The funniest books for children in 2009

A relatively new prize for children’s writing will be awarded next week to the author and illustrator who have written the funniest  children’s book of the year.  The Roald Dahl Funny Prize (named after one of the world’s most imaginative and loved  authors for children) was founded by author Michael Rosen in 2008 to honour those books that simply make children laugh.  There are two categories, Age 6 and under, and Aged 7-14, with six finalists in each.  My favourites in the 6 and under category have to be Allan Ahlberg’s The Pencil and Nick Sharratt’s Octopus Socktopus.  I grew up with Allan Ahlberg’s stories and still love them, and Nick Sharratt has written and illustrated some great picture books recently, especially Foggy Foggy Forest.  The 7-14 category also has some really funny books, especially The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams of Little Britain fame (“Hello my name is Emily. Emily Howard and I am a Lady”), and one of my favourite reads of the year, Eating Things on Sticks by the very talented and funny Anne Fine.

So if you want something funny to read you should check these out.  We also have plenty of other hilariously funny books in the library.  One of my favourite characters is Jeremy JamesDavid Henry Wilson has written lots of books about him and his hilarious antics and they never fail to make me laugh.

Community Voices

The National Oral History Association of New Zealand (NOHANZ) held their biennial conference in Wellington last weekend and I was fortunate to attend. The conference drew professional and amateur oral historians working in the most amazing range of areas –  from interviewing train drivers in Picton,  to former gang girls, to Quakers and to well known artists.

The theme was “Using Oral History in Communities” and apart from the stimulating opportunity to learn and network (for people who do a lot of listening they sure can talk!) some fascinating speakers provided great inspiration.

Gaylene Preston was one. Her War Stories our Mothers Never Told Us project produced a book and a powerful film based on the original interviews. Now she is producing a companion piece – a film called Home Before Christmas which will be out next year. It is a dramatisation of the interviews she recorded with her elderly father about his war experiences.  She writes, directs, produces and even has as small appearance and judging by the sneak preview she showed us it will be well worth seeing. Gaylene is a real Kiwi treasure and her work is well worth following up.

Pip Desmond shared the process of developing the book Trust: a true story of women and gangs. In the 1970s Pip lived and worked with a group of young women who had connections with the Black Power gang. She helped them to find work and some degree of shelter with the Aroha Trust and thirty years later she recorded their stories and worked with them while producing the book.

Jack Perkins talked about his experiences with the Spectrum documentaries on Radio New Zealand and Jacqui Foley talked about her work recording oral histories for the North Otago Museum in Oamaru. Judith Fyfe and Tony Hiles talked about working with the artist Michael Smither. Judith Fyfe recorded him in the 1980s talking about the many notebooks he kept for recording ideas. Tony Hiles is a documentary film maker who has made films with Smither before  and has now embarked on a ten year, 20 part documentary project chronicling the artist  at work. The first film, Shared Harmonics, was released in September 2009. An earlier film Flight of Fancy can be viewed on the NZ on Screen website.

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