The Exquisite Corpse

The wonderful thing about my job is that with all my searching for new stock to buy for the Library I often stumble across really interesting and quirky bits of information.  Today I learnt about “An exquisite corpse”

An Exquisite Corpse is an old game in which people write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold it over to conceal part of it and pass it on to the next player to do the same. The game ends when someone finishes the story, which is then read aloud.

The Stinky cheeseman and other fairly stupid tales. By Jon Scieszka
The Stinky cheeseman and other fairly stupid tales. By Jon Scieszka

Jon Scieszka,  a well known children’s author has written the first episode in this story, and he has passed it on to other well known writers and illustrators, who will eventually bring the story to an end.  The next writer is Katherine Paterson.

This is a rather intriguing idea, and for the life of me I have no idea how it can possibly all come together to make something coherent and readable.  However, seeing as  The Exquisite Corpse Adventure is a project of the Center for the Book (which is part of the Library of Congress), the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance, (an American organisation that promote literacy and Libraries) and is obviously including some really good authors, then I may well subscribe to the RSS feed to get weekly updates.  The story will conclude a year from now.

Patrick Ness in the running for Booktrust Teenage Prize

Shortlisted for the Booktrust Teenage Prize
Shortlisted for the Booktrust Teenage Prize

It’s children’s and young adult’s book awards season at the moment, with the shortlists for two prominent awards being announced.  The main award that recognises excellence in teenage fiction is the Booktrust Teenage Prize and the shortlist this year is very strong.  I was pleased to see that one of my favourite authors, Patrick Ness, was shortlisted again this year for his heart-stopping follow up to the award-winning The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer.  The other titles on the shortlist include Auslander by Paul Dowswell, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray, Ant Colony by Jenny Valentine, and The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant.  All of these books have got fantastic reviews and are all very strong contenders for the award. 

The other main shortlist that has been announced recently is for the prestigious Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.  While there are fewer contenders for this prize (only 4) they are all extremely good writers who have writen some interesting and varied stories.  Siobhan Dowd, who sadly passed away from cancer several years ago, wrote some very unique stories and her books have been nominated and won several awards in the past few years.  She has been shortlisted this year for her novel, Solace of the Road, alongside Then by Maurice Gleitzman, Nation by Terry Pratchett, and Exposure by Mal Peet

Who do you think should win?  My picks are Ask and the Answer for the Booktrust Teenage Prize and Solace of the Road for the Guardian Prize.

The Brightest star in the sky

I was reading mj’s blog about the latest Dan Brown, and realised that I too had been reading a bestseller over the weekend – the latest Marian Keyes to  be exact.  Not quite in the league of Dan Brown, but close enough for some  to turn up their literary lips.

I’ve pretty much enjoyed all her books, light, but not too light, a touch of serious issues mixed in with some funny one liners, characters that you love to love, or love to hate, and a story engaging enough to keep the whole thing rollicking along nicely.

The Brightest star in the sky has all of this, but unfortunately not in bucket loads.  Lots of good characters, but I felt that Keyes was just trying to deal with too many wayward souls for me to really get a grip on all their idiosyncracies. There is also one little character that remains elusive and somewhat annoying, but I will leave that for you to find out about.

All in all still a great weekend read, and if you like Marian Keyes you will enjoy it, but possibly not as much as her others.  (And don’t be put off by the thickness of the book, you will skip through it nice and quickly).

Let the music move you – The Body Festival and The BDO

BodyFestivalChristchurch is a-shimmying and and a-shaking to The Body Festival. There are performances, workshops and all sorts of dancey fun to be had.

The workshops are a brilliant way to dip your toe in the world of dance. Last time I tried Bollywood. It’s fun to spend the afternoon dancing in the foyer of the Christchurch Art Gallery. This time, maybe my New Year’s resolution of having a bash at the flamenco could be ticked off the list.

