The 1967 novel sold more than 30 million copies and he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.
18 April 2014
14 April 2014
It seems to be a year for anniversaries of children’s books and lucky for me it has included the indisputably cute Alfie and now the perennial read aloud We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. This Interview with author Michael Rosen and illustrator Helen Oxenbury gives some lovely insight into how this book evolved and is a delightful exchange by two icons of children’s book publishing. I especially enjoyed hearing how the author (Rosen) envisaged a totally different set of characters than Helen Oxenbury created, yet the book still works wonderfully well.
This was the story that we read over and over again, I only wish I could have made the wonderful squelching noises that Michael Rosen can produce. The line
We’re going on a bear hunt, it’s going to be a big one, we’re not scared
still resonates in my mind and is equal to
and along came Hairy Maclary from Donaldsons Dairy
in terms of repetition that never grows tiresome. Michael Rosen says he has told this story thousands of times, and at times I feel that I wasn’t far behind him as night after night all sorts of squelching, wooshing and sploshing noises emanated from my childrens’ bedrooms.
They are are older now, but I would love to know what are today’s great re-alouds, perhaps I will be able to put some aside for the hoped for grandchildren!
8 April 2014
80 years ago, one of the greats was visiting New Zealand, with crowds hanging on his every Shavian word.
George Bernard Shaw visited New Zealand in 1934 for a month, from 15 March to 14 April. He spoke at a civic reception in Christchurch on 10 April 1934. His speeches and activities were closely tracked by the media, and a book of press reports published called What I said in New Zealand: The Newspaper Utterances of Mr. George Bernard Shaw in New Zealand, March 15th to April 15th, 1934.
Here are some quotes from “What I said in New Zealand” with a Christchurch perspective:
G.B. Shaw and Dr Thacker
Dr. H. T. J. Thacker, of Christchurch, sent him a reply-paid telegram asking for 12 words about his diet. Mr. Shaw’s reply was: “Dr. Thacker, Christchurch. Vegetarian 50 years. Teetotal always. Milk, butter, eggs. Shaw.” (p. 12 )
A Moa Bone Problem
There was a pause here and an impressive voice from the audience asked what its owner, D. H. T. J. Thacker, evidently considered a question of great importance. “Do you know, sir, that we have in the museum here the largest moa skeleton in the world?” Mr. Shaw (looking momentarily a little surprised): Well, no, I didn’t. I’m afraid. I don’t even know what a moa is. Dr. Thacker: It is the largest wingless bird in New Zealand, sir. (p.18)
Amazing in his vitality and health Mr. George Bernard Shaw entertained half a dozen reporters and twice as many listeners and spectators at an impromptu levee in the lounge of the United Service Hotel for more an hour after his arrival on Saturday afternoon. “Well, what do you want me to talk about?” he asked as he approached the group of reporters. “What’s it to be today?” He began with a remark typically Shavian. “Someone has sent in some questions to me —was it ‘The Press?’—yes, ‘The Press’— which are about the most intelligent I’ve had since I came to New Zealand.” He turned to the reporter of “The Press.” “But, my dear fellow, it would take me 150 years to answer them all. I don’t expect to have another 150 years, you know.” The important question of why Mr. Shaw came to Christchurch was simply settled, lie threw back his head and laughed. Christchurch claims to be the most intellectual city in New Zealand, and I was most disappointed when the itinerary planned for me did not include it,” he said.
New Zealand Brunelleschi and the Catholic Cathedral
When Mr. Shaw saw that Catholic Cathedral he suddenly thought of Brunelleschi, and he went in and looked at it. He saw that they had already produced a New Zealand Brunelleschi. They had the classical style with all its merits and nevertheless, the arrangement was very original. It was not a mere copy as he regretted to say the Church of England Cathedral was. There was nothing in that. It was absolutely academic. The other cathedral was originally and beautifully treated.
