200 years of the Modern Prometheus

Mary Shelley, by Richard Rothwell, 1840. Wikimedia Commons.
Mary Shelley, by Richard Rothwell, 1840. Wikimedia Commons.

Mary Shelley was just 18 years old when she began writing the English language’s most successful gothic horror tale, Frankenstein, which was first published  200 years ago. So after all these years what do we know about her, the story, and the circumstances that led to the creation of Frank Jnr.?

  • She did indeed write the story when she was 18, although it was not published until she was 21.
  • It was written as the result of a challenge laid down by Lord Byron (romantic poet extraodinaire), who along with young Mary, her husband Percy, and Byron’s “personal physician” John Polidori was staying in a spooky country house. On a stormy night telling ghost stories to each other, Byron thought it would be a good challenge for the group to see who could write the best ghost/horror story!
  • That session also led to Polidori writing the story ‘Vampyre’ which was influential on Bram Stoker for his work, ‘Dracula’.
  • ‘Frankenstein’ was first published anonymously on a short run of 500 using extremely budget materials by publisher Lackington’s, who are still operating today
  • In 1910 Thomas Edison created a 15min film based on the story – I love the music accompaniment on it!
  • The monster has no name but is referred to in the book by the names in my first sentence. For many years I believed the monster’s name was Adam, but I must’ve dreamed that!
  • The story was initially published anonymously with many readers assuming the author to be Mary’s husband Percy. Even after it’s reprinting in 1831 with Mary’s name on it many still thought Percy’s hand was involved. In truth it is now believed that Percy contributed a measly 6% of the text (4,000 of 72,000 words) with many readers considering that his contributions only detracted from the story, were over complicated and over described, making the whole thing harder to digest.
  • During her life Mary also wrote, seven novels, three books for kids, over a dozen short stories, and numerous biographies, articles, and poems.

The story of Frankenstein is now so embedded into our popular culture that there have been countless depictions and references all through the history of film and television; think Hermann Munster, the film Young Frankenstein, British tele series The Frankenstein Chronicles, and even with the fantastic kids film Tim Burton, Frankenweenie ,we see that this story of horror has even entered into the realms of children’s literature and culture.

But have we stayed true to Mary’s idea?? Does the monster still serve the same purpose as she intended; a lesson in mortality, human desire for control and intolerance for the different, perhaps even describing the perils of parental abandonment…? This series of charts from the Guardian suggests there have been some major deviation.

So how will you celebrate the outstanding achievement of Mary Shelley? Perhaps by reading some classic gothic/horror/monster literature, there’s plenty out there and I’ve created a short list of titles for you, all available through the Christchurch City Libraries catalogue and across many formats; books, audiobooks, ebooks, and graphic novels…

Classic Gothic/Horror/Monster stories

List created by DevilStateDan

Some spooky, dark, and unnerving tales, classic titles from famous names…

View Full List

Happy and spooky reading to you….

Astroman at the Court Theatre – We talk to writer Albert Belz

One of the prizes in our Winter Read Challenge for teens is three double passes to see Astroman at The Court Theatre. This show is on from 27 October to 10 November. It sounds like a ripper – the 80s, video games, and Michael Jackson moves:

It’s 1983, and young Hemi ‘Jimmy’ Te Rehua knows how to dominate the games at the Whakatāne Astrocade Amusement Parlour. Too smart for his own good, Jimmy has a knack for trouble.

In this vid, playwright Albert Belz talks about Astroman to The Court Theatre’s Artistic Director Ross Gumbley.

We asked Albert a few questions:

How would you describe your play Astroman in a couple of sentences?

A coming of age story set in the small town N.Z. 1980s where a young boy genius discovers what it really means to be brave.

Do you have any tips for teens who want to get into writing plays?

Write with humour about the things that make you most angry.

What are your fave things – games, books, comics, movies, tv etc?

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Kia ora Albert, and good luck to all of you entering the Winter Read Challenge.

