The Pony Movie Recipe

30e3435d-1e1c-4e83-837c-ea96cf447887Even though Miss Missy is nearly 15, she and I still enjoy our Mum and Daughter Movie Nights. Often we pick a theme, like movies based on books (we liked Stardust, National Velvet and The Princess Bride), robot movies (I, Robot was our favourite) or flicks starring Robin Williams (Jumanji is Miss Missy’s top pick; I like Mrs Doubtfire and Hook too).

Our favourite theme so far was our extended Pony Movie marathon, and we had plenty of options, sparked by my discovery of the Heroes and Heartthrobs Pony Club. While we gorged ourselves on equine adventures, we learned a couple of things.

First up, we learnt that Pony Movies are almost all made from the same basic recipe, which goes something like this:

Ingredients

  1. The Horse. It wouldn’t be a pony movie without a horse, of course.
  2. The Girl. Obviously the Girl loves horses. Sometimes she has never, ever ridden a horse, but she will instantly be a better rider than anyone else.
  3. The Father. The Father is generally either dead or the girl has never met him. Either way, he usually is (or was) a great rider. If there is no Father, there will be Horse-trainer-father-figure.
  4. The Tragic Accident (optional). Someone will often have had a terrible accident while riding. It could be the Father, the Trainer, or the Mother, and sometimes it’s fatal. This generally leads to the Girl being forbidden to ride. Or the brilliant Trainer refusing to train.
  5. The Villain. This is usually a rich neighbour, and possibly the neighbour’s bratty son. They will probably buy, steal, or have other treacherous dealings with the Horse. Or it could be a bratty girl who has been riding all her life and always wins every single competition.
  6. The Colic Episode (add for extra spice). Colic is a very common equine ailment in pony movies. Everything will be going along swimmingly, and then the Horse gets colic. Everyone will be in a complete and utter panic, the Horse will be on death’s door, but will be restored to full and perfect health after a night of being lead around the stable by the Girl. Or perhaps by some horse-whisperer who will have to be dragged from his bed in the middle of the night just so he can put a hand on the horse’s belly and magically cure the colic.
  7. The Competition. This could be show-jumping, rodeo, or a long distance race, or some such. Spoiler alert: the Girl will win. Even though she’s never ridden a horse before, remember?
  8. The Foreclosure (optional). The parents or step-parents of the Girl will be about to lose their house, farm, horse(s), or all of the above. Usually the villainous rich neighbour will offer to buy them out.

Method

Choose your optional ingredients and extra spices and mix all together. Bam! You’ve got a pony movie.

Young woman and horse
Pony movie ingredients 1 & 2: Girl and horse

Sometimes, the result will be a fun and exciting family movie. And other times…

Which leads us to the other thing we learnt: sometimes watching bad movies can be just as much fun as watching good movies! Miss Missy and I have just loved picking the plots to bits, spotting the stunt and pony doubles, laughing at bad riding and total lack of horse sense, and “predicting” the ending (will she win?? will the farm be saved??).

The  best Pony Movie Marathon moment was when we were watching Amazing Racer, and Miss Missy struggling to hold her derision in, snarkily told the TV to “pick a plot-line!” The makers of that movie clearly thought that more would be more, and threw everything in the mix: not only a dead father, but also a long-lost-thought-to-be-dead-but-not mother, and mean foster-parents (or were they an aunt and uncle, we started to lose track…). There was also a tragic accident (just for variety, it was the Girl who had the accident!), a near fatal equine illness… the list goes on! If you’re curious, you could watch this movie yourself, or you could read this deliciously snarky review.

Pony Movie Marathon Awards

Miss Missy and I couldn’t resist bestowing some Pony Movie Marathon Awards, and decided to award Amazing Racer our Best of the Worst Award.

Honourable Mention goes to: Virginia’s Run. Yes, this was your typical pony movie, but it stood out a little from the crowd. The first thing it’s got going for it is that it stars Gabriel Byrne as the father, and there are some genuinely funny moments. Yes, (spoiler alert)  Virginia wins the race, but we cheered when plucky Melissa come in last on her little pony, long after the crowds had gone home.

