This page has posts from Bee's Bookish Blog from 2012.
Book Island owner/publisher Greet Pauwelijn
Book Island is a brand new publishing house for European children's books in translation, based on the Kapiti Coast in New Zealand. It was set up by owner/publisher Belgian native Greet Pauwelijn, whose goal is not only to publish outstanding children’s books in English and Dutch, but also to add an extra dimension to the stories by organising activities inspired by them. In enabling children’s enjoyment of each book to extend far beyond its pages, she shares a common goal with Porirua Children's Library.
An excellent example of this approach was demonstrated at Book Island's launch on 11 November 2012 in Raumati South, where children built their own gigantic sandwich, inspired by Sammy, the main character in Book Island new release Sammy and the Skyscraper Sandwich, by Lorraine Francis and Pieter Gaudesaboos. The tower, which Greet dumpster dived around her neighbourhood to source the neccessary recyclable materials for, nearly reached the ceiling.
Sammy and the Skyscraper Sandwich was recently picked for The Listener’s highly influential 50 Best Children’s Books of 2012, and is being widely reviewed in the media. The advance notice of the Listener placement was so exciting for Greet she found herself unable to get anything done for the rest of the day. This was followed by the challenge of keeping the news a secret until the list's publication.
I talked to Greet about the fact Sammy and the Skyscraper Sandwich is in board format, but with so much text that it is certainly not a baby’s book.
"When I acquired the rights for Sammy, I wasn’t aware of the unwritten New Zealand rule that board books are for babies. One of the booksellers I spoke to before we started printing suggested that I should give the book a hard or soft cover. I strongly believed that the book was not going to work as well in such format, and I was quite sure that the Belgian publisher was not going to approve of it either. So, I decided to stick to the original format, which had been very successful in Belgium. I’m very happy that I haven’t changed anything about the design of the book. I think Sammy is just perfect as it is now and board books are great for all ages."
The other two titles Book Island has launched are handsomely presented anthropomorphic tales, Sir Mouse to the Rescue, by Dirk Nielandt and Marjolein Pottie (pictured left), and Bernie and Flora, by Annemie Berebrouckx.
"I looked for children’s books that had a perfect chemistry between the stories and illustrations," says Greet. "I also focused on titles that ‘colour outside the lines’. Really good indicators are also the sales numbers of the books overseas and the languages the books have been translated into.
"Once I had made an initial selection I tested them on my oldest son (5), who can get into a very creative mood once he’s read a good story. I noticed which books had that effect on him, and I went ahead with them. What I really like about these particular books is that they are not only great reads, but they also spark the imagination of children and it’s easy to organise creative activities based on them. A good example was our launch, where the kids could participate in five activities based around the books."
The hands on launch of Book Island was a good example of the way Greet likes to get up close and personal with potential buyers. She does a lot of direct selling to the public at market stalls - recently taking in no less than three Christmas markets in 48 hours - and enjoys meeting her customers, hearing what they think of the books, and sometimes handing out Belgian chocolate and crepes on the side. One of the things that has surprised her to learn is how many little Sammies there are in New Zealand who might be getting the same book from Santa for Christmas!
In terms of what's next for Book Island, after the huge amount of work involved in its launch, Sir Mouse... and Bernie and Flora are both parts of different series, so book two of each of those will come next year if the first ones continue to be as popular as they have so far.
Greet adds, "I can also tell you that I’m a big fan of old children’s books. I’m looking at publishing some children’s books which have been extremely successful in Europe for decades, but seem to have been overlooked by the English publishers for some reason. We’re working, for example, on the translation of a very popular Polish children’s story of an tiny explorer who has seen everything in the world, apart from a whale. This story is nearly 80 years old, and the illustrations were made in fifties, but the book is still so powerful. I've tested the story a couple of times on New Zealand kids and they have loved it. Having a big blue whale in it must help."
Although Greet has been surprised by how many New Zealanders are looking for a publisher for the children’s book that they’ve just written, or are writing, or want to write in the future, Book Island only intends to publish books that already exist in other languages. Still, drawing material from throughout time and across distants shores looks like it's going to keep Book Island busy importing their sense of style to New Zealand for the forseeable future.
Pre- and Primary Schoolers can be in to win copies of the Book Island titles by taking part in A-long Hot Summer Story Festival, December 18 2012-January 18 2013.
Wonky Donkey author Craig Smith with a Wonky Donkey
They say you should never work with children or animals, but Craig Smith has made a name for himself doing both. He's been constantly on the road since the bestselling book of his song The Wonky Donkey made him into a homegrown hero with kids and parents nationwide and beyond. The library has been abuzz with the news that he is returning to play the Pataka Spine on November 2 at 4PM. As the album containing some of his greatest hits points out, the songs he will be playing are Not Just For Kids. And as customers who have borrowed the album have pointed out, once heard, his songs have a tendancy to stick in your mind like porridge on a saucepan. His past visits to Porirua have drawn a rapturous response from punters of all ages. He found a moment between gigs to answer a few questions about life as a troubador for Bee's Bookish Blog.
