Clint: “I’m just a guy who makes movies.”

It made my day to see ClintSearch BiblioCommons for Clint arrive on the shelves. And I think people of all ages will find much to enjoy. Clint’s movie career spans six decades so even the youngest moviegoer is likely to have seen one of his movies.

The book is written by his friend Richard Schickel, a writer and documentary filmmaker, so you won’t find a particularly objective view of Clint the person, in fact much of the commentary is downright obsequious.  But for die hard fans it is a long enjoyable walk down memory lane, as each movie is discussed in turn with lots of fascinating details about the origin of each screenplay, the varied reactions of the critics, the audience vote and the dirt on the money won and lost each time.

There’s something particularly satisfying in reading about an underdog who rises from being sneered at for his spaghetti westerns to become a movie show pony and geriatric success story at the Oscars. And at 81 years of age it isn’t likely we will see that many more creations from the man who brought us Dirty Harry Callaghan, so make the most of this reading trip. Or put a hold on one of his films – we have twenty to choose from.

Operation Storytime: The tales must get through!

Tania Gibson hosts Storytime in the Burnside High School shelterNZ Post is getting the mail through despite the earthquake – and the same spirit has been shown by the Christchurch City Libraries’ Outreach team.
For the last week, our wonderful storytellers have been zooming around the emergency shelters at Burnside High, Rangiora Baptist  and Pioneer Leisure Centre bringing songs, stories and rhymes to the children of Christchurch. Nothing helps to soothe the shattered nerves of little ones more than a happy tale or a silly ditty.

Our Outreach staff are trained librarians with special skills and experience in working with children. They love books and share that love with anyone who will listen!

One member of the team specialises in Families Outreach – so if you have a group of any kind that would like a visit from a library storyteller just pick up the phone.

Another specialises in Pre-school Outreach, so if you are a centre in need, ring to discuss your requirements.

Christchurch City Libraries also runs weekly Baby Time and Story Time sessions at most libraries. Due to the earthquake there will be some disruption to our regular schedule, but we will be endeavouring to run our usual sessions as each library opens to the public.

Lynette Griffiths about to start StoryTIme at the Pioneer Leisure Center welfare centreOnline services available from home

There are some great resources for children you can access from home with your library card number and PIN:

NZ Post Book Awards – Young Adult Nominations

CoverThere are five Young Adult titles shortlisted for the NZ Post Book Awards. Tonight I will be on a panel discussing them at the opening of the new Te Tai Tamariki premises in Victoria Street.  It seems trite to say the standard is very high, obviously they wouldn’t have been nominated if they weren’t excellent books! Suffice to say, after reading all five, I didn’t have a sense of one particular book as being a clear favourite for the top spot. Each one has its own star appeal. But I think it would be hard to overlook Mandy Hager’s The Crossing and Tanya Roxborogh’s Banquo’s Son for emotional punch.

The Crossing is described on the cover by Margaret Mahy as “1984 for teenagers”. Conceptually it is a brilliant dystopian sci-fi fantasy. The survivors of an ocean liner that has grounded on a tropical island during a world-wide plague outbreak have gradually enslaved the locals. They prey upon them for new slaves and their plague-free blood. It is an appalling vision of what a powerful elite can achieve when morality is thrown out the window. The hero, young Maryam, is the equivalent of Winston Smith – she gradually realises that being one of the privileged chosen is a two-edged sword. And she decides not to stay around to be slowly bled to death.

To be honest  I didn’t find the comparison to 1984 to be particularly relevant when trying to convey to someone else the emotional climate of the story. It is far more like The Handmaid’s Tale than Orwell’s great classic. And it does read like a winner – not surprisingly, because Mandy Hager has already won the LIANZA Esther Glen Award for fiction in 2008 for her novel Smashed.

