Bow-wowie! Who let the dogs out? The second in the Dog Man series Dog Man Unleashed has just been um, unleashed, and Dog Man is on tour across Christchurch City Libraries.
Dog Man is the newest hero from the creator of Captain Underpants, Dav Pilkey. There’s something fishy in Dog Man Unleashed when Dog Man gets his boss, the Chief of Police, a freaky fish who accidentally ingests ‘supa brain dots’ instead of fish food and masterminds a treasure chests heist. The chief suspect however is Dog Man’s nemesis Petey the criminal cat, who gets taken to jail but manages to slip away by making himself as flat as paper and unfolding some origami outmaneuvers. Things turn a bit keystone cops and the puns are lots of fun (the fish costs “five bucks plus tacks”). And when Petey uses a phone booth, mailbox, newspaper, fax machine and a VCR player as weapons, on-looking kids have no idea what these things even are! Watch out for the Obey Spray and the Love Ray whose powers go awry and things turn a bit Jurassic Bark when Dog Man gets thrown the biggest bone ever. Speaking of paper tricks, Pilkey’s famous Flip-o-rama animated action is back too. (And don’t worry if you haven’t read the previous related books – there’s a quick recap of Dog Man’s genesis at the start).
Parents be warned, as the Chief sums up at the end of the story: “nobody learned anything… there was no atonement… no rebirth… no revelations… and not an ounce of character development or personal growth… it was all just a buncha mindless action and dumb luck” …Perfect! The kids will love it. The silliness in Pilkey’s books is so appealing to young children and his comics make a great ‘gateway’ to reading for kids who struggle with reading. (My son was so taken by Pilkeys ‘Hairy Potty’ character in Captain Underpants that one day he cut out menacing eyes and teeth from paper and taped them onto our toilet seat which gave us all a shock when we went to use the loo).
When Dog Man and Captain Underpants author Dav Pilkey last came to Christchurch a year and half ago, he delivered an inspiring presentation focusing on you can achieve despite learning and behavioural issues such as ADHD and dyslexia, like he had growing up. Dav was keen to point out that learning difficulties are no barrier to being creative or successful. When it was suggested to Dav as a child that he’d have to grow up and couldn’t write silly books the rest of his life, he proved them wrong. In fact, he mentioned many other notable dyslexics from Einstein and Beethoven through to Keira Knightley and Jamie Oliver. Dav’s slogan is: “Reading gives you Superpowers.”
Get into the libraries a grab a selfie with Dog Man himself.
Author of Captain Underpants, Superdiaper Baby and Ook & Gluk
Written and illustrated by the talented and prolific husband and wife team of Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell, Inspector Flytrap is a series of books about a flytrap trying to become the greatest detective that ever ‘grew.’ This means he hasn’t got time for small-fry mysteries to solve – he only handles ‘Big Deal’ mysteries. He is accompanied by his helpful/unhelpful assistant Nina the Goat who eats everything, unfortunately. It is hard to be incognito when you have to cart around goat-proof gadgets.
Their first big mystery sends them to a top secret art lab to help some art scientists get some perspective. Case quickly closed. And then he meets “a really grumpy rat” – Mimi Kiwi. When one of her flowers goes missing, Mimi tries to enlist the help of Inspector Flytrap…
“I know what you’re thinking, Mr. Flytrap! Well, I’m not a rat. I’m a kiwi. Mimi Kiwi.”
“Hello, Mimi Kiwi,” I said. “I am Inspector Flytrap… I’m sorry I thought you were a rat.”
“Hmmph,” said the really grumpy kiwi.
“What’s a kiwi?” I asked.
“DUH!” said Mimi Kiwi. “I am.”
It was quite a surprise to stumble over a kiwi in this kid’s book since it’s published in America, so I talked to the author Tom Angleberger all the way in the USA to find out what inspired his Mimi Kiwi character.
I’m so glad you enjoyed the kiwi in our story…. even if she was rather rude! I’ve been fascinated with kiwis since I was a kid. My first exposure might have been a book called “Birds do the Strangest Things”. Not only are they interesting birds, but that name: kee wee! It’s fun to say! …Plus it’s short and this is a book for easy readers!
When Cece went to draw the pictures for the book, she must have looked at photos of kiwis and thought the wings were just hard to see…. because for a while Mimi Kiwi had wings! When I told Cece that kiwis are wingless then she had to figure out how to draw one DRIVING a truck! That’s not easy, but Cece is the greatest so she figured it out!
The School for Young Writers in Christchurch is holding a Summer Writing School and Workshops, 16-20 January 2017. The Summer Writing School comprises a week’s worth of writing for teenagers, with special guest tutors alongside some of our regulars. On the final day students will get an opportunity for 1:1 mentoring as they complete a piece for the special magazine that they will produce.
Why go to The School for Young Writers throughout the year? Who is it for and what will they get out of it?
The School for Young Writers is for Years 3 to Year 13. Young writers get the pleasure of working with skilled teachers in groups of like-minded children. Regular tuition produces results. We also have a correspondence programme for those who can’t make the class times.
What kind of writing activities and exercises do you do?
Heather: Stories, poetry in all its forms, creative non-fiction, jokes, flash fiction, memoir, song lyric, play script, monologue, twists on genre, fantasy, slam poetry, whatever the children ask for and whatever our creative tutors can come up with.
Tell us about some of the tutors at the school.
