Christmas traditions and amigurumi

9781452103600OK, so as I write this I’m munching away on Easter chocolate, and Christmas is so last year already, but I’ve been wanting to tell you about one of my family’s Christmas traditions. Every year, I make each of the kids a handmade gift. I didn’t even know that they’d noticed, or cared particularly until two Christmases ago when I said to Miss Missy that I didn’t think I’d be able to make her anything because I was running out of time.

But Mum, you ALWAYS make me something for Christmas! It just wouldn’t be right if you didn’t!

Wow, OK kid! I just couldn’t say no after that, could I? So at the last minute (and I mean seriously – I was stitching at like 5 minutes to midnight Christmas Eve) I whipped up a patchwork and applique cushion for her bed.

This Christmas (or is that last Christmas already now?) my problem wasn’t time, it was coming up with what to make. Miss Missy is a newly minted teenager – the smocked dresses, applique T-shirts, or cutesy hair accessories of years past just weren’t going to cut it. What to make was on the back of my mind for months, when I found the perfect thing: a crocheted amigurumi unicorn.

Now I had a new problem: I don’t crochet.

I don’t mean that I CAN’T crochet. I can; I learnt how years ago when I was in school (Steiner education, you know). I just never got good at it. My first attempt was supposed to be a hat for myself. But I gave up in disgust when the other kids in my class were wearing their beanies already, and all I had was a misshapen things that looked like a floppy sunhat – not for my head though, all it would fit was my Sindy doll (if you don’t remember Sindy, she’s about Barbie’s size!). It suited Sindy but I wouldn’t call the hat a success!

d2364bbd-d097-4ee7-80c4-9e70d8bce6f7A few years – and many successful non-crochet craft projects later – I tried again. This time, I decided to make some snowflake Christmas tree decorations.  They looked so pretty in the pattern book I thought it was worth giving crochet another try. Well. I stuck at it, and made three snowflakes for myself, as well as a few for friends. But sticking with it didn’t make it any easier. I was constantly making mistakes and having to undo everything. I had to concentrate so darn hard I couldn’t enjoy it.

No. I decided I liked crochet about as much as going to the dentist.

9781784940645But, for Miss Missy, I put all that aside, and set to with her gift. Turns out, I still don’t like to crochet, but I really do like amigurumi! They are so cute, it makes the frustration worth it! In fact, I decided to make another amigurumi as a gift for a friend. And when I saw a copy of  Boho Crochet I decided that the Christmas tree really could use some more crochet decorations too. Maybe crochet isn’t quite as bad as the dentist…(though I don’t love it enough to crochet myself a trophy head for the living room wall).

After beating crochet into submission, I’ve felt drawn to books on crafts I’ve never tried. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who’s keen to learn new crafts, so I’ve put together a list of some craft and hobby books that struck my fancy. Some I’m an old hand at, some I’ve never tried, but all gorgeous!

Related Resources

Happy 10th birthday, Upper Riccarton Library

Upper Riccarton Community and School Library – Te Kete Wānanga o Pūtaringamotu – is ten years old. It’s a special place, bringing together the locals with Riccarton High School and Christchurch City Libraries.

Kia ora Upper Riccarton staff and customers! Here are some pics from ten years of being at the heart of the community.

Exquisite dough sculpture - Chinese Lunar New Year festivities at Upper Riccarton Library
Exquisite dough sculpture at the Chinese Lunar New Year festivities at Upper Riccarton Library, 21 February 2015. Flickr 1278.JPG
Young dancers - Chinese Lunar New Year festivities at Upper Riccarton Library
Young dancers perform in the Chinese Lunar New Year festivities at Upper Riccarton Library, 21 February 2015. Flickr 20150221_122125.JPG
Chinese calligraphy - Chinese Lunar New Year festivities at Upper Riccarton Library
Chinese calligraphy banner – Chinese Lunar New Year festivities at Upper Riccarton Library, 21 February 2015. Flickr P1040966.JPG
Takumi Japanese drummers - Chinese Lunar New Year festivities at Upper Riccarton Library
Takumi Japanese drummers perform in the Chinese Lunar New Year festivities at Upper Riccarton Library, 21 February 2015. Flickr P1040930.JPG
Yarnbombing
Yarnbombing. Flickr CCL-2013 -03-13-IMG_0480
Zombie librarians
Zombie Day at Upper Riccarton Library. Flickr CCL-2013-01-10-P1030484
Upper Riccarton Library staff
Official Opening & Gala: Saturday 25 February 2006; first day – Monday 23 January 2006. Flickr 2006DSC01646

Margaret Mahy and the importance of childhood reading

There’s a painting of a lady on the wall at my work. She’s sitting in an armchair, with a big black dog at her side and a black cat on her lap. Behind her is a bookcase full of books and to her right side a window, opening up to a garden and a sea on the horizon. There is a lot on the painting I can relate to. Books, a dog, a lazy cat. But the woman in the painting remains a mystery. All I know is her name: Margaret Mahy.