“But why have I dragged in this?” Mr.Shaw asked. “Not because I was bribed by the architect, because I do not know his name, but because I suddenly saw it without anybody telling me to go in and look at it—it is not in the guide books—and it produced that impression on me. Then I began to think: They have here in New Zealand a man who is capable of doing that work, but what an awful time he must be having! Just imagine! Suppose yourself born here in New Zealand, a Brunelleschi, and that your business is to produce cathedrals of that kind. New Zealand might make a great effort and give you one commission and one cathedral to build. That is pretty hard lines. That man wants to be building cathedrals all his life. There should be cathedrals like that in every town in New Zealand. It should be an attraction just as the church or cathedral is a great attraction in almost all the towns of Europe, the first things you go to see … (p.23)
Communistic New Zealand
Thanks to your communistic institutions you are to some extent leading world civilisation to-day. You are second only to Russia. (p.27)
Holiday reading: Mein Kampf and 22 other books
In the library of the Rangitane, which is now at Wellington, and in which Mr. George Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Shaw travelled to New Zealand, there are 23 books given to the ship by Mr. Shaw after he had read them during the voyage. (p. 27)
The titles included My Struggle by Adolf Hitler.
More about George Bernard Shaw
- DigitalNZ set George Bernard Shaw in New Zealand 1934
- What I said in N.Z. : the newspaper utterances of Mr. George Bernard Shaw in New Zealand, March 15th to April 15th, 1934. Digitised by the State Library of Victoria, Australia
- Search our catalogue for George Bernard Shaw
Bye the bye, some of you may have noticed Shaw’s Major Barbara features in season 3 of tv show Girls (Adam is playing a role in a Broadway production of it).
3 April 2014
Another square crossed off the Reading Bingo grid and it’s gratifying in all sorts of ways. The copy of Middlemarch sourced from a second hand bookshop in Whangarei met the Reading Bingo Book with a Blue Cover challenge and shortened the guilt-inducing list of Books I Know I Should Have Read But Haven’t.
That big brain Virginia Woolf famously said Middlemarch is “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people”. Apparently Julian Barnes and Martin Amis think it is the greatest novel in the English language and Tolstoy had it on his bookshelf. Penelope Fitzgerald, my current literary obsession, listed Dr. and Mrs Lydgate among her favourite literary characters.
Middlemarch took me a while to read; it required more attention and concentration than I’m used to giving a work of fiction in 2014, but the rewards were more than worth it. Balancing Act, Joanna Trollope‘s latest, which I read soon after finishing Middlemarch, suffered greatly in comparison. It was easy to read and quite pleasant, but the characters are already forgotten, while the inhabitants of Middlemarch continue to live and breathe for me.
Harry Ricketts, reviewing Balancing Act on Radio New Zealand National, put it better than I can when he said that readers of Joanna Trollope will want to read it, but if you’re not a J. Trollope reader he’d go back and read Middlemarch before bothering with Balancing Act. They are both about provincial England, family dynamics, businesses and people trying to work in their professions, but Middlemarch treats these subjects in a much more complicated and subtle way. Listen to his review.
Reading it at the same time as My Life in Middlemarch, Rebecca Mead’s memoir about what the book has meant to her, enhanced the pleasure of both books; a highly recommended way to either discover or re-live Middlemarch and to find out more about what a fascinating woman Eliot was. Kim Hill will be talking to Rebecca Mead on her Saturday morning show on Radio New Zealand National on 5 April.
The reading challenges continue – in a couple of months it’s “In June read that classic you have never read” for A Year in Reading. I’m planning to read Ulysses by James Joyce. Surely it’s meant to be – the action of the book takes place on the 16th of June 1904; the 110th anniversary should be a positive omen for my second attempt at reading it. It’s been 42 years since the first; I must be more intelligent now. Although there was that disastrous attempt at Moby Dick earlier this year. Three pages in it became obvious – that whale is destined to swim forever in the sea of Books I Know I Should Have Read But Haven’t.
3 April 2014
Everyone knows about Road Rage – where all other drivers are idiots, your blood pressure soars, you discover swear words you weren’t aware you knew and, when you glance in the rear view mirror to glare at another driver, you don’t recognise the face looking back at you.