Glyn: James Norcliffe is one of New Zealand’s most admired writers of poetry (Burns Fellowship and many other awards) and fiction for young readers. Heather is also an award-winning writer of fiction for young people as well as poetry, short story and flash fiction ( She is the current National “champ” in Flash fiction). Gail Ingram is New Zealand’s best poet for 2016 (New Zealand Poetry Society). Greg O’Connell is renowned for his interactive poetry shows and poems published in the School Journal. Stephanie Frewen is an award-winning scriptwriter. The plays her students write are broadcast on Plains FM and many are preserved for all time in Radio New Zealand Sound Archives.
Can you share some top tips for youth who want to write?
Join the School for Young Writers (of course). And enter the competitions in our Write On magazine. Teenagers submit to Re Draft – an annual anthology of the best teenage writing in New Zealand.
What about young people who think “I’m no good at writing…”
Glyn: Some of our best writers said that when they joined us. We are not there only for the gifted and talented. People don’t know they have a talent until they try it.
Heather: Sometimes young people have not had the opportunity to express their own creativity through writing. Our programmes are “low stakes.” We don’t use rubrics, mark or judge writing. Our goal is to help a young writer develop a piece to be the best expression of their ideas. This is a joyful process.
What changes do you see in the students over the course of the year?
Glyn says the changes are “immense” and Heather agrees: “For some it takes a few sessions to warm up and let their ideas free. Once they do then amazing things happen. Learning that all writers redraft is often key to the breakthrough.”
Can you share some highlights from the School for Young Writers this year?
Glyn: The greatest kick for me was to see the change in a young writer who came to us writing very dark stuff. By the end of the year, eligible to enter our annual Re-Draft competition for teenagers, this person won a place in the 2016 book The Dog Upstairs. This nationwide competition is for writers up to university level, so it’s a great achievement for such a young writer to win a place.
Heather: This year we held a poetry reading event in association with WORD Christchurch and New Zealand Poetry Day. It was a thrill to see usually shy young people stand up and read their pieces with confidence. I also love working in schools and a seeing the transformation over two days as reticent, vulnerable writers realise that they have something worthwhile to write, something that others want to read. Standouts have to be a group of Year 7/8 country boys (never laughed so much in a workshop) and a gorgeous group of teenagers in Queenstown who were open, enthusiastic and extremely talented. They even gave up their Saturday to attend.
Your favourite authors writing for children and young adults?
Of course we love James Norcliffe! Most of our young writers are also avid readers and they recommend writers to us!
Some of YOUR Top picks of books for youth in 2016?
Heather: Being Magdalene by Fleur Beale. I went back and reread her others. Anything Patrick Ness has written. I’m a bit behind on my YA reading having been a University student this year and reading the modernists. I’m looking forward to some holiday immersion in YA books.
What drives you to commit so much passion for this work?
Glyn: All of our tutors do it for the love of writing and with a passion for ensuring the future of New Zealand literature.
The School for Young Writers is based at Hagley College. What’s the association?
Glyn: Hagley College offered to support us and we gratefully accepted. We are a separate organisation and a registered charity. Hagley is our venue.
Tell us about the publications the writing school is associated with.
Glyn: The School for Young Writers has always emphasised the importance of publication. Without it, writing is like a house without a roof. Write On magazine gives everyone a chance to strive for the pleasure of seeing their name in print and encourages them to lift their game as far as possible. The Re-Draft competition began when we had developed teenage groups whose work was good enough to publish in book form. Re-Draft challenges our senior students to pit their skills against the best in the country. The results are amazingly good. New Zealand literature is alive and well and has a good future. Your blog should include this.
What are some things you’ve heard the students say about their experiences at the writing school?
Glyn: You should see the smiles on their faces when they emerge after two hours of fun learning. They don’t need to say anything. It shows. The younger ones often excitedly share their work with Mum on the way home.
Heather: They keep coming back and stay for years. For some of the students The School for Young Writers is their safe place, they make special friends and can be themselves. We love quirky. We value individuality.
Check out what is on offer for youth at the Summer Writing School this January.
The Best (& Worst) Children’s Books of 2016 evening was held on Wednesday 23rd November, hosted by the Canterbury Literacy Association and Christchurch City Libraries. The books showcased at the event covered the spectrum of wondrous and picturesque, funny and gross, through to beautiful and poignant – including sobering reminders of the realities of social problems facing children today.
In light of changing times, be they due to earthquakes or bookstores closing, it is heartening to see supporters of children’s literature and literacy continue to come together as a community to celebrate and reaffirm their shared joy of children’s books.
Highlights from the annual Best (& Worst) event, attended by over 70 people, were primary students from several schools speaking about their current favourite books. Alongside this youth voice was book-talking from Mary Sangster (The Original Children’s Bookshop) and even some impromptu book-singing with the audience spurred on by Lynette Griffiths, Families Outreach at Christchurch City Libraries, as part of her picture book discussion.
Best Children’s Books of 2016 as selected by Mary Sangster, The Original Children’s Bookshop
Circle by Jeannie Baker follows the godwit’s incredible flight over awe-inspiring scenes as above such beautiful landmarks as the Great Barrier Reef and China’s breathtaking cityscapes.
The Night Gardener by Terry Fan. One day, William discovers that the tree outside his window has been sculpted into a wise owl. More topiaries appear, each one more beautiful. Soon, William’s gray little town is full of color and life. And though the mysterious night gardener disappears as suddenly as he appeared, William—and his town—are changed forever. With breathtaking illustrations and spare, sweet text, this book is about enjoying the beauty of nature.
