Margaret Mahy Miscellany

March 21 is the 78th anniversary of the birth of Margaret Mahy. Although it has been nearly two years since she passed away on July 23 2012, her name is still in the news.Book Cover of Magical Margaret Mahy

Plans are full steam ahead for the Margaret Mahy Family Playground. Billed as ‘the most amazing playground’ the city has ever seen, it promises activity zones aimed at different ages, comfortable places for adults to supervise and relax, and challenging play equipment, all inspired by the stories of Margaret Mahy.

It’s almost time for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards to begin. The finalists will be announced on Tuesday 8 April, and the winners will be announced on Monday 23 June. The supreme winner wins the title of New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, and an additional $7500 prize. The award was re-named in honour of Margaret Mahy in 2013 and Into the River by Ted Dawe won the inaugural award.

If you are itching for some Margaret Mahy screen goodness, you can check out full episodes of her award-winning TV adaptions and scripts on NZ On Screen:

The Haunting of Barney PalmerCover of The Haunting
Which ’80s kid wasn’t totally freaked out by this spooky film?

This thriller inspired many a secret gang and clubhouse in the playground.

Cuckoo Land
If you haven’t seen this psychedelic, video-effect laden show, narrated by Paul Holmes, you should stop reading this and check it out immediately. I don’t remember seeing it as a kid, possibly because my parents thought it was some sort of medication-induced hallucination.

For the full list of Margaret Mahy media, head over to the NZ On Screen site.

If watching these makes you want to get back into some the source material, check out our full list of Margaret Mahy titles  on our catalogue and revisit some childhood favourites.

Then get onto our Margaret Mahy pages and check out the latest, and sadly last, titles published by this Kiwi taonga.

Cover of Footsteps through the FogCover of The Man from the Land of FandangoCover of The Green Bath

Popular culture – picks from our March newsletter

Some picks from our March Popular Culture newsletter:

cover for From Earth's endCover of Salt, sugar, fat Cover of Man belong Mrs Queen cover for Romps, tots and boffins cover for Kangaroo Dundee cover for Absolutely barking cover of Ghost hunters cover for The Godfather family album  cover for 1963, the year of the revolution

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For more great reading suggestions, check out our booklists and recommended websites on our Literature page.

New Year’s Resolution (5)

Cover: Penelope Fitzgerald: A lifeMaking embarrassingly slow progress on my resolution to read seven books off the Guardian Best Books of 2013, I hit gold with Penelope Fitzgerald: A life.  John Lanchester, Penelope Lively, Hilary Mantel and Helen Simpson all rated it and they weren’t wrong.

Hermione Lee has written a model of a literary biography, which will come as no surprise to the well read, familiar with her books on Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather and Edith Wharton.

To my shame the only thing I knew about Lee was that one of her favourite possessions is a handbag that once belonged to Dodie Smith, given to her by Julian Barnes, who features in one of many amusing stories about Penelope Fitzgerald in the biography.  Lee could have lent her handbag to Fitzgerald, who sported a sponge bag at one of the Booker Prize dinners.

The biography is the perfect mix of telling detail, considered judgement and sympathetic but honest examination, all written in a style that makes the reader want to just keep on reading. Lee made Fitzgerald so alive to me that I now want to read everything she ever wrote. Also books by people she thought a lot of.

Then Lee is such a good writer I also want to read everything she has written. Although I might give the Edith Wharton biography a miss having been scarred for life by The House of Mirth – a worthy contender for The Most Misleading Title Ever Award. 

Do you have any favourite literary biographies? Because I need a few more titles to add to my lists.

Friday night book fry – Big Bargain Book Sale 2014

booksalefryBack in 2006 we advertised our book sale with a “fry up” book style. There is also another promotion Lindsay (Bindery team leader back then, and Book Sale organiser) did but alas I have no photos. He is resplendent in a bathful of books.

In 2014, the annual world famous in Christchurch Big Bargain Book Sale is on soon at the Pioneer Recreation & Sport Centre, 75 Lyttelton Street, Spreydon.