But you may be less familiar with Book Rage. Some of the symptoms are similar, but it usually happens at a book club, surrounded by friends, eating delicious nibbly things, sipping wine and doing what you love best – talking about books. And then WHAM, out of the blue, Book Rage flares up.
I’ve belonged to reading groups most of my adult life and here are four of the books that nearly tore those groups asunder:
- The Slap (Christos Tsiolkas). You don’t know who you are as a parent until someone else slaps your child. At a barbie. The discussion might start out civilised, but child rearing practices can divide even loving couples, never mind a group of ladies only loosely linked by their love of books. Be warned, it could turn ugly.
- Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen). No one saw this coming, but in retrospect, books about animals do run the risk of degenerating into emotionally charged “cruelty to animals” accusations. These are always taken personally. You may not get offered a second glass of wine.
- Fifty Shades of Grey (E. L. James). This was a particularly tricky one for me as I had already taken a vow not to even touch the book. So this book was already causing me significant stress in the workplace. When it showed up at my book group, I launched into a vitriolic attack on it – even though I had not read it, and never ever would. This stance neatly divides people into those who believe you can’t have an opinion on something you haven’t tried, and the rest of the thinking world.
- The Grass is Singing (Doris Lessing). Most Book Rage starts like this. One person (in this case me) puts a book she loves into the club. Someone in the group responds with comments like: “I never knew any Rhodesians like that” or: “This book is rubbish“. Next thing I hear myself saying: “Well, you’re wrong” and recklessly amping it up to – “You’re all wrong“. Then I stomped out of the room to the toilet where I tearfully felt I would have to leave any book group that did not appreciate a Nobel Prize winning author. When I looked in the mirror, I saw staring back at me a person I barely recognised. A horrible book snob. I returned to the group. They gave me a cupcake and a coffee. I took Doris Lessing out of the club. We never spoke of it again.
How about you? Do you have any books that have have caused harsh words to be said, that have cut deep beneath the veneer of civilised behaviour, that have lost you friends?
A book that maybe made you learn something about yourself?
20 March 2014
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Check our the Learning Centre holiday programme – starting after Easter. Digital storytelling, Lego animation, Minecraft craft in combination with the awesome MakerCrate crew – lots of fun and learning for kids.
Take a look at what the kids did in the January holidays.
17 March 2014
Plans are full steam ahead for the Margaret Mahy Family Playground. Billed as ‘the most amazing playground’ the city has ever seen, it promises activity zones aimed at different ages, comfortable places for adults to supervise and relax, and challenging play equipment, all inspired by the stories of Margaret Mahy.
It’s almost time for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards to begin. The finalists will be announced on Tuesday 8 April, and the winners will be announced on Monday 23 June. The supreme winner wins the title of New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, and an additional $7500 prize. The award was re-named in honour of Margaret Mahy in 2013 and Into the River by Ted Dawe won the inaugural award.
If you are itching for some Margaret Mahy screen goodness, you can check out full episodes of her award-winning TV adaptions and scripts on NZ On Screen:
The Haunting of Barney Palmer
Which ’80s kid wasn’t totally freaked out by this spooky film?
This thriller inspired many a secret gang and clubhouse in the playground.
If you haven’t seen this psychedelic, video-effect laden show, narrated by Paul Holmes, you should stop reading this and check it out immediately. I don’t remember seeing it as a kid, possibly because my parents thought it was some sort of medication-induced hallucination.
For the full list of Margaret Mahy media, head over to the NZ On Screen site.
If watching these makes you want to get back into some the source material, check out our full list of Margaret Mahy titles on our catalogue and revisit some childhood favourites.
Then get onto our Margaret Mahy pages and check out the latest, and sadly last, titles published by this Kiwi taonga.
11 March 2014
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Join The Story Collective for a weekend of storytelling. Enjoy a wide variety of performances, participatory events, and creative workshops. The Story Festival start on the evening of Friday 14 March and runs until Sunday 16 March at the Gap Filler Pallet Pavilion, corner of Kilmore and Durham Streets.