Younger and older fiction
Olive of Groves and the Great Slurp of Time by Katrina Nannestad. Starting off in 1857 at Mrs Groves’ Boarding School for Naughty Boys, Talking Animals and Circus Performers, this story goes backwards and forwards in time after Olive is invited to go time-travelling by a strange visitor. Disturbing things start to happen at Groves as a result. Mary felt there was a nice use of language and reckons boys would like it just as well as girls. Time travel books for children in 2016 seem to be popular.
The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon. Subhi’s imagination is as big as the ocean and wide as the sky, but his world is much smaller: he’s spent his whole life in an immigration detention centre. The Bone Sparrow is a powerful, heartbreaking, sometimes funny and ultimately uplifting hymn to freedom and love.
Lonesome When You Go by Saradha Koirala. Paige plays bass in high school rock band Vox Pop in the tense build-up to the Rockfest competition. This novel, published in New Zealand, is about practising solo, performing like a rockstar and how contributing your best self to something can create a force much greater than the sum of its parts.
Dear Charlie by N.D. Nomes. Recommended for older high school students. Sixteen year old Sam is picking up the pieces after the school shooting that his brother Charlie committed. Yet as Sam desperately tries to hang on to the memories he has of his brother, the media storm surrounding their family threatens to destroy everything. And Sam has to question all he thought he knew about life, death, right and wrong. “Absolutely fantastic.” says Mary.
Best Picture Books of 2016 as selected by Lynette Griffiths, Families Outreach for Christchurch City Libraries
Lynette has been a librarian for all her working life and is passionate about both illustrations and words. “I’m always looking for a resource that creates a surprise and smile to its reader, be that young or old.” She says that what makes a good picture book in her world is: “One that takes me out of my comfort zone; one that pushes boundaries; something I might not of seen or heard before; something familiar but different; something that can cover all ages and something that makes me go WOW!”
Armstrong: The adventurous journey of a mouse to the moonby Torben Kuhlmann – Kuhlmann’s picture book transports readers to the moon and beyond! Here, dreams are determined only by the size of your imagination and the biggest innovators are the smallest of all. The book ends with a brief non-fiction history of human space travel from Galileo’s observations concerning the nature of the universe to man’s first steps on the moon. Lynnette loved the superb clever illustrations and says there’s so much information that it is nearly non-fiction.
Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers. A lyrical picture book about a little girl who sails her raft ‘across a sea of words’ to arrive at the house of a small boy. There she invites him to come away with her on an adventure where they can journey through ‘forests of fairy tales’, ‘across mountains of make-believe’ and ‘sleep in clouds of song.’
Older Fiction and Young Adult Reads of 2016 as selected by Jane Boniface, Heaton Normal Intermediate School
Jane has a wealth of knowledge of intermediate age and young adult great reads for tweens and teens. Jane is well-recognised by the National Library and School Library Association (SLANZA) in her position as the Learning Resource Centre Manager at Heaton Normal Intermediate School. She is a leading light at the school in promoting the culture of reading and provides a variety of seminars for classes in the skills required in today’s use of libraries and accessing information.
Jane’s 4 ‘Best Books’, in her own amusing made-up categories, were:
Best laugh-out-loud read-aloud with short chapters: Charlie & the War Against the Grannies by Alan Brough. Charlie just wants a paper round but he has to battle for it against the local hostile grannies already doing it. Fans of David Walliams would enjoy this funny story set downunder. Bite-sized chapters make for an easy read. “This book is not for the erudite or sophisticated reader” says Jane, “it includes how to say ‘fart’ in 10 different languages.”
Most poignant tear-jerker where one character must be a dog: When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin. Like a The Fault in Our Stars for 12-year-olds. Ben, always an outsider, is led into a deep friendship with Halley, who is being treated for cancer, by the special dog he and his adoptive mother take in. “It is well-written, about humanity and themes of friendship and love. It is beautiful versus morose,” says Mary. “If you liked Wonder you’ll like this.”
Book with the most potential to spark the most meaningful enquiry questions: Gorilla Dawn by Gill Lewis. Deep in the heart of the African jungle, a baby gorilla is captured by a group of rebel soldiers. Two children also imprisoned in the rebels’ camp. When they learn that the gorilla is destined to be sold into captivity, they swear to return it to the wild before it’s too late. But the consequences of getting caught are too terrible to think about. Will the bond between the gorilla and the children give them the courage they need to escape? Jane says: “Thought-provoking and disturbing,” It covers the not much heard about mining of coltan, used for mobile phones, and incorporates child slavery and child soldiers, climate change and gorilla habitats being destroyed. Uniquely told from different points-of-view: of both the children and the baby gorilla.
Best/Worstbook: Remade by Alex Scarrow. Leon and his sister have moved to London from New York and are struggling to settle into their new school when rumours of an unidentified virus in Africa fills the news. They witness people turning to liquid before their eyes and run for their lives. Great for reluctant intermediate readers.Jane Boniface perfectly illustrated a best/worst children’s book when she read this proclamation aloud from a passage in Remade. Although the novel, filled to the brim with gory details of a virus on the loose liquefying people, wasn’t her cup of tea, she said it was a real hit with the intermediate age boys at her school who clambered to read it after she told them it was “disgusting, grizzly and grotesque.”
What turns a cringe-worthy story into a ‘best’ book is that it encourages the love and pleasure of reading for a certain kind of reading interest and shows that while reading tastes are subjective, the right book for the right person at the right time is what matters.
This Best/Worst evening was a opportunity for these students to hone their book reviewing and book-talking skills in a nurturing environment.