You have self-published your new book Kaha the Kea, and attracted Bruce Potter as your illustrator. How did you become connected with him?
"Through Storylines book festival. I knew his work already - he's illustrated over 100 books [Papa's Donuts, The Pipi Swing, The Puppet Box, Te Rauparaha: Legend of Aotearoa, to name just a few] - and he knew mine through The Wonky Donkey."
As your catalogue grows, you're on the road more and more. Where is the most unusual place you have played?
"I've played in Vietnam, when I went there on holiday and my friend, who is a teacher insisted, I play for her English learning students. They loved it."
What's your favourite food on the road, and where's your favourite place to eat it?
"Any kebab shop with heaps of fresh salad."
Apart from your guitar and amp, what do you never hit the road without?
"My paragliding wing. I try to fly when I'm not performing. Wellington is possibly not the best option though."
Kids say the darndest things. What's the craziest thing a pint-sized audience member has ever said to you?
"One of my kids' songs is called 'The Big Drip'. In it, a drip of water falls from the ceiling and wakes me up from my sleep. It falls on my feet, my head, and even into my belly button. One child came up after the show and explained: 'If i wore PJs to bed, the drip wouldn't go into my belly button.' He had quite correctly perceived this just from that line in the song. I was a little embarrassed, and he blew me away that he had thought about it from that angle."
Do you have any hints for anyone hoping to live the troubador dream?
"Get your instrument and go on the road. Stop making excuses - if that's what's holding you back - and just do it. You'll quickly find your way."
Craig Smith will be singing, selling and signing his merchandise, and answering some of the big questions on little people's minds this Friday, November 2, at 4PM in the Pataka Spine.
Our October School Holiday Programme is available at all library desks now; it's the booklet with the cover imploring you to 'Light Up the Dark: Read Banned Books'. The topic of banned and challenged books, and the part of the librarians' code of honour which teaches us to resist censorship are favourite topics of mine. It seems like every day I am reading (sometimes on the Internet) about a place where someone's right to read whatever books they want or internet use is restricted. Think Iran. Think China. Think how lucky we are to live in Aotearoa.
I remember bringing Banned Books Week to Porirua Library's preschool story times for the first time last year. (I had been celebrating annually with anyone who'd let me during my tenure at Cannons Creek.) At the main library, the announcement of the day's theme saw longer fingers closing around smaller fingers. The urgency some parents sensed that they should remove their children from my potentially offensive presence was palpable.
And then I pulled out Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, by Bill Martin Jr. (with illustrations by Eric Carle). Was it an issue of race?, people wondered, as I read this inoffensive and contagiously catchy classic about animals of different colours. But no, sometimes censorship is not even that creative. In 2010, for the Texas Board of Education, it was merely a matter of Bill Martin Jr. sharing (most of) the same name with the author of a book entitled Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation, that caused them to remove all of Bill Martin Jr.'s books from the curriculum list for Texas elementary schools. Just one of the more glaring difference between these two Bills is that 'Jr.' passed away four years before 'just' Bill had had a chance to release his offending work.
You see, censorship can be just that silly, and in this case, cost us a great deal. (Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is internationally recognised as a classic of children's literature that has helped teach millions of children to read and love doing so over the past 45 years.) Freedom, on the other hand, is a much more serious business, and one I think we should take any excuse to celebrate. I'd love to have you join me… Main Library, 10.15, first Wednesday and Friday of the school holidays. Like all our library programmes, it's free, as we trust they always will be.
I am looking forward to celebrating Banned Books Week in the first week of the school holidays this October. A highlight of our holiday programme will be a writing workshop - How to Trap and Train Ideas - with highly acclaimed Wellington author, Barbara Else. Her second 'Tale of Fontania', The Queen and the Nobody Boy is released in New Zealand by Gecko Press today.
The first 'Tale of Fontania', The Travelling Restaurant: Jasper's Voyage in Three Parts, won Barbara the prestigious Elsie Locke medal earlier this year. It is set in a place where any mention of 'magic' has been banned. Barbara took time to answer a few questions for us about sailing, food, and her writing life.
How does your writing day work?
"I get to my study about 9 every morning. Then I sit with a pencil and big purple notebook. I think about my characters and how they’re feeling after the adventures they had yesterday, and decide what might happen to them today. After a while I leap to my PC and start writing.
"After lunch, I deal with any emails. Then I look at manuscripts sent to me by other people who want some hints about taking care of their story ideas."
The Travelling Restaurant is a book that might taste as good as it reads, if its menus were to be followed. What is the best meal you have ever eaten?
"I remember being on a summer holiday with my parents when I was about 10. Mum bought a case of little tomatoes from a local farm and for several days all we had for lunch was those fresh tomatoes, bread and butter. It was heaven!
"The best cake I’ve ever eaten is chocolate cake made with ground hazelnuts. I like to bake it for my friends and hear them ask for more."
Do you have any sailing experience?
"I’ve been on a tiny yacht, a few launches, and one cruise around the Greek islands. In the evening there was dancing to the ship’s orchestra. It grew stormy and most people went to their cabins feeling seasick. I kept dancing."