Portrait of Margaret Mahy by Glenda Randerson
Portrait of Margaret Mahy by Glenda Randerson. Flickr CCL-2012-07-24

I am most likely the last person who should be writing a blog about Margaret Mahy. First time I heard of her was three years ago when I realized I might be moving to Christchurch. The only New Zealand author who I had found on the bookshelves of my school library at home was Witi Ihimaera. So I did a bit of homework before I set out for Aotearoa. To my surprise I realized I was moving to a city that used to be a home to the greatest New Zealand children’s author, someone who won the Hans Christian Andersen award – the most prestigious and highest recognition in the world of children’s fiction.

margaret-tale   mahy organ music   mahy kaitangata   aotearoa mahy

After I landed, further revelations followed. Everyone I talked to seemed to know Margaret Mahy’s work or at least know about her. Even more: I was very lucky to make an acquaintance with a lovely lady who used to be her neighbour and a close friend. I ended up working at the same library as Margaret did. A lot of my colleagues still remember her. Her eccentric personality and masterful storytelling. Her fiery wig and starry cloak. Sue, who used to work with her, recalls her immensely generous and extremely modest nature:

She was very hospitable and often entertained colleagues and hosted parties for the local Children’s Literature Association at her home and was a wonderful friend and a colleague. She was also immensely interested in EVERYTHING – she learnt to fly, she studied astronomy. She was also a keen gardener.

Even though I have heard so much about her as a writer, a storyteller, a librarian, a person and a friend, she still remains a mystery to me. I have a strange notion the reason for this might be in the absence of her books in my childhood. It feels like she has never become a part of my imaginative landscape. She never entered my literary homeland because I never got a chance to read her books as a child. When I read them now, I still feel like I missed that initial, formative reading – experienced through child’s eyes, mind and imagination.

The irreversibility of time is unavoidable and cruel. I am reminded of that every time I talk to a person who read a certain book or author as a child, which I haven’t. I find myself swallowed by the feeling of missing out. It is similar to regret, that comes along when a favourite music star passes away and you realize you will never ever be able to see them again.

This points to the importance of reading in childhood, creating an imaginative mental space mutual to all – every reader, no matter their origin and background, can enter it. With reading, authors and books become a part of our collective memory, collective culture and make us feel at home, connect us together. With every new reader, this memory gets stronger.

mahy old3  odl mahy   mahy mrs

Reading and nurturing readers is not the only way of strengthening this memory. There are other ways as well. Every morning on the way to my work I am reminded of that: Margaret Mahy’s name greets me from the stone wall of the new exciting playground on the Cambridge Terrace. When I visit my colleagues at Fendalton Library or go to library’s storage facilities, I can’t resist not to browse through Margaret Mahy’s collection: a treasury of old children’s books that (most likely) your grandparents used to read as kids. Some of them never made it to my shelves. But they maybe did to yours.

I am inviting you, to help me figure out the mystery of the lady on the painting and create another little piece of collective memory of Margaret Mahy. Have you read her books as a child? What was it like? Which one was your favourite? Did you read them to your children? Grandchildren? Do you remember her? Have you been to any of her storytelling sessions in the library? What was she like? I can’t wait to hear your stories about her – please post them as comments below!

As for myself I will persevere. Reading her books, listening to stories about her. I hope one day I might be granted a visa to enter that world of collective culture, of bountiful legacy, that Margaret so generously laid in front of her readers. Until then, I will salute that lady on the painting every morning I come to work: in my name, yours and most importantly – in the name of those to come.

Read:

Te Kupu o Te Wiki – Kākahu moe (pyjamas/nightwear)

Kia ora. To encourage the use of Te Reo Māori we are publishing weekly kupu (words) and phrases that can be used with children.

Kupu (word)

kākahu moe
pyjamas/nightwear

Kuhuna ō kākahu moe.
Put on your pyjamas.