CoverYesterday, I was privileged to hear Tanya Roxborogh speaking at Avonside Girls’ School about her novel Banquo’s Son. I had intended reading it anyway, but started unenthusiastically with the thought: I have to read five books by … so I had better get moving … My plan was to read a chapter or two, then switch to the Lee Child on my bedside table that constitutes my real reading pleasure. But I found pretty quickly that I didn’t want to put Banquo’s Son down. Like Tanya I had taught Macbeth for years in the classroom and always wondered how Banquo’s children got to be the rulers of Scotland, when the play ends with Malcolm and Donalbain (the dead king’s sons) firmly back in the running. Tanya explores the “what if” raised by the Scottish play and introduces us to a Fleance any mother would be proud to call her own.

She mentioned in her talk that the young man’s face on the cover is not the perfect Fleance she imagined in her dream of him. But I don’t think there were razor blades in medieval Scotland, let alone hot showers and deodorant. It’s a great cover image and it manages to convey the dark elements of the narrative. Although, not a tragedy – in the strictest sense, it is a tale full of sound and fury. Plenty of action for boys and a strong romantic thread for lovers of that genre. It is the first of a trilogy, the next is about to go to print.

So in conclusion, the world of YA literature in New Zealand has plenty to write home about. Although I wondered whether one of these two novels might be the eventual winner, the one that kept me up late on a Saturday night turning pages as quickly as I could, was End of the Alphabet by Fleur Beale. It is a deceptively simple tale of Ruby Yarrow, who decides one day after talking with her friend, that she is not going to be a doormat anymore. If you want to find out more, I recommend you get a copy … it’s not surprising that Fleur’s book is so readable because she is also a past LIANZA Esther Glen Award winner: Juno of Taris in 2009.

But of course, half the fun of literary competitions for readers is trying to guess the winner and I am sure you will have your views on who it should be. I am content to wait and see.

Does your work place have a view? – Views and the Edmonds Cookbook

I’ve had quite a range of views at work. In 1980 my first work view was a front row seat to the Port of Lyttelton from the third floor Customshouse. Very useful for watching ships come and go, and the local denizens that serviced them. (Oh the stories I could tell if I wasn’t bound by the Official Secrets Act). The first time I boarded a Korean fishing boat was a bit of an eye opener. I think the tuna in a can have more room to move, than your average fisherman in his berth.

Then it was the third floor of the Government Life Building and I could watch Lady Di and Prince Charles shaking sweaty hands as they progressed towards the Cathedral service being held in their honeymoon honour.

The arrival hall at Christchurch International Airport wasn’t that picturesque, especially if it was a plane load of middle Americans in plaid pants who couldn’t understand the lack of porters!

By the 1990s my Linwood College classroom looked over the concrete quad – which wasn’t particularly inspiring.  But the corridor windows looked over Edmonds park. It was just a green rectangle – not exactly thrilling – unless you actually got down there and kept walking and found yourself in Edmonds gardens. They are all that is left of the Edmonds factory gardens – which I do remember well from my childhood.

They were beautiful all year round and complemented the cute little factory with the Sure to Rise sign. Now I am older and understand about Heritage I wish I had chained myself to the factory door and stopped it being demolished. Thomas Edmonds built the factory gardens for the edification of his workers, but it served a wider local community also. One of my favourite little trips as a school girl was to visit the Begonia House on my rusty old bike and peer around at the lush tropical wonders. The glasshouses dated back to 1929.

Built between 1920 – 23 Thomas took pains to make sure the new factory was light and airy and any fumes or dust were filtered away from the workers. He was influenced by the British Garden City Movement which tried to neutralise some of the social problems which accompanied nineteenth century  industrialization. So he commissioned garden professionals to design a workplace view that became a model to inspire other factory and business owners.

And it seems that Christchurch itself has a soft spot in its heart for the Edmonds Cookbook. It has been voted Christchurch readers’ favourite  NZ non-fiction title. First published in 1914,  the original version can be viewed online and the ANZC collection here at Christchurch City Libraries has original images to view.