What do ideas look like, and how does one go about trapping them?
"Ideas are often a bit wispy and shy when you first catch sight of them. It can take a while for them to let you grab a tight hold."
What do you know about correct care and feeding of captive ideas?
"They are often temperamental and go into a sulk. But there are ways of cheering them up. I will talk about some of those ways when I come to the Library on 4 October."
Tickets to How to Trap and Train Ideas, with Barbara Else, are free but limited in number. The event is intended for keen writers aged nine to adult. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to secure yours.
Spellbound by stories: sisters Katya and Gretchen Bubendorfer
Last Saturday dawned bright, and it was easy to feel the magic in the air as I walked to work, picturing other librarians and storylovers around the country walking towards memorial events for New Zealand's beloved Word Witch, Margaret Mahy. I know I was not alone in imagining Margaret hovering like a benevolant, if invisible, cloud above the length of Aotearoa, observing all of the proceedings being held in her honour.
At Porirua Library, I had a date with another star of the picture books section - specific to the letter M - Titahi Bay author Juliette MacIver. Decked out in witch's garb, we sang and read to a most respectful crowd, with a healthier spattering of dads than we usually get (bless their Saturdays). We finished with the last poem from The Word Witch collection, 'When I Am Old and Wrinkled Like a Raisin', and I don't think Margaret could have written herself a better epitaph if she had tried. I was interested to learn later that she wrote the poem at the age of 37, only a little over halfway into her life.
Margaret Mahy has long been celebrated annually, thanks to the Storylines Children's Literature Foundation of New Zealand : Te Kaupapa o t Korero. On the Saturday closest to International Children’s Book Day on April 2 (unless Easter interferes!), Storylines celebrates its award winners, members and activities with its annual Margaret Mahy Day. This is but one event on the children's literature calendar we have them to thank for. This Sunday, August 18, for example, their annual free Wellington Family Day Programme is happening at the Michael Fowler Centre from 10AM-3PM.
Juliette MacIver will be there, as will local story tailor/author/workshop facilitator Holly Gooch, and Pataka's very own illustrator in residence and education officer, Margaret Tolland. Guests from the Wellington region inlcude Fleur Beale, Moira Wairama, Ruth Paul and Barbara Else. (Barbara was recently awarded the Elsie Locke Medal for her novel The Travelling Restaurant, and confessed to me, 'I keep having to look at the medal to check that it really is my name on the back!') From further afield, guests include Mark Sommerset (Waiheke Island), and international guest Sally Rippin.
Kids are encouraged to dress up as their favourite book character for the chance to win a spot prize, and there are plenty of competitions to keep them busy throughout the day. For full programme details, visit www.storylines.org.nz . Perhaps I will see you there, folding your own Venus flytrap, vying for the hounour of 'best read aloud voice', or making a piwakawaka mobile. What a jolly good programme indeed.
The Word Witch: Margaret Mahy - 21 March 1936 – 23 July 2012
How to quantify the loss of a legend? - someone who first gained international attention (just) before I was born (A Lion in the Meadow, 1969) and so accompanied me, in the guise of hundreds of characters, throughout my reading life. A librarian who became a full-time writer, when she was, at 43, (just) a little older than I am now, with a presence that made many people assume her rainbow-coloured clown wig and that long knitted scarf covered in library and festival badges, were permanently attached to her person.
In her essay for the Montana series, Notes of a Bag Lady (Four Winds Press, 2003), she summed herself up by saying: 'Over the years I have tried on quite a number of lives for size - men's lives, women's lives, the lives of wise and articulate animals, the lives of victims made powerful through their victimhood, and the lives of heroic overstatement.'
Margaret produced a phenomenal body of work in her lifetime: more than 100 picture books, more than 200 stories for New Zealand School Journals and the international educational market, novels for children and young adults, anthologies of stories and poetry, and plays for stage and television, both for adults and children. She won numerous prestigious national and international awards, including the Hans Christian Andersen Medal (sometimes known as 'the Nobel Prize for Childrens Literature'), a gold medal bestowed by the Queen of Denmark for 'a lasting contribution to children's literature' in 2006. Most recently, she won the 2010 New Zealand Post Children's Book Honour Award for the collection of poems and stories illustrated by David Elliot, The Word Witch: the magical verse of Margaret Mahy (2009). She and Elliot also collaborated on The Moon and Farmer McPhee (2010), which won them the New Zealand Post Children's Picture Book and Book of the Year Awards in (2011).
It is a poem from The Word Witch – 'Oh, There Was an Old Woman' - by which I would most like to remember Margaret, suspecting it to be in some ways as autobiographical as it is fantastical...
'Oh, there was an old woman, who lived on her own / In a little house made from a smooth, white bone. / And she sat at her door, with a barrel of beer / And a bright gold ring in her old, brown ear. / And folk who passed by her, they always agreed / That's a queer little, wry little, fierce little, spry little / Utterly strange little, woman indeed.'