The Worst of the Worst: No question about it, this award goes to… A Pony Tale! This movie took “bad” to a whole new level. To be frank, I’m not even sure you could really call it a movie. It’s all of 88 minutes long, but I am not kidding when I say that half of that time is scenery shots that are completely unrelated to the plot, or even the location. There are also the random scenes of the Girl riding the Horse round in circles for no apparent reason. And let me also add that this is a movie about a talking horse, but they didn’t even bother to put peanut butter in his mouth, so the scenes where he talks are literally just shots of a motionless horse! We actually decided that watching this movie is a form of torture, and that the worst punishment I could possibly inflict would be making Miss Missy watch it again!

And finally The Best of the Best Award goes to: Horse Crazy. We loved this movie! It was wonderful to watch a pony movie that didn’t stick to the recipe! Not a girl but a boy, no tragic accident, or dead parent, and no miraculous riding ability to win the big competition. I don’t want to give the story away, so let me just say that there is a horse (of course) and a villain, three cheeky kids, a couple of gormless adults–and a whole lot of fun!

Any favourite horse flicks of  your own you’d like to suggest?

Climate Change is Real! says Orca: Idiot Gods by David Zindell

“I am the eye with which the universe / Beholds itself and knows itself divine.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley, Hymn of Apollo

CoverDavid Zindell you have filled my heart to overflowing. This book Idiot Gods is different  – a lyrical story on climate change from the point of view of a whale. An Orca, to be exact, named Arjuna. With Conservation Week just behind us, this is the perfect summer read.

Neverness author David Zindell immerses the reader in the complex and deeply spiritual currents of thought from the mind of his unlikely hero. Deeply disturbed by a chain of tragic events in the ocean, Arjuna realises that humans are responsible for the breakdown and destruction of Earth. Or Ocean, as Orca call it.

Guided by the songs of the ocean and his ancestors that link him to all creation, Arjuna tries to communicate this to the human race. His attempts to raise the alarm land him in the ‘poisoned pools’ of captivity. Could this experience be part of his life’s song? Or the final bars?

“You want to be closer to our people – you even want our love! How, though, should you think that trapping us in the pools of the Sea Circuses of the world and feeding us dead, drugged food will result in feelings of amity and accord?” (p.276)

“Why can you not find such satisfaction through communing with other humans? Instead, you seek validation through swimming with us and slathering upon us effusive affections. If we respond in kind, or indeed in any way, you take that as affirmation of your own specialness and worthiness to be loved.” (p.276)

With a solid knowledge of oceanography – and a great imagination –  Zindell raises the issue of human hubris, assumed superiority, cruelty to each other and the creatures they share the planet with.

“I see an entire species that lives off itself. Like sharks devouring each other, you eat each other’s labour, money, time, sweat, tears, hopes and dreams.” (p.260)

The trials of life in a polluted sea are painted in stark detail: an ocean empty of fish, filled instead with ships waging war on each other and whales.

“And the bull-whales gather their women and whale-claves in a ring / When danger threatens, on the surface of the ceaseless flood / And range themselves like great fierce Seraphim facing the threat / Encircling their huddled monsters of love”.
D.H. Lawrence, Whales Weep Not.

The Orcas’ experience of madness and depression in captivity is told with a poignancy that I found incredibly moving. Can Arjuna communicate the things he desperately wants to tell us? Or could war with humans be the only solution?

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Gallops – and they’re off and racing!

https://christchurch.bibliocommons.com/item/show/758060037_harrySaturday 11th November marked the beginning of the NZ Cup and Show Week 2017 in Canterbury. Every year during the middle of November, Canterbury celebrates the province’s anniversary holiday.

Will you be going to the A & P Show or having a flutter on the horses? I love the gallops events at Riccarton Park Racecourse. The thrill of their speed pumps my adrenaline.

Find out more

Pets and fireworks don’t mix

22382403_10213144851508211_6562001469831516731_oFireworks went on sale recently and even though Guy Fawke’s night is over people are still setting them off each night. Most pet owners dread this time of year. Our wee darlings and big tough pets alike crumble into anxious dribblers.

My ditzy fluff-ball Zac (pictured with his favourite toy pig) whimpers and tries to hide behind my legs. I heard swaddling them helps them feel safe. I tried a tight-fitting jersey which seems to work a treat during fireworks, thunderstorms, earthquakes etc.

Find out more:

Stacy Gregg’s latest pony book is close to home: an interview with the author of The Thunderbolt Pony

Stacy Gregg’s latest pony book The Thunderbolt Pony is a children’s novel very close to home, both for Cantabrians and for the author. Set in the aftermath of an earthquake in the real life town of Parnassus, near Kaikoura, the story is about 12 year-old Evie and her determination to save her beloved Arabian pony Gus, her loyal border collie Jock and her aptly named cat Moxy.