In fact, it was only when I discovered the Heritage booklet on the library website about Thomas Edmonds and his legacy to Christchurch that I fully understood his amazing contribution to my city. Even though he died about the time that my mother was being born, and the factory was demolished in 1990; and the Edmonds brand is now part of some bigger food conglomerate; his hand is still in evidence in: the Theosophical Society Building, Repertory Theatre, band rotunda, Victoria Clock Tower and Telephone Cabinet, and Bickerton Reserve.

You can be a part of this legacy by finding your Edmonds Cookbook and entering our NZ Book Month competition. Fill in an entry form and hand in your cookbook to your local library. There are four different categories – oldest publishing date, most annotated, the virgin copy and write a story about an adventure you have had with your Edmonds Cook Book. You could win a new one or a designer necklace.

Hamlet by any other name

Someone lent me this book: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and when I returned it I said: I love modern adaptations of Shakespeare. Said friend looked blank. I said: It’s Hamlet. She looked even blanker…sigh. Obviously schools aren’t  doing their bit to keep the Bard alive and well. And no, I am not being old and crusty. One of my most surprising experiences in teaching was constantly finding that kids LOVE Shakespeare. Juniors and Seniors. Boys and girls. Especially with all the wonderful film versions around today. Who could fail to fall in love with Leonardo di Caprio in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet? Who could fail to thrill to Ian McKellen’s Richard the Third. A good story is a good story is a good story.

But to get back to the book: Edgar Sawtelle is recommended by Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club. Normally this wouldn’t do much to impress me, but I was reading the other day on Wikipedia that Oprah Winfrey is considered by some to be a serious American academic intellectual because of her book club’s impact on the reading public. She is gauged to have up to 100 times more power to sell books than any other media personality. How Wikipedia manages to confuse intellectual grunt with media clout and marketing ability is beyond me (It’s my own fault for reading Wikipedia in the first place.)

But Edgar Sawtelle is an entertaining version of the timeless tale of a bloke who can’t decide what to do, transplanted into 1960s heartland America. Edgar is a young man who can’t speak. His parents aren’t royal, but they are famous for the dogs they breed – Sawtelle dogs. It’s a happy nuclear family, until Uncle Claude arrives in his Impala. Ha – any good story needs a villain. Except no-one knows exactly how villainous Claude is, until Edgar sees his father’s ghost appear in the rain to show him he was murdered, not felled by a brain aneurysm as everyone thought.

Edgar then spends a lot of time trying to decide what to do. But it is even harder for him than Hamlet, because he is only a child. Luckily there is no Ophelia to confuse him. And it takes another death, by his own hand, to force his hand and drive him out into the wilderness. The real wilderness, not the fevered brain of the adult Hamlet. 

My friend said she was disappointed that Edgar dies at the end. But as I pointed out, a Shakespearean tragedy can end no other way. See, if you know your Shakespeare, you don’t get upset at the ending. I knew there was a point to learning that stuff.

Reading books earns you prizes

Yeah right! No, it’s true. I’ll tell you how.

In my team meeting the other day we were examining the Christchurch City Council blue, that will soon be incorporated in library branding. It’s such a pretty blue. In fact, it’s cobalt blue. I learned this the next day when I was reading Choosing Colours by Kevin McCloud. It is the most fascinating book, because it explains the history of colours, how to use particular palettes to create a certain look for your home and lots of other fascinating arcane colour trivia. Did you know cobalt blue is in fact a black-based colour? That it has been used since the eighth century in China for their famous blue and white china …

So what does this have to do with earning prizes? Well, there I was in Elevate restaurant with our family quiz team, the Ratpack, on Tuesday night and the quizzler was … You guessed it! I am a colour.

Three clues later – I triumphed with … cobalt blue. 100 points on my Elevate card later, I am a very happy bunny.  You never know where reading books is going to take you.

