Thursday, 13 February 2014

Why I Quit Twitter

I joined Twitter what seems like a very long time ago, but was actually only just 2011.  I joined not for the same reasons all my friends were joining:  to follow celebrities, keep up to date on all the gossip, share ridiculous pictures  and tell the world about my incredibly inane and boring life in 144 characters or less (I figured  I was already doing most of that on Facebook). 

I joined because I wanted to harness the power of Twitter for my own professional learning and knew from the classes I had taken for my MEd that it could be a powerful tool in that capacity. In fact, I had even promoted Twitter with my colleagues as a great tool for connecting with people. I even wrote an assignment for school which was later adapted for an article in the Manitoba School Library Association Journal about an imagined, yet utopian, day in the life of a teacher-librarian as seen through her tweets. (Aside: Upon revisiting that article, I realize the future I imagined is happening NOW in some schools!!)
So I signed up for an account, connected it to my “professional blog” (which really just has a copy of my Masters capping paper on it and nothing else) and starting following some people. I was careful to follow people I respected and admired in the field of education, “gurus” you might say.  I was determined to keep this Twitter thing a serious business.
I followed about 30 people. Eventually I had 4 followers (which I was completely thrilled about!)
I checked back regularly.
I tried to be engaged.
I tried to keep up.
I wanted to post things, but always felt a little unsure if what I had to say was of any value.
I didn’t know the lingo (What does RT mean? What does ICYMI mean? What the heck is NSFW?)
I couldn’t figure out what the heck the big deal was with hashtags. (Although this is hilarious!)
I started to feel a little overwhelmed.
I started to feel annoyed that this amazing tool wasn’t doing for me what I had been told it would do!
Eventually I stopped checking, deleted the app from my phone and forgot about my account. I used the typical excuses: “Too time consuming,” “Nothing of value,” “I’m already online too much anyway,” “How on earth would I use this with students?” etc. etc. etc.
In all honesty, I really had no idea what I was doing.  That’s why I quit Twitter.  But it’s not the only reason, and it’s certainly not the most important reason.   
A Confession About Feeling Inadequate:
This is a feeling that I fear is far more pervasive among teachers, but no one would dare admit it:
I felt completely inadequate to be engaging in professional discourse with all the amazing educational professionals online.  What could I possible offer them? No one will want to follow me.
I let the vastness and intense interconnectedness on Twitter intimidate me into submission. I slid into that dreaded territory of self-doubt and that was the end of my Twitter life.  Granted there were other things going on in the real world at the time that added to my growing sense of professional inadequacy, but it became an infection I couldn’t shake in my virtual life and my real life. 
If you know me personally, you may be surprised by my confession. I am considered (I think) to be a pretty confident, assertive (sometimes outspoken), honest, outgoing person. Many people come to me for advice, with questions and to bounce ideas off of. I have been providing PD for the teachers at my school and my fellow teacher-librarians for years. But for some reason I just didn’t think I had anything to share in that vastest of places: the Internet. Even as I write this I know that last statement is a preposterous one if you consider the number of blogs, wikis, lessons and PD I’ve contributed to (although probably not well known or well circulated . . . see there’s that little bit of inadequacy still rearing its ugly head!)
But if I felt (or still feel sometimes?) inadequate in sharing online, then how do other teachers who are far less tech savvy, far less brave, far less self-assured, far less honest with themselves and far less willing to put themselves out there in the world feeling about this new (not so new!) age we teach in?
If I’ve learned anything from my reflections on this it is the following:
1.       Teachers need more than a cursory PD on a tool. Even if they don’t think they need it. Or complain about how it was “too much time spent” on one tool.  If we don’t know how to use it properly, we won’t use it at all.

2.       To all teachers everywhere: You have something to add. Your voice, your knowledge and your ideas have value. Someone somewhere needs you to share your insights! You are more than adequate!

3.       If at first you don’t succeed, try try again
And with that reverberating in my head I have Resurrected my Twitter life and am absolutely loving everything I’m finding there. 
With a special shout out to George Couros for his recent PD in Winnipeg that made me realize I had given up too soon and that I DO have a lot to offer!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Did You Know 4.0!

