Finding the classic gift this Christmas

It is that time of year again and everyone is scurrying around, wondering what Christmas gifts to buy everyone from distant relatives to the children’s school teachers.

At OUP, we  have come up with a handy guide to the Oxford World’s Classics that might help make the search for gifts a little easier.

Oxford World’s Classic: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Summary: Tolstoy’s epic masterpiece intertwines the lives of private and public individuals during the time of the Napoleonic wars and the French invasion of Russia. The fortunes of the Rostovs and the Bolkonskys, of Pierre, Natasha, and Andrei, are intimately connected with the national history that is played out in parallel with their lives. Balls and soirées alternate with councils of war and the machinations of statesmen and generals, scenes of violent battles with everyday human passions in a work whose extraordinary imaginative power has never been surpassed. The prodigious cast of characters, both great and small, seem to act and move as if connected by threads of destiny as the novel relentlessly questions ideas of free will, fate, and providence. Yet Tolstoy’s portrayal of marital relations and scenes of domesticity is as truthful and poignant as the grand themes that underlie them.

Perfect as: a literary status symbol for anyone with an ornamental bookcase full of books they plan to read, one day… War and Peace is  an ideal addition to anyone’s aspirational bookcase.

Oxford World’s Classic: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Summary: At its simplest, Anna Karenina is a love story. It is a portrait of a beautiful and intelligent woman whose passionate love for a handsome officer sweeps aside all other ties – to her marriage and to the network of relationships and moral values that bind the society around her. The love affair of Anna and Vronsky is played out alongside the developing romance of Kitty and Levin, and in the character of Levin, closely based on Tolstoy himself, the search for happiness takes on a deeper philosophical significance.

Perfect as: a gift for the happily single. Or, if you dare, for young couples as a warning to avoid the pitfalls of Anna and Alexei’s disastrous marriage. If the story of deceit, despair and destruction seems a little grim for the happy couple, consider Sense and Sensibility.

Oxford World’s Classic: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Summary: For Elinor Dashwood, sensible and sensitive, and her romantic, impetuous younger sister Marianne, the prospect of marrying the men they love appears remote. In a world ruled by money and self-interest, the Dashwood sisters have neither fortune nor connections. Concerned for others and for social proprieties, Elinor is ill-equipped to compete with self-centred fortune-hunters like Lucy Steele, whilst Marianne’s unswerving belief in the truth of her own feelings makes her more dangerously susceptible to the designs of unscrupulous men.

Through her heroines’ parallel experiences of love, loss, and hope, Jane Austen offers a powerful analysis of the ways in which women’s lives were shaped by the claustrophobic society in which they had to survive.

Perfect as: a gift for the young and starry-eyed who are trying to find their way in the social and romantic world, weighing up the merits of ‘sense’ and ‘sensibility’.

Oxford World’s Classic: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Summary: Crime and Punishment is the story of a murder committed on principle, of a killer who wishes to set himself outside and above society. The perpetrator, Raskolnikov, is confesses the crime and goes to prison, where he realises that happiness and redemption can only be achieved through suffering. The book is marked by Dostoevsky’s own harrowing experience of his prison days, and yet there are moments of wild humour.

Perfect as: a gift for anyone who has an interest in human psychology, including guilt, suffering and redemption. It is also recommended for those interested in modern politics, as it is considered to be a critique of political ideology that is still relevant today. To be avoided as an end-of-year gift for the primary school teacher who is a little overzealous in their approach to discipline.

Oxford World’s Classic: The Great The Great God Pan & Other Horror Stories by Arthur Machen

Summary: Perhaps no figure better embodies the transition from the Gothic tradition to modern horror than Arthur Machen. In the final decade of the nineteenth century, the Welsh writer produced a seminal body of tales of occult horror, spiritual and physical corruption, and malignant survivals from the primeval past which horrified and scandalised late-Victorian readers. Machen’s ‘weird fiction’ has influenced generations of storytellers, from H. P. Lovecraft to Guillermo Del Toro-and it remains no less unsettling today.