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Stacy Gregg portrays strong, independent, fearless girls in her books and here Evie bravely overcomes not only the forces of nature but her anxiety disorder, which she has been suffering since her dad became terminally ill. Evie’s OCD manifests itself in the belief that she if she doesn’t stick to set routines, it will cause bad things to happen, making her the ‘bringer of earthquakes.’ Evie must embark on both a physical and mental journey, in a race against time to get to a rescue boat.

Stacy Gregg has experienced the effects of anxiety disorder firsthand, with her own daughter developing OCD a couple of years ago, and she brings the specificity of what it can be like into the story. In fact, Stacy manages to intertwine quite a lot into this pacy yet reflective story. There’s also Greek mythology in here too with reference to Poseidon, who makes the perfect tie-in as not only the god of the sea but of earthquakes and horses as well.

You don’t have to be a horsey person for this story of adventure and animal friendship to appeal. Gregg’s style of historical fiction applied here will particularly resonate with many middle-school children in New Zealand and those around Canterbury, the Hurunui and Kaikoura will feel especially immersed in the familiar settings. Overriding everything, however, is Stacy’s signature quality storytelling.

Interview with Stacy Gregg

We interviewed Stacy on the release of her latest book – she talks about her research and writing process and about her experiences with anxiety disorder in her family.

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Children’s author Stacy Gregg. Photo credit: Carolyn Haslett (photo supplied). 

Stacy, what types of research did you do for The Thunderbolt Pony?

As well as reading lots around my subjects, I’ve always travelled for my research. My books have taken me to Arabia and Spain, Italy and Russia and now for The Thunderbolt Pony, Kaikoura and the East Coast of the South Island. It was important to me to travel the route that my heroine will take, the 64-kilometre stretch between Parnassus and Kaikoura. I was hoping the earth might move while I was there, but it didn’t. I had to rely on second-hand accounts of what the earthquakes were like because I’ve only ever been in a minor tiny tremor once here in Auckland.

What did you find in your research of the earthquakes that surprised you?

That they are noisy! You don’t think about the sound an earthquake makes, you think about the feeling of the land moving underneath you. But everybody I spoke to talked first about the noise. The boom that comes beforehand and the sound like a train surging beneath you. Like the rumble of the thunder that comes before the lightning – it gave me the title for the book.

Surviving 7.8My Story Canterbury Earthquake
Read first-hand accounts of the November 2016 Kaikoura earthquakes in Surviving 7.8 and Aftermath. And for a child’s fictionalised point of view, My New Zealand Story Canterbury Earthquake.

Stacy, did you have a real person in mind when you were writing the character of Evie, who has OCD?

Evie’s journey is based very much on my own daughter’s struggles with OCD. When I first had the idea for writing the book I asked Issie what she thought about having a character who suffers from OCD and she was really, really supportive of me writing about it. She felt like it was important to raise awareness of the condition so that kids who are suffering from anxiety disorders realise how common it is and that they aren’t alone. There’s been such an overall increase in anxiety disorders in pre-adolescents, but this is especially true in places like Canterbury and Kaikoura where the kids have been through an earthquake and the ongoing aftershocks. Statistics in a recent study in Christchurch have shown that four out of five kids in the region have some level of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). It’s a very real issue.

What did you find in your research about anxiety disorders like OCD that surprised you?

My daughter gets really cross people say stuff like “Oh I totally need to keep the kitchen clean – cos I’m so OCD!” Because that’s not OCD at all – that’s just liking things to be neat! I remember there was a time when the word “schizophrenic” was misused in the same way. Then the mental health community stepped up and reclaimed it and said “hey it’s not okay to talk about schizophrenia as if it means you have a split personality -it’s actually a real condition that people suffer from.” I think the same thing will happen now with OCD.

There are a lot of mistaken preconceptions about OCD being a ‘clean freak’ condition where you have to wash your hands or keep things perfectly tidy. Yes, it can manifest in that way, but it’s just as likely for you to have OCD and have a super-messy bedroom! For many OCD sufferers it’s about wanting to protect people – or animals – you love and make them safe by adhering to rituals and counting. It’s a bit like superstition on steroids. If you have OCD you are compelled to carry out your rituals and you get really anxious and upset if you can’t do them right as you really do believe you are risking harming everyone that you love. You’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. In The Thunderbolt Pony, Evie is fighting her OCD and trying to get a grip on her actual reality, but she’s got a lot to contend with.

