the wildly popular Ella and Olivia series, the Frankie Fox Girl Spy books, Escape from Cockatoo Island, and her newly released series Puppy Diary - spoke to Year 3 to 6 students in the Independent Theatre about what inspired her to write her books and how she comes up with her story ideas.

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The students were fascinated to find out that the idea for her book Escape from Cockatoo Island came from an ill-fated kayaking adventure on the Harbour that resulted in her coming ashore on the island. She became fascinated in its history and her research led her to discover all sorts of unusual facts about the 'wayward' girls that were sent there to work. As she said, "Some stories need to be told."

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Ms Poshoglian spoke to the students about the power of a good book cover."Illustrators are authors' secret weapons," she said. She was impressed at how many book covers and characters the students recognised, and how engaged they were with reading and writing.

Librarian Ms Scott and Library Assistant Mrs Tame came dressed as secret investigators complete with magnifying glasses and notepads, so they could conduct special investigations to discover students' secret reading powers.

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Toon Creations ran a cartoon workshop in Woodstock, which encouraged the students to unleash their creativity and use shapes, letters and numbers to bring their favourite cartoon characters to life.

At lunchtime, Mr Kolbe used the power of green screen technology to transport students into the pages of their favourite book. Using some high-tech trickery, Mr Kolbe captivated imaginations and delighted students as they were whisked off inside the pages of Harry Potter and Dr Seuss.

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Parents also got into the ‘novel’ experience as they gathered in the piazza to cheer on their daughters at the Book Character Parade. They then had a great time reading with their children.

As always, Book Week at Wenona was a real page turner. Thank you to our Library staff and all our teachers and parents who helped to make it so successful.