Geek girls unite!

I am something of a fangirl about a variety of things but my main obsessions at this point in time are Star Wars and anything Joss Whedon has ever done, said, or breathed on.

Some people will never understand the levels of devotion and excitement I experience when trawling the action figures aisle at K-Mart, or researching Star Wars cosplay on the Internet…and that’s perfectly okay. I cannot for the life of me understand the appeal of motorsport, and scrapbooking leaves me cold. Each to their own.

Cover of The fangirls' guide to the galaxyThis idea of respecting each others fandoms is a big one in Sam Maggs’ brilliant how-to The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Geek Girls. This book is the self-affirming “I’m okay, you’re okay” tome that geek ladies everywhere have been waiting for. I wasn’t very far into the book before I found myself wondering why on earth noone had written it before. It very obviously needed to exist and Sam Maggs’, fangirl extraodinaire (her cosplay game is on point) and associate editor of geek girl culture site The Mary Sue, is just the woman for the job.

The book celebrates the variety of fandoms that we lady-folk enjoy and it’s actually quite educational. There’s some fangirl terminology explained, (I have an additional use for the word “shipping” now), as well as providing the basics on a range of fandoms, some of which I’m not personally that familiar with, like gaming and anime. The book includes short interviews with some successful fangirl actors, writers, and artists, a rundown on the best “cons” aka fan conventions (sadly all North American though SDCC is on my bucket list) and con etiquette, and a really useful primer on feminism. What exactly is “intersectional feminism” and where do I sign up? This book has got you sorted.

Cover of Ms Marvel 3My favourite chapter is “Your new faves: Kick-ass female characters you need to know” as it’s basically a recommended reading (and watching) list. It’s what turned me on to Ms Marvel, has me adding the movie Haywire to my For Later shelf, and casting my gaze towards Tamora Pierce’s Immortal series. Yes sirree, we librarians like a good book recommendation more than most.

Speaking of which, I’d also highly recommend Felicia Day’s You’re never weird on the Internet (almost). Day swims in much the same sea that The Fangirl’s Guide does. She’s well known as an actor in genre shows like Supernatural, Eureka, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and has always been a nerd and fangirl herself, particularly in the area of MMORPG.

Cover of You're never weird on the internet (almost)Just to give you a notion of Felicia Day’s cultural caché – Joss Whedon wrote the foreword to the book and the back cover features a glowing endorsement from… George R. R. Martin.

So yeah, lady is connected.

But it wasn’t always so. The funniest parts in the book are where Day documents her offbeat childhood of being homeschooled and rather isolated from her peers. In such conditions her weirdness was able to fully ripen (to the benefit of us all). As an awkward oddball, she sought out belonging and community via the only means available to her… the Internet. And she’s been hanging out there, making awesome things happen ever since.

The book is heavy on self-deprecating humour and tells the tale of an awkward child who turned into… an awkward woman. But one who has learned to back herself, make stuff she loves and push on through the bad (addiction, anxiety issues, gamer-gate etc) with humour and whatever the dork equivalent of “grace” is.

Do you have any recommendations for great geek girl reads (or viewing for that matter)?

A small piece of Christchurch’s Antarctic heritage

Christchurch has many links with Antarctica, both modern and historic. This November sees the 105th anniversary of the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition sailing from Lyttelton. Led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott and officially known as the British Antarctic Expedition, the expedition ended in disaster when the polar party perished on their way back from the South Pole, having discovered that Roald Amundsen‘s Norwegian party had made it there before them.

Scott and his men had spent some time in Lyttelton and Christchurch before setting sail on the last leg of their sea voyage from the UK. Scott first came to the region in 1901 when he also used Lyttelton as last port of call on his way to Antarctica. This was the British National Antarctic Expedition, also known as the Discovery expedition.

A typescript letter signed by Robert Scott, thanking the City for the gift, from Mr. H. Greenbank, of a mounted horseshoe.
Letter, 15 Nov. 1910, from Robert Falcon Scott, CCL-Archive18-003

Our digital collection includes a couple of nice mementos of these two expeditions, which highlight the Christchurch connection. On both occasions the people of Christchurch gave a gift to the expedition – firstly some sheep and secondly a mounted horseshoe. Scott wrote thank you letters to the town clerk and these are now part of the library’s archives collection and have been digitised.

  • For everything you could ever want to know about Antarctica, take a look at the extensive links on our Antarctica web page.
  • Find out about the Antarctic Heritage Trust‘s quest to restore the historic Ross Island huts of Scott, Shackleton and others

29 days till Christmas…

Cover of The Christmas countdown… yep, that freaked me out too! But in my house, we have the Energizer Bunny version of the Festive Season: with all four of our birthdays falling like dominoes each month from October to January, and our Wedding Anniversary on Christmas Eve (not to mention a dozen or so birthdays in the extended family) the festivities just keep on going and going and going.