In other music news: Muse is to headline Big Day Out – What can I say but Hooray!  Their new album Resistance is proving popular amongst library users (it sounds very Queen-tastic) and this news will probably create a  flurry of interest in their back catalogue.  Matt Bellamy, Muse’s singer/guitarist/pianist, wields his instruments like weapons of war and will fair burn up the stage. Muse is one of the few bands who deign to include Christchurch in their tours so good on them.

Other visitors and locals in the lineup: Kasabian, The Mars Volta, Lily Allen, Dizzee Rascal, PNC, Kora, Dimmer and Gin Wigmore. See the Big Day Out 2010.

Do you read banned books?

One of the most banned booksThis week is Banned Books Week in America, but we thought we would celebrate too.  Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read whatever, whenever and wherever we choose, and draws attention to the harms of censorship.  The reasons for censorship are many and varied, and when you look at some of the reasons why books have been banned (particularly in America), it seems ridiculous. 


 Here are just some of the fantastic children’s books that have been banned or challenged for ridiculous reasons:

1. Witches by Roald Dahl – gives children a false idea about how the world works and it has a negative portrayal of women.

2. The Captain Underpants series by Dave Pilkey – encourages children to disobey authority.

3. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak – objections to nudity (some librarians have even drawn pants on Mickey).

4. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson – gives negative views of life and promotes witchcraft.

5. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein – includes poems about disobeying children, dying children and there is a presence of supernatural forces in the poetry.

We have a display in the Centre for the Child in Central Library of some books that have been banned or challenged so come in and take one home.  You can also have a look at the list of the top 100 banned or challenged books between 1990 and 2000.  Be warned though – these books could be bad for your health so read them at your own risk!

Blockbuster read

I immersed myself in Dan Brown’s latest doorstopper The Lost Symbol over the weekend. It was perfect weather on Sunday to hunker down and read, read, read.

The Lost Symbol has all the hallmarks of a classic Dan Brown blockbuster – murder, family secrets, conspiracy theories, religous theories, scientific explanations for the unknown, maps, ciphers. You name it, it’s in there.

Robert Langdon reprises the role of Harvard scholar from Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, and in The Lost Symbol, it’s a 12 hour countdown to figure out the answers to the myriad of puzzles and stop the almighty calamity from happening. The tension builds, the minutes tick away, the plot twists and turns, and you do get to a point where you just can’t put it down because you’ve got to get to the end. For me, it was the events of Chapter 104 that made me not put it down until I had finished it.

Having finished it, I will admit that I love this kind of blockbuster fiction. It’s true, it isn’t rocket science and it certainly isn’t highbrow literature, but it’s a damn good rollicking read, it grips you, it surprises you, it intrigues you. It has all the classic features of a blockbuster movie – and yes, I think it will be a great movie, parts of the book will be fantastic when realised on the big screen, especially the baddie!

So put aside your prejudices of formulaic fiction and delve into the world of Washington D.C., the Freemasons, Noetics, the Smithsonian Museum, alchemy, magic squares and the importance of numbers.

Discovering a new author

I love stumbling onto an author that I didn’t previously know about, who writes in a style I like and who tells a great story with characters and plotlines that ‘work’. It’s such a delicious feeling to ‘discover’ someone new.

I’ve been a fan of Kathy Reichs’ style of forensic crime since her first novel and while I’m on the waitlist to read her latest book, 206 Bones, I have discovered a new author to delve into, Kathryn Fox.

Kathryn Fox is an Australian author, who won the 2005 Davitt Award for her debut novel, Malicious Intent. She has worked as a medical practioner, with a special interest in forensic medicine.

She appears on, here’s her profile on her publisher’s website, and then there’s always her Fantastic Fiction profile to check out as well.

So if you are a fan of any of the following writers, Karin Slaughter, Kathy Reichs, Jeffrey Deaver, Patricia Cornwall, Mo Hayder or Harlan Coben, then I’d recommend Kathryn Fox be added to your reading list.

