Te Reo in the Whare

Kia ora!

It’s Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) from September 10-16, and what a great opportunity that is for us all to celebrate and learn the beautiful Māori language. Kia kaha te reo Māori …

But what about if you’ve not got the time right now to learn a new language? What about if you’re so busy with work and whānau and friends that the idea of having to learn new words and new sentence structures is just way too hard. Well guess what, e hoa mā – it doesn’t have to be scary. You and your whānau can start on your reo journey from within the comfort of your own whare.

Everyday items around the house

What are some household objects you use all the time? What sorts of clothing and food items do you always have in the wardrobe or fridge? Find out the te reo Māori words for these items, and use them every day:

  • Where are my hū (shoes)?
  • I’ll meet you out at the waka (car)
  • Would you like some rīwai (potatoes)?

Keen to find out some common Māori kupu? Check out First Thousand Words in Māori or First Words in Māori.

Cover of First Thousand Words in Māori Cover of First Words in Māori

Instructions

You can use te reo Māori to give instructions to your tamariki and other whānau members. Do you feel a bit self-conscious, or think they mightn’t understand you? Guess what? You don’t need to worry about this anymore – there are lots of ways of giving instructions that you might already know, or that you can use with gestures to make sure that people can understand what you’re saying:

  • Whakarongo mai (Listen to me) – touch your ear
  • Haere mai (Come here) – beckon
  • Kia kaha (Be strong)

Cover of The Raupō phrasebook of modern MāoriScotty Morrison’s The Raupō Phrasebook of Modern Māori  has a great chapter on phrases and questions that you can use around the home, as well as lots of other useful phrases you can use at work, school, or play when you start feeling more confident.

Read books

Having some easy Māori language books at home is a great way to pick up some basic Māori words without even trying. If you’ve got tamariki – children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or even little next-door neighbours – get them together for a reading session. With so many children’s books available in te reo, you’ll be learning new words before you know it.

Have a look for Māori translations of old favourites, like Te Pāmu o Koro Meketānara (Old MacDonald had a Farm), or new stories like the Bud.e Pānui books for people just starting to read in Māori. And if you don’t quite feel confident enough to jump straight into full Māori books just yet, you can always try picture books with singalong CDs so you don’t need to worry if you don’t say the word absolutely right.

Cover of Te Rua Rāpeti Cover of Te Pāmu o koro Meketānara

Sing songs

Tamariki can also help you to learn some Māori by sharing the songs they learn at school.

  • Mā is white, Whero is red – learn the Māori names for colours
  • Mahunga, pakihiwi – have fun playing heads, shoulders, knees and toes

Check out Anika Moa’s two Songs for Bubbas CDs or Waiata Mai: Sing along with Aunty Bea to get started.

Use tools

Are you worried there are too many new words for you to actually remember any of them? Don’t worry – the folks at the Māori Language Commission have your back, and want to support you this Māori Language Week. Check out their collection of useful information and phrases, and find out more about Māori language and culture. They’ve even created some special resources for this year, so why not have a look at them, and challenge yourself to buy a coffee or a ticket for your ride to work, or find out what the wifi password is at your local cafe.

So take the plunge this Māori Language Week – kia kaha te reo – and include some Māori kupu into your conversations with these everyday words. Even by starting off with just a few words a day, you’ll start to build up a kete of Māori kupu to use in everyday conversations, and you’ll become more confident to use those words outside the whare. Over time, there will be more people using more te reo in all areas of daily life, and that is what we need for a strengthened, healthy, Māori language.

Ko taku reo taku ohooho, ko taku reo taku mapihi mauria – My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul.

Find out more

Throughout Te Wiki o te Reo Māori we’ll be blogging about ways you can help strengthen the reo.

Marshmallows, Money, and Madness: Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton – WORD Christchurch

The marshmallows flew around the auditorium at Christchurch Boys’ High School when Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton came to visit. Brought to you by WORD Christchurch and Pan Macmillan Australia, this event was loud, full of ridiculousness, and an absolute delight for everyone in the audience – young and old alike.

In case you haven’t yet been introduced to them, Andy and Terry are the Aussie duo behind the ever-popular Treehouse and Just series, and this event was a chance for them to introduce their latest book, The 104-Storey Treehouse. I went along with McKenzie, who is age 9, and at the perfect age for this show. There was a moment of panic when we arrived and saw the massive queue of people snaking out the school gates, but with the sun shining and everyone in a fun mood, this was a perfect opportunity to relive some of our favourite treehouse stories, and to think about what we would have in our dream treehouse (A room full of drumkits? A giant trampoline? The opportunities are endless!) Inside, there was even a place to draw your own addition to Andy and Terry’s treehouse – and who knows? Maybe they’ll use your idea in the next book?!

This show was an hour of non-stop laughs, combining visual comedy, stand up, and interactive storytelling. Most importantly, the duo pitched it just right for the mix of kids and adults in the audience. We saw Terry’s malfunctioning money-maker spewing out banknotes, contributed to a ‘burp bank’ that Andy and Terry can use later when they need some burps, and enjoyed watching a parade of silly hats, modelled by volunteers from the audience. Needless to say, the bum hat was a firm audience favourite.