Haere, Margaret - you will live on in our libraries, our bookshelves, our imagainations, and our hearts.
Mary Kippenberger meets her Prince Charming
When I was a kid, rhubarb was something my dad cut from the garden to save money on breakfasts, and no amount of sugar on top could sweeten our palettes to the extent those boiled stalks could stretch the grocery budget. It's quite a turn-around for me to have become a fervent fan of rhubarb, and it took storyteller/entertainer Mary Kippenberger and her husband, musician Peter Charlton-Jones to (literally) change my tune. As a duo, they are Rhubarb, one of the finest storytelling teams I have ever come across. We were delighted to welcome them as guests at the main library today, on a mini tour that is taking in the Cannons Creek and Whitby branches as I write.
They perform infectiously interactive sets of traditional stories in untraditional ways. Wolves turn vegetarian. Hunters lay down their guns. Before you know it, half the audience is on the stage in costume, and people are holding their sides lest they split from laughing. Rhubarb are the good stuff, and with their backgrounds in social work, both of them know how to bring out the good stuff in kids and their caregivers. The little words of encouragement Mary gives to every single volunteer are placed in such a way that they validate a performer's courage as well as appreciating their contribution. From the smallest penguin (who must have been two), to the most seasoned wolf (one valiant grandfather), and with a collection of cows, monkeys, dogs, and rabbits (to name just a few) thrown in, Rhubarb prove that the best stories can be further embellished with every subsequent mouth that learns to tell them. Humour, tunes and an invitation to move are the most useful tools any storyteller can wield, and Rhubarb had their audience clapping and wriggling with glee as they dished out plenty of all today.
When not touring the globe spreading good cheer, Mary and Peter conduct workshops and festivals at their home base in Otane. As well as being a popular motivational speaker and debater, Mary is also a published author (follow this link to the catalogue list of her books). Peter, who is also an Anglican minister, has recorded a wonderful CD of his original tunes - complete with chord and lyric sheets - and this is also available to borrow from the library (follow this link to reserve).
If you still can't get enough Rhubarb, or want to know how to make yourself a part of their world, visit their website http://storylink.co.nz/ .
Olivia Binns as 'Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall'
Since studying for my Certificate in Children's Literature a few years ago, I have to say, it's not often I stay up watching children's books being read on You Tube. As much as I love kid-lit', I tend to get my fix well serviced by storytimes (watching, giving and preparing for them) at work, ordering and cataloguing new materials (yes, study hard, and you really can get a job that is this cool), and reading bedtime, or Saturday/Sunday morning stories to my kids at home.
However, when a friend e-mailed me a link to a video of American actor Samuel L Jackson reading a book called Go the F**k to Sleep, I was instantly - if covertly - converted. I have since found versions of the story being read by the great film director Werner Herzog, Australian Playschool presenter Noni Hazlehurst, and Gollum from Lord of the Rings, to name a few. Although I managed to keep this newfound knowledge under my hat for a while - imagining the potential trouble it could cause - it wasn't long before one of our more forthright customers (bless her), asked me if we had the book - complete with the kind of winks and nudges that surely convinced those in line behind her she was in the wrong kind of shop, and looking to get her hands on something much more exciting than a book.
And no, this customer is not a mass murdering child eater, but a sweet and talented early childhood teacher and mother of two.
It was then that my duty became clear, and I purchased the book, safely locking it away under the double childproof precaution of Parents collection/Junior stack. In short, you (or your children) won't stumble upon it, but you can reserve it or ask us for it. Some libraries (and, yes, other libraries have purchased it) keep it in the adult humour section, but since when does a parent who has children who need to be read to sleep ever get out of the junior section of the library?
Besides, I think it is a beautiful book, that reads well to its intended audience... surely parents, not their children. Being one of them, I know the parental units in my house can certainly relate well to the part about the movie being in the player, and the popcorn in the microwave - 'beep'. I am certain the illustration (above) of the mother crashed out on the couch was somehow modelled on me, any time my partner is the one to answer one of 'those' calls from the children's end of the house. Come 9.30PM, my feet just can't resist the call to lift couchward, my head the call to meet the cushions. An illustrator could easily set up an easel in front of me and paint my picture, and I would be too far gone to notice.
Still, it's not all swear words and threats down in the junoir department these days. Before the outrage starts, let me tell you the dualistic genius author Adam Mansbach and illustrator Ricardo Cortes has brought into play. The follow-up to the book that dare not utter its name is Seriously, Just Go to Sleep. Without any qualms, I was able to purchase several copies of this to disseminate amongst the branches. The rhymes roll just as nicely, and there are different (although sometimes only subtly) versions of Ricardo Cortes' illustrations, which stumble sleepily along a comforting line between domestic reality and dreamy world fantasy. I enjoyed reading the 'runaway bestseller' version to my partner as much as I did the 'clean' cut to my small son, who thought it was funny, in a cheeky way, too.
Rest assured, if you can, that the magic doesn't come only from the bad words.