This new collection, which includes the complete novel The Three Impostors as well as such celebrated tales as The Great God Pan and The White People, constitutes the most comprehensive critical edition of Machen yet to appear. In addition to the core late-Victorian horror classics, a selection of lesser-known prose poems and later tales helps to present a fuller picture of the development of Machen’s weird vision.

Perfect as: a gift for anyone who grew up reading RL Stines’ Goosebumps books, and is ready to get their adrenaline flowing with this classic collection of horror stories and poems. To be avoided as a gift for the easily spooked or those susceptible to nightmares.

 

Visit the OUP website for more on the Oxford World’s Classics

Behind the scenes in the creation of an eye-catching textbook

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The design of Marketing: Theory, Evidence, Practice was a labour of love for the creative team behind the textbook.

Graphic designer Nina Heryanto conceived the striking illustrations on the book’s cover and its chapter opener spreads, which feature everyday consumer items, from toothpaste to chip packets.

In a testament to the quality of its design, Marketing: Theory, Evidence, Practice, written by marketing guru Professor Byron Sharp, is among the books to feature in the Australian Book Designers Association’s (ABDA) illustration showcase. The ABDA showcase series celebrates the best of Australian book design, with each focusing on a particular element, from illustration to photography.

Nina said the team at Oxford University Press had worked closely with the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, of which Dr Sharp is Director, to develop the textbook, ensuring its appearance reflected its high-quality, accessible and engaging text.

The designers started by developing a mood board to determine the look and feel of the book, then produced cover design concepts, from which a few were chosen for further developments and considerations by the rest of the team.

“A team of about six designers were involved in the project over two years, with some direction from the institute. We created a logo, which we used in illustrations of everyday products.

“The clean design of the logo set the tone for the rest of the book,” she said.

“It also reflects the emphasis on fast-moving consumer goods – everyday purchases and items that are familiar and accessible.”

The generous use of original illustrations, both on the cover of the book and on the chapter pages throughout, offered a rare opportunity for Nina and the design team.

“It was intense, but fun, and it’s quite rare to have the chance to create so many illustrations because it is so time-consuming. Illustrations really suited the subject, given that marketing is a creative industry.”

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Nina also took into consideration the audience for the textbook, which was aimed at first year university students.

“We wanted it to look sophisticated and accessible, but not childish or too upmarket.”

Nina has worked for Oxford University Press for the past four years, working at Pearson education after completing a graphic design degree.

She said that she continued to get a buzz out of holding the finished product in her hands.

“This book was a labour of love, not just for me but for everyone involved. It really was a team effort, from the publishers to the production controller.”

Marketing: Theory, Evidence, Practice by Byron Sharp

 

Seven fun ways to use dictionaries in the classroom to promote literacy

Dictionary games can be a fun and interactive way of improving students’ literacy and fostering creativity.

We asked Australian teachers how they use dictionaries to support learning in their classrooms, and here are their top ideas:

  1. Use dictionaries as a creative writing tool. Get students to pick three words they don’t know and make up their own definitions for two. Other students can guess which is correct.

“As a creative writing starter dictionaries are amazing. Students find three words they don’t know and create their own meanings for two. These are shared and their peers try to identify which is the real definition. It’s always fun and builds their vocabulary.”

  1. Run a competition in which students pick the word with the strangest definition or spelling.

“The current favourite is to find the ‘Weirdest Word’. Students find the word that has the most unusual spelling or the whackiest meaning.  Giggles and hilarity often ensue.”

  1. Play dictionary ‘celebrity heads’, in which a definition is written on a post-it-note and the student on whose head it is stuck has to guess the correct word.

“Great for exploring synonyms and specific vocabulary.”

  1. Run a word origins game, which involves students guessing or revealing (if they already knew) how an everyday word might have originated, and explaining their theory or knowledge to the class, before looking the word up to see if they were correct.

“I remember that the word ‘sandwich’ was a surprise as it came from a person’s name! Students went on to think about the simple, everyday word and give an explanation of why it came about. A simple, imaginative, engaging way to generate interest about known, or possible, origins of a word!”

  1. Arrange a dictionary scavenger hunt, in which students race to find a selected word, or the teacher reads out a clue about the word that students then find.

“It’s great for the younger years and my older students love it for a break.”