More about Albert

Staff picks for the Winter Reading Challenge (for ages 13 to 18)

How are you going with the Winter Reading Challenge? We have highlighted some of the fab books picked by teens, now here are some staff picks to help you tick off some challenges:

The first book in a series

Truly Devious Maureen Johnson
Unsolved mysteries, kidnapping, murder, and super smart teenagers at an isolated boarding school in Vermont. Alina

The Raven Boys Maggie Stiefvater
The story of Blue, the only non-psychic in her family of fantastic women, and the Raven Boys – four boys from a private school on a quest for a dead Welsh King. Full of humour, teen angst, almost-kisses and magic. (Also available as an audiobook.) Alina

Chaos Walking trilogy Patrick Ness
Todd Hewitt is the last man on the planet. All the females are gone, you can read everyone’s thoughts, and nothing is quite as it seems. A brilliant series, fantastic as an audiobook, and coming out as a movie in 2019. Kate

Find more:

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A book that was made into a movie

The Hate U Give Angie Thomas
When Starr witnesses the death of her childhood friend at the hands of a police officer, she struggles to decide what to do — speak up against injustice, or keep her family safe? (Read it before the movie comes out in October!) Alina

Everything Everything Nicola Yoon
What do you do when you literally can’t leave the house, and the thing you want most in the world is just outside the front door? Kate

Every Day David Levithan (picked by Saskia, Cashmere High Library)

The Book Thief Markus Zuzak (picked by Saskia, Cashmere High Library)

The Maze Runner James Dashner

The Fifth Wave Rick Yancey

Ready Player One Ernest Cline

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A book with non-human characters

Year of the Griffin Diana Wynne Jones
When Elda, the griffin daughter of the great Wizard Derk, arrives for schooling at the Wizards’ University, she encounters new friends, pirates, assassins, worry, sabotage, bloodshed, and magic misused. Alina

Find books about:

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A graphic novel/comic book

Nimona Noelle Stevenson
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Alina

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Ryan North
She’s part squirrel, part girl – she’s Squirrel Girl! Lots of fun, lots of laughs. Kate

One punch man

Spill Zone Scott Westerfeld

Find more:

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A love story

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You Lily Anderson
A loose retelling of Much Ado About Nothing featuring fandom, extra-smart teens and a lot of snark. Alina

Autoboyography Christina Lauren
It can be hard enough being a gay teenager when you live somewhere liberal and progressive. It’s even harder in the middle of Mormon Utah. Kate

Eleanor & Park Rainbow Rowell (picked by Kim)

Emergency Contact Mary H.K. Choi (picked by Alina)

Pieces of You Eileen Merriman (picked by Rachel from Scorpio Books) [NEW ZEALAND]

Find more:

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Listen to a podcast or audiobook

Nation Terry Pratchett
Finding himself alone on a desert island when everything and everyone he knows and loved has been washed away in a huge storm, Mau is the last surviving member of his nation. He’s also completely alone – or so he thinks until he finds the ghost girl. Narrated by Tony Robinson (don’t worry, he doesn’t sound like Baldrick from Blackadder in this). Alina

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Benjamin Alire Saenz
Fifteen-year-old Ari Mendoza is an angry loner with a brother in prison, but when he meets Dante and they become friends, Ari starts to ask questions about himself, his parents, and his family that he has never asked before. Superbly narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Alina

Find more:

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A book about identity

Lies We Tell Ourselves Robin Talley
In 1959 Virginia, Sarah, a black student who is one of the first to attend a newly integrated school, forces Linda, a white integration opponent’s daughter, to confront harsh truths when they work together on a school project. Alina

I am Thunder Muhammad Khan
Muzna is a regular British teenager, so how does she end up involved with Islamic radicals? Kate

A quiet kind of thunder Sarah Barnard
Being a teenager is hard. Being a teenager with anxiety is even harder. And being a teenager with anxiety who doesn’t speak is even harder again… especially when love’s involved. Kate

