Some people might say they’re just here for the kai, but I would say I’m just here for the tuhinga pikitia*. I love picture books, I really do. A good picture book is a work of art.
One of my all-time favourite picture books is Kei Te Pēhea Koe? by Tracy Duncan. I love it because the illustrations are so evocative, just one look at the picture for “makariri” makes me shiver, and there’s no mistaking how hungry the little girl on the “matekai” page feels. The words are in both Māori and English which is great for people like me, who aren’t fluent in te reo.
Another favourite of mine is Ngā kahumoe o te ngeru by Catherine Foreman. I remember the first time I read this book, when it came through the returns slot one quiet evening at Fendalton Library. The cat looked so sweet, tucked up in bed with his colourful pjs and his cuddly little rabbit, that I had to read it, even though I knew I probably wouldn’t understand a word. This is a lovely story, about a cat who wears a different pair of pyjamas each night, which inspire wonderful dreams…but when he wears his MONSTER pyjamas — well you can guess what happens! I understood all of this, just from the pictures. Because, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. I enjoy the English version too, but somehow, when I read it, it doesn’t seem quite as magical as that time I “read” the te reo version.
Just the other week, I discovered a beautiful new favourite — Hush by Joy Cowley. This is a kiwi version of the classic lullaby, beautiful illustrated by Andrew Burdan. When Miss Missy was a baby, I used to sing Hush Little Baby to her, but I couldn’t remember the words properly, and made up my own version — I wish this book had been around then! Joy Cowley is much better than I am at making up words! The te reo translation is at the back of the book — I think it’s a shame the two languages aren’t together on the same page, but still, it’s a lovely book, and a beautiful song to share with your tamariki.
If you like waiata, then Sharon Holt is worth keeping an eye out for. She has lots of te reo titles, which include CDs to sing along with, which is a great way to learn the reo. Kei te Peke Ahau is lots of fun, with all the rere, peke, and pakipaki (flying, jumping, and clapping). Each page has a different animal and action to do, ending up with e moe pēpi — sleeping like a baby (not an animal, I know…unless it’s jungle hour, then babies are definitely animals).
Speaking of pēpi, it is the beautiful illustrations of pēpi and tamariki in Kanohi by Kitty Brown that make this book. This bilingual pukapuka is full of gorgeous, cheeky kids, with text in both te Reo and English. I can’t quite make up my mind if my favourite is the taringa picture or the ngutu one. This series of board books are perfect if you want to teach your tamariki a little bit of te Reo, or maybe learn a bit yourself. In fact, it was Kitty Brown’s desire to reconnect with her reo that prompted her to write the books. You can read more about this in our interview with her.
Nineteen forty-seven was hell for little bony girls like me who couldn’t wear the New Look. Then again, 1947 was hell for any girl who would rather work calculus problems than read Vogue, any girl who would rather listen to Edith Piaf than Artie Shaw, and any girl with an empty ring finger but a rounding belly.
It was a surprising, rabbit-warren of a novel, following the interconnected paths of two very different women, and spanning both world wars. One path is the story of Charlie St Clair, the little bony girl with the rounding belly, on her way to an Appointment to deal with her Little Problem. The other is the story of Eve Gardiner, a stuttering half-French girl plucked from her life as a file girl in an English law office and dropped into the spy network in France during World War I. It’s also the story of their two quests—Charlie’s search for her French cousin Rose, missing since 1944, and Eve’s quest for retribution and for peace.
And, it’s the story of Louise de Bettignies, code named Alice Dubois, queen of spies.
Have you heard of her? If you have, you’re doing better than me! Before reading this fascinating novel, I knew nothing about women spies in WWI apart from some vague recollections about Mata Hari. I was surprised when I realised that I was reading about a woman who had truly risked her life providing the allies with information. I mean, I’m not completely ignorant about the world wars. I studied Gallipoli in History and War Poetry in English, not to mention a having a fair few novels set during the wars on my Completed Shelf. But Louise de Bettingnies was a stranger to me. It’s a shame she isn’t better known, as Kate Quinn says of her in the authors note:
The courage, ingenuity, and resourcefulness of the woman christened the queen of spies needs no exaggeration to make for thrilling reading.