How challenging was it to write about a condition in your family? Was this a helpful process for you, to write about it?

It was tough at times to open the wound and examine it – but it’s better than letting it fester I think. Issie and I are both the same like that, we confront stuff head on and she was very honest with me and trusted me to tell the story. OCD is a rough gig. It can totally dominate someone’s life in a very debilitating way. Issie did a lot of really hard work with her clinical psychologist and that work gave her the tools to overcome it. I’m really proud of how open and brave she was, and I’m really grateful to our psychologist Hilary, for the support he gave her. The character of Willard Fox is very much based on him and he gets a big thank you in the dedication.

image_proxyWhat has been the response so far from readers of The Thunderbolt Pony?

I just toured in Australia around schools in Sydney and what amazed me was that the kids there all knew what OCD was and they were very open to talking about anxiety disorders and seemed to really naturally engage with it. I’m just about to begin the South Island tour now – kicking off in Kaikoura – and I admit I am anxious about talking to the kids who have actually experienced the real earthquake. It’s going to be special, going back to the place where the book is set, but it’s also daunting. I hope they like it.

One thing really engaging about your books is the historical fiction aspect, how you use real places, events and real experiences in many of your stories. Why do you choose to write this way?

I think it’s the ex-journalist in me – I love to do solid research and I like to have a true story as a base foundation for my fiction. The Princess and the Foal was the start of that for me – it is the real story of the childhood of Princess Haya of Jordan. Her mother died in a helicopter crash when the Princess was 3 and she became really emotionally withdrawn and shut down after her death. When the princess was 6 her father, King Hussein, gave her an orphan foal to raise and said. “This foal has no mother, just like you. It’s on your shoulders now to be in charge and care for this young life.” This was the turning point for Princess Haya and her whole life story, her incredible success as an Olympic show jumper and as a powerful world influencer, came from that moment. It was so special to me to tell her story and to be given access to the royal palaces and the stables. My love of telling a true story sprang from working on that book.

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You often write your historically-based stories from two points of view but in The Thunderbolt Pony we have just Evie’s viewpoints, one during the rescue adventure and one reflecting on her journey later (both physical and mental journey). Is this your way of using your ‘dual narratives’ device in this story?

That is a really good question in terms of discussing structure and the devices an author uses. I have frequently used dual narratives in previous books – dovetailing two girls with perspectives that are historical and modern-day up against each other. For this story though, there is just one voice, it is Evie’s story and hers alone. However, I didn’t want to write it in a linear fashion – I felt like we needed to see her two journeys – the physical and the mental – intertwined. It gives the book a different pace and that’s why we make time leap back and forth. The skill for a writer I think, is to construct a tricky timeline and make it feel like it makes sense and is effortless so that the reader doesn’t notice!

You’ve said you like to “get rid of the parents in a story” – can you tell us more about that and why?

It’s not just me who likes to get the parents out of the way. Look at Harry Potter. Or Lemony Snicket. Parents are a problem because they like boring stuff like routines and being safe. They are all about healthy meals and bedtimes and they are also on hand to help you when things get rough. If there are no parents you can have big crazy adventures where you must be brave and do everything yourself and there’s no one to stick their oar in and say “hang on a minute this is madness let’s stop and have a proper dinner!” That is why you get rid of the parents – they are too sensible and they ruin your fun and crush the spirit out of the adventure.

You write about strong female characters who are fearless, independent, self-sufficient. Can you tell us more about that?

I’ve always written strong girls as my heroines. Horses make girls powerful. You can’t be a powderpuff. You need to be mentally and physically tough to handle them. And at the same time you need to stay vulnerable and soft, because it’s in those unguarded moments that you create a true bond with a horse. My daughter rides competitively and when we roll up at competitions I’m always impressed at these women turning up driving massive trucks and handling enormous powerful warmbloods. We just don’t think anything of it – we don’t expect men to come and help with any of it. It’s a very feminist sport.

How long did the writing process take for this book?

I write a book a year. I spend about three months researching, three months writing and then another three months with my editor, pushing the manuscript back and forth through various stages beating it into shape. Then the next three months are publicity and touring and preparing to do it all over again. I love every stage of the process, I’m very lucky to do the job that I do.

What’s next? What are you working on at the moment?