Hat parade

In a live action retelling of a pick-a-path story, we helped Andy and Terry create the story of a child who goes to the dentist and, in true Andy and Terry style, dies a number of horrible, gruesome deaths. The audience loved this! Miss 9 could barely contain herself, kneeling on her seat to see the actions better, shouting herself hoarse, and laughing uproariously from start to finish. Andy’s storytelling skills were superb, and Terry’s illustrations really brought the storytelling to life.

Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton
Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton. WORD Christchurch event Sunday 22 July at Christchurch Boys High School. Flickr 2018-07-22-IMG_9107

But you know what? Even that wasn’t the most popular bit! The show’s finale was all about marshmallows, and I think I can safely say that never has the Boys’ High auditorium seen as many pink and white marshmallows as it did in the final minutes of this show. Without going into details, I do not think there was anyone under the age of 15 who was still sitting in their seat at this point. The duo had everyone eating out of their hand, and – if my own experience was anything to go by – the entire audience had sore cheeks from laughing so hard.

This show was an absolute delight, and if the guys come back I highly recommend getting along to see them. Until then, check out some of their books that are available here at Christchurch City Libraries.

If you are looking for more fun, have a look at the family-friendly events coming up in the WORD Christchurch Festival 2018.

Out on the Shelves: Connecting rainbow young people with the stories that represent them

I love reading books about characters like me. And I know I’m not the only one like that. Books, stories, movies – we all want to see ourselves in these. Because we’re all different, we’re all awesome, and we all have interesting tales to share.

When you’re reading about people, whether they’re fiction or non-fiction stories, books will fall into two categories: windows, or mirrors. And although one reader might see themself reflected in a particular story, their friend might not. That book is a mirror for the reader, and a window for their friend.

Books act like windows when they let us into different worlds. We do not see ourself in the character, because we are not like them. We read about a way of life that’s different from our own, and find out about other people’s beliefs, worries, hopes, and daily life. These stories help us learn more about this way of life, and might make things seem a bit less scary, if there are beliefs and customs we don’t know much about. ‘Window books’ help us develop empathy towards others.

“Mirror books’ let you see yourself represented in literature. You read about someone that lives the same way as you, that has the same interests, background, goals, and difficulties. It is like looking in a mirror. You see yourself reflected in the book, and feel pretty good that someone’s taken the time to write a book about a character like you … especially if that book has a positive outcome, and shows you that can have a fun life and overcome those those things that are a bit tricky for you! When you see someone like you in a book, you feel like you can do what that character can do.

But what happens when you don’t see yourself represented in the books you read?

If you are a member of a minority group (for example, you’re somewhere along the  LGBTQ* spectrum, or a person of colour, or you have a disability), you’re less likely to read books about people like you. It’s basic maths – people generally write what they know, and because there aren’t as many minority authors, there aren’t as many minority books.  Sure, there are lots of great stories and books out there, but sometimes you just want to read about someone like you. For lack of a better word, you want to be ‘normal’, rather than always being ‘other’.

Which brings us to ‘Out on the Shelves’ – an online reading resource connecting rainbow young people with the stories that represent them. This is the brainchild of the fantastic folks at InsideOUT, a group who work to make the country a safer and more welcoming place for young people of all different gender identities and sexualities.

Their goal with Out on the Shelves is to create a place where rainbow youth can find books by rainbow authors, and/or showing rainbow characters. The resource is just getting started, and so they are hoping to get people to review and suggest other titles in the future, but there are already a couple of really cool booklists to look at, and downloadable resources with even more specific characteristics (eg children’s books with rainbow characters, books with non-binary characters, and books with asexual characters).  I am really looking forward to seeing this resource grow into the future, and seeing what other great books there are that people recommend.

So if you, or someone you know, is looking to read a book about a rainbow character, check this resource out, then pop along to your local library and see which of the titles they’ve got on offer.

In the meantime, why not check out some of these other rainbow titles held at Christchurch City Libraries. And don’t forget, we love getting suggestions for new titles, so if there’s a great rainbow title you’d like us to add to our collection, let us know.

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  • The Pants Project by Cat Clarke: a  young transgender boy fights for his right to wear the right school uniform.
  • Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: the book that inspired the movie ‘Love, Simon’, this is the story about the highs and lows of being gay at high school.
  • If I was your Girl by Meredith Russo: a book about a transgirl settling in to a new school, written by a transgender author, and with a trans model on the cover.
  • If you Could be Mine by Sara Farizan: Two girls in love in Iran, where homosexuality is forbidden.
  • They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera: how would you spend your last day, if you knew it was your last?
  • Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Browne: Joanna’s been an out lesbian for ages, but when her family moves to a church-going town, she also has to move back into the closet.
  • They, She, He, Me: Free to be! by Maya Christina Gonzalez: a book for little people and their big people, about why pronouns matter.