Not only was Louise a real person, so too were several other characters, and many of the events in the story are based on historical events. I didn’t realise this while I was reading, so this realisation, at the end, made the book even more enjoyable.
This book is, by turns, exciting, harrowing, poignant, a little romantic, and quite funny. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Charlie, after being refused access to her own bank account because she’s lacking a man, decides to pawn her grandmothers pearls, and Eve surprises her by pretending to be the said grandmother and browbeating the pawnbroker into giving Charlie a decent price. I’m definitely going to be adding Kate Quinn to my list of must-read authors, and I hope you do too!
The Alice Network
by Kate Quinn
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
What do you get when you cross foxes with football and the ghost of King Richard III?
Well, I’ll tell you. You get Michael Morpurgo’s The Fox and the Ghost King, that’s what. It’s a pretty odd sounding combo, I know, but the result is a really sweet against-the-odds, underdog (or should that be underfox?) story.
It’s a little bit of fairy-tale blended with a little bit of history, and a whole lot of pluck.
I don’t know any foxes personally, but think they have a bit of a bad rap. They are usually portrayed as villains – the Sandy Whiskered Gentleman in Jemima Puddleduck, for example. But they are so darn cute, I’m sure they don’t really deserve it, do they? The fox family in this story are definitely on the cute side, anyway.
What I didn’t know about foxes is that they are football fans. And no matter where they live, their favourite team is Leicester City, otherwise known as The Foxes (naturally). Now, what I didn’t know about foxes is far surpassed by what I didn’t know about football. I know now that Leicester City have long been the underdogs of the Premier League, till in 2015-16 when a little bit of magic turned things around for them. This bit of the story really is true. The other bit of truth in the story is the discovery of Richard III’s body – under a carpark if you recall.
The magical bit is the way that Michael Morpurgo weaves these threads together, telling the tale through the eyes of a cute and cheeky little fox cub. Odd combo it may be, but it definitely makes a fabulous read for a small person.
Miss Manners would probably be spinning in her grave*, but seriously, I don’t know when I’ve laughed so hard as when I read Old MacDonald Heard a Fart! I took it home the other night, to read it to the Beecrafty family, but it seems not everyone enjoys a fart book as much as I do! Maybe I shouldn’t have read it at the dinner table, because of course it prompted a raucous fart-noise competition between myself and the Young Lad, and Mr K left the room in disgust. But if you’ve got kids who appreciate a bit of scatological humour, this picture book is a must!
There’s just so much to love about this book. As you probably already guessed from the title, it’s an irreverent, noisy version of the farmyard classic. It has lovely, vibrant, and expressive illustrations, with lots of little details and things to spy. I had to giggle at the Elvis rooster and the Jurassic Pork poster on the stable wall. The Ziggy Stardust unicorn in a Dalí landscape is really something, too.
But best of all has to be the instructions on how to create (verbally, I promise!) each fart sound. The Young Lad and I had great fun contorting our lips into the correct formations to make all the gross noises. Although he was quick to demonstrate his own favourite technique – I didn’t know what an accomplished fart noise creator he was. The next night, he was most indignant when I said I couldn’t read it again as I had taken the book back to work!
The story of this story is also quite something. Debut author Olaf Falafel tweeted that he needed a publisher for his new book, and before two weeks were up, he had a book deal! Isn’t that twitterising a whole lot better than covfefe?
Everyone knows you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, right? But we do, of course. I mean, when you’re browsing the library shelves, it’s the cover that attracts you to a book, isn’t it? I’ve heard that you’re supposed to read to page 90 (!) of a book before you decide if you should read it, but I sure don’t have time for that!
So anyway, when I saw Resistance is Futile the other day, I was sure this was just the book for me. Anyone who’s read my blog posts before will know that I’m a bit of a Star Trek nerd (just a wee bit!) so I was really excited to read this geeky love story with a Trek reference in the title. It looked like it was going to be the perfect read.
But I was wrong. It wasn’t that the story wasn’t any good–I enjoyed it well enough–it just wasn’t what the cover had lead me to believe. I was expecting a kind of Rosie Project-ish story, but with a geek-girl protagonist and a few Star Trek references thrown in. But what I got, was an X-Files-ish murder-mystery-come-alien-romance story. There was not so much as a single “Beam me up, Scotty” or “Live long and prosper” to be had. I think there might have been a vague reference to the Prime Directive on page 265. Maybe. Or maybe I’m just clutching at straws.