My next book is called The Fire Stallion and it’s set in Iceland. As usual, I have the whole thing plotted out already – but I’m not giving away any spoilers yet!

What have you recently enjoying reading and what’s on you ‘to-be-read’ pile?

I have just finished Neil Gaiman’s book on Norse Mythology (OK that’s a big clue for the subject matter of my next book). But I won’t be able to read anything for a while now. I am an all-or-nothing reader and I can’t read other authors when I am in writing mode as I’m a terrible mimic. I have to isolate myself for the next few months and then I will binge read when the new book is finally done. On the bedside table until then are Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, The Dry by Jane Harper, and My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent.

NorseMythologyMagpie MurdersThe DryMy Absolute Darling

Thanks for your time Stacy!

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Stacy Gregg at a book signing. Photo credit: Kelly Bold (photo supplied).

Thank you to HarperCollins.

The Thunderbolt Pony
by Stacy Gregg
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008257019

A Fatigue Party On Duty, Addington Camp, Christchurch: Picturing Canterbury

A Fatigue Party On Duty, Addington Camp, Christchurch. 1900. File reference Photo collection 22, IMG02212.

These men are shown carrying out their duties at a camp in Addington where recruits were trained before leaving for the South African (Boer) War (1899-1902). They are riding on a wagon owned by J.M. Heywood & Co. who were general cartage contractors of Christchurch and Lyttelton.

Do you have any photographs of Canterbury’s involvement in the South African War? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Peacock at New Brighton Zoo: Picturing Canterbury

Peacock at New Brighton Zoo. Kete Christchurch. PH13-246. Entry in the 2013 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License.

Peacock at New Brighton Zoo. January 1965. The North Brighton Zoo started as an aquarium, possibly as early as the 1880s and became a mini zoo, run by Bill Grey, in the late 1940s. It closed in 1996.

Date: 1965.

Entry in the 2013 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Do you have any photographs of the former New Brighton Zoo? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

Finalists in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults inspire Christchurch children

Pop! Bang! That’s what happened – literally – when a group of New Zealand children’s authors and illustrators presented inspiring talks to hundreds of Canterbury school children, just ahead of the announcement of the 2017 winners of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

Several of the nominated authors and illustrators toured the country speaking to school children about their work and craft. Hosted in conjunction with WORD Christchurch, they addressed primary and intermediate students who came from across Canterbury to hear them speak at St. Margaret’s College. They talked about what it takes to be a writer and/or illustrator and what keeps them inspired and shared their working processes, all with the aim of sparking readers and the next generation of writers and illustrators. We share some of the highlights here.

Session One: Tania Roxborogh, Leonie Agnew and David Elliot

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Tania Roxborogh, Leonie Agnew and David Elliot, signing books after their talk in Christchurch, 7 August 2017

Tania Roxborogh

BastionPoint.jpg“Any change for good is powered by fury and passion to make the world a better place” says Tania Roxborogh, and this idea is a driving force behind the story in her book about the Bastion Point occupation for Scholastic’s My New Zealand Story series, told from a child’s point of view.

Through the process of researching and writing this book, Roxborogh was reminded that: “Retelling history is never straightforward” because “people lie, self-edit, and mis-remember” and that “people remember different things.” She added that there is also the problem of bias in New Zealand media – from the right wing as well as the left wing – which she had to take into consideration when researching for this book.

When Roxborogh visited Bastion Point to help her find her point of view for the story, she found herself humbled, prompting her to ask: “What right do I even have to tell this story?” She realised, however, that regardless of who she was, the story of the protesters was a story worth telling.

Roxborogh teaches English and Drama at a Canterbury high school and has written over 50 books.

David Elliot

Snark

SnarkBeing a true history of the expedition that discovered the Snark and the Jabberwock … and its tragic aftermath.

Elliot’s illustrated book was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, and the Jabberwock and his presentation of museum-like artefacts and the stories he told about them would have had some in the audience wondering if his tale of the mission to discover the snark was true or not.

Elliot says he spent time living in a cottage inside Edinburgh Zoo and you have to wonder if this influenced his work illustrating weird and wonderous creatures.

Leonie Agnew

ImpossibleBoy.jpgWhat if…
For The Impossible Boy, Agnew asked: “What if a kid believes in something so much that his faith in it makes it real?” like Peter Pan’s belief in fairies, and on the flipside, “if you were an imaginary friend, what if you discovered you weren’t real?”