Teachers, librarians, parents, booksellers, writers and illustrators cater for a wide variety of children’s tastes, interests and needs and for all types of readers (from the enthusiastic to the reluctant). The audience will have taken away a lot of new and varied book suggestions, not to mention some great book prizes in the book raffle draw. And if you want to hear about the couple of ‘worst’ books chosen, you’ll have to come next time. Chatham House Rules and all that.
Speaking of reading…
Holiday Reading List 2016 Launch
The evening also saw the launch of Christchurch City Libraries 2016 Holiday Reading List for kids. Categories include picture books, younger & older fiction, young adult and non-fiction.
Summertime Reading Club 2016 / 2017 Announced
At this event, Christchurch City Libraries also announced their annual Summertime Reading Club competition for 2016 / 2017 – this summer it will be a passport of reading activities to complete to be in to win some fabulous prizes.
Thanks to the Canterbury Literacy Association for their organising of this annual event. The purpose of the New Zealand Literacy Association is to encourage literacy learning.
The Dunedin Sound: Some Disenchanted Evening by Ian Chapman is a uniquely archival book celebrating the music known as the ‘Dunedin Sound.’ Predominantly pictorial, it is a plethora of personal photographs and memorabilia which, in the words of Graeme Downes from The Verlaines, ‘is a testament to a bunch of people desperate to create something in any way they could. And that something is pretty darn special.’
Kicked off by Chris Knox, “with the inimitable punk-infused force that was The Enemy in the late 1970s, it was carried to the world throughout the 1980s (and beyond) in true seat-of-the-pants style by the Flying Nun record label. Nobody could have foreseen the huge impact and lasting legacy that a pool of young songwriters and musicians from unfashionable Dunedin would create” says author Dr Ian Chapman.
Their feats are revisited within these pages which include stories and select discographies of an array of bands, critiques, and reminiscences from band members, fans and those in the music scene including Records Records shop-owner Roy Colbert, Gary Steel, Simon Grigg, drummer John Collie (writing about album cover art), Natasha Griffiths (who casually mentions her classmate David Bain and tells a funny story about what her older brother Shayne Carter did to her teddy-bear on stage) and Jeff Harford – who describes the music as “seed-rich pods cast to the wind.”
After Chapman put out an appeal for photographs for The Dunedin Sound, he got excited by the quality of the images coming to light, the majority of which had never been seen publicly.
The notion of preserving visual history began steering the book in an even more pictorial direction, to the point where the text has ended up supporting the images rather than vice versa. However, this in no way lessens the wonderful efforts of those luminaries whom I have invited to make written contributions to the book. Outlining their own personal stories and engagements with the Dunedin Sound, these pieces offer a variety of perspectives and experiences.
Some contributors, like music critic Gary Steel, actually question and contest the mythologising of the Dunedin Sound, which gives the book more depth. Also included in the book is a priceless pull-out poster, a labour-of-love by The Bats’ Robert Scott, ‘Sound of Dunedin’, which provides a comprehensively charted timeline of the bands playing in Dunedin in 1977–1992, when the Dunedin Sound was born. This chart makes it evident how impossible it was to include all the bands in the book. Chapman highlights 17 acts and while critics may say some bands are left out while others are given much prominence, the main character throughout is the Dunedin Sound, albeit “nebulous” and ill-defined.
The Dunedin Sound – published by David Bateman – has high production values (despite some low-fi source images) and is in full-colour. It contains, as Ian Chapman, says:
The many photographs that have lain unseen for decades, the beautifully crafted posters that once adorned walls and bollards around the university and wider Dunedin, only to be torn down and thrown away, bar a precious few kept by those with more foresight than most — in these images, the pioneering, non-conforming and rebellious ethos of the Dunedin Sound can be seen.
This sentiment is echoed in the introduction when he explains why he particularly chose this cover image of Chris Knox to encapsulate that ethos.
For our Cantabrian readers, it would be remiss not to note that it was the Christchurch-based Flying Nun music label that helped a lot of the Dunedin Sound really take off. And many performed at The Gladstone that was once on the corner of Durham and Peterborough Streets. A number of the musicians are settled in Christchurch these days, working within the art and music sectors such as Bruce Russell, Paul Kean, John Collie, John Kelcher and David Pine (who has been instrumental in setting up the newly formed Flying Nun Foundation archive).
With its hardback cover, The Dunedin Sound feels substantive, yet the short and varied writings accompanying the images make it easy to dip into anywhere rather than having to follow a chronologically written history. It feels intimate – the personal ephemera are wee treasures (irreverent notes, earnest letters, album art, hand-written set lists, magazine clippings) and the private and behind-the-scenes photos are refreshing in an age of self-aware snaps and selfies. Here, the boxes of old family photos have been nostalgically dusted off – only the ‘family’ is the Dunedin music scene. A great gift for fans of New Zealand music, this book is for anyone who was there, anyone who wishes they were or who wonders what they missed.
Several others have been working on related books including one by Graeme Downes. Alan Holt is writing a book about the history of Flying Nun Records; Graeme Jefferies memoir Time Flowing Backwards is due out April 2017 and Needles & Plastic: A Flying Nun Discography 1981-1988 (2016) by Matthew Goody and Sean Elliot is out now.