Of course, sometimes it’s the other way around.
When I read the blurb of The Round House by Louise Erdrich (“A mother is brutally raped by a man on the North Dakota reservation where she lives… Traumatized and afraid, she takes to her bed and refuses to talk to anyone – including the police…”) I groaned inwardly. “Who chooses these books anyway?” I grumbled. But it was for book club, so I had to at least attempt to read it. Grudgingly I began…
…and instead of the abhorrent, disturbing tale I was expecting, I discovered an arresting, thought provoking story of a young man’s search for justice for his mother. Although the story was often upsetting, it was not gratuitous. I learnt fascinating and shocking things about life on a Native American reservation. I was amazed that Erdrich, a (then) 57 year old woman, could create a teenage-boy-character so utterly believable and real as Joe. I laughed at the oddball characters of his extended family. And I cried as the conclusion approached, knowing, without knowing, what was about to happen.
And… I reveled in Joe’s love of Star Trek! Both for its own sake, and because it was so unexpected! Joe and his friends idolised the super-strong, fully-functional android Data; they wanted to be Worf, the Klingon warrior* (they were also Star Wars fans, of course–but I forgave them). A few chapters in, I suddenly realised that each chapter shared its title with an episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation (yes, I am that much of a Trekkie that I know the titles of the episodes, and I only had to check the synopsis of a couple of them to be sure what they were about). I then had a sudden desire to watch all those episodes, and analyse the connections with each chapter. In fact, I found myself wanting to write whole essays on this book. Back in the dim reaches of history, I actually did a degree in English. I was even invited to do Honours (though I didn’t, for reasons which I’ve now forgotten). I loved studying, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book since that I so wanted to write academic essays about. The more I think about it, the more I think this book deserves the “Missbeecrafty Best Book” award. I’m sure that’s almost as prestigious as the American National Book Award for Fiction which it actually won in 2012.
Literary prize winning books aren’t for everyone, I know, but don’t judge this book on its prize-winning-ness. And don’t judge it on it’s Trekkie-ness! If you’re not a Star Trek fan, don’t worry, I’ve read a bunch of reviews, and hardly anyone else seems to have even noticed it, and they still loved it. And don’t judge it by its cover, either!
D’you know what arrived at the library the other day? Brand new copies of Stacy Gregg‘s twenty-first pony book, that’s what! If there’s a horse-mad tweenage kid in your life, guaranteed, this is the perfect summer read. It’s exciting, gripping, full of exotic animals and horses (of course) , and – according to Miss Missy – it’s Stacy Gregg’s best ever book. Miss Missy’s got to be one of Stacy’s biggest fans, so I reckon she knows what she’s talking about.
We were lucky enough to get our hands on a copy of The Diamond Horse recently, and we both thoroughly enjoyed this story of two Russian girls linked across time by their love of horses and a mystical diamond necklace. Anna Orlov is the daughter of a Russian Count, but all the beautiful dresses, exotic pets, and royal banquets don’t make up for the fact that her father ignores and belittles her, and her brother bullies her relentlessly. Valentina is an orphan who rides a beautiful pink horse in a Russian Circus act, and dreams of a better life for herself and her beloved horse.
I loved the way Stacy mixed history and modern legend into this tale of two feisty girls who refused to let anyone crush their dreams. The story of Anna is inspired by the real Anna Orlov, whose father developed the Orlov Trotter horse breed, and was a courtier of Catherine the Great. The story of Valentina and her horse, Sasha, is inspired by the true story of Balagur, a modern day Orlov Trotter, who surprised the dressage world by winning competition after competition, all the way up to the Olympics. I also loved the descriptions of the snow-covered Russian landscape, which were so realistic I felt like I needed to wrap up in a blanket to keep warm.