Girl mans up M-E. Girard
Pen doesn’t want to be a boy – she just wants to look like one, and that confuses people. This is her look at frenemies, love, and teen pregnancy. An awesome read – I wish it had been written when I was a teenager! Kate

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index Julie Israel (picked by Rachel from Scorpio Books)

Girl Missing Sophie McKenzie (picked by Saskia, Cashmere High Library)

You’re welcome, universe Whitney Gardner

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda Becky Albertalli

Find more:

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A dystopian novel

Chaos Walking trilogy Patrick Ness
Todd Hewitt is just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man. But his town has been keeping secrets from him. Secrets that are going to force him to run. (First in a series and also available as an audiobook.) Alina

Little Brother Cory Doctorow
A standalone cyber-thriller packed full of teen hackers, revolution, terrorism, a police state, and an awesome romance. Alina

The Giver Lois Lowry (picked by Julianne)

Replica Lauren Oliver

Flawed Cecelia Ahern

Find more:

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Inspirational biographies

Hope in a Ballet Shoe Michaela DePrince
Adopted in the United States, a young girl from Sierra Leone dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer. A great read, even if you’re not a dancer. Kate

In the sea there are crocodiles: The story of Enaiatollah Akbar Fabio Geda
Based on the true story of 10-year-old Enaiatollah’s escape from Afghanistan, and his journey across the mountains and seas to safety in Italy. Kate

In order to live Yeonmi Park (picked by Saskia, Cashmere High Library)

Being Jazz Jazz Jennings

Never fall down Patricia McCormick (a work of fiction based on the true story of a Cambodian child soldier).

Find more:

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More recommendations

Personal recommended reads from librarians – from classics to new publications!

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Rachel from Scorpio Books recommended these books for teens:

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Saskia from Cashmere High’s library recommendeds the following good reads:

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More reading ideas

Enter the Winter Read Challenge and win prizes!

Ten Titles, tweeted: Our selectors pick some top new books

Our selectors spot plenty of new and interesting titles as part of their work. Here are some titles that took the fancy of our tweeting selector ^CO:

Follow Christchurch City Libraries on Twitter for selector picks and more.

Karamia Müller: Sharing Gagana Sāmoa

Sunday 27th May kicked off national Sāmoan Language Week, with each of the main city centres hosting a service at a nominated Sāmoan church. There will be loads of events happening across Christchurch (the Ministry for Pacific Peoples website has a national events calendar).

Cover of How do you say thank you? by Karamia MüllerThis year the national theme for le Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa is “Alofa atu nei, alofa mai taeao.” Kindness given is kindness gained. To incorporate the themes of alofa (love and kindness) and ‘āiga (family) into our activities here at Christchurch City Libraries we are shaping our Tala mo Tamaiti (Storytimes sessions) around a picture book called How Do You Say ‘Thank you’? by Sāmoan author Karamia Müller. We were lucky enough to get permission from Karamia to feature her book for the week, and to catch her for a moment in her very busy life to have a quick chat to find out more about her writing and her life outside of writing.

Karamia was born in Honiara in the Solomon Islands. Like many peoples of the Pacific, her Sāmoan heritage is influenced by the many islands of the Pacific, with her father being raised in Fiji, and her paternal grandfather being brought up in Tonga. It was the pull of family settled here in New Zealand that led to Karamia’s family settling in Auckland.  She is the youngest of five siblings, and a proud aunty to three nieces and 4 nephews who range from 5 to 11 years old. A creative in many ways, Karamia is currently completing her Master’s thesis at the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Auckland.

Author, Karamia Müller. Image credit: Penny Sage
Author, Karamia Müller. Image credit: Penny Sage

As is common with many New Zealand-raised Sāmoans Karamia was not brought up speaking Gagana Sāmoa exclusively. And like many of us who are not allowed the privilege of speaking our own languages for different reasons “this absence was felt profoundly.” Being the younger of her siblings, her mother spoke Sāmoan to her older sisters but Karamia has had to take on the learning of Gagana Sāmoa as an adult.