Whāngahia te Reo

The babes in the wood

The Death of BeesThe book group theme for February just has to have been The Babes in the Wood (the traditional tale first told in Norwich England in 1595), with all our reads having innocence/naivety central to their stories. Quite extraordinary how this kind of pattern can emerge in reading. Take note though, not all the babes are children – you may even find you are married to one!

From Book Group Number 1 came The Death of Bees, a story about the loss of innocence in children – right at the beginning of the book we are told that Marnie and her little sister Nelly have just finished burying their parents in the back garden. This alarming scenario is coupled with the persistent naivety of adults – like their darling next door neighbour Lennie. Lots of bad language, tough-to-stomach episodes and great character development made this a winning book group read.

The Trivia manBook Group Number 2 delivered Kevin Dwyer as  The Trivia Man (think Don Tillman in The Rosie Project, but much less appealing, and you’ll just about have the size of it). Kevin loves trivia pub quizzes, and his comprehensive collection of local weather data. He has absolutely no idea how to interact with women and to be frank isn’t all that interested. But the story spun out over 306 pages, lurching perilously close at times to necessitating a change of title to “The Trivial Man”. Moving on.

A gOd in RuinsBook Group 3 is an online reading forum to which I subscribe. A recent recommendation from them was A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. Teddy, one of the main characters, exhibits a more complex naivety. A young pilot in WWII, he survives all that awfulness to return to civilian life with an innocence that is endearing, but wide open to potential abuse. Atkinson skilfully weaves the intricate tapestry of Teddy’s war experiences, his love-life, his fatherhood and finally his old age. All the time the dark undertow of his war memories is balanced by his simple belief in goodness.

Arthur and GeorgeFinally, back to Book Group Number 1 and Julian Barnes’ Arthur and George. If Julian Barnes ever gets to read this blog … no sniggering please … he would be astonished to learn that one book club member read this book backwards, chapter by chapter, and swears that made for a far superior reading experience. And at least one member of the group was hugely irritated by the blind naivety of George who would not countenance that the victimisation that he endured had anything to do with race.

These recent reads show that innocence and naivety remain compelling themes in literature. The loss of the first and the cultivation of the second threads its way through novel after novel. My book groups have probably only scraped the surface of potential reads here. What other good stuff have we missed? All recommendations will be naively received with innocent enthusiasm!

Things we LOVE about poet Anis Mojgani

Anis Mojgani is a songful sculptor of words. It was apt that on his return visit to Christchurch, the US slam poetry champion performed at both the Wunderbar in Lyttelton and the Christchurch Art Gallery – hosts to music and art – because when you witness Anis in full flight you can’t help but marvel how artful and performative he is. WORD Christchurch Literary Director Rachael King introduced him to Saturday night’s audience as someone who “engages your brain and heart and something intangible within you”. On Saturday, he certainly engaged a few librarians.

Here is our list of reasons why one should never miss out on seeing Anis in performance:

1. The way he moves

It is as if Anis embraces the whole world with his arms. Along with his voice, his gestures illustrate images in front of one’s eyes. His expressive hand gestures call you in and lift you up; they manage to point to the cosmos and vital organs all at once. His exceptional performance illuminates poems in a different light, so they reveal themselves in a new, unexpected context, different from the ones that surface up during a reading experience.

Anis Mojgani in performance
Anis Mojgani in performance at the Christchurch Art Gallery, a WORD Christchurch event. Flickr 2016-03-19-IMG_3205

2. The way he is in relationship – with you and the world. His empathy and inclusiveness.

The phrases and lines of his poetry honour who you and we all are as human beings. He draws you in to be in relationship – with him and with others (Come closer). He invites you to be empathetic and to see the good in others and yourself. He speaks of the human condition in a playful uplifting way. His poems resonate the excitement of being alive (Direct orders), but also battle with the enigma of it (For those who can still ride an airplane for the first time). His poetry honours the holiness in the ordinary and looks for ‘God’ in the everyday.

In particular, his well-regarded poem Shake the Dust is an ode to the unheard, the unnoticed, the unnamed, the unloved, the innocuous and the banal and even the inappropriate. He doesn’t discriminate. He bears witness to us all. He speaks for the bullied and bullies. He honours, validates and appreciates everyone.