Fairytales are well represented in almost every part of the junior collection. There is a small, well-used selection in the emergent readers collection, numerous examples throughout the picture books, and a more thorough selection at Dewey number J398. The junior graphic collection features the Stone Arch Books Graphic Spin series of retellings. Last but not least, because they are among the oldest stories told and often among the first we learn, they are often subverted, in which case they can also end up in the sophisticated picture book collection. (A particular favourite of mine is Rapunzel : a groovy fairy tale, retold by Lynn Roberts and illustrated by David Roberts. It's a pop culture freak's dream.)
I wonder, with the twilight of vampire literature waning, if fairytales might be about to have (another) day. Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke brought us Red Riding Hood last year, and in June New Zealand will get the chance to see Twilight star Kristen Stewart tackle the role of Snow White in Snow White and the Huntsman.
It's enough to make one wonder where popular literature and culture would be without those aptly named Grimms, Jakob and Wilhelm (dead since 1863 and 1859, respectively). What was it about the works of these German brothers that captured the imaginations of not only their own time, but all time that followed?
The Brothers Grimm were academics, linguists, cultural researchers, and authors who together collected folklore. They are among the most well-known storytellers of European folk tales, and their work popularised such stories as Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, and Snow White. Their first collection of folk tales, Children's and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen) was published in 1812. A life-long dedication to collecting German folk tales saw that first collection revised and published many times between 1812 and 1857, and growing from 86 stories to more than 200.
The most recent of the tales to land on my desk is a beautiful Minedition copy of Snow White, interpreted in text and highly original illustration by Momo Takano, and translated from her Japanese by Martin West. The wicked queen has a fish tail for a head; the seven dwarfs look like a mixture of fruit, vegetables, fashion and the elements; and their coffin-side tears are heartbreaking to behold. Altogether, it's the perfect mix of something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue; all the elements needed to bless a union between happily and ever after.
It was with deep sadness that I learned the news of the passing of literary legend, author/illustrator, Maurice Sendak on May 8. I marked his passing by reading his final book, Bumble-Ardy, at preschool storytime, but was sadly unsurprised when nobody fought each other to relieve me of it to take home and read again.
Sendak, who cultivated a grumpy, non-public image, has been slated and lauded in equal measures throughout his publishing career. Spike Jonze's wonderful film version of his book with many less words than the film script, Where the Wild Things Are, brought him back into the public eye in 2009. Even Dole bananas sported stickers of characters from the film at the height of its hype.
No stranger to Banned Books lists around the world - whether for depicting children naked (start with In the Night Kitchen - a well-thumbed favourite at my primary school library), or scaring them half to death (the replacement of a baby with a replica in ice in Outside Over There) - he was never sorry.
The Wild Things were actually modelled on the Jewish uncles and aunts who populated his childhood, their behaviour erratic, if well-intentioned, and slightly threatening. All the old arguments were pulled out in response to the Wild Things' new lives as film stars, with much chatter about whether this 'kids'' movie was really suitable for kids after all. Sendak, who considered his audience to encompass potentially all ages, responded to his critics quite typically: "I would tell them to go to hell." And if children really couldn't handle it? They should "go home. Or wet your pants. Do whatever you like."
After all, 'doing whatever one liked' (for better or - more often - worse) seemed to be a strong thread of this childless author's books. From nine-year-old Ida who neglects her baby sister (with nigh on disastrous consequences in Outside Over There), to the boy who chased his dog with a fork (Where the Wild Things Are anti-hero turned hero Max), Sendak's keen eye for observation told him all things were not quite as sweet as they were supposed to be in childhood. A single hour in any post observing high child traffic will prove him right.
At about 4.30PM on the day Sendak died, a woman came in who'd heard the news on the radio came in and asked me if I had any of his "other" books. She thought he had only written "the one" (back in 1963). I enthusiastically pressed Bumble-Ardy upon her, so the pig whose aunt threatened to slice him and his friends into ham did not spend the night of its creator's death left alone on a shelf in the library. Having suffered a life of no birthdays until nine, it was the least I could do for the little pig with the long name.
For more information about Sendak, and a stunning anthology of his visual work, check out Making Mischief: A Maurice Sendak Appreciation, by Gregory Maguire.
A wharf strike may have delayed the arrival of the book we were launching, but that didn't stop us launching Jacqueline Wilson's latest novel, The Worst Thing About My Sister, at a pyjama party for girls on April 5 anyway.
Jacqueline Wilson fans are a particularly zealous type, as you can see from the photo above, which was taken before the real fun even started. The girls gasped and squealed (I kid you not) in all the right places, and practically passed out from a collective sharp intake of breath when we unveiled a letter from Jacqueline Wilson herself, complete with a photo of herself in her pyjamas so she could fit right in with the rest of us even if she couldn't be there in person.
Librarians and library friends from Porirua, Whitby and Cannons Creek Libraries helped with the smorgasboard of fingernail- and henna hand-painting, friendship bracelet-braiding, palm reading, crown design, and paper crane-folding. Paper Plus and Random House New Zealand made sure there was a heap of book prizes to go around. And special thanks must go to Justin Bieber, whose music whipped the crowd into a frenzy that made me frankly thankful that he couldn't appear in person. Just goes to show what we've known all along, girls just wanna have fun... and Porirua Library girls sure know how to!