Miss Missy said that she enjoyed learning about the origins of Orlov Trotters (of course, she knows the name of every breed of horse known to man, so the name Orlov rang a bell for her, while going completely over my head). She also enjoyed the family dynamics, which, she told me, is not the sort of thing Stacy Gregg usually writes about. I asked Miss Missy what one word she would use to describe this book; she said “Exquisite” and I can’t think of a better one!
One of the best things about being a librarian has got to be unpacking the boxes of new books. It’s like a little bit of Christmas every week!
As soon as I pulled Knitted Animal Cozies out of the box, I just knew this was my latest favourite craft book. The animals are so desperately cute and adorable, I just wanted to knit them right away. I found myself wanting to take up drinking coffee just so that I could knit myself a woollySheep Cafetière Hug. Or even golf, because who wouldn’t want cute, fluffy, puppy cozies for their golf-clubs?
Once I recovered from the cuteness overload, I realised it’s written by Fiona Goble, who just so happens to have written several other crafty favourites of mine. I actually like Fleecie Dolls so much I bought my own copy! And once I’ve knitted all the cozies I need in my life (maybe I’ll skip the Tortoise Stool Cozy) I rather think I’d like a Knitivity.
Since most of the cozy projects are knitted in chunky or aran weight wool, or are pretty small, they should be quick to make — unlike Grandpa’s socks which I’m still working on 10 months later (the end is in sight, though, I’m 7 inches down sock number two)!! And if you’re new to knitting, the book has great, clear instructions on how to knit, including how to do the various stitches in the patterns.
Go on, you know you want some knitted animal cozies too!
I remember it quite clearly. It was 1989*, I was 14, and TV had just got a third channel. My sister and I were watching the box when an ad for a new show came on. There was this guy with what looked like a gold banana clip wrapped round his face. We turned and looked at each other and burst out laughing!
That was the first I ever saw of Star Trek: the Next Generation. Not that I actually watched it. Oh no! It obviously was a show for total dorks. Not a girl like me trying desperately to be cool.
What would 14 year old me think of 41 year old me? Between then and now, I have to admit, I turned into a Trekkie. I like to think I’m not one of those super crazy Trekkies who wear Starfleet uniforms in public and know how to speak Klingon, but…. When Miss Missy was a baby and said “qapla” (that means “success” in Klingon, you know) I claimed that as an actual factual word, and even said it back to her whenever she did something clever.
I’ve planned family holidays to Wellington and Las Vegas around Star Trek exhibits and experiences. I own every available Trek movie and series from Enterprise to the Kelvin timeline reboot. I’ve even got Star Trek The Animated Series – but not the original series (that could be because I’m not a big fan of Captain Kirk, but actually it’s because I’ve never seen it for sale). And I do wear my Starfleet T-shirt in public.
See, the thing is, when I actually watched Star Trek a few years later, I discovered a show that is not only exciting sci-fi, but also funny, poignant, and thought provoking. My first exploration of the final frontier was Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home**, otherwise known as “The Whale Movie”. Funnily enough, this is the movie that doesn’t feature the Starship Enterprise, isn’t set in space, or the future, and doesn’t have Spock’s iconic pointy ears (as he spends most of the movie with a bandana round his head). What it is, is a lovable, funny, conservation parable, where the crew of the Enterprise (in a stolen Klingon Bird-of-prey) go back in time — to what was the present, but is now 30 years in the past (that’s as far back as Marty McFly goes in Back to the Future, you know!) — to rescue some whales in order to save the world, and the future.
It’s full of wonderful scenes like Chekov wondering round 1980s San Francisco looking for “nuclear wessels” with his Russian accent; Scotty trying to talk to a (now very old school) computer; Kirk getting the girl (as usual) and excusing Spock’s odd behaviour by mistakenly claiming that he had a bit too much “LDS” back in the ’60s. I recently watched it again, with The Young Lad, and enjoyed it just as much as I had when I first saw it on TV when I was 17.
After seeing the Voyage Home, I started watching The Next Generation now and then — until I became hooked when Jean Luc Picard (aka Patrick Stewart) was captured by the Borg. It turns out that resistance reallyis futile. Becoming a Trekkie was inevitable. Although I must say, you can call that thing Geordi La Forge wears a Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement (or VISOR) all you like, it still looks just like a banana clip to me!
