Libby Gleeson on “I am Thomas”

There’s a new Australian picture book creating a little controversy, I am Thomas, by Libby Gleeson & Armin Greder.

I trust Libby Gleeson implicitly and I know Armin Greder’s more confronting illustration work from both “The island” and “The city”. If people thought they were ordering a sequel to Gleeson & Greder’s “Big dog”, they’ll certainly be in for a surprise. I did see “I am Thomas” in the bookshops recently, riffled it, and figured it was a picture book aimed more at secondary students – one to keep on a special shelf for teaching purposes rather than for open borrowing.

Last night, I emailed Libby Gleeson, author of the book, for some insights into its theme and purpose. People on the teacher librarian listservs have mentioned that it is included in the current Australian Standing Orders secondary list. Libby is happy for me to reproduce her email on the blog.

Libby says, “Thanks for this [opportunity]:

“There is a wonderful set of teacher notes by Robyn Sheahan-Bright up on the Allen & Unwin website at:

“It is a dark book in that it deals with the dilemmas of some kids growing up and trying to find themselves in a world of conformity.

“For some people that is a real challenge and it isn’t appropriate for little kids. But the notes offer terrific insights and ways to work with the book in classrooms. I notice ‘Magpies’ called it ‘a masterpiece’. Thank you Maurice Saxby!

“Thanks again for letting me know about [the TL enquiries on the listservs]… Libby.”

So there you go. Straight from the horse’s mouth. So to speak. Thanks Libby! Fast response! Much appreciated.

So where do I put these?

I think it was knowing that I still had a small amount of burgundy paint left that led to this series of brainstorms…

Desk end of library - final

The now-huge, clutter-free area behind the circulation desk (above) has been extremely liberating – and, secretly, we all knew there was simply way too much furniture in this library. I’ve never seen so many storage cupboards, most of them filled with stationery, display materials, boardgames (both complete and half empty), stacks of old encyclopedia volumes (for activities on alphabetical order) and so on. With a captains & prefects investiture due in the library a few days ago, I reluctantly wheeled a very heavy cupboard back from the area where morning tea was to be served, up to behind the circulation desk – and immediately realised that I knew how to make it look like it was supposed to be there!

You know all those really expensive picture books, and the pop-up books, and “The Jolly Postman”, with its easy-to-lose tiny letters and postcards, those new, edgy, shortlisted and/or award-winning books, such as Armin Greder’s “The island” and the dark-yet-essential themes of “Dust”, and all those controversial novels (the ones that come with warnings about only using with older students in sensitive, supportive ways, or with the assistance of the local indigenous representatives) that go totally ignored if kept spine-out on a crowded shelf in Teacher Reference, and either ruined or complained about if they are in the main collection or regular Reference! So onto this new benchtop surface, I added… single, front-out book stands and filled them like this:

Display books with woodgrain

With only hours to go before the parents, citizens, captains and prefects arrived for their morning tea in the library – in what would be, for many, the first glimpse of all my changes – I painted the wall segment behind those books with the very last of the burgundy paint. A spectacular effect, I think – a real stand-out, even from the far end of the library, and well worth some comparison photos:

Display books with burgundy

Very satisfying. And the books in the display have caught the attention of every person to approach Circulation in these last days of the school year.

By the way, I’m just loving the phrase, “Just back in”! The new signage, created in Word and laminated over bright yellow paper, denotes the box of yet-to-be-shelved books. The divided interior of each box has always provided compartments for pre-sorting. The idea of “Just back in” came courtesy of one of the schools in Kevin Hennah’s presentation on shoestring library makeovers, and when I first used the signage in the old library, it provided an immediate release of pent-up guilt. Suddenly, books didn’t have to be shelved (too) immediately, because the borrowers often perceive them as “Hot” titles and highly worthy of borrowing before anyone can actually re-shelve them! Thanks for lifting a load, Kevin, with just three little words, so much better than the dire “Returns”. Or “To be shelved”.

"Just back in!" returns boxes - Shoestring makeover

Return of the miniLegends

SupportI’ve recently altered my blogroll to reflect the changes to Al Upton’s blog that mark the beginning of the end to a virtual controversy.

Teacher Al Upton and his class, the Year 3 miniLegends 08, of Glenelg, South Australia, now have separate blog sites.

Al has documented all the changes, checks and balances that will enable his online collaborative projects to continue! The long list of supportive comments from his readers and fellow educators, plus student bloggers the world over, has been preserved for posterity and makes for very stimulating, positive reading.

I love that Al has emphasised being proactive rather than reactive throughout the whole frustrating experience. Congratulations on a positive outcome!