Goodly Godley Gifts

Take a team of talented Christchurch designers and craftsmen and the watercolours and storytelling of early settler James Fitzgerald and you have the Godley Gifts – a collection of essays, watercolours and the children’s story Seadrift which has been produced as a limited edition finely bound facsimile set. One of these sets, appropriately no. 59, has just been gifted to Christchurch City Libraries by the J. R. Godley Trust in honour of the libraries’ founding 150 years in 1859.

James Fitzgerald was an important figure in the establishment of Canterbury. He was the first to leap ashore from the Charlotte Jane in Lyttelton on December 16, 1850 and went on to found the Press newspaper. He painted the book of watercolours as a momento for John Godley, the founder of the Canterbury settlement, when he returned to England and the illustrated storybook for Godley’s son Arthur. The Godley family returned the paintings to the Canterbury Museum but Seadrift remained in the family possession, much loved and read over the generations, until it was given to Haydn Rawstron in 2000 to be returned to New Zealand.

Copies of the limited edition of 100 are still available for purchase and the money raised by the trust is used  to support the arts, architecture and heritage of Canterbury. Sets of the Godley Gift have been given to the National Library of New Zealand, the library of Christ Church, Oxford and the Queen’s library at Windsor (a great honour – many books are offered but few are chosen apparently). An interesting connection is that the team of binders in Christchurch was led by Matthew Hinman of Cover to Cover who spent four years working for the Queen’s bindery firm Sangorski Sutcliffe, where he changed from “tradesman binder to artisan binder”. Many tricks of the trade were used to create the aged look of the books including using 13 tonnes of pressure on the leather binding to recreate the look of the aged Moroccan goatskin on the original. Local printing firm Rainbow Print made numerous trips to the Canterbury Museum to match their colour plates to the colours of the original. The designer for Godley Gifts was Mike Coker from local firm Quiqcorp. The project went on to win three gold medals in the National Print Awards.

Part one of Godley Gifts consists of seven essays commissioned from actor/writer, David McPhail, to set the artworks of Godley Gifts in their historical context. Part two is  Seadrift, the adventures of a yacht, which is the first illustrated children’s book written in New Zealand. Part three is the collection of FitzGerald’s watercolours which are a story in themselves showing scenes of FitzGerald’s voyage to the new colony and of early Canterbury.

The Godley Gifts can be viewed in the Research Room of the Aotearoa New Zealand centre of the Central Library. There is also an excellent website for the project.

Gluten-Free Christmas Cooking

Being gluten-free myself, and not wanting to feel deprived of delicious goodies during the Christmas season, I decided to peruse the Library’s selection of gluten-free cookbooks for Christmas recipes. I was pleased to find a comprehensive selection of recipes, most of them with easy-to-find ingredients, which is always a bonus for the gluten-free shopper.

‘The New Zealand Food Allergy Cookbook’, by Ros Campbell, has a 19-page  section devoted to Christmas recipes, including such classics as Christmas Fruit Cake, and Christmas Pudding.  Other good publications are ‘Gluten-Free, Sugar-free Cooking’ by Susan O’Brien, and ‘Healthy Gluten-free Eating’ by Darina Allen. Both of these books have traditional Christmas recipes, or recipes which are suitable for Christmas, scattered throughout their pages.  ‘Healthy Gluten-free Eating’ has a delicious-looking recipe for ‘Christmas Cake with Toasted Almond Paste’, which it describes as ‘a moist, succulent cake’ – which (if it’s true) is a rare thing for gluten-free cakes, which can often be too dry and/or crumbly.

This is a quick and easy recipe from ‘The New Zealand Food Allergy Cookbook’:

Brandy Custard

3 cups milk (or milk alternative such as soymilk)

1-3 Tbsp honey

1 tsp vanilla essence

4 ½ Tbsp cornflour or arrowroot

6 Tbsp brandy

Heat milk gently until very hot. Add honey and essence and stir well. Mix cornflour (or arrowroot) in a little water to make a paste. Add cornflour paste to milk mixture and stir until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and add brandy.

Makes about 3 cups.

No words for my favourite read-aloud

The Chicken ThiefRead-aloud books – there’s so many favourites out there we’ve made this great list of read-alouds through the ages – there’s bound to be one of your favourites on it.

But my favourite read-aloud, and probably my vote for the book of the year, is one that has no words. Not a single piece of description. No dialogue, no tired rhymes from the thesaurus, no names, no cutesy chit chat.

It’s no easy choice – at the end of the day when you’re tired and you’re trying to get a ratty three-year-old to bed, the challenge of making up the narration and navigating the emotional rollercoaster of The Chicken Thief is sometimes the last thing you want to take on. The plot? A fox steals a chicken – her chicken partner and assorted friends chase them high and low for several nights, crossing mountains and oceans – but then the chicken ditches the lot of them for the fox!

And yet it’s a story choice we never regret. We talk about the action, the scenery, the characters, the drama, what might happen next – and every time we get a different, fun, entertaining version.

It’s magic that the illustrations capture so much, but what I really like is that it puts the reader in charge of the story somehow – deciding what to highlight, exaggerate or omit;  choosing sound effects, what names the characters might have and so on.

Two other quick votes: The Snagglegrollop and Gordon’s Got a Snookie – try them, and tell us your favourite read-aloud – is it on our list?

Noughtyisms and Neologisms – ‘Words’ to the mother

You’ve heard the phrase “What would MacGyver do” but what about the coining and creating of new words and phrases? It’s  Neologic (or “What would Neo from The Matrix do”).

The essential Public Address blog brings you the chance to vote for the word of  the year. 2008 was credit crunch (but of course), 2007 was Te Qaeda, followed by sub-prime and “it’s business time”. There are all sorts of lexical summations on offer for 2009. I’m picking Lhaws. For a moment I  wondered if I coined it but a quick search reveals it might have been commenter Alan in this post on Karearea on the Wellingtonista blog.  A word gaining momentum en masse is surely a sign of a zeitgeist catcher.

The Guardian has a post on the Best words of the noughties picking up some of the more amusing neologisms of recent times and some nifty new contraptions.

For lovers of words, why not peruse Mark Broatch’s In a word, or From Afterwit to Zemblanity: 100 endangered words brought to life by Simon Hertnon or search for more English language glossaries and vocabularies. English language etymology is another subject search that pops up word related goodies. I’m immediately putting a hold on The Last word: tales from the tip of the mother tongue after reading this description:

Learn the advantages of having your own signature word; Boris Johnson has come up with ‘bemerded’ or ‘to be fouled by a dog’, even though the word doesn’t actually exist; the significance of lifts with middle-class, 1930s accents and what reviewers really mean when they say exhaustive (exhausting), compelling (I managed to finish it), detailed (has footnotes) and richly detailed (has lots of footnotes).

And of course your library card also gives you access to the Big Mama of word gatherings The Oxford English Dictionary. We also have a collection of dictionaries online as well as in libraries. It’s a sea of words out there so hop on in.