It was this learning journey that inspired Karamia to write How Do You Say ‘Thank You’? After finding that her learning style was not suitable for learning languages, she wanted to share her technique with others with similar learning preferences through the navigators in the book Alofa and Filipo. Karamia acknowledges that as a Samoan, speaking Samoan is important to us all. She is not only working on developing her proficiency in Gagana Sāmoa, but also looks to utilise Indigenous Pasifika themes and titles wherever she can in her architectural practice and scholarship.

When I first started to ask Karamia questions she assured me that she was “quite boring”, but after speaking to her I felt nothing but awe and inspiration.

As a parting gift for our readers I asked Karamia if she had a favourite Sāmoan proverb or ‘alagā’upu to share. She didn’t have one but when I told her about our theme – “Alofa atu nei, alofa mai taeao.” She shared her perspective: “This means to me that we can never run out of kindness because as much as we give, we receive. Which I think is a lovely way to think about kindness. I shall keep that in mind myself when I feel stressed or unkind! I think is my favourite, so thank you!”

Thank you Karamia for sharing with us. If you or anyone you know is also looking to improve your Gagana Sāmoa or begin your learning journey we have plenty of resources to get you going here at the library. There are also some excellent courses in Gagana Sāmoa for adults at Ara Institute of Canterbury.

Ia Manuia le Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa! Happy Sāmoan Language Week!

Find out more

Jan-Hai Te Ratana
South Learning Centre

National Simultaneous Storytime – Hickory Dickory Dash, Wednesday 23 May 1pm

14 of our libraries here in Christchurch are hosting National Simultaneous Storytime tomorrow  – Wednesday 23 May – at 1pm. You are welcome to come and join in – our librarians will be reading Hickory Dickory Dash by Tony Wilson, illustrated by Laura Wood, and published by Scholastic.

Here are our library staff having a test read:

National Simultaneous Storytime (NSS) is held annually by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). Every year a picture book, written and illustrated by an Australian author and illustrator, is read simultaneously in libraries, schools, preschools, childcare centres, family homes, bookshops and many other places. This year is the first time New Zealand has joined in, thanks to LIANZA (Library and Information Association of New Zealand).

Check out more cool vids courtesy of the National Simultaneous Storytimes crew.

 

Robert Webb – How Not to be a Boy: WORD Christchurch

On Tuesday evening I attended the WORD Christchurch event where the English comedian and author, Robert Webb, conversed with Michele A’Court about his book How Not to be a Boy.  A’Court suggested How not to be a boy is a “feminist memoir written by a man”. Webb demurred at that description and joked that the “F word” would ruin his chances of sales success.

Webb said that all throughout his life he had thought about gender and the way it defines roles and sets up certain expectations. So when he came to write a memoir, it seemed natural to use gender and its constrictions as a unifying theme.

As a boy, Webb discovered he did not seem to meet the expectations of what a boy should be. He was quiet and shy and not good at sports. Also, he was terrified of his father whom he describes as a violent, philandering, Lincolnshire woodcutter who didn’t really know how to bring up a young family.

Webb’s parents divorced when he was five, and he was brought up by his mother with whom he had a close relationship. Webb described how he felt most at ease in his mother’s company and he recalled fondly how he and his Mum would often sing along loudly with the stereo in the car. When Webb’s mother died of cancer when he was seventeen, he was devastated.

CoverThis experience served to illustrate to Webb that the “boys don’t cry” emotional repression that society seems to expect of males is a toxic expectation that does nobody any good. After his mother’s death, he moved back in with his father, had to retake his O Levels and eventually made it to Cambridge University where, because he had not processed his grief, he fell apart. He sought therapy at Cambridge which he found very helpful. Although not talking about one’s feelings was another trait society expected of males, Webb found talking about his feelings was exactly what he needed in order to heal emotionally.

