Illustrating Margaret

cover of Dashing DogMargaret Mahy was a spell caster no doubt of it. Not just children and parents, but illustrators fell under her spell. The other night I was watching A tall long faced tale , the very creative documentary about Margaret and her work which recently screened on television. Happily we have a lot of copies of the DVD in our libraries but if you want a taster it is here on NZ On Screen. Some very famous illustrators talk about the magic of working with Margaret.

The very next day what should I see but a wonderful account from New Zealand author and  illustrator Donovan Bixley about how he worked on illustrating  Margaret’s book  Dashing Dog. Donovan has been our November Star author on our Christchurch Kids blog. The Kids blog is something anyone interested in children’s books should read. The monthly star authors are a particular treat with writers from New Zealand and overseas. Amongst Donovan’s posts from November are The Art of Hybrid Novels, Part One and The Art of Hybrid Novels, Part Two which make very interesting reading, especially if you are interested in graphic novels.

Can city planners make us happy?

Cover of Cycle spaceThere’s speculation out there that city planners can make a happy city. As a citizen of a city about to be rebuilt it would great to think so. On the other hand I was around in the 60s and 70s when similar claims led to developments that are now a byword for social failure (think high rise housing estates and Milton Keynes in Britain)

However, recent research looking at ten international cities suggests it can certainly contribute to it. According to The Sustainable Cities Collective:

A Gallup study examined a number of questions directly related to the built environment, including the convenience of public transportation, the ease of access to shops, the presence of parks and sports facilities, the ease of access to cultural and entertainment facilities, and the presence of libraries.

All were found to correlate significantly with happiness, with convenient public transportation and easy access to cultural and leisure facilities showing the strongest correlation.

Other studies have shown the need for social connectedness and suggested that long commutes and

car‑dependent neighbourhoods outside urban centres are much less trusting of other people than people who live in walkable neighbourhoods where housing is mixed with shops, services and places to work.

They have suggested this may explain the decrease in happiness in some western countries despite an increase in income.

Other exciting ideas relate to the use of green spaces. The BBC recently featured a wonderful range of suggestions as to how green spaces may contribute to our wellbeing in future – in ways you’ve never imagined.

It’s all food for thought and I find myself hungry for some more detail as to how these principles might be put into place in Christchurch.

Library at play: Picturing Canterbury

Audience at Mark Sommerset reading at Central Library
Audience at Mark Sommerset reading at Central Library Tuam.
Photography bookface
Bookface at Shirley Library.
Zombie librarians
Zombie librarians at Zombie Day at Upper Riccarton Library.

The novel cure

An A-Z of Literary Remedies
Sometimes when you wake up, your first thought is: I just can’t do today.

Maybe you’ve been dumped by your lover, maybe you’re feeling old before your time, or the muzak in your local mall is a reminder that you have only twenty-something days left to slap Christmas into shape. Whatever your problem, it’s a Duvet Day and The Novel Cure has the book for you.

The authors, Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin, call their discipline Bibliotherapy (the prescribing of fiction for life’s ailments.) If that sounds exactly like library work to you, let me  remind you that not only have they written this book, they also run sell-out Bibliotherapy sessions and retreats in the UK. So it does beg the question: Why didn’t we think of this first? And if this just lowers your feelings of self esteem, they have a cure for that too – The Shipping News (Annie Proulx). It should cheer you right up!

Presented in alphabetical order and engagingly written, the authors suggest reads for everything from abandonment to zestlessness and all manner of malaise in-between. There are fascinating book lists as well, my favourite being The Ten Best Audio Books for Road Rage. I do have one small quibble and that is the unhealthy pallor of the cover that has been selected. Surely something with rosier cheeks would have been better?

In fact this is far from the only Book about Books out there. The library has 221 items on this topic and you can find a really good list of them right here: like Book Lust to Go (novels for the traveller) and 12 Books that Changed the World by Melvyn Bragg. After a while though, reading these compendiums starts to make me feel quite queasy – don’t read them like a course of  antibiotics (once started must complete entire course). Instead you need to dip into these books, with long palate cleansing activity bouts in-between.

And if, after all this, you still feel you could have put together a superior compilation (The Novel Cure has suggestions to control feelings of both jealousy and competitiveness by the way), you can do that too – right here on our Best Reads of 2013 page. And if even a list is beyond you right now, just tell us your favourite Cheer Me Up read right here on this blog!

Mango Languages Online gets juicier

Ever wanted to learn a new language online or improve your English skills from the comfort of home? We  have your answer in Mango. It has undergone an upgrade and now provides access to over SIXTY languages for free! If you want to seduce your partner with sweet Italian phrases or travel to a foreign country and converse with locals then Mango is for you. The languages you can learn include:

  • Arabic;
  • Chinese – Mandarin or Cantonese;
  • Italian;
  • French;
  • Japanese;
  • Korean;
  • Russian and many more!