Fifi la Belle: Ship’s Cat by Lucy Davey

Margaret Kedian of Magpies describes Fifi la Belle: Ship’s Cat by Lucy Davey as an absolute delight but I wasn’t as convinced. It should be popular with little girls of about 4 to 6 years and it has all the ingredients of this genre. A spoiled cat, a doting owner, a crazy land and sea journey and lots of interesting rhyme and rhythm to stop the parent reader from dozing off on the tenth reading.

This is the third book in the series and the colourful prose is matched by equally colourful illustrations by Christine Ross.

Starweaver

Circle of Dreams: Starweaver by Linda McNabb is the third in Linda McNabb’s  Circle of Dreams series after #1 Runeweaver and #2 Timeweaver. I would recommend reading the previous two before embarking on the third, as there is a wide range of characters and arcane mythology surrounding runes which takes a while for the new reader (even old ones like me) to absorb.

Young Zaine the starweaver is caught up in a battle to prevent time slowing to a complete stop, while at the same time trying to assist Princess Guyan with the struggles in her overcrowded world of Zhan. Zaine, Guyan and his sister, Maata slip through the dream circle to Zhan where they meet Dom the finder and her little sister, Jelena and cat, Choo. The king has been poisoned by his brother, Eldric who lusts after the throne, so Zaine’s knowledge of herbal medicine is needed desperately.

As if this isn’t enough bad news, the storm dragons – previously thought to be immortal, are falling sick. Without them, all worlds will fall apart,  as they keep time in balance. And the home front isn’t much happier – Queen Trianna refuses to behave warmly towards her son and Zaine despairs of ever being accepted by her.

This tale will suit confident boy and girl readers of about 10 and above. Fantasy fans and magic enthusiasts should start with Runeweaver and see where it takes their imaginations. I have been trying to get one of my book club boys to read it so I can get a child’s perspective on it, but despite my best efforts there were no takers. This surprised me because I think the cover is particularly appealing. But they seem to be more interested in Zac Power and Beast Quest at the moment.

I tried shelfari and librarything, but it doesn’t exist according to shelfari and it is only on librarything because I added it to my list! Time will tell.

Argenta Needs to be Saved

the aliens have arrived

In Argenta by Stephanie Hills Anquin the bird boy lives on an inhospitable planet called Argenta. He hasn’t seen his parents for years and he is sick of collecting tuskerweed to feed the Clan. As if that isn’t enough to ruin his day, Grandmother Cormar has given him very bad news – because he is a special hatchling he won’t be going on a Mission, like his parents and the other adult birds. He must stay and guard the eggs and pass on special knowledge to the new generation. Anquin doesn’t want to be special, he wants to have adventures. So he takes an adventurous and totally prohibited step and flies towards the Forbidden Zone. What he finds there changes his life for ever, in ways he never expected…

Meanwhile, on Earth, Martin dreams of saving the Earth from the Gorgozoids and being a hero. The summer holidays are pending and the most exciting thing in his life is his mother’s protest to save some local bush from mining. But things change when a casual walk among the trees brings him face to face with a real life alien…Before he knows where he is,the alien is his friend and they’re working together to save both their planets from the evil Dorgazoids.

This is a fun story that will appeal to boys and girls of about 8 to 12 years. It mixes science fiction and fantasy and both main characters are lively and engaging. It has themes of rebellion and the dangers of conformity, but isn’t preachy about it. A good read for chilly winter nights

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

One of my last decisions  before leaving my previous job as an English Head of Department was to buy a class set of John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas for our less able readers. We had heard it was a gripping read. It was instantly popular; but I never got to teach it myself or read the ending.

I was particularly glad of that last night when I went to see the movie. It is gobsmackingly horrible and wonderful and the impact of the final scenes would move the hardest of hearts. In fact, a man in the back row was crying as I left. I hope John Boyne is pleased with the film version of his book. Everyone should read this book – whatever your age, get it out from your local library today.