Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Latest from Ayacucho, Peru: Pascuatoro and the running of the bulls

Where do we draw the line between animal rights and respect for tradition?

In the Peruvian city of Ayacucho, bull running is a recent addition to an Easter celebration that goes back centuries.

You can find my latest piece, on the revival of the traditional pascuatoro, at

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Q&A with Ken White, Manager of Educational Programs at Brookhaven National Laboratory

This week on Books and Adventures we’re joined by Ken White, manager of educational programs at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), an advanced research facility run by the U.S. Department of Energy.

BNL was founded in 1947, with a mandate to promote research across the fields of physics, chemistry, biology and engineering. I began by asking Ken how long BNL has been involved with schools outreach and science education.

'The Laboratory has been a supporter of science education pretty much since its inception. Science education and workforce development are part of our mission at BNL, and we have been fortunate to have leadership support to enable greater interaction with our academic community.  College students have come here for internships since the early 1950s and the Lab frequently had open houses and school outreach programs well back into the early 1960s. 

Over the past six years we have developed hands-on inquiry-based experiences for middle and high school students to enable them to conduct science similar to that of our researchers.  These are offered at cost and have become quite popular with local schools.  These programs have expanded the way in which we satisfy our responsibility for educating the next generation of scientists.

Successful offerings need to be exciting, with engaging activities that enable students to realize science is accessible to them.  The best programs often include a story as well – we try to humanize the program by relating it to our scientific staff actually working on the problems being presented.  Programs that show how the academic work applies to real life problems we face as a society tend to do well.'

What can a visit to BNL do for students in mainstream schooling?

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Report from Holy Week in Ayacucho

You can catch my latest from Holy Week in Ayacucho - including how I ended up taking an impromptu role in a traditional religious procession - at Living in Peru.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Telling Stories From Cultures Not Our Own

This week's guest post comes from Eric Maddern, writer, teacher, singer, storyteller and mastermind behind the Welsh retreat centre Cae Mabon

As Books and Adventures explores the indigenous cultures of Peru, Eric - an experienced traveller and storyteller - kindly agreed to share his thoughts on 'Telling Stories from Cultures Not Our Own'.


By what right do storytellers tell stories from Africa, Native America, Aboriginal Australia and other similar cultures? Isn’t appropriating and telling these peoples’ stories an extension of colonialism? We stole their lands and livelihoods; we decimated their cultures; we virtually drove them to extinction. Now we want to tell their stories. Isn’t this just the latest stage of colonial theft? It’s not surprising that some survivors from such cultures think so.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Interview: Sally Wendkos Olds, Super Granny

Today’s interviewee, Sally Wendkos Olds, is an accomplished writer, with special expertise in child development, families and travel. Sally has 11 books and over 200 articles to her name. Even more importantly, she’s the devoted grandmother of 5 lucky children.

Sally’s book Super Granny: Great Stuff to Do With Your Grandkids is packed with original and exciting activities for modern grandmothers to do with grandkids of all ages, from high-tech intercontinental Skype chats to simply eating your dessert before your dinner!

Sally’s book and award-winning blog address the new breed of grandmothers who don’t look like the fluffy-haired, passive picture-book stereotype of the past. Glamorous, jet-setting, technologically savvy, the Super Granny is more likely to catch up with her grandkids via Blackberry than slump on the sofa with tea and biscuits.

Here at Books and Adventures we recognize that learning and reading is an adventure which children share with many people beyond their immediate family. Friends, teachers and relatives, including grannies, have so much to offer as we learn and grow.

Sally kindly took time for a Q-and-A with Books and Adventures by e-mail. There’s more on her work here, and you can find the Super Granny book here.

Q: The Super Granny ‘doesn’t look like the grandmothers in the picture books….like your own grandmothers or even your own mothers. And you don’t act like any of these either.’ What’s brought about this generational change?

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Nnedi Okorafor, Akata Witch Review at Brooklyn Rail

My review of Nnedi Okorafor's new Young Adult novel Akata Witch is now online at, and available in print across NYC.

Later this month, you'll find an in-depth interview with Nnedi right here at Books and Adventures.

New Zealand Book Month Extended in Christchurch

A quick update from New Zealand Book Month (NZBM), which has been extended into April for Christchurch after the recent earthquake.
Sadly numerous NZBM events in the city have been cancelled, including workshops with comic book writer Steve Malley, and the exciting 'Create an NZ Superhero' online competition - but libraries are still playing a major part in the recovery effort.

Carolyn Robertson, the city's Libraries and Information Manager, told Books and Adventures, 'I think books and library services were absolutely instrumental in helping people cope in the aftermath. The quake occurred on a Tuesday. By the following Sunday, there was a library story teller at every shelter with books, rhymes, and songs. The children's responses varied from shelter to shelter: at one, they were very hyper and upset, at another they were painfully shy and needed lots of encouragement to even sit on the mat. So the library staff had to pull out all their tricks, and adjust the programme to meet different needs. 

Saturday, 2 April 2011


Rimaykullayki...or, ''hello'" in Quechua!

After my three month project with Behind the Book in New York, I'm now in Ayacucho, Peru, delivering professional development and curriculum advice for staff at San Domingo Savio School.

Books and Adventures will continues to feature its usual mix of articles and interviews, but for the next month or so, you can also find a personal account of my Peruvian experiences at La Vida Idealist.

Stay tuned to Books and Adventures for charter schools, New Zealand Book Month, science teaching in the USA, Super Grannies and the secret of Finland's education success.

But drop in on La Vida Idealist if you want to know the meaning of this picture...