Agnew recommended using a little bit of non-fiction to make your fiction more real. In this case, she used the war-torn streets of Beirut in Lebanon as the inspiration for her setting of the story.

Various authors at the event talked about the hard parts of writing, when you feel like quitting or at least taking a break. Writing can take time! Agnew wrote 100 drafts of her book over 6 to 8 years. She says if you’re stuck, consider what Einstein said: You don’t solve a problem by looking at it in the same way, try looking at things from a new angle.

Agnew fits writing into her job as a primary school teacher by getting up at 5:30am to write before the school day starts. What inspired her to become a writer? Agnew “grew up in a house full of books” and her dad was a journalist who writes non-fiction, but really, she says, she “just wanted to do it.”

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Books by Leonie Agnew & Tania Roxborogh on display

In the first session with Tania Roxborogh, Leonie Agnew and David Elliot I felt an overall theme of the elusive – of capturing the elusive writing spark, capturing the Snark, and elusive invisible friends. Another theme that came through for me was the theme of imagination: imagine if someone was trying to take your land, imagine wondrous creatures and lands, imagine how an imaginary friend would feel if they discovered they weren’t real. Imagine.


Session Two: Des Hunt, Jenny Cooper and Simon Pollard

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Author Des Hunt, August 2017

Des Hunt

DesHuntSunkenDes Hunt has a love of adventure stories, science, New Zealand animals and he combines all of these into his stories. Sunken Forest was inspired by a real life summer camp he went on when he was 15 at Lake Waikaremoana, a trip that was memorable partly for sparking his interest in geology. The lake was formed during an earthquake landslide that drowned the forest. Standing tree trunks eerily remain there underwater today. Also trapped there are eels which can’t make their way back to sea to migrate to the Pacific islands to lay eggs. Unable to leave, they grow exponentially large.

In Sunken Forest, one such eel befriends Matt, who is sent to boot camp after his father, a boy racer, is sentenced to prison. At camp, Matt has to deal with bullies and getting the blame for things he didn’t do.

In his talk, Des Hunt totally engaged his audience from beginning to end, by which time he had them on the edge of their seats. He cleverly demonstrated the idea of building tension in a story by blowing up a balloon… about to burst at any moment. How do you really build tension in a story? He says: Add conflict and injustice, a disaster and… Pop!… an explosive climax.

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Author Des Hunt using a balloon to demonstrate the build-up of tension in story writing, August 2017

While many of those who spoke at the event started writing or drawing as early as their primary school years, surprisingly Des only published his first fiction book when he was about 50 years old but has since written heaps of books. His passion for writing is now so strong that he can’t imagine doing anything else and he hopes to be an author until he dies. This is good news for my young son who was so inspired by Des Hunt’s presentation he immediately went and read Sunken Forest, despite never having independently read a chapter book without pictures in it before. Des certainly inspired him reader to take his reading engagement to a higher level.

It was fantastic to see instant booktalking success in action! Des tours schools doing writing workshops so see if your school can be added to his schedule.

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Des Hunt with the audience, August 2017

Jenny Cooper

GladysgoestowarIllustrating is compulsive for Cooper: “It’s in my brain and I just can’t stop.”

Some of the many books Cooper has illustrated include...

DoYourEarsHangLowShe'llbeComingRoundtheMounatinJim'sLetters

She especially does a lot of research for illustrating the war stories, hiring models and WWI artefacts and taking hundreds of photos to draw from so she could get the details correct. The war stories she works on are “hard to illustrate because they are so sad” but equally she says, they are “really satisfying.” She added: “Sometimes the hardest and most challenging things you work on were the most rewarding.”

This was a sentiment shared by several of the speakers. Getting to a finished product takes times and many drafts! She tries 6 – 10 layouts before she has a rough drawing and after that, a finished painting may take up to 6 hours.

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Illustrator Jenny Cooper, August 2017

Simon Pollard

BugsPollard.jpgPollard is a spider expert, lecturing as an adjunct professor at the University of Canterbury and he has been working with spiders for 30 to 40 years. He is interested in telling stories about what spiders get up to and recently worked with WETA Workshop on the impressive display of oversized bugs for the Bug Lab show at Te Papa Museum.