Martin Phillipps (The Chills) at the book launch gig of The Dunedin Sound, 17 November 2016 at The University of Otago (Photo: John Collie)
Graeme Downes (The Verlaines) at the book launch gig of The Dunedin Sound, 17 November 2016 at The University of Otago (Photo: John Collie)
Martin Phillipps (The Chills) and Graeme Downes (The Verlaines) performing at the book launch of The Dunedin Sound, 17 November 2016 at The University of Otago. (Photo: John Collie)
Find books about the Dunedin Sound in our collection
Ian, what inspired you to create this book when there are a few books celebrating Dunedin music already?
I didn’t feel there was a book that celebrated the Dunedin Sound adequately. Certainly, Matthew Bannister’s Positively George Street told the story from his personal Sneaky Feelings’ perspective, but you wouldn’t term it a celebration. And yes there are chapters in other books about the Dunedin Sound/Flying Nun scenes amid wider critiques of New Zealand popular music. There are also websites and many magazine articles over the years that are available online.
But in my view the Dunedin Sound deserved its own standalone book. And I also wanted to be able to point out that the Dunedin Sound and Flying Nun are not interchangeable terms though they are often used in this way. There were Dunedin Sound acts never signed to Flying Nun, and also a lot of Flying Nun acts that were not from Dunedin. I wanted to put Dunedin back at the forefront of the Dunedin Sound, which is why the book features only Dunedin acts.
What do you feel this book is adding to the archive of Dunedin music history?
As witnessed by the recent formation of the Flying Nun Foundation – with preservation a part of its goal, as I understand it – I think many people are starting to realise that the heyday of this scene was now more than three decades ago and time is precious. Peter Gutteridge has recently passed away, and the main protagonists will not be around forever – that’s the cold reality.
With the book being so wonderfully pictorial, I very much had the sense as I was collecting photographs and ephemera from here there and everywhere that this historical flotsam and jetsam is equally not going to last forever. Preserving it in a book like this – I’ve felt as much a historian, archaeologist and curator as an author. Simply, like the excellent job the the Hocken Library (in Dunedin) does, I hope this book with become part of the archive of Dunedin’s music history and ensure such ‘stuff’ is not lost forever.
Tell us about some interesting things you discovered in the process of creating the book? Hidden gems unearthed?
I knew it before I started on the project, but through talking to so many musicians, fans, and others involved in the scene in some way or another, it brought home to me once again how contentious the term ‘Dunedin Sound’ is. Even within the camp. That was interesting.
I was also reminded, when talking to others from the era who weren’t involved in ‘the scene’ – mostly musicians of other ilks – of the resentment that still exists regarding the media attention and resultant opportunities that the primary proponents received. It is still seen as something of a ‘club’ by many, and not always in a good way.
In terms of hidden gems unearthed, there are so many images that have never been seen before, and finding these – from old suitcases, basements, tops of wardrobes – stuff that hasn’t been seen the light of day for 30 plus years – was the biggest thrill. Forced to name a couple, I’ll mention the wonderful early photos of The Enemy taken by Ian Bilson and Josie Haines. Discovering these really got my heart racing.
Another discovery was just how close the music and the artwork/design aspects of the Dunedin Sound was. Again, I’d expected it, but not to the extent I found. With so much of the artwork and design done by the musos themselves, or by close friends and family, there’s a synergy between the two that you could never have got from faceless, uninvolved designers trying to portray the music while working in an office behind chrome and glass at some mega record company located in another city.
What have you enjoyed most about putting this book together and what were the challenges?
I enjoyed the feeling of preserving history, and meeting so many awesome people. Key collaborators on the book’s content included Graeme Downes, Alan Haig, Robert Scott, Stephen Kilroy, Roy Colbert, Sarah Williamson (research assistant). But really, everyone was wonderfully supportive of the project.
The biggest challenge was finding the origins of hundreds of photos. Many great pics were supplied to me by people who had them in their possession but had no idea who took them in the first place or how they came by them. More often than not, once I’d tracked them down, the musicians in the photos didn’t know who took them either, being so long ago. So, being a cold-case detective was extremely challenging. I still have dozens of fantastic pics in my ‘photographer unknown’ folder on my laptop that didn’t make it into the book for that reason.
Sure. He’s a glittering 1970s-esque glam rocker based upon Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona. He was my confidence-resurrecting imaginary escapist fantasy figure during my very troubled teens (during the 1970s) but was laid to rest when I left my teens behind. When I started teaching at the university post 2000 I wanted to show my students an example of a performance persona in order to help them learn to combat nerves and stage-fright etc; ways to suppress self-doubt and become 10ft tall and bullet-proof on stage. So rather than just talking about it, I brought Dr Glam out of the crypt and began performing.
I had an absolute blast, and it got the message across as my students saw their quietly spoken genial lecturer become a posing, pouting, glittery monster in 8 inch platforms, makeup and spandex, ha ha. (Did I mention the fun aspect???) But, by its very nature, glam rock(ers) shouldn’t go on for too long, and so I killed him off in 2014 at a dramatic Death-of-Dr-Glam gig. Nite nite and thanks. But I pulled him out of the grave one more time for this year’s David Bowie tribute show at Sammy’s. To all intents and purposes, though, Dr Glam is dead. I have since reinvented myself in the guise of his anagrammatic cousin, Mr Glad, and with my band, The Skeleton Family, we do twisted cabaret type gigs now and then.
Thanks Ian… Can you recommend some music-related books and DVDs that you really enjoy?
David Bowie: Five Years documentary. The best Bowie doco yet made.
Ian Chapman is a musician, author and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Music, Theatre and Performing Arts at the The University of Otago. A musicologist, he is working on his seventh book at the moment titled Experiencing Alice Cooper: A Listener’s Companion (Rowman & Littlefield 2017), which pays album-by-album tribute to another of his rock-theatre heroes.