  1. Organise a ‘tales from the dictionary’ game in which the teacher waves a ruler over the dictionary like a magic wand and 6 or 7 chosen words are written on the board. The students create an exciting movie or book teaser, which they present to their class.

“Discussion ensues about hooks, catchy/wow words/which one would you rather go and see? Points are awarded for word length, prefix and suffix use, correct usage. If there is time, movie posters are designed on whiteboards.”

  1. Dictionary ‘I spy’ involves the teaching starting with, “I am looking at a word that begins with …”, then when they found the letter in the dictionary, the teacher provides the second letter and reads out the meaning. The students have to find the word and read it out.

What are your favourite dictionary games?

Self-confessed ‘word nerd’ and author of the Gargantuan Book of Words, David Astle,  has added his own suggestions:

  • Hangman with rarer words
  • Pick page-mates of 5 related words as puzzle

Moving mathematics learning from “what have I been told?” to “what do I know that can help me?”

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By Peter Sullivan

There is widespread agreement that student-driven inquiry approaches can help students build understanding, solve problems and reason mathematically. But to ensure that all students are included in learning opportunities, specific teacher actions are needed and lessons can productively be structured in particular ways. These actions include the following:

  • Posing tasks which are mathematically rich, which most students do not already know how to solve, and which require students to make decisions on the solution type and approach.
  • Allowing students time to engage with the task. Perhaps the major difference between students is not their so-called ability but the time they need to engage with the ideas.
  • Not only encouraging students to persist in their learning and being willing to take risks but also posing tasks which require those attributes.
  • Introducing tasks carefully to ensure that required language is covered and prerequisite concepts are reviewed.
  • Refraining from telling students how to solve the tasks. This is perhaps that most difficult of these actions in that it is counter to the natural instincts of teachers and requires teachers to trust that students can engage productively with the mathematical ideas.
  • Preparing prompts that can be given after some time, to students experiencing difficulty. Such prompts are intended to allow students access to the task. After completing such a prompt, the intention is that students proceed with the original task.
  • Planning further challenges for any students who finish quickly to extend their thinking and perhaps prompt abstraction or generalisation.
  • Making time to review student work on the tasks, and prioritising students presenting and explaining their solutions and solution strategies.
  • Posing subsequent tasks which are in some ways similar and in some ways different from the original task, with the intention that students see the underlying concepts more clearly and reduce the chance of students over-generalising from solutions to the initial task.

Note that, in this structure, it is not critical that all students solve the first task but engage with the idea sufficiently to be able to listen to the explanations of other students. Of course, tasks need to be appropriately challenging, meaning that most students will experience a sense of challenge but at least some will progress enough to contribute to classroom discussions. The intention, though, is that all students engage productively with subsequent tasks, having learnt from the initial efforts and the class discussions of students’ strategies.


The following newly released publication contains close to 100 suggestions of such learning sequences:

Sullivan, P. (2018). Challenging Mathematics Tasks: Unlocking the potential of all students. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

 

Tasting for the Queen, screw tops and the best summer wines with Jancis Robinson

One of the world’s leading wine critics, Jancis Robinson, visited Australia to sample some of Australia’s best drops and share her wisdom on all things wine.

Jancis has been one of the leading international voices in wine for more than 20 years, and among Jancis’ many accomplishments was being named a member of the Royal Household Wine Committee, which recommends bottles offered to guests at events at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. She also edited the Oxford Companion to Wine.

During her visit, she spoke to Clare Bowditch on the ABC Afternoons program. In case you missed the conversation, here are some of her pearls of wisdom, on everything from coping with tasting hundreds of wines a week and screw-on bottle tops.

How to choose a wine fit for the Queen

Jancis explained that a specially-selected committee meets about three times a year for a blind tasting session. It chooses on the basis of quality, rather than its origin or price. In fact, the prices for the wines included in the tasting have included tipples that cost just a fraction over $10.

“There is no such thing as a direct correlation between price and quality when it comes to wine,” Jancis said, with some wines overpriced and others underpriced.

Independent wine sellers or supermarkets?

