Station 11, Wolf by wolf and other good books


Good books abound…..


Station 11

What a great book by Emily St John Mandel – dystopian but different – winner of the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award and listed on many ‘best book’ lists. The novel follows the players in the Travelling Symphony, as they perform music and Shakespeare’s works in a world devastated by a flu virus, with few survivors. Their motto: “Survival is insufficient”. This haunting and compelling novel makes you appreciate what we have in our society and how beauty and art are vital for human existence. The backstories of the characters are intriguing and add to the emotional depth of this novel as their lives intertwine and play out.


“Visually stunning, dreamily atmospheric and impressively gripping….Station 11 is not so much about apocalypse as about memory and loss, nostalgia and yearning; the effort of art to deepen our fleeting impressions of the world and bolster our solitude.” – Guardian.

“Mandel’s message is that civilisation – and just as importantly, art – will endure as long as there is life. She tells us that when humanity’s back is against the wall, decency will emerge.” Independent.

“At once terrible and tender, dark and hopeful, Station Eleven is a tragically beautiful novel that both mourns and mocks the things we cherish.” –Neal Thompson.


Loved it – and fascinating to follow the development of the graphic novel “Station 11” within the novel. A film adaptation is in development. Recommended for Year 10 onwards.


Wolf by wolf

YA novel by Ryan Graudin (female author). The novel has been compared to The book thief as well as The Hunger Games and is based on the premise: What if Germany had won World War 2? Set in an alternate Germany of 1956, it is the story of a young woman on a dangerous mission to kill Hitler. Experimented on at Auschwitz, Yael can now change her appearance at will – although she always leaves the 5 wolves tattooed on her arm to remind her of lost loved ones. Using her abilities, she transforms into Adele Wolfe, a famous long-distance motorbike rider.

Themes include history, love, loss, courage, heroism, hope, race, identity, community, human monstrosity and vengeance.

‘Ryan Graudin opens one of the darkest chapters in history and spins a what if
into an incredible tale of survival, identity, and purpose.’ – Victoria Schwab.


Amazon opens real bookstore

Amazon’s first brick-and-mortar bookstore has recently opened in Seattle (Amazon’s hometown). The store “integrates the benefits of offline and online book shopping.” (Offline indeed – what a term!). Amazon will use real people and also data from its website to decide which books to stock eg. customer ratings, sales, Goodreads ratings. All books will be presented face out with a sign for each with its Amazon rating and a customer review. The store will also sell Kindles. Amazon commands a market share of 30% of books sold in the US, however, the largest US chain, Barnes and Noble, has reported recent increases in core book sales. In 2015, ebook sales have fallen dramatically in the US. There are now more bookstores and some publishers are expanding their warehouses.


What would Mark Zuckerberg read?

This year the Facebook CEO decided he would read a book every 2 weeks……hmm maybe he’s not as addicted to Facebook as we thought he was 🙂 He believes that “books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today. I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.” He started A Year of Books book club in Facebook, where he discusses the books with other Facebookers. His selections focused on different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies. The 20 books include: The three-body problem – by Cixin Liu (Chinese sci-fi novel– winner of the 2015 Hugo Award); The Muqaddimah – by Ibn Khaldun (Islamic history of the world from 1377); Sapiens – by Yuval Harari (history of humankind); The better angels of our nature – by Steven Pinker (why violence has declined).


Yes Zuckerberg is super rich but Bill Gates is still the richest person in the world ($84.7billion). Mark is number 16 ($47 billion), with Google guys Brin and Page at 17 and 18. Philanthropy is a high priority with Gates (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) and also Zuckerberg. In 2014, Zuckerberg and wife Dr Priscilla Chan made a $120 million donation to improve education in the San Francisco Bay area, particularly for low-income students. In 2010 he donated $100 million to schools in Newark.

Victor Frankenstein

Science fiction horror film. Directed by Paul McGuigan. Stars James McEvoy as Victor Frankenstein and Daniel Radcliffe as his assistant Igor Strausman. The story is told from Igor’s perspective and shows his dark origins and his redemptive friendship with medical student Victor von Frankenstein. Working together on experiments to resurrect the dead, Igor witnesses Frankenstein’s journey to legendary status. Rated PG. Opens March 2016.

Star Wars and and good films

Lots of good films….useful for various subject areas…..


Star Wars: Episode VII – The force awakens

Opens 17 Dec. Set 30 years after Return of the Jedi (1983). Widely rumoured to feature the offspring of Han Solo and Leia. Directed by J.J. Abrams (co-writer with Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote Eps V and VI). Stars Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker??, Chewbacca and Dark Helmet. See below for all the Star Wars you can eat….trailers, Luke Skywalker conspiracy theories, lightsabers, waffles.….

The movie will be followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December 16, 2016), Star Wars: Episode VIII (26 May 2017) and the Han Solo  anthology movie (25 May, 2018). No release dates have been announced for Star Wars: Episode IX.

New trailer:

Luke Skywalker conspiracy theories:


Star wars and has partnered with Disney and Lucasfilm for its Hour of Code event with a tutorial featuring characters from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The online lesson will teach kids how to build their own computer game, featuring characters Princess Leia, C-3PO and R2-D2, as well as new characters, Rey and BB-8. The tutorial will be available for free in 180 countries, translated into more than 400 languages and will be smartphone and tablet-friendly.’s Hour of Code takes place every year during US Computer Science Education Week 7-13 December 2015. The goal is to get as many people as possible to commit to an hour of coding. Since its launch last year, more than 5 million students from around the world have enrolled in’s online platform. In 2014, the Hour of Code tutorial featured characters Anna and Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen,” and was completed more than 13 million times. This year’s tutorial will feature leading female characters from Star Wars Ep. VII.