Of course, my first contact with Star Trek in 1989 was nowhere near the beginning of the story. Before my generation of Trekkies, there were those who were captivated by The Original Series which first aired 50 years ago today on 8 September 1966.
The show had a hard time getting on air, with the first pilot being rejected because it was too cerebral, had a female character as second in command, and because Spock looked too demonic with his pointy ears and slanty eyebrows. Roddenberry wrote a new pilot (with a fist fight at the end) and recast Majel Barrett as Nurse Christine Chapel instead of Number One — but he refused to get rid of Spock. And thank goodness! Imagine what Star Trek (and pop-culture) would be like without Spock! No “Live long and prosper,” no Vulcan hand salute, no “The good of the many outweighs the good of the few.” Were those network executives out of their (non-Vulcan) minds?
Well, the show did make it to air, but it struggled to survive. It managed three seasons mainly thanks to a million-letter-strong writing campaign by the ever loyal fans. But then, even though it was cancelled, the world just refused to say goodbye to Star Trek. Because whatever the network execs said, the audience found it inspirational.
When I was nine years old Star Trek came on. I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.
And so here we are, fifty years later, celebrating the anniversary of a franchise that totals (to date) six TV series and 13 movies, and all manner of spinoffs.
Now I can’t bring you anything as exciting as a make-up collection, or a collectors edition Barbie doll. Or something as weird as an inflight Spock bag. But I wanted to do something special to mark the occasion. I made a Star Trek book list not that long ago, so this time I decided to trawl through all our Sci-fi and movie magazines for all the best Trek bits on offer. Well, I’m not usually much of a magazine junkie, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed discovering the wonders of PressReader and Zinio, which can bring you magazines on the go on your smart phone or tablet — the PressReader app will even tell you when the latest issue of your favourite mags are available. And I’ve realised just how easy it is to place a hold on the right issue of a magazine. And so, without further ado, I present to you:
Missbeecrafty’s Star Trek Magazine Round-up
SciFi Now Timewarp Collection, Volume One: A guide to the first six Trek movies, with some interesting ‘did you knows’ and a guide to The Next Generation. Interestingly, only one of my favourite episodes made it onto their Best list (Chain of Command), and another favourite (I, Borg) is on their Worst list. I would definitely add Measure of a Man and The Outcast to the Best list!
SFX, Issue 270, March 2016: The anniversary issue, sporting a fetching but anachronistic red cover and command emblem. Interviews with William Shatner (James Kirk), Jonathan Frakes (Will Riker), Robert Picardo (The Doctor), and Brannan Braga (writer and producer). Also a 52 year, logical temporal anomaly of a 50 year timeline.
SFX, Issue 275, Summer 2016: An interview with Brent Spiner, which is actually about Independence Day, but I did like his idea of Tilda Swinton playing a Soong-type android.
Empire, Issue 326, August 2016: Another anniversary edition. This one is a 58 page mag-within-a mag ram-packed with Trek-ness. Some wonderful photos from the CBS archives; my favourite is Anson Williams (aka Potsie from Happy Days) chatting with Seven of Nine. I never knew he grew up to be a director! Did you know Christian Slater, Famke Janssen and Kirsten Dunst all starred in Star Trek? Check out Before They Were Famous to find out who else! Celebrate Redshirts, and finally, test your knowledge with the 50 years, 50 points quiz.
SciFiNow, Issue 105 2015: A touching tribute to Leonard Nimoy
SciFiNow, Issue 119 2016: Part 1 of a timeline which includes info about voyages that never made it to the screen. (Sorry, I didn’t manage to track down part 2 in time to include it in this list).
Total Film, Issue 248, August 2016: The making of Star Trek Beyond and another timeline. This one is worth mentioning because it includes Galaxy Quest (“the greatest Star Trek film that isn’t”). It’s wonderful to know that Patrick Stewart loved it, and laughed longer and louder than anyone in the cinema!
And there you have it folks. Live long, and prosper!
*The nitpickers among you may know that Star Trek: the Next Generation originally aired in 1987, but that was in America of course, and this was a loooooong time before anyone invented “same week as the US” TV!