The best (and worst!) thing about this crazy time of year is planning the kid’s birthday parties. I love the baking and cake decorating, the planning and searching of the interwebs for party ideas. But I don’t do anything by halves! On party-eve, I’m always up at some ungodly hour of the morning, still working my magic on the sugar-and-food-colouring on chocolate-cake masterpiece that will become the birthday cake. Sometimes the magic is less than forth coming. Stressful? You bet! Rewarding? Absolutely!

cover of Step by step Kids' birthday cakesWith a just-turned-six-year-old, and a nearly-thirteen-year-old, I’ve had plenty of birthday parties to plan and pull off. But last year, for some reason, with the momentous occasion of the Young Lad’s 5th birthday looming (which was to be his first “proper” party, with friends from preschool and all the hoopla) I felt at a complete loss as to what to do. I’d never planned a party for little boys before. What do they do at a party?? I took home book after book on party games, party foodparty themes, and of course party cakes. But the clock was ticking, and I still hadn’t figured out what to do-oo when (miracle of miracles) Step-by-step Kids’ Birthday Cakes fell into my hands.

I showed the Young Lad the Pirate Cake, and everything finally fell into place. Funnily enough, after all my angst, we ended up with pretty traditional games like pass the parcel, pin-the-tale (or in this case the treasure chest), and a treasure hunt (with actual pirate treasure – well, OK, cardboard pirate chests full of chocolate coins). The cake turned out pretty good, I reckon.

pirate cake

I’ve certainly come a long way since Miss Missy’s third birthday, when she requested a Peppa Pig cake. I looked in horror at the amazing creations on the interwebs, and decided that I could probably pull off a picture of Peppa piped atop the cake. The midnight drama that year was the red icing for Peppa’s dress. I added more and more red colouring, the icing turned pinker and pinker, stubbornly refusing to turn red! Then I had an a-ha moment, added some chocolate icing, and came up with perfect Peppa red.

Cover of 50 easy party cakesSince then, I’ve turned more to the library for inspiration, and have created my own versions of cakes from several of the books in the catalogue.

I love Debbie Brown’s books, the instructions are really easy to follow, and I’ve used quite a few of her designs now. I found the perfect cake for Missy Missy’s pony party in  Debbie Brown’s 50 Easy Party Cakes. It really was easy! Honest! And it survived the near disaster of having the oven door slammed, which jarred the mane off one of the ponies (and I’d put it in the oven FOR SAFE KEEPING!)

pony cake

The kids and I drooled over More Cakes for Kids and the Young Lad chose the fire engine cake. It turned out almost too good, because he was desperately upset when we cut it up and ate it!

fire engine cake

Cover of Celebration CupcakesThis year’s wonderful discovery was Tamara Jane’s Celebration Cupcakes. I used her royal icing recipe to make Gingerbread Hulks, and her floodwork instructions to create superhero cupcake toppers. I had a lot of fun making them, but when the Young Lad saw the Hulks, he informed me “I can do it betterer than you, Mum!” and proceeded to amaze me with his piping skills. Our top tip from this year’s cakery is to use little zip-lock bags for piping the royal icing. That way, the icing stays where it should (inside the bag, not squirting out the back and all over your hands) and the icing stays nice and fresh, even while you wait for things to dry before adding more details. We just snipped the corner of the bags, but I imagine you could put a piping nozzle in it if you wanted to.

superhero cupcakes

OK, I’ll admit it – this blog post was mostly an excuse to show off, and redeem myself after sharing the story of my culinary failures. But a little bit of shameless self-promotion is alright now and then, right?

Whanau fun – celebrate Aranui at AFFIRM on 5 December

AFFIRM is a family festival organised by ACTIS. The local community sets out to celebrate and share its talents with the rest of Christchurch. AFFIRM14 takes place on Saturday 5 December 2015 at Wainoni Park from 9.30am to 4pm.

AFFIRM10 Flickr CCL-2011-12-03-AFFIRM December2011 DSC02813

There will be food stalls on site and more entertainment for the whole whanau:

Ki o Rahi, Giant Bouncy Slide, Water Rollers, 4’n’1 bungy, Info stalls, great giveaways, full days stage entertainment which includes: local schools, Jah Mana, The Byllie Jean Project plus many more. Featuring: T J Taotua and Donell Lewis.

Our Aranui Library is right by Wainoni Park, and is open on Saturday from 10am to 4pm. There will be a free giveaway book stand at AFFIRM, and there will be information available outside the library. We will also have 3D printing on show.