I have finally been able to get my hands on our copies of The Worst Thing About My Sister today. It has been promptly processed, and will be working its way through a reserve list for a while. Make sure your name's on it!
On April 5 at Porirua Library's main branch, we are throwing a pyjama party for girls, to celebrate the launch of a new Jacqueline Wilson book, The Worst Thing About My Sister. There will be nail painting, palm reading, friendship bracelet braiding, and more. Pyjamas are compulsory; soft toys and blankys are optional.
In conjunction, we are holding a competition which requires entrants to write a story or poem, using the book title as their theme. There will be some fab girly prizes up for grabs, thanks to our sponsors North City Paper Plus and Random House New Zealand. Paper Plus will also be on hand so you can be among the first people to purchase the new book on the night.
I have two sisters - one older by six years, one younger by three. These days, the worst thing about both of my sisters is that they live too far away from me (one in Auckland, one in Christchurch). Of course, when we were younger, I might have said a lot worse things, and I'm sure the feelings would have been entirely mutual. The funniest thing is, today, I can't think of a single bad memory about either of them. I know we fought, as sisters will, and I remember one of them blackmailing me into singing Neil Diamond's 'Turn on Your Heartlight' every night 'for the rest of my life', and holding me to it for a good few months at least. But really, that wasn't such a bad thing (after all, I've always been rather fond of the sound of my own voice, but had a hard time finding anyone, apart from my sister, who was equally as fond). I don't remember what I was being blackmailed over, only that is was something sufficiently bad that the singing was a far more desirable option than my parents finding out what it was.
Jacqueline Wilson didn't have a sister - or a brother, for that matter - but always longed to be part of a large family. Fortunately, she was blessed with a brilliant imagination and a keen eye for observation, which have earned her millions of fans around the world, and allowed her to write about sisters in many of her books. In 2002 Jacqueline was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) and from 2005 to 2007 she was the Children’s Laureate. In 2008 she became Dame Jacqueline Wilson. In the UK alone, she has sold more than 25-million books, and she receives around 200 letters a week from fans all over the world.
One of our members, Ruby Ogden (10 years) - both an older and younger sister, and a big Jacqueline Wilson fan, herself - supplied the illustration above of two girls who might turn out to be sisters, even though they come from very different worlds, in Little Darlings.
Entries for The Worst Thing About My Sister competition close on April 2, and can be emailed to email@example.com, or dropped off to any branch of Porirua Libraries during opening hours. The winners will be announced at the party on April 5. All entrants will be fulfilling Jacqueline Wilson's greatest wish for the twenty-first century: that people still make up stories.
A limited number of free tickets are available for the party, so phone Bee on 237 1543, or call by the junior desk at Porirua Library to secure yours now.
It's NZ Book Month, and the theme is: Books Change Lives. They are certainly changing the life of a special guest we are having to read in the library, Juliette MacIver, who is fast finding herself a hotly sought after children's author. She will be reading from her own books to as many people as we can stuff into the main branch's story alcove on March 16, at 3.30PM.
There have always been books in my life, so when I think toward the theme 'Books Change Lives', I almost instantly adapt it to suit myself. Books didn't so much change my life as create my life. I often say everything I know I learned from a book (or a magazine, film, or sound recording - all valid sources of story in themselves).
There have been many phases; some look professionally influenced, but it is usually the other way around, that the books influenced the profession of choice. Consequently, becoming a children's librarian for me, was a bit like coming 'home' to where my life began - within the page frames of picture books, younger fiction, older fiction, magazines, and audio books (which in my youth came on seven-inch 'records'; the Walt Disney ones complete with the tinkle of Tinker Bell's wand to herald time to turn the page). One single I had that came without a book to read was a version of Swan Lake. This inspired much cavorting around the lounge in my mother's high heels, and the stipulation that I be referred to as simply, Odette (the ballet's heroine).
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is what I call my 'first' book. It has always been with me, and I have shadowy memories of it being read aloud, and all the items metioned in the text - the bears in their chairs, the balloon, the mittens, that strange old bunny whispering 'hush', and finally, wonderfully, the bowl of mush.
I say my first novel was No Flying in the House by Betty Brock, with illustrations by Wallace Tripp. Of course, given the leap in sophistication from Brown to Brock, there were obviously many interim books. I loved M for Mischief, by Richard Parker, and another one I can never quite identify about some children who are turned into potted flowers by the witch next door and put on her windowsill, unable to alert their family, outside, to their dilemma. I liked dilemmas! I also liked Spook, about a witch's dog, by Jane Little. If I could find new copies of these books for the library today, I would not hesitate to share my enthusiasm. As things lie, I am one of those shady haunters of second-hand book stores, and late night Trade Me trips down memory lane.
Understandably, a recurring witch character visited my dreams, and I know she was made of reading. I spent my sleeping hours trying to save my own neighbourhood from her.
