Teaching the English to bring up kids

He\'ll be okCelia Lashlie’s book He’ll be O.K.:growing gorgeous boys into good men has been a big seller since it first came out in this country in 2005. Her book is now being published in Britain although they have changed the subtitle to “Helping adolescent boys become good men.” She is being featured in lots of magazines and newspapers and interviewed in The Guardian, The Times, Sunday Times and the Times Education Supplement. An extract from the book will be in Psychologies magazine in August and Vanessa Feltz, all purpose celebrity broadcaster (I guess you copuld say she is their equivalent of the likes of Charlotte Dawson) will be talking to her on her BBC radio show and Simon Mayo (you might say their equivalent of Paul Henry?) will be doing the same on his show.  Everything short of being on the Richard and Judy Show, Britain’s answer to Oprah. All this shows that the colonies can teach the Old Country a thing or two.


Hats r us

Miniature millineryI’m wearing a hat of sorts today, and you see more be-hatted types on the streets this chilly winter. Once they were a daily necessity, but now it seems the races and weddings are their turf.  The most glamorous international outing for hats is Ascot which took place last week and The Guardian’s Charlie Brooker gave headgear a right royal drubbing:

Every year it’s the same thing: a 200-year-old countess you’ve never heard of, who closely resembles a Cruella De Vil mannequin assembled entirely from heavily wrinkled scrotal tissue that’s been soaked in tea for the past eight decades … balancing the millinery equivalent of Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum on her head …

If you know your Homburg from your fascinator (or want to), check out our books about hats and millinery.

Ready for Reading

Boy readingI attended an excellent kids’ birthday party last week. But apart from the chips and sausage rolls, and me eating too much, this party had one big difference! Held at Linwood Library, this was also a party to launch Christchurch City Library’s new two-year pilot programme, Ready for Reading.

The programme is aimed at four year olds, and follows on from the successful Books for Babies programme. I know of one four year old already who has been enjoying their pack, which contains a book, a jigsaw and a pamphlet for parents on how they can help with those pre-reading skills. The book is just lovely, and was written and illustrated locally.

It’s great to know that initiatives like these are going ahead thanks to the hard work and good will of those people with a passion for the well-being of our young children.

Monday night murders

Dexter in the dark by Jeff LindsayIt’s a worrying thing when you find yourself rooting for the main character in a television show…and the character in question is a psychopathic serial killer.  Let’s just say it gives one pause, but such moral quandaries are par for the course when watching TV3 crime show with a difference, Dexter.  Monday nights on TV3 are very much a smorgasbord of blood splatter and forensics with first Bones and then the aforementioned Dexter.

If, like me you’ve been enjoying a regular Monday night dose of crime and punishment then you might like to consider digging a little deeper and checking out some of the crime fiction that’s inspired the shows.

Dexter is based on the novels by crime novelist Jeff Lindsay while Bones is based on the well known series of books by Kathy Reichs.

Chick Lit for beginners

If you read chick lit, (and let’s face it heaps of us do), then you can now hold your head high!  The latest award on the Literary front is for Comedy Romance and has been won this year by Lisa Jewell for 31 Dream street Lisa Jewell is no stranger to Comedy Romance (or Chick Lit genre), and had this to say at the award ceremony:

You feel undervalued when you write the kind of fiction I write,” she said. “So it’s great to have this genre given its own night of appreciation and recognition. To win is just wonderful.

I feel somewhat uneasy by this statement. If an author as prolific and as capable as Lisa Jewell feels undervalued, then what are those of us who read these books supposed to feel? 

So hooray for Joanna Trollope, (a judge on this years Romantic Comedy panel) Her blog, “Why I love Chick Lit” sums up pretty well why Chick Lit is so popular.

Comedy romance works for readers because the jokes are underpinned by recognisably real people in recognisably real situations – disappointment, frustration, loneliness, anger, sadness and all the grim old daily human carry-on. In fact, without the gravitas, the jokes wouldn’t work.

So come out from under those duvet covers, and celebrate an award that recognises that chick lit isn’t just froth and nonsense!

The divinely quotable Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker - in her own wordsAt the height of her powers in the 1930s, Dorothy Parker was lauded as “the wittiest woman in America”.  This was high praise indeed but totally justified as Parker’s bon mots and scathing putdowns were the source of much angst and entertainment in the New York theatre scene where she reigned supreme as a critic to be admired, if not feared.

Though it was her skills as a theatre critic and renowned conversationalist that cemented her place in American popular culture she was also a gifted writer of verse, stories, and even screenplays (she was nominated for an Oscar for her work on A star is born).  Parker was also well known for her tumultuous private life that included several failed marriages as well as suicide attempts. Continue reading

Montana Poetry Day 2008

Friday 18 July is Montana Poetry Day – the annual national celebration of New Zealand poetry. To get you in the mood a little booklet is available in our libraries (and other places like bookshops) with a sampling of five contemporary New Zealand poets – Janet Charman, Johanna Aitchison, Fiona Farrell, Janet Frame and Bill Manhire.

Montana Poetry happens in association with the Montana New Zealand Book Awards. The winner of the poetry category is announced on Montana Poetry Day. This year’s finalists are Janet Charman, Johanna Aitchison and Fiona Farrell.