Booklists

Literary Prizes

InsideOut

 

Mother Nature: Giving us everything we need to create beautiful, natural, art

The chill of frosty mornings. Puddles to splash in. Trees a-flame with orange, red, and yellow leaves… and the crunch of those leaves underfoot. There’s no doubt about it. Autumn is here, and she’s arrived in all her glory. Sure, she’s on her way out, and the early-morning frosts are starting to creep in, but let’s enjoy this season while we can.

This time of the year marks the start of the Māori New Year, and the celebration of Matariki. It’s a time of preparing for the coming year, and celebrating with our friends and whānau. This year, Christchurch City Libraries is celebrating the ‘earth stars’ (Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi), and the ‘wind star’ (Ururangi), with a focus on sustainable natural resources, and the ways we can protect the environment around us.

Relax Stone Balance Zen Stacking Stones Rock

During the colder months, it can be tempting to just stay indoors, but since we know that being outdoors in nature is good for our mental and emotional well-being, why not find a way to bring nature inside? Sure, we could go out, buy paint, and create a mural on a wall …  but leftover paint may get poured down a drain, end up in our seas and rivers, and kill our fish. We could go to a gift shop and buy a cool plastic bird to put in our bedroom, or go and buy an African wall-hanging … but the plastic bird will be wrapped in plastic that will end up in the landfill, and the plane trip the wall-hanging took to get here to Aotearoa New Zealand has a huge carbon footprint.

So let’s see if we can support the kaupapa of this year’s Matariki theme, look for ways to decrease our  more environmental footprint, and use sustainable natural resources to decorate instead.

I’m not overly artistic, but even I know that there’s something relaxing about collecting objects from the outdoors, then creating something from them. Leaf people, pinecone animals, bookmarks made of leaves and flowers covered in contact paper – I spent hours creating these when I was little, and I’m not ready to stop making natural art just yet. There are multiple ways of artfully stacking stones, creating leaf art, and using attractive twigs in ways that are as fun for adults as they are for kids, and as the days start to get shorter we can use those longer evenings to let our creative juices flow.

So why not make the most of the natural resources around us, and create some art using just what Mother Nature has given us? If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out some of these Christchurch City Libraries’ books for ideas.

The Wild Dyer
by Abigail Booth

Cover of The wild dyer

I have always loved the idea of staining paper with coffee or tea to make the paper look tattered, old, and parchment-like. In this book, you can do the grown-up version of this! Learn how to use plants, seeds and foods from your kitchen, garden, and surrounds to dye fabric and create lovely soft furnishings to keep your home cosy and welcoming. This is a great way to use up the ends of veges when you are cooking, and minimises green waste.

Hand Printing from Nature by Laura Bethmann
Cover of Hand printing from nature

Wandering around outdoors, you find so many interesting shapes in the leaves and nature around you. What better way to celebrate this variety than by creating your own unique prints on stationery, clothing, and furniture? With ideas for projects ranging from simple to complex, you’re bound to find something that suits your tastes, and your talent levels.

The Organic Artist by Nick Neddo

Cover of The organic artist

If you would prefer your arts to your craft, this could be the book for you. Pencils, inks, bowls for the ink, paintbrushes, books – this book teaches you how to make all this (and more!) using just the resources around you. Even if you are like me, and don’t have the time to create all your gear from scratch, this is a fascinating read, and the photos throughout the book really demonstrate how versatile the world around us can be. If you are up for the challenge, though, instead of buying plastic paintbrushes or commercially-produced books which have travelled from overseas, give this try.

Green Crafts for Children by Emma Hardy

Cover of Green crafts for kids

Children are made to be outdoors, moving, exploring, and discovering the world around them, and they naturally scavenge to find little treasures in their environment. This book has a whole section on crafts using natural resources, from natural inks, to pinecone animals, to games of driftwood noughts and crosses. Creating and playing with natural toys and games is much more environmentally-friendly than using disposable plastic toys, so next time your little explorers need to stay inside, why not use some of these ideas for a fun afternoon of creativity.

Christchurch City Libraries will be celebrating Matariki throughout the month of Pipiri/June, so keep an eye out for an event near you!

  • Bring your tamariki along for some Matariki-themed Wā Kōrero Storytimes.
  • Got little crafters in the whānau? Check out our Matariki Toi (community art projects) at your local community library.
  • Bring the whole whānau along to the Matariki Whānau Fun Days at Aranui and Ōrauwhata: Bishopdale for a morning of storytelling, crafting, and discovery.

Cavell Leitch New Zealand International Jazz and Blues Festival 2018

Frosty mornings, the threat of snow, and midwinter blues might be a couple of months away yet, but Christchurch is about to be hit by a different type of blues when the Cavell Leitch New Zealand International Jazz & Blues Festival comes to town later this week (May 23-27).

Returning to the city for its twenty-third year, this festival is a treat for lovers of jazz and blues, and offers a range of experiences showcasing local and international talent, and up-and-coming stars to watch out for in the future. Here are a couple that really stand out to me.

Kurt Elling, Grammy Award-winner and 8-times winner of the Jazz Journalists Association’s ‘Male Singer of the Year’ title, is headlining the festival, playing with the Kurt Elling Quintet at the Piano on Saturday, May 26. His is a voice that is an absolute pleasure to listen to, and with the backing of a live quintet, this is sure to be a magical evening.