Aranui Library holiday activities
Aranui Library. January 2014. Flickr: 2014-ar.hols2

Go to the Aranui AFFIRM Facebook page to find out more and see photos from previous events.

Bookish Books

Cover of The Truth According to UsI confess I picked The Truth According to Us based solely on the fact that Annie Barrows was involved in the writing of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which has been one of the few book club style books that I’ve really enjoyed — it’s light and funny in tone despite its occasionally grim subject (some World War Two anecdotes), and it includes my favourite trope: characters who love to read. Generally this will catapult it onto my list of comfort reads, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was no exception.

12 year old Willa Romeyn, one of the main characters in The Truth According to Us, is obviously a kindred spirit. Throughout the book she surreptitiously re-reads her aunt’s copy of Gone with the Wind several times, and she has to visit the library every day in order to replenish her reading material. Willa is also unspeakably nosy, a trait I’m afraid I share. Being on the cusp of adolescence she is starting to notice the half-truths and lies adults are telling, and she sets about finding out their secrets for herself. (This always ends well, right?)

In 1938 senator’s daughter Layla Beck arrives in the Romeyn household as a boarder, a new member of the Federal Writers’ Project, having been cut off from her allowance for not marrying her father’s choice of husband. Initially she sees her time in the town of Macedonia as an ordeal to be got through until her father relents and lets her come home; however, she is soon captivated by the town, the Romeyn family, and, to her own surprise, the history she is writing.

While it’s not a slim read and the point of view does jump around a bit, Jottie Romeyn (Willa’s aunt and caregiver) won me over. Witty and clever and betrayed by the past, she tries unsuccessfully to protect her family from the judgement of the town. I wish I could invite her over for a big jug of iced tea.

Cover of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Cover of The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry Cover of 84 Charing Cross Road Cover of The Uncommon Reader

I’m in the mood for another comfort read, so I’ve compiled a list of Bookish Books. Are there any I’ve missed that I should add? Or, if you’ve read The Truth According to Us, what did you think? It reminded me a lot in tone of Crooked Heart, so if you liked that (or vice versa) perhaps try the other.

Fan girl and proud of it

I’m mocked mercilessly about my raving and hyperventilating but I don’t care, I know exceptional talent when I see it. I won’t be swayed from my mission to getting everyone I know to listen to my favourite singer and all time amazing person, Tami Neilson. A Canadian now living in New Zealand, she has a powerhouse voice with a stunning range, able to belt, swoon or blues her way through the songs she writes that are about heartache, love and loss but also just the joy of living.

Tami Neilson with awardShe is a winner of the Apra Silver Scrolls Award for best song and has numerous NZ Music Awards, and you may have seen her on numerous television shows, most recently 7 Days and singing with Dave Dobyn at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. She also created the soundtrack  for local series The Brokenwood Mysteries.

I thought I’d let everyone know that we have just received in her latest album, Don’t Be Afraid, into the library collection, to add to her other earlier ones, and it’s a doozy, just like last year’s epic and award winning Dynamite (which I am told is on it’s way into our collection soon).

With a soulful voice straight from the golden age of country and rockabilly music, Tami Neilson has been described as “A red-hot honky-tonker, somewhere between Patsy Cline and Wanda Jackson with perhaps just a little bit of Peggy Lee sophistication.” -Nick Bollinger, NZ National Radio

I’ve stalked her like a Justin Beiber fan stalks the Beibmeister, having seen her perform four times in the last year, even flying to Auckland recently so I could be at her album launch. It’s almost reached the restraining order stage, as Tami now knows my husband and I by sight and gives us great big warm hugs, “Hey, you guys!”, and I’ve got a picture of her with me and everything…. (yes I’m 53 not 13!)

electric guitarThere’s been this huge upswell of Alt Country/Americana awareness in this country over the last year or two, in part mostly to artists like Tami Neilson, Dave Khan and some Canterbury boys; Delaney Davidson, Marlon Williams and Ben Woolley. Marlon just picked up two awards at the New Zealand music awards mentioned above. These talented young men have been in well known local bands such as The Eastern, Unfaithful Ways and Devilish Mary and the Holy Rollers. Original music, passion and talent combine, and to see them live is just a joyous night out, pure and simple.

But if you can’t get along to a gig, we also have their CDs in various forms, and you will often see on the album sleeve a selection of the above artists as they often get together to add their talent to each other’s projects. There are so many exceptionally talented New Zealand musicians trying to make a living out there, so if you’re into music, keep your eyes open for local gigs, they’re everywhere.

The next opportunity to see the tremendous Tami here in Christchurch will be at the Nostalgia Festival in February at Ferrymead Park, along with The Phoenix Foundation, The Eastern and Devilish Mary and the Holy Rollers to name a few. Don’t miss it!