In my waking hours, undeterred by terror, I gravitated towards school libraries, or, after school, lying in one of our book-lined hallways, surrounded by the spoils of five kids who were allowed to choose three(!) Scholastic books each whenever the brochures came home.
At one country school, my Dad (a teacher) was able to bring the sample books sent by Scholastic home over the weekend. My sister and I would devote those weekends to reading as many of the books as we could, and making our purchase selections from anything we hadn't managed to fit in. Those were the best weekends.
I still pick reading, on the couch or in bed, as my preferred way to spend any weekend. Time seems in shorter supply now, due to the various vagaries and complications of adulthood. Luckily my work allows the opportunity for plenty of reading - or 'professional development', as we like to call it - and selecting new books all the time. Many of the purchases I make are my little self sending a message to my big self... with new editions of old texts coming out all the time, I can not only indulge my passion for the likes of Margaret Wise Brown (just a few of the lovely new titles the library currently holds by Brown are pictured above), I can introduce her to new generations of fans.
Casting an eye about as I write this (in bed), I don't have to look far to survey the modern state of children's literature. My four-year-old son's current favourite, Animal Actions by Julia Donaldson with illustrations by Axel Scheffler, teeters above a pile that includes a 'new' book of Dr Seuss stories (The Bippolo Seed and other lost stories), magazines, and an audio/book set of a Bob Dylan song (Man Gave Names to All the Animals, illustrated by JIm Arnosky).
I won't even begin to list the piles of 'big people' books awaiting on my always jammed 'library shelf. I could probably build a servicable dwelling with the volumes in my room alone, and be very happy to spend my life - quite happily changed - in it.
The picture above is my desk today. I am very excited to be cataloguing brand new copies of the works of one of my all-time favourite authors, Ezra Jack Keats (1916-1983). Over the years, I have often brought my own copies in to read to the kids, and seeing them new and unfoxed by time and unwrinkled by multiple readings is pure magic to me.
The Snowy Day is in a lovely 50th Anniversary edition, including eight pages of bonus material about this groundbreaking author/illustrator. The Snowy Day was awarded the Caldecott Medal, and named one of the 100 Most Important Children's Books of the 20th Century by the New York Public Library. Keats' Goggles also won the Caldecott Honor medal.
Keats grew up in Brooklyn and spent most of his life in New York City. He was one of the first people to create a realistic, warm, inclusive,friendly, multi-ethnic, multi-ability, urban setting in picture books for young children.
Of all the characters born in Keats' studio, Peter, who first appeared in The Snowy Day, remains the most beloved. Peter has even been immortalised, along with his dog Willie, in a bronze statue in the Imagination Playground in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Every Saturday in July and August, children still gather there for the Ezra Jack Keats Story Hour.
Like many of Keats' characters - Archie, Roberto, Amy, a paper mouse, a parrot - Peter (and Willie) would appear in subsequent books, which helped give the feeling of a real neighbourhood with real children being sympathetically chronicled through many adventures and situations.
Although Keats had illustrated many books before he came to write The Snowy Day, it was the first he had written entirely himself. In searching for a unique way to illustrate the story, he thought he might like to incorporate a bit of patterned paper into the mostly painted illustrations. The more he worked on the book, the more his collage style developed, and the more types paper/materials made their way into the book.
As he described: 'The creative efforts of people from many lands contributed to the materials in the book. Some of the papers used for the collage came from Japan, some from Italy, some from Sweden, many from [the USA].
'The mother's dress is made of oil cloth used for lining cupboards. I made a big sheet of snow texture. I used gum erasers to achieve the effect of snow flakes. I cut patterns of snow flakes, dipped them into paint and then stamped them onto the pages. The grey background for the pages where Peter goes to sleep was made by spattering India ink with a toothbrush.'
His international approach led to the book being translated into at least 10 lanuguages, influenced the work of future award-winning authors and illustrators, and inspired thousands of children all around the world to create their own styles of artwork.
We currently have multiple copies of 17 of Keats' books moving through processing. One of them, Dreams, has already featured at our Preschool Storytime, and many more will follow.
You can learn more about Ezra Jack Keats and his books at www.ezra-jack-keats.org . Porirua Library also has a copy of The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats by Claudia J Nahson.
On the second-to-last day of A-long Hot Summer Story Festival, I have found a moment to reflect on one of the most popular authors in the library these holidays (indeed, most holidays), Enid Blyton (1897-1968). While trends change as frequently as the seasons, Enid Blyton remains a consistent (although always changing) presence on the main library's shelves. While Noddy may pop in and out of favour and the news as often as a well-loved soap star, no smear can snatch this author's crown as the Queen of Children's fiction.
The Mysteries - featuring the Five Find Outers - are the most popular series in the Main Library. They provide a safe, but exciting, transition between our junior and older fiction collections. As for those politically incorrect bombs sprinkled throughout the narratives, they are the perfect springboards for conversations about how society has progressed over the past century.