This is interesting. It's already old, but I just saw it and wanted to blog it!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Booktrailer: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Hello All, see my booktrailer below. References are listed below the embedded video.

Create your own video slideshow at

Music and video editing from

Image Credits (in order of appearance):

Fire US cover

Fire UK cover:

Both Covers retrieved from Kristin Cashore’s Cover Gallery at

“Eye Stock V” by SilaynneStock retrieved from

“Night Warrior” by PersephoneStock retrieved from:

“Black Dark Fantasy Warrior” retrieved from

“A Nobel Man”by Paul of Photography on the Run retrieved from

“Searching For His Lady Fair” by atistatplay retrieved from

“Castle Stock Premade Back 1” by devdemoncherrystock retrieved from

“Shadow Messenger Original” retrieved from

“A Knights Quest” by atistatplay retrieved from

“Fire letters HD F” retrieved from

“Fire Letter I Wallpaper” retrieved from

“Fire Letter R” retrieved from

“Fire Letter E Wallpaper” retrieved from

“Mixed Fire 017” (hand) retrieved from

Award Links:

2010 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award:

Cyblis 2009:

SLJ Best Books 2009:

Kirkus Best YA Book of 2009:

ALA Best Books 2010:

Christine :)

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Quentin Blake: Glogster Poster

The following 6 blog posts (7 including this one) constitute the "written" version of an assignment I did for EDES 501: Recourses for Children and Youth.  This assignment was a critical review of a children's book illustrator and I did mine on Quentin Blake.

Click here to see the Glogster poster I created:

Christine :)

Biographical Background on Quentin Blake (Podcast)

Quentin Blake was born in 1932 in Sidcup in Kent and started drawing when he was a young child as most of us did (Blake, 2008, Meet Quentin Blake, ¶ 1 & 9 ). As a young teen, Blake was inspired to submit drawings to the publication Punch by his Latin teacher’s husband, who was also an artist and a man he looked up to (Jefferies, 2007). When Quentin Blake was 16 years old one of his illustrations was accepted by Punch and he became a published illustrator. Later, although he loved drawing and was making a meagre living at it, he decided to attend Downing College at Cambridge to study English rather than study art. “I knew I wanted to be an artist and that I would have to train, but I thought that if I went to art school I would never go to a university, whereas if I did go to university I would still have the option of doing art," Blake notes to interviewer Stuart Jefferies in an article that appeared in the Guardian in 2008. After he finished at Cambridge he went to London University where he studied Education for a year. It was only after this that he enrolled at Chelsea school of Art and began to study art.

Quentin Blake has managed to keep his private life private and all that is really know about his personal life is that he never married and never had children of his own. He says, “I tend to approach the subject of children's books as a teacher rather than a parent. In other words, I try to identify with the children in the books rather than look upon them as a benevolent adult,” (Jefferies, 2007)

He began illustrating children’s books when he convinced his friend John Yeoman to write a book so that he could illustrate it (Blake, 2008, Meet Quentin Blake, ¶ 14). Throughout his career as an illustrator Blake also taught at the Royal College of Art and was head of the Illustration Department from 1978 to 1986 (Blake, 2008, Biography, ¶ 2). In 1968, Patrick was published, which was Quentin Blake’s first children’s book that he both wrote and illustrated. He wrote this book so that he could incorporate colour into his illustrations because prior to that he was seen as a black and white illustrator (Blake, 2008, Meet Quentin Blake, ¶ 15).

Quentin Blake has written or illustrated over 300 books, 323 to be exact, for adults and children and has formed lasting and memorable partnerships with, authors such as John Yeoman, Joan Aiken, Russell Hoban, Michael Rosen and of course Roald Dahl (Blake, 2008, Biography ¶ 3) . Blake first met Roald Dahl in 1975 when he was commissioned to work on the Enormous Crocodile, leading to many other famous collaborations including The BFG. To see a complete bibliography of works illustrated or written by Quentin Blake go to .