During the performance, Anis revealed one of his favourite phrases these days – “10-4“ – which is his way of saying “Ok, I read you, I hear you, you are understood.” Having grown up in New Orleans, he has a genuine understanding of the process of grief, sorrow and healing we experienced here. His particular affinity to Christchurch is obvious, you feel “he gets it.” And when Anis tells us his name means “companion“ an “aha“ moment happens. Yes, he is a companion in our collective journey of experiencing and examining humanity. Indeed, we are all each other’s companions bearing witness to one another’s existence. In Here I am he answers our fears:

“Will I be something? Am I something? And the answer comes: you already are, always was, you still have time to be.”

3. He honours childhood and a child’s view of the world

Particularly striking is how many of his poems deliver an impressive and colourful tapestry of a childhood. Told from the eyes of a child, who has an incredible innate gift of poetic language, they draw from childhood memories and experiences such as climbing trees, playing on street or overhearing parents in another room. His poetry takes listeners back to their childhood and school days, and reveals a child’s open, innocent and exuberant experience of the world (Even if somebody pooped a poem it’s alright cuz somebody somewhere made it or Invincible) in which “small children speak half English and half God” and “peace comes with a popsicle” – instant resonance from both a child’s and a parental perspective.

4. We love how he oscillates

He manages to write about his own individual experience and a collective experience in one swoop. He says he speaks to the spectrum of love – and not-love. He conveys what it is to be at once both vulnerable and invincible. Ordinary human abilities to a child can seem like superpowers. Within a single poem, he swings listeners from amusement to sadness, from love to fear, from laughter to deep contemplation about the saddest and cruellest moments of human experience. And while performing, at times Anis seems to hardly stop to breathe when he recites his poetry, but can slow things right down and draw you in.

5. His vibe and presence. His warmth and wit. His generosity. His aroha.

Anis doesn’t talk to the audience as a crowd, he addresses each individual. Even though you find yourself sitting in a hall full of people, you have feeling that he is talking directly to you. His poems are “for you”, they are yours – it seems his generous outreach to the listener:

“I am cutting out parts of myself to give to you… make my words worth something more than just a poem, write make this more than just a night that sits heavy over every one of us …”

His poems seem to reach out, to hug and kiss you, inviting you to walk with him through ups and downs of life (Come closer).

Watching Anis perform is like being at the concert of one of your favourite bands. The anticipation of your favourite lines to come is electric! When they come, you find yourself grinning. You can feel that warm feeling of satisfaction spreading through your body and lifting you up above the crowd. It’s addictive. And then there are some lines that are totally new to you and come like marvellous gifts, falling from the sky. “Rock Out”, he insists in a prolonged invitation in his poem Direct orders. On the drive away from his show the temptation is too great to not blast the car radio and do just that – singing at the top of one’s voice.

For one librarian lucky enough to get a book at the signing afterwards – just before they sold out –  his inscription reads: “Keep your heart full of wonder”. It feels like quite the invitation indeed.

Anis Mojgani in performance

Our Flickr set of images of Anis

Listen into this

Shake the Dust

Come Closer

TedxAtlanta Talk

Anis was presented in association with the 2016 New Zealand Festival Writers Week and Golden Dawn Auckland.

Anis Mojgani’s performance was a taster for this year’s upcoming WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival being held from 25 to 28 August 2016.

More

feather room junkyard over the anvil

Masha and Kim

Read all about it – The Independent comes to eResources!

KTT Read all about itOnline newspapers are popular at the library and come in a variety of forms. There is the instant appeal of today’s news with PressDisplay or there are newspaper archives, such as our latest arrival to eResources – The Independent Digital Archive 1986-2012.

We have a number of these newspaper archives. Our customers like their historical, genealogical, political and social coverage. So why add The Independent? As per per its name, it aims to be a broadly centrist publication. It offers an alternative voice to the centre-right and right-wing views of The Times and the Daily Mail which we also provide access to. With no affiliations to any major political party or corporation it has taken some controversial stands including opposing the 2003 Iraq war and criticising the UK and US governments policies in regards to the War on Terror.

In short, it offers balance to the collection we already have. You can cross search this newspaper with numerous others using Gale NewsVault to help formulate your own balanced opinion or just browse through its issues and contemplate the fashion, gossip and news of the day. If it is news you are after – from today’s headlines or the headlines of 400 years ago we have online newspapers for you!

Leaving the Red Zone: An Anthology of Earthquake Poetry

In vain, I have trawled the email highway of Christchurch City Libraries in an effort to “out” some closet poets amongst all the erudite librarians out there, but the only contributors to Leaving the Red Zone: Poems from the Canterbury Earthquakes, an anthology edited by James Norcliffe and Joanna Preston, that I could find were myself and Greg O’Connell. Greg works at Linwood Library and I work at New Brighton.