It’s been about 18 years since I first met The Boy Who Lived. My little brother — he was about 9 at the time — introduced me to Harry Potter, and lent me the first few books. By book four, I wanted my own copy, so I bought it, and The Philosopher’s Stone too, with the book voucher Mr K gave me for our first wedding anniversary (it’s the paper one). When he saw what I’d chosen, Mr K said “what did you want that for? You’ve already read it!” But I had to have copies of my own. And from book five on, I had my copies on advanced order at my favourite book shop.
I have the full set now, of course — the ones with those distinctive colourful spines that are so instantly recognisable as Harry Potter — taking pride of place on my bookshelf, now flanked with my very own wand made the other day at Harry Potter Day at South Library (Miss Missy didn’t want one, but I did!). And I have read them all over and over.
So when I first heard about an eighth Harry Potter, I was so excited! But then I found out that it wasn’t exactly going to be a novel, and it wasn’t exactly by JK Rowling, and…well, I had my doubts. Could it be as good as the others? Would it really — count? Did I even want my own copy?
Well, Harry Potter Day decided matters for us. As well as getting sorted — Miss Missy into Ravenclaw, and The Young Lad and I into Hufflepuff (the perfect houses for us all, actually) — making wands, and drinking polyjuice potion, we were treated to a wonderful storytime reading from Scene One of the Cursed Child. At the end, Miss Missy looked at me and said
After this, we are going straight to the book shop!
And we did!
We decided we were both going to finish the books we were already reading first, so we didn’t actually start till Friday. I took it to work to read at lunch, while Miss Missy had teacher only day, and finished reading Mocking Jay in anticipation. During the weekend, we started out taking turns with the book, but ended up sitting side by side on the couch reading on the same page together. Miss Missy was always just ahead of me, so there was lots of gasping and squealing, and then waiting for me to catch up. There was even occasional page-covering when it got too exciting (does anyone else do that?) At 10 o’clock on Sunday night we had to force ourselves to stop, and on a cliff-hanger too!
If you’d asked me what I thought while I was reading Act One, I’d have said I was enjoying it more that I expected, but less than I’d hoped. Because I really had hoped that somehow, once I started reading, the words would scurry round the page and reform themselves into the kind of Harry Potter story I was used to. Magical as Harry Potter is, of course that didn’t happen. But after getting past the first bit, where I felt I needed the director telling me what he wanted so I could better understand the stage directions, not to mention my annoyance that important things and people seemed to be being ignored — and got to the REALLY good bit! Well! It’s just as exciting and magical, occasionally funny, a little bit scary, and a little bit sad, as any of the other Harry Potter books are.
I really have started to forget that I’m reading a play — even though the words are staying obstinately still — and just enjoying!
If you are one of the almost 200 people who’ve been waiting for it to arrive at the library, the wait is over! I unpacked our copy this morning, as did librarians all round town. And I’m sure you’ll enjoy too!
Have you ever seen a book and known you just had to read it–not because you thought you would actually like it necessarily, but because not reading it was just–inconceivable? Well, that’s how I felt when I saw Star Trek, Green Lantern: The Spectrum War.
I’ve never really gotten into reading graphic novels, unless you count the Asterix and Tintin books I used to read when I was a kid. And I don’t know much about the Green Lantern, except that he’s, uh, green, and he, well, carries a lantern. But I am a Trekkie!* And even though I’ve never really felt the need to read much Trek fiction, I just had to read this! Resistance was futile!
And you know what? I loved it! The artwork beautifully captures the rebooted Star Trek characters, and as I read, I could literally hear Chekov, Spock, and Bones talking in my head. What’s not to love about a book that does that?
I mean, OK, the Superhero-Trek mash-up was a little goofy, but reading it put a smile on my face, and sometimes that’s just what you want a book to do.
And while we’re talking about Star Trek, last weekend Mr K had the brilliant idea of sending the kids to see Finding Dory while we went to see Star Trek Beyond, and I have to say I had a fantastic time! It was funny, exciting, and even touching. Bones and Spock were hilariously paired up, Kirk was his usual arrogant self, and new-girl Jaylah kicked butt, which was awesome. In the August issue of Empire, director Justin Lin said:
In making Star Trek Beyond, I wanted to embrace the essence of Trek
And that is exactly what he did. It’s Trek as it should be!