The best of British eBooks – Askews

At Christchurch City Libraries we are blessed with three eBook platforms vying for our attention. There is OverDrive, the big flashy American one with the largest collection that also includes downloadable eAudiobooks. Then there is Wheelers which consists purely of New Zealand content and culture. Last but by no means least is Askews which primarily provides access to British content that is out of print or can not be found in OverDrive. It is not as well-known as the other platforms which is disappointing. Is it that classic British reserve that is its undoing? Its unwillingness to shout at the top of its lungs – I am here and I am amazing? In case it is I will agree to be its advocate and champion.

Cover of The Queen Cover of Behind the scenes at the museum Cover of Bring up the bodies Cover of Atonement Cover of A demon in my view Cover of Cold Granite Cover of The Collaborators Cover of Charlotte Gray

Askews has all the big names in current Brit lit such as authoresses Kate Atkinson, Philippa Gregory, Hilary Mantel, and Ruth Rendell. Then we have the authors Sebastian Faulks, Bernard Cornwell, Ian McEwan, and Stuart MacBride. All this literary talent and more awaits you as we head into the silly season where your money is hoovered from your pockets. The fantastic thing about Askews is that you can borrow and place holds for free and never have to worry about overdues fees. What can I say, the library provides the cheapest entertainment this summer! So if you haven’t dipped your toes into Askews yet, please do.

High Fives at South Learning Centre

A few wee things to celebrate at South Learning Centre.
Ep9 Trigger

HNN (Hillmorton Network News) finished off their year in style. I am so proud of their film and media progress, learning and confidence. The students presented to their Year 7/8 peer group. This was very nerve wracking for them with over 100 pairs of eyes scrutinizing them. This was followed by them presenting to school staff – who fired many questions at them ranging from their cross-over learning into other areas, what new skills they learned, and where could their skills take them?

Look out for HNN 2016!

HNN Episode 7

HNN Episode 8

HNN Episode 9

HNN Episode 10

HNN Episode 11

The second celebration is for Beckenham Centennial Film School. This was a hugely successful experience working alongside Beckenham School learning all about their 100 year history. We discovered some great stories of the past, devastating details of the fire and some exciting plans for the future of Beckenham.

Beckenham of Old

Beckenham Now

Beckenham Fire

Future Beckenham

In our Learning Centre, students experience eLearning programmes aligned with the New Zealand Curriculum document. These programmes provide learning in a technology-rich environment and the teaching within these programmes keep abreast with the latest teaching philosophies and strategies.

If you are interested in working with us to tailor an existing programme or work alongside us  please contact us Tel: 941 5140 or


Te Kupu o Te Wiki – Toru (three)

Kia ora. To encourage the use of Te Reo Māori we are publishing weekly kupu (words) and phrases that can be used with children.

Kīwaha (idiom)

Ka mutu pea

Kupu (word)


Kua toru ō tau ināianei!
You’re three now!

Whāngahia te Reo

This week in Christchurch history (23 to 29 November)

23 November 1988
Human remains dating back to pre-European Māori settlement found while excavating for YMCA building on the corner of Hereford Street and Rolleston Avenue. Area declared tapu for 24 hours until remains removed.

24 November 1881
St Albans Borough formed.

25 November 1940
“Holmwood”, en route from the Chathams to Lyttelton, sunk by German raiders. Passengers and crew were taken aboard the German ships, and eventually made their way home 2 months later.

25 November 1980
Totem Pole placed in new location at Christchurch Airport.

26 November 1857
Opening of the first building (long since demolished) on the present Christ’s College site. The school’s original planned site was in Cathedral Square, but the land had been exchanged for the present Hagley Park site to allow room for expansion.

26 November 1910
The ill-fated second Scott expedition leaves Lyttelton on the “Terra Nova”, bound for Antarctica.

26 November 1959
Memorial Avenue (a memorial to airmen killed in W.W.II) officially opens.

Memorial Avenue, Christchurch [ca. 1959]
Memorial Avenue, Christchurch [ca. 1959], CCL PhotoCD 10, IMG0032
28 November 1893
Women vote for the first time in parliamentary elections.

28 November 1908
Work begins on the Summit Road, the first part of Harry Ell’s obsessional dream.

28 November 1964
Opening of Cashin Quay, Lyttelton Harbour. The engineering techniques used in reclaiming this area were unique in the world.

Cashin Quay under construction [ca. 1963]
Cashin Quay under construction [ca. 1963], CCL PhotoCD 11, IMG0057
29 November 1901
Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s first Antarctic expedition arrives at Lyttelton in “Discovery”.

29 November 1978
Concert at Q.E.II Park by rock singer David Bowie.

More November events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.