Listen to Kurt Elling’s music in our collection (includes streaming music as well as CDs)

Whenever I think of jazz and blues, Billie Holiday is one of the first names I think of. Although we won’t be graced by the great singer herself, we will be able to experience the power of her repertoire when Mary Coughlan sings Billie Holiday in two concerts at The Piano on Wednesday 23 May. This show was first performed in Christchurch at the Jazz & Blues Festival fifteen years ago, and I’m hoping I get to it this time around – I was trying to decide whether to go see it back then, and didn’t, and have been kicking myself ever since.

Listen to Mary Coughlan’s music in our collection. 
Listen to Billie Holiday’s music in our collection (includes streaming music as well as CDs)

Having played clarinet when I was younger, I have always enjoyed hearing what Kiwi Nathan Haines has been up to in the music world, and am excited to see him here in Christchurch with Jonathan Crayford. With violin accompaniment, this duo will be reinterpreting the works of well-known classical composers to fit the jazz and blues style of the festival. Both Haines and Crayford have won the Best Jazz Album of the Year award here in New Zealand, and with this amount of skill on the stage I am really excited to see what they create.

Listen to music by Nathan Haines in our collection.
Listen to music by Jonathan Crayford in our collection. 

Of course, all the big names need to start somewhere, and the Jazz & Blues Festival supports these young up-and-comers and Christchurch locals. Georgie Clifford and Alice Tanner are two such ‘noteable young women’, and Christchurch local Kate Taylor, front-woman of the All-Girl Big Band, is also one to watch. On the festival’s last day, five Christchurch high schools will show off their jazz skills in the Festival High School Jazz Band Concert at Christchurch Boys High School on Sunday 27 May.

For something a little different, join chef Richard Till and local band The Eastern for an evening of Southern Fried Chicken and music at the Lyttelton Arts Factory on Friday 25 May and Saturday 26 May.

As you see, with so many different artists on the programme, there really will be something for everyone. I recommend getting your tickets now so that you don’t miss out on this wonderful musical experience. And, once the festival’s over, check out our jazz and blues resources to stay in the swing of things.

Jazz and blues in our collection

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Jazz and blues eResources

Naxos Music Library Jazz streams over 9000 jazz albums, from jazz legends to contemporary jazz. It covers a wide range of jazz music with recordings from over 32,000 artists. Labels include Blue Note, Warner Jazz, EMI, Enja, Fantasy and more. New albums are added weekly.

Jazz Music Library includes material from Concord Records, including New Zealand pianist Alan Broadbent, major jazz figures such as Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and more. There are also recent jazz figures such as Diana Krall, Esperanza Spalding, and even Michael Bolton singing Sinatra standards! The collection includes works licensed from legendary record labels, including Audiophile, Blue Note, Concord Jazz, Jazzology, Milestone, Nessa Records, Original Jazz Classics, Pablo, and Prestige. Also included are Marian McPartland’s Peabody Award winning Piano Jazz Radio Broadcasts and never before released performances from the Monterey Jazz Festival and great jazz venues. Jazz Music Library is part of Music Online: Listening Plus.

American Song provides online access to over 100,000 tracks from  every genre and music period of American history.

How do you learn a language in a month?: Mango Language’s #31DaysofLanguage Challenge

“Magandang umaga!” (Good morning!)

“Ako si Kate.” (My name is Kate.)

Have you always wanted to learn a new language? Is one of your 2018 New Year Resolutions to be able to chat in a different language?

Well then, you are in luck! Check out Mango Languages, and get on with it! It’s fun, easy, and free – all you need is a Christchurch City Libraries library card and a pin.

During January, Mango Languages ran the #31DaysofLanguage social media challenge. With a different language challenge for each day of the month, I used it as a chance to learn more about this great resource, and see how much Tagalog I could pick up in a month. (Spoiler – not as much as I would have wanted to, but hey, it’s been fun trying anyway!)

 

Here area some of my highlights from doing the 2018 Mango Language Challenge.

  • Learning how Filipinos celebrate New Year – Feasts, fun, and family! New Year is an opportunity to party, and food is a big part of that party. Long noodles and sticky rice bring good luck and a long life, so you’ll eat lots of that, but you won’t see chicken on the menu – chickens are always scrounging for food, and if you eat chicken at New Years’ you’ll be hungry all year.
  • Sharing books with Tagalog-speaking students and family at a local school.
  • Learning there are eleven Tagalog-language newspapers available to read online on PressReader (with your library card and pin). It’s interesting seeing the way that both English and Tagalog are used in the newspapers – I’d start feeling really clever because I’d read a whole newspaper article, only to realise that it was one of the English articles, not the Tagalog one!
  • Listening to the soundtrack from Pinoy Big Brother, the Philippine version of the Big Brother TV show, and other music from the Philippines.
  • Exploring recipes from the Philippines. I’ll be honest – I haven’t got around to actually making any of the recipes just yet, but I’ve found a recipe called ‘chicken tinola’ that looks quite yum, so that’s going to be my experiment this weekend. Chicken, broth, ginger, and mango – sounds just right for summer.