He named me Malala

In cinemas now. Rated PG. Directed by Davis Guggenheim. Stars Malala Yousafzai, “the girl who dared to learn” and the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner (at 17). The film charts her determination to recover from the Taliban shooting in Pakistan in 2012 as she headed to school on a bus, defying Taliban orders forbidding girls to attend school. Now she is an advocate for the education of young women globally. The film also shows the strong influence of her family, especially her father Ziauddin. “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” – Malala.


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

The final instalment of the 4 part series opens 19 Nov. Katniss and District 13 engage in an all-out revolution against evil President Snow and the Capitol. Directed by Francis Lawrence. Stars Jennifer Lawrence and Philip Seymour Hoffman in his last role. The film has received very positive reviews from early critics. There is a possibility of a future prequel or sequel, even though all the books have now been filmed.



Fantastic beasts and where to find them

Fantasy drama film, the first of a trilogy, inspired by the book by J.K. Rowling – a spin-off of the Harry Potter film series. It is Rowling’s screenwriting debut. Stars Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell. When a number of dangerous creatures escape from Newt Scamander’s briefcase at a Magical Congress in New York in 1926, there is a sharp increase in tension between magical and non-magical peoples (No-Maj….not Muggles). Opens Nov 2016.


Finding Dory

The sequel to Finding Nemo will premier in June 2016. Written and directed by Andrew Stanton (who created Finding Nemo). Stars Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Diane Keaton.

Dory discovers where she came from and reunites with her family, getting a better understanding of who she is and why she is. The film has a central conservation theme and Pixar changed the film’s ending after seeing the powerful documentary Blackfish, which examined the inhuman treatment of orcas at Seaworld.

Trailer just released:


Star Trek – new TV series

Due in 2017. This will the 6th version of the show, which began in 1966 with various versions being made for over 39 years, along with 12 films. All of them have been successful….well you can’t beat Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard IMHO. The next movie will be Star Trek: beyond, to be released in July 2016. Meanwhile, William Shatner, now aged 84, sets his sights on Star Trek: the musical to celebrate 50 years of Star Trek in 2016!


Pride and prejudice and zombies

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a zombie-slaying man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a zombie-hunter wife. The film is based on the 2009 mash-up novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, which combines P&P and zombie fiction.  Stars Lily James, Sam Riley, Matt Smith. Directed by Burr Steers. Rated PG. Opens Feb 2016.

According to the author, the original text was well-suited for use as a zombie horror story: “You have this fiercely independent heroine, you have this dashing heroic gentleman, you have a militia camped out for seemingly no reason whatsoever nearby, and people are always walking here and there and taking carriage rides . . . It was just ripe for gore and senseless violence”. Zombies in P&P alter the plot in various ways – couriers are eaten, characters are judged on their zombie-fighting abilities and the Bennet sisters are trained in zombie-slaying skills. Of course, Elizabeth clashes with the haughty monster-hunter Mr Darcy, but later they fight together to defeat the evil zombies and live happily ever after.


And there’s always Bond, James Bond – in Spectre – out now. Leigh Paatsch says “devotees will be satisfied after feasting on this whopping chunk of spy candy” J

Robotics and coding

Spare parts – film

This is a very good film and book – great for Lives and Times / Biography units. It is the true story of 4 Mexican high school students (3 of whom were illegal immigrants) who form a robotics club at an underfunded Phoenix, Arizona high school, under the leadership of a teacher (in real life, 2 teachers). With no experience, $800, used car parts and a dream, the team goes up against the country’s reigning underwater robotics champion, MIT. Directed by Sean McNamara. Stars George Lopez, Marisa Tomei. Rated PG.

The original story by Joshua Davis appeared in WIRED magazine in 2005. Following publication, readers contributed more than $90 000 in scholarships for the 4 youths.

Here’s what they are doing now:

Book by Joshua Davis – Spare parts: Four undocumented teenagers, one ugly robot, and the battle for the American Dream:

“This is hands down my favorite kind of story: underdogs plus ingenuity plus pluck and dedication equals a deeply moving and touching narrative. I love these kids!” ―Adam Savage, cohost of MythBusters


Robotics and computer coding in Queensland schools

These will be taught to all students from prep to Year 10 from 2016. The premier announced that the AC Digital Technologies curriculum would be fast-tracked. Every state school in Qld will also have access to specialist STEM teachers and a Qld coding academy will be set up. The AC Digital Technologies revised curriculum (approved in Sept) now has programming beginning in Year 5, rather than Foundation.


5 reasons to teach robotics in schools

It’s fun for kids; it introduces programming; provides skills for future employment; suitable for range of abilities; demystifies a complex technology.


Code Club merges with Raspberry Pi Foundation

Global children’s coding network Code Club has merged with the UK charity Raspberry Pi Foundation, which makes low-cost computers to promote computer skills in schools. They are both part of the movement helping people become digital makers and not just consumers. In Australia, the popular Code Club teaches programming languages like Scratch and Python to more than 8000 students in 300 classes. Now they will also start robotics. Raspberry Pi comes pre-loaded with Scratch and Python. It can also be used for Minecraft  and advanced robotics. The new merger will offer even more free resources online for learning coding and digital making.


NASA releases 8,000+ high-res images from the Apollo Program

“The Apollo missions are NASA’s gift that just keeps on giving. America’s civilian space agency just released a veritable treasure trove of high resolution scanned images from the Apollo archives, many of which have never been seen before.

To view the entire collection in neatly-sorted albums, visit NASA’s Project Apollo Archive on Flickr.”