Several others have been working on related books including one by Graeme Downes. Alan Holt is writing a book about the history of Flying Nun Records; Graeme Jefferies memoir Time Flowing Backwards is due out April 2017 and Needles & Plastic: A Flying Nun Discography 1981-1988 (2016) by Matthew Goody and Sean Elliot is out now.
Nanogirl is coming to Christchurch with a bang! She is putting on two shows on 5th December at the Isaac Theatre Royal. Expect explosions and excitement at Little Bang, Big Bang – the Live Science Show. One hour of science where Nanogirl blows things up, blows things over and blows your mind!
Covering Bernoulli’s principle, firing a massive air vortex cannon, holding fire in her hands and exploding thousands of ping pong balls, this show has science like you’ve never seen it before! Safe for all ages, this family friendly show shows you simple experiments you can do at home.
We asked Nanogirl – aka scientist Michelle Dickinson – a few questions ahead of her upcoming visit
What resources would you recommend for kids interested in science?
Actually my favourite place to go is online to places like the Science Learning Hub as they have great New Zealand content for all ages and for teachers that includes local content.
I also love Rosie Revere, engineer as an engineer myself, it’s so great to read a book with such a strong female engineer lead character to get girls and boys interested in and familiar with the word ‘engineering’.
What did you read as a child that you enjoyed? What books inspired you?
I read a lot of science fiction books which I loved as they helped me to think about what a future world could look like which helped me to think big about working on solutions that could help our future by helping to create technologies and materials that don’t exist yet.
What do you enjoy reading these days?
Now I’m a total non-fiction biography addict as I follow influential leaders that I admire as I try to piece together how others have overcome challenges in their lives to create the successes they were aiming for.
What role do libraries play in your life?
Libraries used to be the place that I went to borrow books when I was younger but now they are spaces of technology for me as I help libraries who have 3D printers and robotics centres in them and instead of the hardback books I used to borrow, I’m now an avid audiobook borrower from my local library.
What advice can you give young people wanting to pursue a career in science?
The best scientists and engineers are always asking questions and always testing their theories through creating experiments and researching their ideas, so my advice is to never stop being curious.
Rising Tide is a timely new book for kids published in New Zealand aimed at increasing resilience and emotional intelligence.
We all worry and feel anxiety at times in our lives. Anxiety can impact on children and their families in many ways. The Worry Bug Project seeks to support parents and teachers to recognise and address mild to moderate anxiety.
After the success of their previous books Maia and the Worry Bug and Wishes and Worries published after the major earthquakes in Christchurch, families and schools asked the authors for something for older children. Thus Rising Tide was written and developed for Year 5-8 children as a short chapter book. The story is set in New Zealand…
To most people, Ari McInnis is just an ordinary kid. And that’s just the way Ari likes it, because he’s got a secret that he doesn’t want to share – not with anybody. But then something happens to Ari that threatens to expose his secret to everyone. After he helps his Koro in trouble, everyone thinks he’s a hero. If only they knew the truth that is eating away at him. Ari has good skills ‘reading’ water and when he needs some time alone, he retreats to an old dinghy only he knows about. But when the river starts rising in the rain, he – and his Dad who has gone looking for him – are in danger.
Rising Tide is available in both English and Te Reo Māori. Online versions and an audio component are soon to come. In the back of the book parents and educators will find teaching plans and family exercises accompanying the story aimed at increasing resilience and emotional intelligence, based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Narrative Therapy. It looks at topics such as avoidance and catastrophising.
This book is great for parents, whānau, teachers and home school families wanting to delve more into the themes explored here of anxiety, family, self-belief and identity. This would also be a good book to support children struggling with reading and writing.
About the authors
Sarina Dickson is a parent, author and teacher (including tutoring in creative writing for children at the Christchurch School for Young Writers). She is passionate about the re-generation of Christchurch and its people.
For a story with a lot of loud sound effects, David Walliams latest literary romp The Midnight Gang seems to have quietly tiptoed into publication, with this children’s chapter book sneaking up just in time for Christmas.
Shhhh! Here we are on the 44th floor of the Lord Funt Hospital in the Children’s Ward. Be quiet, it’s bedtime. This is not so much a home for peculiar children as it is for physically-impaired children. There’s a big cast of characters to get to know…some actually in casts! Meet 13-year old… Tommy? Tommy! (even he wasn’t sure of his own name after a bad knock on the head from a cricket ball), who finds himself stuck in the ward with his new and equally recovering friends like young Sally (bald from her ‘treatment’), wheelchair-bound Amber, tonsil-free George and temporarily blind Robin. They are overseen by a matron who despite running a children’s ward hates children, a young doctor who can’t stand the sight of blood and support staff that includes an unsightly Porter, Mr. Dead Squirrel on his Head, Mrs. Google-Eyes and Professor Comb-over, all delightfully illustrated by the illustrious Tony Ross.
But surely hospital has to be better than the boarding school his absent parents practically abandoned him at? It wasn’t less miserable for long! The hospital matron and his school headmaster are soulmates it seems. Lunch was awful offal… and boiled eel, roasted badger, pigeon soup, boiled cabbage and toads on toast – hilariously pictured. And in what might be a reference to Walliams’ own The Boy in the Dress, Tommy suffers his worse humiliation ever when the matron makes him wear a Pink-Frilly-Nightdress to bed. Midnight is the time when all children are meant to be fast asleep, except for the secret Midnight Gang! That is the time when their adventures are just beginning… Cue 12 chimes and we all know what happens in children’s stories at the stroke of midnight – magical and dangerous things of course.