So there you have it. Some of my learning from a month of dipping in to Mango Languages. This is a fun app to use, and I love the variety of languages you can learn with it – Arabic, Greek, Vietnamese, Pirate, Shakespearian English… the list goes on. There is something for everyone, so give it a try and see which language takes your fancy.

Paalam! Bye!

Reading Challenges, and the end-of-year rush to complete them

I love books.

Which is just as well, since I work in a library, and am surrounded by them everyday. Paperbacks, hardbacks, audiobooks, eBooks, and magazines – a library is an endless supply of stories to read, listen to, and learn from. Unfortunately, though, you need time to read and listen to books, and one thing I haven’t yet learnt is how to increase the number of free hours in the day, meaning that the more books I see, the more books end up on my ‘To Be Read’ (TBR) list.

Don’t get me wrong – that can be a good thing, as it means I can always find a book to read when I’m short of ideas. But it can also mean that books make it onto my TBR list, and then just languish there forever more.

Which is where the five book challenge comes in.

Midway through this year, I was given a book challenge – to read five books from my TBR list. To actually go back and read five of those books I’d been putting off reading, and finish them before the end of 2017.

And I did it. It may have been a close call, with the final two books being finished with only a few days’ grace before the year’s end, but I got there. And I am pleased I did. This challenge has been a good excuse to branch out and read something new, and means that I can actually discuss these stories with the people who recommended them to me.

So, what did I read, why were they on my TBR list, and what did I think of them?

CoverDear Fatty by Dawn French

I love Dawn French. Whether as a lady vicar, as one half of the inimitable French and Saunders, or in the many other comedic roles she’s played over the years, she has a way of telling stories that hooks me in, and I was very disappointed when I wasn’t able to get tickets to her ’30 Million Minutes’ show in 2016. One of my book club friends saw the show, and thought the book’s format of anecdotes and letters might be a suitable substitute for not seeing her. I enjoyed reading this book, and could definitely ‘hear’ Dawn’s voice in my head. Although she touches on some more serious topics – depression, suicide, relationship difficulties – Dawn is, at heart, a comedienne, and most of the anecdotes are amusing insights into different periods of her life.

CoverThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

“Does it spark joy?” At the start of the year, as New Year Resolutions are made … and followed up until January 5th … this question has become a cultural phenomenon.

Marie Kondo’s book was recommended to me by two different people in the space of a couple of weeks. One was a woman from my book club who found it absolutely life-changing, and gave it positive reviews at TWO book club meetings (once while she was in the middle of tidying her stuff, and the second time when she was in the post-tidy stage of the process), and one was a colleague, who had read it but found a few of the ideas a tad far-fetched. I have to say – I agree with my colleague. I just can’t bring myself to empty my bag at the end of each day, thank it for doing its job, and then put it away hanging up, not squashed, so that it feels happy until the next time I use it. Having said that, I was definitely able to take away some good ideas from this book, and have certainly become more conscious of my belongings, and which of them I actually use and appreciate.

CoverRaising My Rainbow by Lori Duron

Having done volunteer work with gender-diverse* young people, I am always on the look-out for books that I can recommend to them, or to their parents, whānau, and community. Published in 2013, this book had been on my radar for a while, but I just hadn’t had the time to read it. Until now.

Neil Patrick Harris wrote the foreword for this book, and congratulates Lori Duron on being so aware and accepting of her young son’s gender non-conformity. And I agree. It is great that this young child has a family that accepts him for who he is, and that doesn’t feel the need to make him only play and wear ‘boy’ things. However… there has been a huge increase in the awareness of gender-diversity since 2013, and more is being written now about supporting these young people from a very young age. I feel like this is a good book to read about some of the challenges of raising children in a society that is so very gendered, but there are more relevant, and more up-to-date books available if you are specifically wanting to support a young gender-diverse child.

* I have chosen to use ‘gender-diverse’ as an umbrella term here for people who do not identify as the gender they were born. Some people might call themselves trans* agender, non-binary, or one of many other words, and each of those terms are valid.

CoverThe Marvels by Brian Selznick

Brian Selznick has a wonderful talent for telling stories through both pictures and words. I absolutely loved his book Wonderstruck, and added this title onto my TBR list as soon as it came out. I am so pleased that I finally got around to reading it! The first half of the story details the stories of the theatrical Marvel family from 1766 to 1900, and is told entirely through illustrations. The second half of the story is set at the end of the 20th century, and is written in text. It recounts the tale of a young boy, his uncle, and his search for more information about the Marvels, and about his own family. This book was an absolute delight to read, and had unexpected twists that kept me engrossed right until the end. Selznick’s illustrations, as always, were stunning.

CoverTracks by Robyn Davidson

A few years ago I was at the movies, and saw the preview for a movie that looked really cool – a young woman decides to travel solo across the Australian outback, with only her camels and dog for company. A wee while later, this book was part of a Christmas book swap, and as soon as I realised it was the story that the movie was based on, I wanted to read it.