In his work as an illustrator he has received many awards and honours including the “Kate Greenaway Medal (1980) and the Red House Children's Book Award (1981) for Mister Magnolia; the Kurt Maschler Award (1990) for All Join In; the Bologna Ragazzi Prize (Italy) and the NestlĂ© Smarties Book Prize (Bronze Award) (both 1996) for Clown; and the Kurt Maschler Award and NestlĂ© Smarties Book Prize (Bronze Award) (both 1998) for The Green Ship,” (The Children’s Laureate, 2008, ¶ 5). In 2002 he was awarded the Hans Christian Anderson Award for Illustration. Blake has also been recognized by both Great Britain and France. He was awarded the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1988 and the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2005 (Children’s Laureate, 2008, ¶ 7 & 13). He also received “the 'Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres' [from] the French Government for services to literature and in 2007 he was made Officier in the same order,” (Blake, 2008, Biography, ¶ 5). In 1999 Blake was chosen as the first Children’s Laureate and has since been employed as an exhibition curator for many museums including the National Gallery and the British Library (Blake, 2008, Biography, ¶ 4). He still illustrates children’s books, his most recent collaboration being Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy by Michael Rosen, which was published in 2006.

Selected Works (Script Video #1)

Why did I choose Quentin Blake and Selected Works (video #1)

I was first introduced to the illustrations of Quentin Blake in grade 5 when my teacher, Mr Faris read The BGF by Roald Dahl aloud to my class. I remember thinking how perfectly the pictures represented the story and how there seemed to be a picture in all the right spots in the book and how the BFG looked exactly like my grandfather, which is how I had imagined he would look! It is only now, as an adult, that I realize it is a bit unusual for a novel to be illustrated in way that The BFG was.

I suppose then I chose Quentin Blake out of a sense of nostalgia having grown up with Roald Dahl’s strange stories always accompanied by Blake’s unique illustrations. Whether it was when the BFG and Sophie spluttered while eating a snozzcumber, the close up of Mr. Twit’s beard, the Prince cutting off the evil stepsister’s head or Little Red Riding Hood walking off in a wolf-skin coat, Quentin Blake’s distinct style just seems to naturally suit Dahl’s sarcastic, witty dark sense of humour.

Other selected works of Quentin Blake’s that I have come to love from my years reading Roald Dahl books are The Magic Finger, Esio Trot, The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me, George’s Marvelous Medicine, Boy, The Vicar of Nibbleswicke and of course there are many others. Recently I have come to know Loveykins and Mrs. Armitage: Queen of the Road both of which are written and illustrated by Quentin Blake and Tell Me a Picture and Magic Pencil which are both non-fiction books to which Quentin Blake selected and/or contributed artwork. These last two are really about the importance of art and of children’s book illustrations as a form of art.

This assignment has been very entertaining for me, since I hadn’t previously known that Quentin Blake both illustrated for authors other than Roald Dahl and was himself a writer/illustrator. I have been able to once again enjoy Blake’s work as I did as a child and I have gotten to know (and love) his greater body of work. The one thing I learned about Quentin Blake that I especially love is his tireless advocacy for the inclusion of art in a child’s life. Not only is this evident in the books Tell Me a Picture and Magic Pencil but it is especially evident in his work during and after being named the first Children’s Laureate in 1999. He discusses much of this work on his website in the “Meet Quentin Blake” section.

Blake has also done some unexpected illustrations including an illustrated version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, an illustrated version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and a book by Dr. Seuss called Great Day for Up.

That concludes the selected works portion of the assignment. Next please proceed to the video below for my critical review where you will get to glimpse some of Blake’s illustrations in The BFG.

Critical Review of Quentin Blake (Script Video #2)

Critical Review of the Illustrations in The BFG (video #2)

Quentin Blake uses a painterly technique where he combines ink and water colour. His process is somewhat unique, as he uses a light box to help him create his finished illustrations, something that used to be looked down upon by other artists. He describes the process like this:

“I do a free-wheeling sort of drawing that looks as if it has been done on the spur of the moment, although in reality it's not quite like that. I start with lots of roughs - some of which turn out to be quite close to the finished drawing, and some of which are discarded . . . For about twenty years I've used a lightbox, which I find really useful. On the light box I put the rough drawing I'm going to work from, and on top of that, a sheet of watercolour paper. Ready to hand is a bottle of waterproof black ink and a lot of scruffy looking dip pens. What happens next is not tracing; in fact it's important that I can't see the rough drawing underneath too clearly, because when I draw I try to draw as if for the first time; but I can do it with increased concentration, because the drawing underneath lets me know all the elements that have to appear and exactly where they have to be placed,” (Blake, 2008, Illustrating a Book, ¶ 5 & 6).