Jancis likened wine shopping to book shopping, saying the best wines could be found at an independent store, where the buyer could talk to a knowledgeable staff member about their preferences. She said bigger retailers (at least in the UK) tended to focus on price, rather than quality.

“It’s [wine] a complicated subject – it’s no good saying it’s simple,” she said.

Screw top or cork?

Jancis was uncritical on the emergence of screw top wine bottles.

“I can understand why wine producers want to be sure that what they put in the bottle is what people drink,” she said.

Other benefits she named were the time saving nature of opening a screw top bottle, compared with a cork one. However, she also noticed a move towards using better-quality corks as a sign of handcrafting of wine by modern producers.

What are the best wines for summer?

Now that the weather has warmed up, everyone is wondering what is on the drinks menu. For Jancis, rose is the go-to wine for summer. She said while Australia has been quite slow to embrace “pink wine”, it was starting to become more popular.

She also said light reds including a gamay, Beaujolais or a slightly chilled pinot noir were well-suited to warm weather.

“Lighter bodied, refreshing lighter red wine is perfect for summer,” she sadi.

How much wine does a critic drink?

Some weeks, Jancis tests hundreds of different wines. How does she cope with the effects of all of this wine? By spitting. Jancis does not like drinking during the day, but tends to enjoy a glass or two at home with her husband every evening.

Jancis’ full interview is available on the ABC Melbourne website.

Improve your wine knowledge with The Oxford Companion to Wine.

 

Oxford Word of the Month: November – platypup

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noun: a baby platypus.

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORD OF THE MONTH

There is some discussion on the Internet about the correct name for a baby platypus. Some commentators note that a baby platypus may be called a puggle, while others say that puggle refers only to a baby echidna. The following writer has an alternative:

A common misconception is that a baby platypus is called a puggle. There is no actual official name for a baby platypus, but a common suggested name is ‘platypup’. (Sunshine Coast Sunday, 13 January 2013)

The word platypup has received some interest in recent years, including the establishment of a Facebook page to campaign for its official acceptance: ‘Platypup: Give the baby platypus a name’.

Platypup has a long but interrupted history. The earliest evidence appears in the 1940s and refers to the first platypus bred in captivity, in a Victorian wildlife sanctuary:

A platypup’s birth made history … For more than two months Fleahy restrained his longing to take a peep at the platypup. Then, last Monday, he dug down to the blind end of the burrow, found the nest and brought the youngster up for a quick inspection. (Sydney Sun, 9 January 1944)

A year later the same baby platypus is mentioned in several newspaper items:

Platy-Pup Is One Year Old … Corrie, the first platypus to be bred in captivity, is one year old. (Brisbane Courier-Mail, 25 January 1945)

The ‘Sun’ called the first baby platypus to be bred in captivity a ‘platy-pup’. But what’s wrong with a ‘platy-kitten’? (Melbourne Advocate, 13 January 1945)

Following these references to Corrie the platypup there is almost no evidence for the term until the 2000s. Most of the recent evidence is found online in the context of discussion about the correct name for platypus young. Platypup also appears in a series of children’s fantasy books, which may indicate an increasing awareness and use of the term—except that the authors are American:

After one final yawn, Pippi wandered into the kitchen, grabbed a crayfish tail, and called, ‘Mom! Dad! I’m going outside!’ ‘Don’t go too far,’ came her father’s sleepy voice. ‘You’re still a platypup.’ ‘Okay!’ she called back, as she headed for the burrow entrance. (Trevor Pryce, Joel Naftali, and Sanford Greene, The Rainbow Serpent, 2015)

Despite talk of ‘correct’ and ‘official’ naming, it is the continued usage of a word, and its acceptance by a wider audience, that cements its place in our vocabulary. At present puggle (which emerged in the 1990s, transferred from the proprietary name of a range of soft toys) has the edge over platypup. The echidna and the platypus, as the world’s only egg-laying mammals, are closely related. Puggle is already established as the name for a baby echidna, so it is not surprising to find increasing evidence of puggle used as a name for the young of both animals.

It is possible that platypup and puggle may coexist for a while as synonyms, until one establishes itself as the preferred term. Puggle may have the advantage.

Platypup is being considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary.

 

 

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