Pollard is an engaging speaker and really brings bugs to life. He told stories (complete with eek-inducing pictures) about the jewel wasp that immobilises and enslaves a cockroach so it can use it as a living nursery, laying its eggs in it to hatch. Ingenious, but gross. We also heard about the clever Japanese honey bees that kill their enemy, the Japanese hornet, by gathering together in a ball around one and quivering – the heat of their buzzing wings stops the wasp from secreting their signal for more wasps to attack them.

Then there’s the insect that looks like a spider, but isn’t, just to scare off predators. After learning all these fun facts, we were left marvelling at the magic of the natural world.

Find books by Simon Pollard in our collection.

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Simon Pollard, August 2017

Questions from the kids

Primary and intermediate students from all over Christchurch lined up to ask lots of questions of the authors and illustrators after they spoke. Here are their inquisitive questions, and answers aimed at inspiring young readers, writers and artists.

What were some of your favourite books (growing up and now) and what writers would you recommend?

MillionsPhantomTollboothTheSecretGardenLostWorldTomorrowWhentheWarBegan

Which of the books that you’ve written are your favourites?

  • Leonie: Super Finn – She says: “It’s about a boy who wants to be a superhero and does crazy things. It’s great for years 3-6.”
  • Des: Frog Whistle Mine because he has spent time studying uranium, which the book is about.

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What advice would you give for budding writers and illustrators?

  • David: “Keep a visual diary, write things down, capture and value your imagination.”
  • Tania: “Read heaps… join groups and classes like the School for Young Writers, try different styles of writing.”
  • Simon: “Just write!” and “Write about what you know.”
  • Des: “If there is a book you really enjoyed, go back and read it again to try and find out why you like it.”

The winners of the 2017 New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults will be announced at the awards ceremony held in Wellington Monday 14th August. 

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You can read more excellent in-depth interviews with some of the finalist authors and illustrators here at The Sapling.

More awards information:

An integral part of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is the HELL Reading Challenge, now in its fourth year. It has been hugely successful in getting kids reading and enjoying the pleasure of stories (and pizza). Kids can pick up their reading challenge cards at Christchurch City Libraries (until December 2017).

Cool stuff from the Selectors: from the 1960s to pink cakes and beyond…

9780473382797Caves : exploring New Zealand’s subterranean wilderness by Marcus Thomas

The idea of venturing into a cave leaves me with clammy hands, thankfully I can now enjoy the beauty and danger of caving without having to get my feet wet.

This book takes readers on a journey into New Zealand’s longest and deepest caves, through one of the world’s most dangerous cave dives, and prospecting for a totally new kind of cave on a South Island glacier

I’m just here for the dessert9781743368824 by Caroline Khoo

If you love pink and love food then you will love this book!  Any food that is not naturally pink — i.e. chocolate — is bound to be decorated with a pink flower, at the very least.

Australian Caroline Khoo, of Nectar and Stone, has a large Instagram following. She recently posted a photo after coming home to a birthday cake made for her by her husband (only his 2nd cake ever) using this cookbook.

Charm of goldfinches 9781785033889by Matt Sewell

A Lounge of Lizards, a Parliament of Owls, A Gaze of Raccoons…we may well have heard of these collective nouns before but Matt Sewell’s beautifully rendered drawings bring the animals and their nouns alive.  The author is an avid ornithologist and best-selling author so his words add a richness to the pictures. This is a book that would also work well with animal loving children.

Summer of Love: Art, Fashion and Rock and Roll 9780520294820by Jill D’Alessandro

The book that chronicles an exhibition at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco that in turn chronicles the 1960s counterculture. Summer of Love covers all aspects of this heady time in a beautifully exuberant book, full of colour, fashion, politics, music and psychedelia. Not just for children of the 60s, this will appeal to a wide range of ages and interests.

The Photo Ark: One man’s quest to document the world’s animals9781426217777 by Joel Sartore

Joel Sartore had worked for 25 years as a photographer for National Geographic, leaving home for months at a time and becoming increasingly aware of the plight of species around the world. When his wife became ill he knew he had to stay closer to home, yet his desire to photograph and somehow make a difference to these endangered animals compelled him to seek out animals in captivity, starting at his local zoo.

His goal is to document every one of the world’s 12,000 plus captive species.  All the animals have been photographed in front of a black or white background.  The images are beautiful, uncluttered and affecting. The story behind the project and the people involved is fascinating and I look forward to hearing more from this author.

Ōnuku Church, 1940: Picturing Canterbury

Ōnuku Church, 1940. Kete Christchurch. 1940_Onuku. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Do you have any further photographs of Ōnuku Church? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.