Blake uses this light box method to both apply his water proof ink and his water colour paint. If you’d like to learn more about his technique or see him in action I would encourage you to click on the link “Quentin Blake in Action!” at the bottom of this Glogster poster (or go directly there by clicking here).

It is Blake’s style of “free-wheeling” drawing with ink and then soft overlays of watercolour that make his illustrations so utterly unique, being instantly recognizable to most people who have only read a single children’s book illustrated by him.

When analysing Blake’s work for the elements and principles of art, it is easy enough to pick out the two strongest: that of line and texture. Blake uses line to convey movement and whimsy as well as spontaneity and drama. About his own drawing he says,

“What I want to convey is movement and gesture and atmosphere. I like drawing anything that is doing something . . . I don’t draw from life. I draw as though I’m trying to capture something that isn’t there,” (Jefferies, 2008), and “I came upon the possibilities of spontaneity . . . That kind of drawing is the basic act that for me makes illustration so attractive,” (Rose, 2002, p. 50).

This spontaneity is evident in his illustrations and helps to shape the feelings of whimsy and movement from his characters. There are two wonderful examples of how he uses line to portray these elements he sees as vital. The first is the drawing that shows the BFG eating a snozzcumber on page 52. You can actually visualize the movement of the BFG as he convulses and gags. The lines on his face clearly illustrate his disgust for the vile vegetable and the fact that his body is leaning back gives one the impression that he is about to spit the morsel out with a violent hack. The minute details of the tiny bits of spittle and Sophie’s petite body running for cover add to the hilarity of the illustration and support the text in a magical way. The second example of Blake’s use of line is the illustration showing the BFG catching dreams on page 83. The very idea of catching dreams brings to mind a whimsical and light-hearted activity, which Blake easily portrays with squiggly lightly drawn and thin barely there lines. It is clear that when Blake needs to portray a light mood, he relies on line to do most of the work. This is in contrast to his use of shading with gray scale water colours which he uses to portray more serious and scary moods and moments.

Since most of his illustrations for The BFG are black and white, colour plays only a significant role in the cover illustration (seen on the right side of this Glogster poster). However the translation of watercolours to black and white adds a beautiful gray scale depth to the texture of the illustrations. When one looks at the cover art for The BFG, one realizes that, as in most of his other coloured artwork, Blake seems to be intuitively good at knowing just where to make the colours darker or more faint adding to the sense of texture that many other more classically famous water colour artists achieve. Shadows and shading are well placed; there are appropriate shadows of the rocks and of Sophie on the BFG’s hand and the light airy pink of the background gives the scene depth and the reader a sense that the BFG is friendly and kind. It should be noted that colour does play quite a significant role in many other works by Quentin Blake, even though his use of colour is limited in this book.

As I said a moment ago, the shading effect of the water colours when translated into black and white provides a unique texture and strength to the illustrations. One specific example s of this is when Sophie first sees the BFG in the shadows on page 14. Sophie’s first glimpse of the BFG is while he is skulking about. The illustration is dark and the reader can barely make out a figure standing in the shadows. This is exactly how Sophie is described as seeing the being and by incorporating the dark shadows into this illustration, the reader is directly transported into the narrative and begins to experience the book from within, with a front row seat, as Sophie does. Another example of this texture in Blake’s work is when the helicopters are lowering Fleshlumpeater into the pit on page 200. This is interesting not just for the shading in the pit, getting ever darker as the pit gets deeper, but more so for the illusion of movement the water colour shadow gives to the helicopter blades.