  • Friday 21 March 2014 9am – 7pm

  • Saturday 22 March 2014 9am – 4pm

Big bargain book sale banner

In mourning: Picturing Canterbury

Dorothy Gimblett (16 years old) & Sharp - in mourning for father
Dorothy Gimblett (16 years old) & Sharp – in mourning for father

Electronic sexy time with OverDrive

So last weekend I went on a second date and he has not called me back. I have to admit I was not feeling much spark either but can’t help but wonder – was it because I had three plates of food at the buffet? I thought men like women with an appetite? Maybe undoing the top button on my pants was a step too far though?

Life is so much easier when it is fictional fantasy! This weekend I will heal my wounds and sink into a world without stretch marks, uncomfortable silences and missed opportunities. Bring it on OverDrive!

Thrillers and Suspense: picks from our March newsletter

Some picks from our March Thrillers and Suspense newsletter:

Cover of The First BirdCover of Between Summer's Longing and Winter's EndCover of Beloved EnemyCover of A Darker Shade of SwedenCover of Shovel ReadyCover of The Lie of YouCover of The Winter PeopleCover of MercyCover of The Bat

Subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight from your inbox.

For more great crime and thriller reads, check out our lists of winners of  the Crime Writers’ Association Awards and of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel.

‘Art’ is in the eye of the beholder?

Is it art or graffiti? If you’ve been meaning to check out the record breaking Rise street art exhibition, that is showing at Canterbury Museum, you’ve only got a little while before it wraps up on March 23rd.

Cover of Subway ArtI expect the huge colourful murals created by local and international artists currently adorning walls around the central city, will be with us a lot longer and may continue the discussion that’s been sparked over what constitutes art as opposed to graffiti.

Vigorous debate has played out in Christchurch newspapers over the past few weeks, but you can make your own mind up!   For more on the world of street art, there are plenty of books available, and an excellent starting point would be the seminal work Subway Art by Martha Cooper & Henry Chalfont.

The exhibition features a private collection of works by Banksy, who is no stranger to public comment and curiosity. More on this mystery man can be found at our libraries.  I’ve just finished Banksy: The man behind the wall which, while it could have benefited from some judicious editing in my humble opinion, does give an insight into the secretive artist and his street art/graffiti origins in Bristol.

Cover of Banksy: The Man Behind the WallOne of my Banksy favourites of the exhibition, was ‘Kids on Guns’, but ‘Kids on Gins’ by the artist known as Milton Springsteen is a brilliant take on the original.  As are his subversions of iconic New Zealand art works.  His series of ‘Corrupt Classics’ was one of the exhibition delights for me.

On the flip side, if it’s graffiti and tagging that’s an issue for your own property or neighbourhood, the Christchurch City Council wants to know.  If you’d like to take an active role in helping remove graffiti from around the city then the team at the Graffiti Programme would love to hear from you!

Two of my favourite large street art works are these ones on a couple of walls in Sydenham.

Street ArtStreet Art

What’s your take on this style of art? Love it or loathe it?

Map of Banks Peninsula and Christchurch : 1902

View in our collection


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

Telling tales @ The Pallet Pavilion Story Festival

Join The Story Collective for a weekend of storytelling. Enjoy a wide variety of performances, participatory events, and creative workshops. The Story Festival start on the evening of Friday 14 March and runs until Sunday 16 March at the Gap Filler Pallet Pavilion, corner of Kilmore and Durham Streets.

The busy programme includes:

  • Opening night Friday 14 March at 7pm “a rich show of all types of stories, spoken word and live music galore”
  • Saturday 15 March: Creative workshops including a Kakapo tale and making felt kakapo, and lassooing a star.
  • Writers’ Panel with Rachael King, Gavin Bishop, Deborah Rogers, and Anneleise Hall
  • Storytelling dance, and Open Mic;
  • Family chill-out day on Sunday 16 March including the Christchurch City Libraries’ outreach team doing bicultural story telling at 11am, and tales from Christchurch’s Word Witch.

Stories at Pallet Pavilion