Graffiti – urban artform

Love it or hate it, graffiti is a part of the urban landscape. I’m a fan of graffiti, but not a fan of random tagging.

I love the colour and style of big graffiti pieces, but I don’t personally see the value of random tags. However, I am learning that these seemingly random scribbles are often a precursor to graffiti artists learning their trade and building into bigger and stylier works.

I recently watched Style Wars, which documents the early years of graffiti in New York. It’s a fascinating look at the birthplace of urban graffiti, and outlines the overlap between graffiti, hip-hop and breakdancing as outlets for visual, spoken and physical expression for urban dwellers. It is an intriguing look into the community of graffiti artists, who talk about why they ‘write’ (usually just words) and why they ‘bomb’ (typically more substantial, pictorial works).

The library has copies of the 25th anniversary edition of Subway Art, in which photographers Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant document the diverse work of graffiti writers who (illegally) painted subway cars throughout New York City. The larger style of this new edition showcases the work in fantastic form.

For a New Zealand perspective, check out Elliot O’Donnell’s book InForm, where New Zealand graffiti artists talk about their work, their style and their influences.

Jonny Wartman is a director for the only professional graf company in New Zealand. He’s originally from Christchurch and was interviewed for The Pulse.

Graffiti is everywhere, whether you love it or hate it. To whet your appetite to find out a little more, here’s a selection of covers to give you a taste – the books on non-English language graffiti art, for example, graffiti paris and RackGaki, were really interesting to get a different cultural perspective of graffiti.

Howard Morrison – To Sir with Love

It feels like an old friend has gone. Sir Howard Morrison has passed away at the age of 74. He has been one of those great stalwart kauris of New Zealand – up there with Edmund Hillary, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Colin Meads – fully embodying Aotearoa to Kiwis home and abroad. His version of Whakaaria Mai is one of New Zealand’s taonga.

It wasn’t long since this great entertainer was on our tv screens – Howard recently appeared on September 4th on the Good Morning show in a cool Birthday special and on July 3oth talked about the importance of Te Reo Maori in his life.

Many tributes and eulogies will come today and in the days to come. Radio New Zealand has summed up his long career and many achievements, thus:

From his days with the Howard Morrison Quartet in the 1960s, Sir Howard had a varied career as entertainer, cultural ambassador, and social advocate …Sir Howard was born in Rotorua in 1935, a member of Ngati Whakaue of Te Arawa. He began putting together vocal groups to perform at rugby club socials in Rotorua in the mid-1950s and was a member of the successful Aotearoa Concert Party that toured Australia.On his return to New Zealand, he formed a group with his brother and cousin, and guitarist Gerry Merito, that became the Howard Morrison Quartet … In his later years, he established the Sir Howard Morrison Education Foundation of Te Arawa Youth to support those embarking on university study and was a trustee of the Books In Homes organisation. Waikato University gave him an honorary doctorate in recognition of his service to the Maori community.

Hei maumaharatanga ki te tino hoa
In fond remembrance

Image of the week

Womens’ Royal Army Corp Parade

Womens’ Royal Army Corp Parade

1940’s. Parade of the Womens’ Royal Army Corps  at Burnham Camp. The woman second from the front is my mother Joan Gundersen (nee Gott). She was a Sergeant Major.

Christchurch City Libraries is inviting the public to be part of a gathering and documentation of historical photos on peace and conflict in Christchurch from 14 September until 23 October. We are collecting images of Canterbury’s involvement in peace and conflict over the years and will publish them on the libraries’ Flickr site. This year we are looking at three broad themes in fitting with this years Heritage Week: Life at Home, Away from Home, and Peace and Remembrance. So gather up those photos and send them in! The Christchurch City L ibraries Photo Hunt 2009 is open from 14 September until 23 October and is part of the Beca Heritage Week’s ‘Doves & Defences’ celebrations. Winners will be announced and contacted on the 2nd November 2009.