The busy programme includes:
- Opening night Friday 14 March at 7pm “a rich show of all types of stories, spoken word and live music galore”
- Saturday 15 March: Creative workshops including a Kakapo tale and making felt kakapo, and lassooing a star.
- Writers’ Panel with Rachael King, Gavin Bishop, Deborah Rogers, and Anneleise Hall
- Storytelling dance, and Open Mic;
- Family chill-out day on Sunday 16 March including the Christchurch City Libraries’ outreach team doing bicultural story telling at 11am, and tales from Christchurch’s Word Witch.
- Tales at the Pallet Pavilion Postcard [PDF]
- Tales at the Pallet Pavilion Poster A4 Poster [PDF]
- Like the Story Collective on Facebook
- View the full programme
6 March 2014
Blinding us with science, and China in our hands: Marcus Chown and Jung Chang in Christchurch next weekPosted by Donna under Authors, Christchurch, Christchurch and Canterbury, Events, Writers | Tags: Christchurch, Donna, jung chang, literary events, Marcus Chown |
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There are some tasty literary events coming soon to Christchurch – two next week!
Marcus Chown – Astrophysicist (Wednesday 12 March)
Marcus Chown is talking in Christchurch next week at the Aurora Centre. Marcus is a celebrated astrophysicist and writer who communicates pretty mind-blowing science in a witty and informative way. He is brought to Christchurch by the Royal Society of New Zealand, in association with New Zealand Festival.
An evening with Jung Chang (Tuesday 11 March)
The Press Christchurch Writers’ Festival brings you An Evening with Jung Chang.The best-selling author will deliver a stunning multi-media talk about her new biography Empress Dowager Cixi, the Concubine Who Launched Modern China. With a healthy 61 holds on this book, we know a lot of you are keen to read this.
Her book Wild Swans is an all-time classic (64th in the latest Whitcoulls Top 100) in which Jung Change chronicles the struggles of her grandmother, her mother, and herself to survive in a China torn apart by wars, and more. Her biography of Chairman Mao was an utterly compelling read too.
6 March 2014
Because I haven’t got enough reading to be going on with this year, what with a For Later list of only 410 titles and a New Year’s Resolution to read a mere seven books off The Guardian Best Books of 2013 list, I eagerly agreed to a colleague’s challenge to play Reading Bingo with her.
When I counter-challenged her to #readwomen2014 she raised me A Year in Reading and we were off. So far I have managed four things off Reading Bingo, but my sheet doesn’t have the tidy lines that were so exciting on Housie cards in 1970s booze barns, more a scattered set of crosses. I’m too busy trying to make one book do for two challenges to be systematic.
So far I’ve only managed it with Franny and Zooey. It met both the Reading Bingo challenge of reading “A book that is more than 10 years old” and the Year in Reading challenge “In January read a book published the same year you were born”.
The trouble with reading a lot is that it just makes you want to read more. Franny and Zooey reminded me of how much I loved the Glass family and how I should go back and read all the Glass stories. At least they’re short.
Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life (Guardian Best Books of 2013) made me think I should read about her family and more of her fiction before I embarked on her biography. Happily I could use The Knox Brothers for “A book of non-fiction” in Reading Bingo. And perhaps the The Golden Child could do for “The first book by a favourite author”(it’s her first fiction book).
Then I foolishly left myself short of books when on holiday and had to buy a second-hand copy of Middlemarch. I’d always planned to read it after listening to it on talking book, but it’s languished on my For Later list for years. The task became more urgent when it had to be read before My Life in Middlemarch, a book about how important books can be in our lives. As if I need to read about reading. But it has had great reviews and Rebecca Mead’s New Yorker pieces are always good.
Unfortunately I’m so deep in my reading challenge addiction I chose an edition of Middlemarch with a blue cover just so I could cross off the “A book with a blue cover” Reading Bingo square . It’s so musty it nearly asphyxiates me every time I open it and as I finish each page it detaches itself from the ancient glue that has held the book together for the last 40 years.
It’s a bit tragic, but the challenges have actually given me a new enthusiasm for reading. Now to manipulate the Man Booker short list titles into meeting at least two criteria of my reading challenges each…