I was thinking about one of my favourite New Zealand poets – A.R.D Fairburn and that kind of made me think of a connection suggested by an interesting website I looked at today – New Zealand Folk Song. Popular songs often contain some pretty powerful poetry – compare Fairburn’s Dominion – a powerful outburst about the Depression years, with Blam Blam Blam’s There is No Depression in New Zealand – a satirical blast from the Muldoon years. Will there be a poet to record the angst of the early 21st century mortgage, cheese and petrol blues?

Digressions aside – our Poetry online resource is a great place to get further into exploring New Zealand and other poetry.

Victoriana – Modern Victorian novels

the Journal of Dora DamageThere’s nowt like a Victorian novel for a meaty read. There’s the actual Victorian writers – I’m not a fan of Charles Dickens, but love George Eliot and Thomas Hardy. But in recent times you’ve got another option – the modern Victorian (or neo-Victorian) novel. These books draw on the Victorian storytelling traditon and settings, adding modern concerns and perspectives.

I’m currently engrossed in The Journal of Dora Damage. It tells the story of Dora, living in Lambeth, London, in the year 1859. Her bookbinder husband has arthritic hands, her daughter suffers from epilepsy and our plucky heroine finds herself illegally binding expensive volumes of pornography commissioned by aristocrats in order to keep her family solvent.

There’s a neat description that explains a bit about the appeal of these modern Victorian works:

Despite – or perhaps because of – its setting, The Journal of Dora Damage is an unashamedly modern novel, whose themes seem just as relevant today, and which seeks to prove A.N. Wilson’s assertion that we are all still living in the Victorian age.

The themes of the modern Victorian novels are sex, the authorial voice, the role of women, emancipation and freedom, sanity/insanity, power, suffering, poverty, courage – it is no wonder that can enrapture readers with such ideas to draw upon. It is worth noting too that women are often the main characters in these books.

A wonderful read is The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. It has the telltale elements – doorstopper size, a colourful cast of characters, and as with many modern Victorian works it looks at the seedy underbelly of Victorian life (in this case prostitution) and has a feisty and fascinating female lead character (Sugar).

Sarah Waters has also mined the vein with novels such as Tipping the Velvet, Affinity and Fingersmith – stories involving crime, orphans, music hall and other Victorian trademarks.

Alias GraceOther classics of this type:

Here’s a taste of Matariki at the Marae

Tonight is the second night for the public to experience Matariki, the Māori New Year, at the Ngā Hau e Wha National marae on Pages Road. It’s something you’ll regret missing. Aurelia Arona, Kaitakawaenga at Christchurch City Libraries, posted this about Tuesday night’s programme, which is repeated tonight.

The night got off to a great start by the Cook Island Group – the dancers were awesome and their talented drummers got everyone jiggling to the beat.

Pauline Harris gave a great session on Matariki and took listeners on a verbal tour around the world giving a great introduction re: Matariki/the Pleaides and some basic information about the ascension of this star cluster. She then took the audience on an interesting world-tour giving examples of the Matariki traditions and stories from other cultures around the world.

The two kaumatua, Rikiihia Tau and Hekenukumai Busby gave interesting and informative speeches as well. The korero we heard was an absolute treasure.

Rikiihia Tau talked about Matariki from a holistic point of view, focusing on observations around hunting and harvesting. His speech also touched on particular observations from his own life and the Ngāi Tahu experience.

Hekenukumai (Hec) spoke about Matariki , including not just the rising of the constellation but also the diving of the constellation – when it disappears for the month prior to its reappearance in late May/early June that marks the New Year. His korero then moved into a very informative talk on the traditions of celestial navigation and his personal experience.

He will be expanding on this talk on tonight and will be speaking about the preparations that are necessary to complete a deep sea waka voyage.

Miles Kaukau and his daughter had many people interested in the small whare with the demonstrations of the soap carving- plenty of people were keen to learn more.

The telescopes were also a big hit! Staffed by students from the University of Canterbury people were able to view the planets and constellations with their help.

The Star lab was full for its second session, a big hit with all ages. There will be two sessions run on Thursday night and they last for 30 minutes each.

Mareikura wowed the audience with their kapahaka performance- exemplary performers, with beautiful harmonies, they were absolutely fantastic.

The night was wound up by the ukeleles of the Island Summer Orchestra and a karakia.

Crowds warmed by marae hospitality

Learning Events Co-ordinator Ainslee McGill says a crowd of around 400 enjoyed the hospitality at the Ngā Hau e Wha National marae last night.
“It was awesome,” she said.
“Lots of people stargazing got a good look at the moon because it was quite a clear night.”

It was chilly too, but the pumpkin soup provided by the marae warded off the winter temperatures.
The inflatable Star Lab, from Science Alive! and the soap carving with Miles Kau Kau were also big hits with the crowd, McGill said, and there were lots of positive comments which people had written on stars and posted up around the venue. The event attracted a “huge range of ages”.

Today Freeville and Burwood primary schools get their chance to see what’s on offer as well as another six early childhood centres. If you went to the event, feel free to post a comment.