I know of at least one other poet working at the library – Dylan Kemp.

The anthology was launched on Monday 29 February at The Laboratory pub in Lincoln and the launch was extremely well attended. Mayor Lianne Dalziel gave an introductory speech before a packed crowd of poetry lovers and then, because there was only limited time and 87 contributors, some contributing poets were picked from a hat to read their contributions. I was one of the lucky ones who got picked from the hat to read at the launch which was an honour.

Old Press site
3 June 2012. Flickr CCL-2012-06-03-IMG_3532

So get out there and grab yourself a copy from any good bookstore and get the real story behind the earthquakes – from September 2010 until the present day.

More on Leaving the Red Zone

Discover more earthquake poetry in our collection:

Cover Cover Cover Cover Cover

Andrew Bell
New Brighton Library

Excuse me while my inner fangirl palpitates…

There was much excitement in the Beecrafty household last weekend! We went to Armageddon and met Marina Sirtis (a.k.a. Deanna Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation – see the signed photo we got)!

Marina Sirtis signed photoEven Mr Beecrafty was so star struck that he lamented having to wash his hand after shaking hands with the beautiful Betazoid heroine! Marina (yes, we’re on a first name basis now) was just lovely, so warm and funny despite saying that the hardest things about conventions was having to be nice to people for so long! We were all amazed to hear her British accent, so different from her screen persona’s voice. I asked her whether she thought Riker was more handsome with or without the beard – she preferred without, while I preferred with which she said was no surprise when she saw my bewhiskered husband. I admitted that the Young Lad actually preferred Star Wars, as I haven’t fully indoctrinated him yet, and we left to her cry of “Bad parent, bad parent!”

All in all, as Miss Missy put it, it was the best day ever. So, in honour of this momentous fangirl experience, I have scoured the catalogue for all things Trek. Naturally we have Star Trek on DVD, and plenty of Trek fiction of course. But wait, there’s more!

If cosplay is your thing, then Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary: the Ultimate Guide to Characters, Aliens, and Technology or the five decades of fashion from the final frontier found in Star Trek Costumes are sure to inspire.

You can read about Kate Mulgrew’s life before Janeway in her memoir Born With Teeth

0786861827For fans of Mr Spock:

BenStarWarsI’ll have to take a look at Star Wars Vs. Star Trek – even though we all know that Stormtroopers are the worst shots in the Galaxy, not to mention their susceptibility to Jedi mind tricks would surely mean they’d be no match for the Vulcans. Now to convince the Young Lad…

And if you still want more, then why not take a look at my Trekdom list?

Which of these writers is a Great Kiwi Classic?

Which of the following writers do you think deserves to be considered a Great Kiwi Classic?

Cover of Maurice Gee Life and work Cover of Your unselfish kindness Cover of The plays of Bruce Mason Cover of James K Baxter Complete prose

The answer is all of them, but if you had to pick one which would it be?

Since 2014 the New Zealand Book Council and Auckland Writers Festival,  have been awarding the title “Great Kiwi Classic” to our country’s most revered literary treasures. In 2014, Keri Hulme’s Booker Prize-winning novel The Bone People was selected after a wealth of public nominations, and Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame received the 2015 crown.

And they’re at it again this year with the above shortlist which will be hotly debated a the Auckland Writers Festival event, The Great Kiwi Classic: Face-Off, in which four super fans will each argue on behalf of one writer for the title 2016 Great Kiwi Classic author. A follow-up discussion will attempt to distil the essence of home-grown literary classics, chaired by Rosabel Tan, editor of The Pantograph Punch.

Rachel Barrowman, Mary Paul, John Smythe, John Weir

Literary biographer Rachel Barrowman (shortlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards) will punt for Maurice Gee; Mary Paul for Robin Hyde; theatre critic John Smythe for Bruce Mason; and John Weir for James K. Baxter.

Which of the four would you nominate as the 2016 Great Kiwi Classic author, and why? Let the New Zealand Book Council know in 400 words or less via email greatkiwiclassic@bookcouncil.org.nz or via a post on their Facebook page by 15 April 2016.

Your contribution could be published on the New Zealand Book Council’s blog Booknotes Unbound, and you’ll automatically be entered into the draw to win a prize pack of classic NZ books!