A few stories for Children’s Book Week

It’s Children’s Book Week (16–22 August 2014), so let’s enjoy a few stories about literature for the young (and young-at-heart).

First up, an old school/new kid project out of the University of Colorado (Boulder): the Tactile Picture Books Project.

Tactile books have been around for a long time. They’re fantastic objects for introducing the magical world of books to very young children who are blind or visually impaired. You can read about the Tactile Book Advancement Group here, and about how to make fabric tactile books here. You can also find out more here about Vision Australia’s Feelix Library. It’s a great Braille book library for children who are blind or have low vision.

But the CU-Boulder Tactile Picture Books Project has a surprising ‘new kid’ aspect. It’s producing the first-ever 3D-printed tactile picture books.

University of Colorado Boulder students Abby Stangl and Jeeeun Kim are using 3D printers to assist very young blind and visually impaired readers (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)
Some pages from Goodnight moon – University of Colorado Boulder students Abby Stangl and Jeeeun Kim are using 3D printers to assist very young blind and visually impaired readers (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

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Old school, new kid – the drinkable book

One of my long-time favourite web publishers is springwise.com. It’s an international noticeboard of ingenious new projects, large and small – a self-described ‘essential fix of entrepreneurial ideas’.

In its most recent weekly email, springwise included a new invention from the US: the drinkable book.

This imagination-grabbing object mixes science with profound social benefit, design, marketing, and the old school hard-back book. It could prevent millions of deaths around the world, caused by waterborne diseases.

The new kid/modern surprise in the drinkable book? It’s filled with pages that can be used as water filters. The pages/filters also feature printed info (done in food-grade ink) about sanitation and safe water practices.

Pages from the drinkable book
Pages from the drinkable book

The box housing the book doubles as a water container.

Getting ready to filter and store water in the drinkable book's cover box
Getting ready to filter and store water in the drinkable book’s cover box

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Escape into online treasures #2

(Members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are respectfully advised that a person in a photograph in this post has passed away.)

Researching online can be a bit like taking off on a magic carpet ride.

There’s that sense of wonder at clicking on a website and easily navigating your way to a masterpiece. You can zoom in on the details of brushstrokes, handwriting, gesture. You get to see works that you may never see otherwise.

More prosaically, it certainly helps me to look at artworks closely when I’m editing a text describing them!

Portrait of Pixie Herbert in a bat costume, c 1923, NLA Commons on Flickr
She could almost be the e-genie of online treasures! Portrait of Pixie Herbert in a bat costume, c 1923, NLA Commons on Flickr

Do you ever get used to visiting a digitised treasure chest? I still feel like a genie’s spread the wishes of the world before me: a wealth of treasures … famed works at my fingertips … the power of creativity, right there on screen …

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The presence of books

Last week I was in an inner-city cafe, gathering my thoughts before an important meeting. Without thinking, I did what I always do to calm down. I quietly began studying everyone and everything else around me.

There were the guys behind the counter; the people lining up for coffee; local office-workers at other tables, having meetings over laptops; two young men hovering around out the front, smoking quick ciggies; the hints of traffic movement and light in the busy street outside.

Mio Mia cafe, in Ultimo, Sydney (from the cafe's Facebook page)
Mio Mia café in a quieter moment, Ultimo, Sydney (from the cafe’s Facebook page)

It was a small, noisy place. My eyes lingered on the delicious food on display. But what really stood out was the wall beside me.

It’d been completely covered with wallpaper depicting trompe-l’oeil shelves filled with old-style hard-back books, from floor to high ceiling. Continue reading

Home … to work hard, dream harder

‘New York City’ by Ramya Ramana

The Aerogram is an online magazine that shares with its readers a variety of South Asian stories and perspectives.

It’s produced in North America, and was founded by multimedia journalist and writer, Lakshmi Gandhi (@lakshmigandhi); editor and writer, Pavani Yalamanchili (@_pavani); and former copywriter and social media coordinator, Kishwer Vikaas (@phillygrrl), who now works at a public interest law firm. Writer Rohin Guha is a contributing editor.

Earlier this month they shared on Twitter this incredible poetry performance by Ramya Ramana (@Ramyaramana). Ramya is New York’s 2014 Youth Poet Laureate. She was asked to speak at the inauguration of New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who was sworn into office on 1 January 2014.

Here’s Ramya performing her poem, ‘New York City’, which she wrote for the inauguration:


You can find out more about Ramya Ramana in this interview Pavani Yalamanchili did with her in late November last year, for The Aerogram.

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Escape into online treasures #1

Without a doubt, among the great wonders of digitisation are the treasures it’s opened to the world.

In December last year, the Vatican Library and Oxford University’s Bodleian Library launched a project to make freely available online ancient texts from their incredible collections.

Both institutions have been digitising their collections prior to this. But the present project allows them to increase digital access on a much larger scale.

The Bodleian trove disseminated online last month includes no less than its Gutenberg Bible (1455).

The project’s been supported by a ₤2 million award from the Polonsky Foundation. You can read more about the foundation here, and about one of the trustees driving the project, Dr Leonard Polonsky and the foundation’s reasons for supporting the project. Continue reading