During the evening, Webb read a couple of excerpts from his book. One was an account of his early teens where a male classmate who was pinching all the girls’ bottoms was challenged by another boy who received a smack in the mouth for his trouble. When the harasser was chastised in class by the teacher, Webb felt a sense of shame that he had been a silent enabler and not a “gentleman” like the boy who stood up to the harasser.

Another excerpt concerned the plethora of books like Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus which Webb saw as letting men off the hook when it came to dealing with their relationships.

Although Webb realised his book appealed to middle-aged feminists, he secretly hoped copies of the book might be passed around in juvenile detention centres and boarding schools. He said he didn’t claim to be any kind of expert and that is why he had employed a tone of self-mockery. He hoped that by using jokes and describing the many things he has done wrong, he could present some serious ideas about gender roles to a male readership and get them thinking about how gender expectations might be limiting their own lives.

More Webb

Robert Webb is appearing at Auckland Writers Festival. Catch him there.

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Queens of crime combine: Money in the morgue

Taking over from Dame Ngaio Marsh, one of the original Queens of Crime, would be a daunting prospect for any writer, but Stella Duffy (winner of the CWA Dagger Award, and Stonewall Writer of the Year) has beautifully risen to this task in the new inspector Alleyn novel, ‘Money in the Morgue‘.

Set in New Zealand during World War Two, Marsh’s beloved detective finds himself called into a murder investigation, right in the middle of an espionage case. The novel opens when courier Mr Glossip finds himself marooned at a military hospital, thanks to a terrific storm. When the wages which Glossip has just delivered go missing, then an unexpected body turns up in the morgue, it is left to inspector Alleyn to unravel the nights mysteries. He does so with his usual charm, and perfect manners (let’s just say you wouldn’t be surprised to read that upon being asked by Alleyn to pass along the salt, a woman fainted by his feet).

His sidekick is a kind of inspector Fox substitute and cunningly, there are so many mentions of inspector Fox as Duffy talks about this man who is clearly not inspector Fox, that by the end of it you have somehow wound up concluding that this clearly not inspector Fox man, is actually Inspector Fox. There is also mention of Troy, as Alleyn tries and fails to pen a letter to her (but manages an epic three page masterwork to inspector Fox, just saying).

In many respects, Duffy is the ideal candidate to finish a novel started by Ngaio Marsh. As well as being an esteemed writer of sixteen novels (five of these being crime), like Ngaio Marsh, Duffy spent her childhood in New Zealand, moved to London, and as a producer, and scriptwriter, has had a long standing relationship with the theatre. There are some lovely references to the world of theatre, in particular Shakespeare, as Alleyn absently quotes the Bard to himself on several occasions, much to the bewilderment of the local constabulary.

As Eric Morecambe would have said to Ernie Wise you just  ‘can’t see the join’, when you read ‘Money in the Morgue’. The two writers just dovetail so perfectly. Later I learnt that Marsh wrote the first three chapters of this work, Duffy the rest, but had it not been for a sneaky look at a interview with Stella Duffy, and one tell tale passage toward the end of the novel (where Alleyn muses on New Zealand as being like a ‘living entity”, not the most 30s European attitude toward the land) I would not have picked this for myself.

There is a strong cast of characters too including shell shocked Dr Hughes, the stern yet endearing Sister Comfort, and the sparky Rosamund Farquharson. Marsh and Duffy conjure to life an intriguing array of suspects, against the dramatic backdrop of WWII New Zealand. Readers are treated to some evocative descriptions of the land, as well as some lovely insights into New Zealand culture, as seen through the eyes of a young Māori soldier, corporal Brayling. The ending is a satisfying one (all important for any mystery) and the novel is consistently packed with all the fun and endearing Alleyn moments a fan could wish for. This is a truly fantastic partnership between two queens of crime that will leave you wanting more. With any luck, another of Marsh’s unfinished works will be unearthed soon and we will be treated to another Marsh/Duffy installment in this classic series.