Scrawly graffiti in the hospital basement announces: The Midnight gang woz ere
“…the Midnight Gang is nothing more than an idea really,” mused Robin. “One that’s passed on from child to child.”
“Like nits?” asked George unhelpfully.
“Yes, exactly like nits, George!”
Their ‘idea’ and secret aim is to bring children’s dreams to life. So it’s a shame Tommy can’t think of a dream he might have that’s worthy of coming true. And with their collective impediments, how can they possibly achieve their dreams? And who is the real leader of this gang anyway? George’s dream to fly goes awry in the gang’s biggest adventure and challenge thus far. First they have to work out how many balloons it takes to lift an elephant (97,282 apparently). And can you imagine a naked 99 year-old flying over the rooftops of London? You don’t have to, that’s in here too.
Walliams is the Dr. of Fun and even his fonts are having a good time – the louder it gets, the bigger the type. There’s plenty of indirect messages broadcast here too: Don’t judge someone by their looks, life is precious and oh, it’s no big deal that girls can marry girls. When Sally’s condition takes a turn for the worse her dream “to live a big, beautiful life” inspires them all, leading Tommy to finally find himself by caring about others.
Walliams, of Little Britain fame, turned his comedic talents to children’s novels including Mr. Stink, Awful Auntie, Grandpa’s Great Escape, Gangsta Granny, Demon Dentist, Billionaire Boy, The Boy in The Dress, Ratburger … whew, I’m exhausted just listing them – how does he do it? And there’s The World’s Worst Children also released this year. His stellar output is nearly annoying when my son tries to bring all his favourite books into bed with him. The Midnight Gang (perfect for ages 8 to 12) may be his biggest book yet – 416 pages.
Walliams has been compared to the irreverent Roald Dahl, one of his own favourite authors when he was growing up. A new generation of young children (like mine) are now growing up with both authors amongst their favourites. And now that he has a young child of his own, Walliams has branched out into picture books with his third one There’s a snake in my school recently published and reviewed on our site.
According to Walliams, New Zealand is one of the countries with the highest readership of his books. We were lucky to see Walliams when he visited Christchurch in 2015 at a WORD Christchurch event and he spoke to a sold-out audience of 700. There he gave advice on how to write a good story (have a good villain, write what you love…) and talked about the inspiration for some of his characters based on real people, such as Raj his neighbourhood dairy owner and his ramshackle shop. So the burning question is: Is Raj in this new book? Nobody likes a spoiler. All I can say is: Poppadoms anyone?
We’re so excited about the eagerly-awaited publication release of Annual from Gecko Press (edited by Kate De Goldi & Susan Paris). Annual is a real game-changer as the first publication of its kind in New Zealand.
Annual is a 136-page smorgasbord of stories, comics, satire, how-tos, poems, games and puzzles aimed at 9-12 year old children – and their families.
There’s a dictionary of crazy words that come in handy on car trips, a sophisticated ‘spot the similarity’, a found poem from school newsletters, a maths-nerd’s memoir full of tricky logic puzzles, and top-class fiction that spans Christchurch Botanic Gardens in the 19th century, the loss of a brother, a Kiwi beach holiday and a board game.
Kate De Goldi, co-editor of the Annual from Gecko Press, could see there was a “hectic” trend in children’s writing – popular books for children such as those that are slapstick or fantastical or series titles (think Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants). She says that while these books are great, the current market does not run in the favour of more nuanced, complex books.
Inspired by, and harking back to memories of children’s annuals in the UK like Bunty The Books for Girls, De Goldi reminisces that “Annuals were like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag – you always see something new every time you opened one.”
Annuals were full of literary miscellany – a home for practitioners, writes, emerging talent. Kate remembers being given annuals for Christmas and how for some children it may have been the only book they got in a year so it was something to be savoured and enjoyed all year long.
With Annual, the editors set out to “reimagine an iconic book format for today’s young readers.” Lorde, Taylor Swift and “selfies” are in there. Indeed one of the charms of Annual is how it manages to reference pop culture yet still feel nostalgic.
Christchurch writers, illustrators and artists showcased
Speaking of nostalgia, it’s evident Kate De Goldi has a soft spot for Canterbury. Born and raised here, a Christchurch connection appears throughout Annual in various forms: From local writers such as Gavin Bishop, Ben Brown and Renata Hopkins to the street art of Christchurch in a commentary on Wongi Wilson’s Whare & Whānau (2014) in Spray Can Renaissance.
Due to the CBD’s rebuild, Wilson’s mural, that was on the corner of Tuam and Manchester streets is barely visible now, making this snapshot of a certain time and place more poignant.
We asked Kate to tell us more about the inaugural Annual:
Kate, how did the idea for Annual came about?
For some time I’d been bothered by the fact that there seemed to be a dearth of good, original New Zealand reading material for readers between 8 to 12, the reading group that American publishers/booksellers call ‘middle-grade’ (between ’emerging’ readers and young adult readers), roughly between 8 and 12 years. Additionally, I was sorry that there were no publications anymore for emerging writers for that age group to publish short form material.
One day a couple of years ago while I was out running round the hilly streets of Wellington and thinking about these things, it suddenly occurred to me that an Annual – a miscellany of stories, comics, poetry, articles, art, puzzles, games etc – would be a great solution to both of these issues. By the time I’d finished my run I’d thought of two people who could help make it happen – Julia Marshall, the publisher for Gecko Press and Susan Paris, the editor of the School Journal.