The first part of the book deals with her preparation for the trip, and the latter part details her actual trip. Parts of this are not an easy read. Outback Australia in the late 20th century was quite sexist and racist, and as well as the difficulties faced by the rugged landscape, Robyn also faced lots of difficulties from local residents. She finds herself having to make difficult decisions, and the reader really does feel for her at several points along the journey.

I would not normally read this type of book – I worry that sometimes there can be long passages where not much happens, but now I’ve read this one, I think I might try a few more armchair travel books in 2018.

Of marmalade, memories, and me: A tribute to Paddington Bear

I’ve always been interested in old-fashioned toys, and find it really interesting learning what toys have been popular at different times. There have been some fascinating playthings through the years – no, fidget spinners, I don’t mean you! – but of all the toys I’ve seen, it’s always been the humble teddy bear which held a special place in my heart.

With a history dating back to just the start of the 20th century, I found the story of these furry creatures fascinating, and there was something about their personality and stature that just clicked in my little brain. As far as I was concerned, the teddy bear was my ‘spirit animal’, and quite definitely ‘the’ thing to collect. Toys, ornaments, mugs, books – if it had a teddy bear on it, I wanted it. When I got a membership to Victoria Street’s original ‘Not Just Bears’ shop for my 10th birthday, I was in teddy bear heaven.

I don’t collect teddy bears anymore, but with a background like this, you could guess how I felt when I heard that Michael Bond, creator of one of the most famous literary teddy bears of all, had died. I felt like I had lost a friend, and it was as if a little bit of my childhood had gone with him.

Cover of A bear called PaddingtonPaddington Bear. He of duffle coats, marmalade sandwiches, and a never-ending sense of mischief. The bear from deepest, darkest, Peru, who finds his English family on the platform of London’s Paddington Station. A bear who had been there through the many different stages of my life. A bear I had grown up with, and who I feel is just as important now as he was when I first met him.

My parents have a photograph of me in a costume parade back in my first year of primary school. There I am, dressed up as a nursery rhyme (more specifically, Mary from ‘Mary, Mary quite contrary’ with a garden growing out of my hat), and I am holding hands with my friend Katie. Gumboots, duffle coat and luggage tag, floppy hat, and a smudge of a black bear nose – she was a perfect Paddington. I remember listening to Paddington stories as books on tape as Katie and I played together at her house – we loved hearing about his mishaps, and pretending it was us getting in to all that mischief. When we were expected to be well-behaved and stay out of trouble, Paddington could do what he wanted.

As I got older and was able to read the books myself, I was kind of jealous of how independent this bear was. There are lots of different Paddington stories, and I love the fact that in all of them Paddington sees something that needs doing, and does it. Things don’t always go the way he plans, and he might end up needing the Brown family’s help to achieve what he sets out to do, but he always gives things a go, and it is always him at the centre of the action. Everyone else is just a supporting part. When I was wanting to be more independent and getting frustrated that I couldn’t go down to the park unless I was with my friends and home by teatime, Paddington was off on his own, exploring and doing what he wanted.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, and I am working at a children’s bookshop when a Paddington Bear treasury comes in. A beautifully-illustrated hardcover book, this brought back a rush of memories for me. It instantly became one of my go-to recommendations for people looking for books for young children, but with so many Paddington Bear fans out there already, I didn’t really have to work too hard to recommend it – that bear really did sell himself. I loved seeing the looks on customers’ faces when they realised they could relive their childhood joy, and share these stories with their children. I had loved Paddington when I was little, and now I could introduce him to a whole new generation of fans.

Moving on to Christmas 2014, and I am mentoring a young child through Big Brother Big Sister. This was a child who had heaps of stuff going on in their life, without the opportunities to do so many of the activities many of us take for granted. As a special treat I suggested the two of us go to see a movie, something the kiddo hadn’t done before, and Paddington was the movie of choice. I’m not mentoring this young person anymore, so I don’t know if they still remember the movie’s plot, or if they’ve read any of the books that the movie was based on, but that really doesn’t matter. For me, the best part of going to see this movie was looking over at the seat beside me, seeing a child totally engrossed in a new experience, and knowing that regardless of what happens to them in the future, they will have a memory of doing something new and fun with someone who cares about them at this moment. Sharing books and stories is as much about making memories as it is about actually reading, and now Paddington Bear is makes me think fondly of being with a particular person at a particular time of my life. Hopefully it does the same for them, too.

Cover of Paddington's finest hour Cover of Paddington helps out Cover of Paddington and the grand tour Cover of Paddington at large

And here we are in 2017. When I think of Paddington now, I see him like a child who has ended up in care for reasons outside of their control. Sent away, to live in a different environment with a new whānau that he doesn’t know… in other words, some of the same challenges New Zealand children might face if they can’t stay in their own homes. Paddington manages to thrive in his new home, despite the difficulties he faces, and in this way he shows our kiwi tamariki that they too can get through these difficult times. It is really important for children to be able to see characters like themselves in books, and if children can look at Paddington as a role model during challenging times in their life, then I think this bear is just as relevant now as he was when Mr Bond first introduced him to us in 1958.

