There’s a snake in my school

David Walliams, whom I had the pleasure of seeing in action in front of a very receptive audience of Christchurch schoolchildren last year, has been at it again, penning another offbeat children’s tale, this time a picture book.

It’s bring your pet to school day and Miranda, a girl who marches to the beat of her own drum, brings along her pet python, Penelope. Of course.

Cover of There's a snake in my schoolEven with a python on the loose There’s a snake in my school is not quite “Snakes on a plane”. For one thing there is no Samuel L. Jackson – though I’m happy to report that the school in the book does have a diverse ethnic mix of pupils, which makes a nice change from most of the picture books I read as a child.

Also, the snake in question is well behaved and non-menacing… mostly. Because there’s always a bit of darkness woven into Walliams’ stories.

Fans of legendary illustrator Tony Ross will enjoy the bright, energetic artwork full of animal-related mayhem and fans of “doing silly voices when reading picture books” will enjoy the pompous headmistress Miss Bloat, who, as interpreted by me, is a mix of Margaret Thatcher and Hyacinth Bucket.

I read this to my nearly 3 year old, and even though There’s a snake in my school is longer and more wordy than most picture books we read together, it kept his attention until the end. Still, I think this would be better suited to school age children, if for no other reason than the school setting will make more sense to them.

There’s a snake in my school
by David Walliams, illustrated by Tony Ross
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008172701

 

Recent necrology, October 2016

Some well-known people who have died recently

Podcast – COP and Climate change

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from New Zealand’s only specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

This episode discusses issues around the UN climate change conference, the “Conference of Parties” or COP 22 which is underway in Marrakech and questions whether it’s an effective way of combatting climate change. Also discussed are –

  • scientific and political understandings of the realities of climate change
  • carbon budget
  • History of COP especially COP-3 (Kyoto), COP-15 (Copenhagen) and COP-21 (Paris)
  • The Paris Agreement – What? Why? How has it been received?; the Agreement as enabler for grassroots environmental advocacy
  • New Zealand’s climate record

The panel for this show includes host Sally Carlton, Hamish Laing, Jeff Willis and Pubudu Senanayake.

Transcript of the audio file

Mentioned in this podcast

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Armistice Day 2016

This year marks 98 years since  “The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” – the moment when First World War hostilities ceased on the Western Front in 1918, with the signing of the Armistice.

The 2016 Armistice Day RSA service in Christchurch is at 11am Friday 11 November on the Bridge of Remembrance. This is the first Armistice Day service on the Bridge since the earthquake of 2011. It’s a most appropriate location, since the Bridge of Remembrance was opened on Armistice Day 11 November 1924. The Bridge is dedicated to the memory of those who took part in World War I, with further plaques added later to commemorate the battlefields of World War II.

Bridge of Remembrance rededication
Anzac Day, Monday 25 April 2016. Flickr 2016-04-25-IMG_3756

More about Armistice Day and the Bridge of Remembrance

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Photo of Crowd in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, celebrating Armistice Day.
Crowd in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, celebrating Armistice Day. Head, Samuel Heath, d 1948 :Negatives. Ref: 1/1-007108-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22898377

Spontaneous!

CoverAs touted on the cover of Spontaneous, this is “A novel about growing up… and blowing up” – and it didn’t disappoint.  I love a good YA read and this one caught my attention from the outset as I pondered the outrageous thought of teenagers spontaneously blowing up in front of their classmates.

Initially I felt a bit like I was peeking into a world that wasn’t my own. It was something akin to looking at my daughter’s Facebook or Twitter account and reading things I either didn’t know – or didn’t want to know – about her life. So I take my hat off to Aaron Starmer for realistically getting inside a teenage girl’s head. I might also add that at this point I am fervently hoping that my 15 going on 16 year old daughter’s life bears little resemblance to Mara’s. Hey! – I can live in my happy naïve little world – it’s fun here!

Thankfully this feeling didn’t last and I was pulled in by my need to know ‘why’. Now I won’t say that why kids were blowing up was answered to my satisfaction as the ‘why’ became more of a side story to the ‘how we live with this and don’t let it define us’ one.

Spontaneous takes the reader on a quite personal journey with Mara Carlyle as her classmates start blowing up randomly and her life changes as they all become the centre of much speculation and trepidation from the community and country at large. But what happens when this anomaly doesn’t differentiate between friend or enemy? And how do you stay sane when you don’t know who is going to be next or if you will have to suffer the horror of witnessing yet another classmate spontaneously exploding? This is the challenge that Mara and her graduating class have to work through while trying to hang on to even the smallest amount of normality to keep them grounded.

Now despite the obvious serious aspect of Spontaneous, it is written in quite a light-hearted way. My favourite bit of levity would have to be the ‘hang in there, we’re with you’ pep talk from the President of the United States – I’m still chuckling just thinking about it, so watch out for this one!

I did end up quite enjoying this book but I also think that any teenager will find it infinitely more relateable than I did. There’s plenty of swearing, raging hormones and a distinct lack of need for adult supervision. A teenager’s dream come true, really.

Spontaneous
by Aaron Starmer
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9781460753149