Why is this ‘Annual’ so significant for New Zealand?
As far as we know there’s never been a New Zealand publication like this for New Zealand children. This is the first publication of new, commissioned material across a variety of forms for this age group. It’s also the first publication to draw contributions from such a wide range of writers and artists – well known writers and illustrators for children, but also new writers and artists or writer/artists who usually produce work for an adult readership.
Annual is also an attempt to broaden the notion of what is allegedly ‘suitable’ for children. We believe that the 9-12 age group is a very sophisticated readership, one that’s hungry for different kinds of reading – fiction, non-fiction, graphic material, and great art – so we’ve commissioned work that is varied and substantial and with real literary merit. But the editors (Susan and me) have a pretty developed sense of the absurd, too, so we wanted the Annual to have funny – even silly – contributions as well as solid stuff.
Tell us about your childhood memories of annuals?
I grew up in a house full of books, including a wide range of very good children’s books. Comics were kind of frowned on, though – but I loved them… I read them at other people’s houses whenever I had the chance.
All the well-known British children’s comics of that post-War period (Girl’s Crystal; Princess; Rupert; Beano, Bunty, to name some) also had an Annual (a kind of bumper issue of the comic) published in time for the Christmas market. As a non-comic household we tended not to get the Annuals either – except one year when, for some reason, my sister Clare got Bunty. She was 8 that year, but claims she was still reading that Bunty Annual until she was 18. I believe her – the thing I noticed about annuals was that they seemed to last forever…every time you picked up a well-thumbed, familiar annual there was somehow always something you hadn’t noticed before and were very pleased to read.
When we were first thinking about our annual we knew we wanted it to be like that – a gift that kept on giving. It’s roughly aimed at a 9-12 readership but we hope that those readers will keep on dipping in over the years; and we’re confident there will be both younger and older readers – and adults – outside the designated age group who will enjoy many of the contributions between the covers.
How did this annual come together?
Once I had the annual idea I contacted Julia Marshall who was immediately very keen on the idea of Gecko Press publishing a miscellany of this kind (Gecko’s catchphrase is ‘curiously good books’). Then I contacted Susan Paris, who is a good friend, but more importantly has 12 years experience commissioning and editing the New Zealand School Journal a publication embedded in the history of children’s writing and illustrating in New Zealand and which is in many ways like Annual – miscellany of varied forms, but for use in the classroom.
Susan and I began by dreaming up ideas for stories, poems, articles etc and then worked out who we thought would be the best writers and artists to work with those ideas. We needed to come up with the ideas ourselves to ensure a balance across the annual – different moods (sad, funny, silly, reflective); different settings (urban, rural); gender and cultural balance; different forms (realist, fantasy, historical etc). We worked hard to match our ideas with the right artist/ writer…for example, we liked the idea of a ‘found’ poem composed entirely of lines taken from school newsletters. We asked James Brown to have a go at that – we knew he was great with different poetic forms. We approached writers and artists who we knew enjoyed working within certain parameters but who could still make the piece their own.
Commissioning was just the first stage – we edited all the work for publication and worked with Gecko Press to find illustrators for many of the pieces. It was particularly interesting for me – a tyro* in this regard – to see a project of this size right through from inception to publication. Every aspect of the process was fascinating – and quite consuming…debating the best sequencing of all the contributions, debating the title and cover, the color of the cover…and more. And finally there’s spreading the word ahead of publication – talking to librarians, booksellers, teachers, any prospective buyers – preparing the website to go live. (* Tyro = beginner or novice).
Kate, you say that Annual is meant to be enjoyed by ‘backwards browse.’ What does that mean?
This was new to me – Julia told us that people nearly always explore a book, especially a volume of mixed material, from the back to the front.
It’s perfectly true. I do it myself, though I’d never noticed…and we’ve enjoyed watching people pick up Annual and check it out by fanning the pages from back to front. That’s good from our point of view – the first piece they see, then, is Naked Grandmother, the board game which is pretty entertaining. A ‘backwards browse’ will find you flicking through an annual until you fall on what you want to sink yourself into.
Annual’s cover is quite subtle compared to the treasure trove inside. Was that intentional?
Yes, that was intentional – the title written vertically and two lovely drawings by Gregory O’Brien…the chirping bird kind of heralding something good to come. And then there’s the color – a radiant orange.
We wanted the cover to be a striking design (that’s the work of Spencer Levine who also designed the interior) so that the prospective reader would be drawn to pick up Annual – and then begin the ‘backwards browse’ through the material between the covers – which is rich indeed, a real feast for the eye.
What is your hope for the book?
Firstly, I hope the book finds its way to the readers we had in mind when we were working on it – all those readers between 9-12 who are smart, curious and hungry for new material. I hope that readers outside that age group will check it out, too. I hope especially that it is bought by school libraries – that way Annual can reach readers who may not otherwise come across the kind of material inside.
We hope that Annual becomes an annual publication! We’re working on the second volume now and hope that we can keep on producing for as long as there’s an audience…We hope to keep on finding new writers and artists and giving them a platform to publish. We hope, too, that NZ writers and artists for children aspire to be published in Annual, that it builds an audience among practitioners as well as readers.
Kate, you’re very prolific. What is your next project?
Susan (Paris) and I are well launched on the commissioning of Annual 2 – which is huge fun…We meet twice a week and spend hours talking and pitching ideas to each other, refining them and working out how best and who might turn them into gold.