Cover of Paddington's cookery bookSo join me in celebrating the life of Mr. Bond, and the wonderful, colourful, character which he has left us.

Check out the Paddington books we have available, and share his stories with your own friends and family over a nice cup of tea, a marmalade sandwich, and some of Aunt Lucy’s Sweet Potato Mash. Apparently it’s a hit with the bears in the Home for Retired Bears back in Lima, Peru.

Memories, mind-wandering, and the evolution of language

“It was a dark and chilly winter’s night, but the crowd in the foyer of the Charles Luney Auditorium at St. Margaret’s College didn’t let that deter them. They were bundled up warm, busy chatting to their friends, and keen to get into the auditorium to hear Auckland University’s Michael Corballis present ‘Mental Travels in Space and Time’.”

Did you just get an image in your head of how that scene might have looked? If you’ve ever been into the Charles Luney Auditorium before, your mind will have travelled back there, remembered how it looked, and added in people in winter clothes and cold dark weather to suit the story.

If you haven’t been to this particular location, you might have remembered your old school auditorium instead, or maybe the foyer of the old Christchurch Town Hall or Isaac Theatre Royal, and pictured the scene as if it was happening there. Either way, regardless of how you imagined this scene, you based it upon your memories of a time you were in a particular location, and what you saw and heard, and how it made you feel.

You have just used your brain for mental time travel – using memories as a way to imagine ourselves in places and times that we are not currently in. That was the topic of Professor Corballis’ speech, held to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Royal Society Te Apārangi. The audience learnt about the hippocampus – the part of the brain which helps form memories of events, and which reinterprets those memories and helps us daydream and imagine ourselves in new places and times.

It’s because of the hippocampus that we can empathise, and put ourselves in another person’s situation, why authors and storytellers can come up with fictional made-up stories, and why readers sometimes get so caught up in the stories they are reading – our brain is letting us experience the story in the same way as it would if we were actually living it.

The audience also learnt what happens if the hippocampus is damaged. If this happens, you can’t form memories of the things you have done, but you remember skills that you have learnt. Could you imagine not having any memories of specific events? Or having others tell you that you have done something or gone somewhere with them, but you don’t remember doing it? Yet at the same time, you don’t have any difficulty remembering how to carry out skills such as walking, talking, or drawing? I can’t imagine that personally, but we heard about some individuals for whom this is normal.

Cover of The truth about language

The speech Professor Corballis gave was entertaining and informative, and these same characteristics come through in his new book The Truth About Language. I really enjoyed how accessible this book is – no matter your background, the conversational writing style is easy to read. With anecdotes, quotes from literature, and references to historical and contemporary linguistic theories, Corballis tells the story of how language came to be, and why it is so different in different countries and communities.

Don’t worry if you aren’t a linguist – you will still be able to understand the points Corballis is making, and enjoy the information found in this book. For those readers who do want a more in-depth understanding of the evolution of language, however, the book includes references to other theories and theorists, generous explanatory notes, and a comprehensive bibliography to guide further reading.

From the big bang to the different languages used world-wide in 2017, there are so many aspects of language – body language, pronunciation and sounds, grammar, and so much more. Michael Corballis’ The Truth About Language is a fun way to learn about this fascinating subject, and Christchurch City Libraries has a range of his other books that delve further into the subject. So, if language, the mind, and psychology are things you’re interested in, then check them out on our catalogue!

The Truth About Language: What it is and where it came from
by Michael Corballis
Published by Auckland University Press
ISBN: 9781869408633

Find out more

Hamlet: The Video Game (The Stage Show): Q&A with Kathleen Burns

Shakespeare with tentacles, teenage sex, dead bodies galore, and nerf guns. Yup, you heard right. Hamlet: The Video Game (The Stage Show) is on now at The Court Theatre until June 24, and it is nothing like the Shakespeare you learnt at school.

Kathleen Burns is one of the cast, and we had a chance to ask her some questions about Hamlet, gaming, and this show.


Kathleen Burns

Shakespeare! Guns! Gaming! Kicking ass! Hamlet: The Video Game (The Stage Show) at The Court Theatre sounds awesome! Thanks for chatting to us about it – it sounds like a really interesting mix of everything.

Before we start, let’s play ‘Two truths, one lie’ to get to know you. What are two interesting facts about yourself? And what about one thing that’s not true? We’ll see if we can guess which one’s the lie.*

1: I am really good at saying the alphabet backwards super fast.

2: When I was a girl, I had webbed fingers and had to get them surgically un-webbed.

3: I can’t click my fingers.

That first one’s an impressive skill – I hope you’ve found some way to get that into one of your shows! Now that’s out the way, on to the important stuff. Old Will Shakespeare. We had to study one of his plays each year at high school. I think I just about died of boredom watching every girl in my class act out Romeo’s death in a Yr 11 English assessment – do you know just how long a 16-year-old can drag out a death scene?! It was painful!

What about you? Did you have to suffer through the plays in English class or did you actually enjoy learning about the Bard?

At first it was totally daunting… like… what are all these people on about…? But, I had good English teachers who broke it down. It’s actually super easy… this person wants to kill that person, this person wants to sleep with that person… Also I often got asked to read it out loud, and you know… any chance to be centre of attention haha!