When analysing Blake’s illustrations in The BFG it’s easy to think about composition because of Blake and Dahl’s attention to the details of layout, design and placement of the illustrations within the text. This is done so well in the book, that one forgets that the text and illustrations are actually separate. The effect is that the reader feels these illustrations are a part of the story rather than about the story. Quentin Blake talks of tirelessly planning the layouts of book illustrations so that this very effect is achieved saying

“I like organising a book, which means that I often have to reconcile spontaneous drawing with quite a high level of planning . . . disposing the pictures properly so that they can help each other and make a sequence,” (Rose, 2002, p. 50) and “I try to get as close to what the writer intended as possible - to get on their wavelength. The text, not the pictures, must lead the way. Sometimes, though, the pictures come first. Often, in fact, the shrewd writer has already incorporated moments which ask to be illustrated,” (Blake, 2008, Illustrating a Book, ¶ 2 & 3).

There are actually many excellent examples of how composition is used in The BFG, if you take a moment to really look and think about the drawings and text and how they interact. The book includes full page illustrations such as those on pages 27, 56, 167 and 169, half page illustrations such as those on pages 49 and 185, small vignettes scattered throughout the text, a great example of which is when Sophie is reading the labels on all the dream jars on pages 110 and 111, and illustrations that spread across two pages.

Often the full page illustrations complement or belong together with another half page illustration on the facing page, as if they really make up different components of a single illustration and the text was simply put into the intervening spaces. This use of composition gives the reader a sense of moving the story along from page to page. One specific examples of this includes when Sophie first meets The Queen on pages 152 and 153. On the first page’s illustration located at the top of the page, Sophie sits on the window sill as a maid looks astonished to find her there. On the facing page’s illustration located at the bottom of the page The Queen looks up towards the illustration of Sophie and it is not hard to imagine that you are seeing two things that are happening at once during the same “scene” in the book. Interestingly, Blake manages to draw in his distinct style, yet still make The Queen appear regal and distinguished in every appearance. Another fantastic example of this interplay between illustrations is when The Queen has breakfast with Sophie and the BFG on pages 168 and 169. Again the two illustrations play off of each other as the Queen and Sophie look up towards the BFG and he looks down towards them. Finally a third example of this is when the BFG is giving advice to the ‘Head of the Army’ and the ‘Head of the Air Force’ about how to capture the mean giants on pages 178 and 179. The BFG sits atop the right page waving his hands about while the army and air force men stand with the Queen on the bottom of the left page looking up at the BFG with a look of bewilderment. These last two examples also show the size difference between the BFG and the people, since they are always looking up at him from below, thus enforcing the physical characteristics of the BFG throughout the novel.

Many of the illustrations that are spread out over two pages (two pages one drawing) give the reader a sense of moving along through the story, of quickening the pace or of the action of the moment. This is especially evident when the BFG has just snatched Sophie and he is running home. We don’t know if he is good or bad and the illustration across pages 18 and 19 shows him bounding over land as though flying through the air with his cape flowing behind. Blake also uses colour and texture here to show the situation is potentially ominous. The character is coloured darkly and there is a stern look upon his face. This illustration adds much to the tension of the moment and in my opinion persuades the reader to read on to find out what happens next. This illustration is an excellent “hook” into the meat of the novel. Another example of this sense of moving the story along through double page illustrations appears when the BFG is caught by the other giants. They bully the BFG and the illustration that is spread across these pages gives the reader the distinct impression that the poor BFG has been tossed from page 74 to page 75 and that he is about to be tossed back again. This illustration cleverly shows a tossing motion from left to right, encouraging the reader to turn the page and continue on to find out what happens.

In my opinion the illustrations of Quentin Blake are what made The BFG the classic it is today. His ingenuity at depicting the quirky fanciful characters of Roald Dahl’s through his use of line, texture and shading and his composition talent in putting the pictures just where they need to be add to the enjoyment of the novel and enhance the reading experience. Quentin Blake’s illustrations of Dahl’s work flawlessly depict both the whimsical aspects of Dahl’s characters and the hilarity and absurdity of the narrative. In fact, I feel that Dahl’s eccentric narrative could not have been more aptly captured by anyone other than Quentin Blake.