Mango also has lessons for people wanting to learn English if their native language is:

  • Arabic;
  • Chinese – Mandarin or Cantonese;
  • Japanese;
  • Korean and more!

Access Mango free through the catalogue or the Source  from within libraries or at home and start chatting away in foreign languages like a native. Buona fortuna! That’s good luck in Italian my peeps!

Fresh and fabulous new titles from OverDrive

OverDrive  is our free e-book and downloadable audio book service which keeps growing in popularity and size. We are constantly adding new titles to keep up with the ferocious reading appetite of the Christchurch reading public. Items come in and within hours they are out!  Below are just some of the newbies to whet your appetite!

Come one and all to Central Library Peterborough

Hear ye, hear ye …

Come along and have fun exploring the Central Library Peterborough Christmas Market on Sunday the 8th December. We have over 15 stallholders, a sausage / samosa sizzle, and live music to add to the atmosphere. You can change your library books, wander the stalls, and do Christmas shopping –  all at the same time. We will have a wide range of jewellery, crafts, clothes, preserves, books, art and candles.

Spread the word and mark the date on your calendar. See you there.

P.S. Don’t forget to visit Central Library Peterborough to view New Zealand Illustrated: Pictorial Books from the Victorian Age exhibition before Monday the 2nd of December. It complements Eleanor Catton’s book “The Luminaries” perfectly.

Library Christmas Market

Sanitarium or health home: 1902

View in our collection

In December of 1900, Edward Halsey, a Seventh-day Adventist and baker trained at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, came to New Zealand to prepare healthy food for a small health home. He began making batches of Granola, New Zealand’s first breakfast cereal, Caramel Cereals (a coffee substitute) and wholemeal bread in a humble wooden shed in the Christchurch suburb of Papanui. These products became known as Sanitarium Health Foods. Demand began to grow outside the health home as patients wished to continue eating these products even when they were well. (from Sanitarium website)

Search DigitalNZ for Sanitarium images and articles.


We have digitised a rather splendid 1902 publication Tourists’ guide to Canterbury.

Good onya SCIRT

Cover of BrunelLike many other people this morning I had to find a new way to work because of roadworks. It took me twice as long as usual to get there. It is all a bit stressful and frustrating. However, its also quite impressive. An enormous amount of work is being done on our earthquake stricken streets and SCIRT – the organisation in charge of it – has just received recognition of its excellent work from the Institution of Civil Engineers in London. It has been awarded the Brunel Medal which:

recognises valuable service or achievement, which has been rendered to or within the civil engineering industry.

Having watched people in hard hats spend months staring down a large and recalcitrant hole in Edgeware Road  – a problem that took a couple of years to solve – I feel quite certain that our hard-working roading engineers deserve all the recognition they can get.

It seems entirely appropriate that they should receive a medal named after the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, designer of so many other important transport engineering like railways, bridges and ships.

  • Find out more about Brunel at your library.

A story of courage

cover of from Matron to martyrThe stories of ordinary people who find courage to act bravely in the most difficult of circumstances continue to resonate with us. Author Lynley Smith has uncovered one such story and she will be giving a  talk at Central Library Peterborough tomorrow Wednesday 27 November at 1pm about her book From Matron to Martyr.

The story is about a distant relative of Lynley’s, Jane Haining, who was a Scottish missionary to Budapest before and during World War II. She worked as a matron of a girls’ home attached to the Scottish Mission and school in Budapest. Briefly, she remained in Budapest after the German invasion, was arrested and died in Auschwitz, a martyr for the sake of the children she looked after. She was named by Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, in 1997.

The story is extremely powerful, so much so, that the second largest publisher in Hungary, Libri, has agreed to translate it into Hungarian and publish it there. It is also going to be used by a group working towards reconciliation between the Jewish community and Hungarian people in Hungary and surrounding countries next year.

Lynley will focus on how she came to write the book and the adventures she had as she travelled to research it. She also touches on the current state of anti-Semitism in Central Europe which brings a present day relevance to the story and explains why it is to be used next year to further the reconciliation process.

There is a connection to Christchurch in the story. Interestingly, Jane Haining’s best friend in Budapest, a lady name Frances Warburton Lee, who actually shared a prison cell with Jane at one stage, moved to Christchurch after the war. Lynley has not been able to trace her family. She, herself, would have passed on now. It could be that someone, perhaps a family member of Ms Lee’s, hearing about the talk and the book, could fill Lynley in on that information!