What about now? Have your thoughts on him changed, or do you still feel the same way?

The older I get, the more I either love or hate it. Like… “Yay! Titus Andronicus is so cool! Let’s put people in pies!” or “OH EM GEE Hamlet is so annoying, I wish he would just make up his mind…”

So … Hamlet: The Video Game (The Stage Show). That’s quite a mouthful! I looked it up on The Court’s website, and the description for the show was:

“Rebooting the story of Hamlet as a video game, this show blends Shakespeare with modern gaming culture to create a uniquely entertaining live experience. You’ve never seen the Bard this bad-ass!”

What does that actually mean? Most people would say video games and 17th century plays don’t really go together. What exactly are we going to see when we go see Hamlet: The Video Game?

Are you kidding me? Shakespeare and video games are pretty much the same thing. Bloodthirsty violence, revenge, high body count, teenage sex… all of the fun stuff. In this show you can expect to see an epic nerf gun battle, an abundance of gaming jokes, and hearts torn out of chests both literally and figuratively.

So it’s not going to be an old guy standing alone on a dark stage talking to a skull in Ye Olde English that we’re not going to understand? Phew!

Hamlet: The Video Game (The Stage Show) got shown for the first time back in 2015. It obviously did well to come back for a second go, so who is the show *actually* for? Usually people who go and see plays are not the people who’ll spend time playing computer games, so where did the decision to merge classical theatre and gaming come from? And who’s the target audience?

The idea came about from Simon Peacock, who started as a court jester here in Christchurch but now works in the video game industry in Canada. He directed the voices on one of my favourite games: Assassins Creed! This show is totally for gamers. I mean yeah, Shakespeare lovers are loving it too… but it so so packed full of jokes for gamers.

In video games, the gamer is in charge of choosing what their avatar is going to do next, or where they’re going to go, and that happens in this show too, right? So it’s kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure version of Hamlet! That’s pretty cool.

Hahahaha no. It’s not a pick-a-path. Any experienced gamer will tell you that video games only offer the illusion of choice. At its heart, it’s the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But with video game tropes over top, like, at the start, the audience get to customize their Hamlet character. So far the mohawk has been really popular. But can you please come along and choose the beret for once??? It looks kick ass and the audience hasn’t chosen that one yet!

Got it. Always choose the beret.

Back in the day, girls and women weren’t allowed to act in old Will’s plays – apparently boys and men did a better job of playing the female characters than actual females did. That’s pretty dumb, I reckon, but I guess that was just the way society was back then. There’s a real live female actor in this show though, right? Playing a real live female character? Does she get to do really cool stuff, or is she stuck at home doing embroidery and cooking and looking after the kids? Of course, if a female wants to stay in and do sewing, she totally can – you be you, girl, and do what makes you happy! Anyways – what are the girls up to in Hamlet?

Well actually it’s funny you mention that because…. I am totally a girl. Yip. Boobs and everything. And I’m a gamer too. (Pause for shocked silence) The most domestic thing any of the female characters get up to in this is when Gertrude in her bed chamber brushing her tentacles. Yip, that’s right, her mighty tentacles that come out of her head. When she’s not doing that, she’s kicking ass.

Shakespeare and the tentacles. Not a sentence I thought I’d be writing, but there it goes.

Lots of schools use Hamlet as one of their English texts. How close is this play to the actual Hamlet play? If I go see it will I be able to write about it in my NCEA exams?

It would actually totally help you to understand the basic story of Hamlet… I wish I had something like this when I was in high school!

All right, so you must have thought about this – if Hamlet actually got released as a video game, who would you choose to voice the characters? And why?

I will voice them all. With a million different hilarious voices. And maybe some voice changing technology to make my voice sound deep and evil for Claudius.

Right … you did say you wanted to be centre of attention at school. I guess some things don’t change.

How many of the folks involved in this show are actually gamers? And what’s the fave game at the moment? Although I bet they’re all pretty busy at the moment making sure this is  finished and ready for the audience.

All of us are either current gamers, or have been at some point in our lives. Personally, I’m looking forward to playing Andromeda because I’m a huge Mass Effect fan!

So… Hamlet: The Video Game (The Stage Show) is at The Court Theatre until June 24. It sounds like it’s going to be an amazing show to watch and should have something for everyone.

We’ve opened already! Only a week and a half left, so get in quick!

Thanks for chatting with us, Kathleen – have you got any last words for people out there trying to decide if this show’s for them?

It’s for you. If you come to the show, and then are like “maybe that wasn’t for me”, I will personally come into the foyer and admit to your face that I was wrong. (THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED)


So there you have it, folks – Hamlet: The Video Game (The Stage Show) is for everyone. If you love Shakespeare but don’t game, or play video games but aren’t a fan of the Bard, or love Shakespeare AND gaming, go see it – it’s only $26, and it’s Shakespeare and tentacles. What’s not to love?!

* Oh, and in case you were wondering: the lie was … number 2.

Images supplied by the Court Theatre.