Local author John Bonallack who writes the very popular, locally produced Power Button books, (aimed at year four to six male reluctant readers) was an Enid Blyton fan as a child. "I grew up on those - and Biggles and other often-frowned-on books, interspersing them indiscriminately with the classics. I read and re-read those Famous Five stories, learned to read read fast and moved on. I believe that learning to read fast and fluently is the major educational and developmental task for children."
The fact so many children inherit (or are allowed to borrow) the Enid Blyton collections of their mothers, fathers, nanas and grandpops speaks volumes for the nostalgic quality of series's like the Faraway Tree stories... parents and grandparents want to share the feelings they had reading these books, and the times in which they read them, not just the books themselves.
Enid Blyton, who was also known as Mary Pollock, wrote an extraordinary amount of books in her career, and their massive popularity and life in reprints makes it hard to pinpoint an exact figure. She is said to have written 243 character books, 896 short story series books, 267 education books, 179 recreation books, 164 continuation books, and 284 sundry contributions. These figures come from http://www.enidblyton.net/, who sourced them at www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/. Both websites are packed chock-a-block with lashings of Blyton, perfect for perusing over a hard boiled egg and lashings of lemonade. Hoorah!
Tony Hopkins, Ralph Johnson (pictured below) and Moira Wairama make up the Soul Food Storytellers arm of the Baggage Arts Co-operative Trust (BACT). Baggage Co-op is committed to creating and promoting performance pieces and art works that incorporate a variety of mediums, cultures and languages and that encourage people to risk new experiences. They certainly filled that brief when they performed Scary Sagas for Group Three and Four of A-long Hot Summer Story Festival in the Performing Arts Studio, on December 22.
Their performance of three spine tingling tales - one Maori, one Native American and one from European folklore - had the audience glued to their seats, with only the odd burst of nervous laughter punctuating the proceedings. Ralph's story about a beloved woman buried with a gold leg reminded me of the urban myths of old, usually only ever told when parents and children are separated, and the kids are free to set the tone for how scary, and how disgusting, they want their night to be. A heady brew of spooky music, earwax, amputation, nits and cannibalism ensured grotesquely enraptured attention.
For more scary sagas... try delving into the 398 (fairytales) section of the library. Many of these old stories have been preparing children for life with scare tactics since way back. My favourite fairytale anti-hero has always been Baba Yaga, and you can read a story about her in Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave. Be warned though, she is as ugly as Vasilisa is brave! Traditional tales can be told in many ways, and are often the ones we remember most clearly due to the abundance of familiar devices (dark woods, abandonment, temptation, scarcity, Herculean tasks) employed to deliver their messages (take the right path, don't talk to strangers, waste not want not, etc.). Authors like Anthony Browne often mine new stories from fairytale themes repeatedly. His book Into the Forest is a great example.
Maybe you have a favourite fairytale that bears a striking resemblance to a situation in your own life. Now, wouldn't that make a great story for you to write?
It's a good time to be the Porirua Children's Librarian, and not only because people keep depositing chocolate and nuts on my desk - which I guess is happening in any workplaces that are still delivering service this close to Christmas. But there is also the fact we have just kicked off the first ever A-long Hot Summer Story Festival, with no less than eight special 'registration only' events, and a stack more public ones.
On Day 1, with most of the planning behind me, I realised this meant I had front row seats at several shows and workshops I would gladly have paid to witness. This afternoon, for example, I am eagerly awaiting the Soul Food Storytellers' Scary Sagas show, which ran at Bats Theatre in Wellington a while back. Soul Food Storytellers are Tony Hopkins, Ralph Johnson, and Moira Wairama.
We hosted Moira on December 20, and the above image is proof from that day of how irresistable her charms are. When she says "e tu", no one remains seated. Moira is a real inspiration to me... not only is she the most amazingly helpful and wise performer you could hope to hire, her wealth of experience in the field of storytelling makes her seem utterly at home in performance mode. She is engaging, edgy, and energetic, all the things one needs to be to get their stories across.
Moira is also the author of the books The Puppet Box/Te Pouaka Karetao, and The Taniwha of Wellington Harbour/Nga Taniwha i Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara , two excellent examples of New Zealand children's books, both with sublime illustrations by Bruce Potter. Moira will be performing solo for our older kids at the Grand Finale gig on January 19. You can also look forward to her special performance of a tale about Porirua's own taniwha when we welcome her back to the main library on Waitangi Day for the Festival of the Elements.
Sponsorship for the Festival has poured in with us barely having to hold out our bowl - testament to what a wonderful world the bookish one is. Paper Plus in North City have provided prizes, as have South Pacific Books, Random House Publishers, and our dear and generous friends Gecko Press.
Let's not forget the major prizes kicked in by Porirua Library either - a video camera for Group 3, and an e-reader for Group 4. These are exceptional prizes to reward the exceptional work we know the Festival will inspire in the hearts and minds of those registered on it.
We are also thrilled to be able to offer prizes of family passes to Zealandia wildlife sanctuary in Karori. That would certainly be a great place to spend some of these long hot summer days we have ordered to suit our Festival's moniker. Even the sun doesn't want to miss this month-long party.
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