Money in the morgue
by Stella Duffy and Ngaio Marsh
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN:  9780008207113

Ngaio Marsh House event – Sunday 27 May 2pm

The Ngaio Marsh House and Heritage Trust is putting on an event to celebrate the Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy’s new novel “The Money in the Morgue”:

Celebrate with style and panache the publication of Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy’s new novel “The Money in the Morgue”. Be theatrical and wear your vintage clothing, fedoras or berets.
You will get to view the improvements to the Ngaio Marsh House, and then got to Cashmere Presbyterian Church for drinks, hors d’oeuvres and entertainment. Scorpio Books will have a selection of Ngaio’s book’s for purchase.

Find out more on Facebook.

Ngaio Marsh House
Ngaio Marsh House. 15 December 2015. Flickr 2015-12-15-IMG_1617

The Amazing Jeff Kinney – WORD Christchurch

He’s the author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, creator of Poptropica, and thanks to WORD Christchurch I got to see him speak on Wednesday.

The auditorium was packed full of excited kids and parents. We were all waiting for 6 o’clock to finally arrive and the star to walk out on stage, I looked around at the demographics represented. It was wonderful seeing kids of all ages present – most clutching well-worn copies of Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. I’m sure one kid was carrying the whole series, his stack of books was almost too big to carry. Several kids got up to boogie along to the pumped vibe music – it was just too exciting to keep still.

Finally Jeff Kinney himself walked on stage – oh my gosh, one of the coolest authors for kids was actually within throwing distance!

If you want to get your kid into reading, introduce them to Diary of a Wimpy kid. You won’t regret it.

Jeff Kinney
Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. WORD-JeffKinney-IMG_7788

He talked a bit about his history, why he became an author and things from his childhood that shaped him. Reading all kinds of things from his local bookstore was a big part of his childhood, particularly comics.

“Comics can also be literature” he said.

Remember that, pictures and the meaning they bring are so important. His books have his cartoons dispersed throughout the text. He describes this as “little islands to swim to,” which is why these books are so great for all levels of readers.

Encourage your kid to read comics, if that’s what they like.

Jeff Kinney and young artist
Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. WORD-JeffKinney-IMG_7798

Jeff’s iPad was hooked up to the big screens, so we could see him draw in action. He taught us how to draw his main characters, and showed us how a slight difference in line can make the character have a completely different emotion.

Have a go! Then try do it blindfolded. He had a couple of volunteers up on stage drawing with him, with hilarious results.

It all ended too quickly, and I can’t wait till I get to see him speak again.

*scurries off to read Diary of a Wimpy kid again*

More Jeff Kinney

Another great writer for kids coming to town …

Heads up! Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton (the Treehouse series guys) are coming to New Zealand! The Christchurch show is sold out – but there’s still space in the Dunedin one!

Andy Griffiths. Image supplied.

Great reads for not-so-eager readers

Ever found yourself asking “What will get my younger reader hooked on reading? Here’s a few key tips from librarians:

  • Graphic novels (or comics) are legit
    They actually use more of your brain than just reading words alone, because you’re deciphering the messages from the words and the pictures together – so don’t tell me they’re not real reading, ok!
  • Audio books are also great
    If the reading isn’t for school and you just want to foster a love of reading – include some audio books! Kids don’t need to be challenged all the time. With an audio book, a kid can get the joy of the story and use their imagination, without the possible struggle or brain strain of reading
  • Over-size fiction = amazing
    Ask a librarian where they’re stored at your local library. They’re kind of a cross between a picture book and a chapter book. Sometimes they don’t have many words at all, but the meaning is really deep. Otherwise, just pick up a great picture book!
  • Be the change
    Are you reading yourself? Do you read to them? Also, start to think about reading being fun and model that in how you react to what they choose (or don’t choose) to read (that Minecraft book is reading too).

Here’s a few great lists with fantastic titles to hook your younger reader:

Best of 2017: Younger Fiction – Christchurch City Libraries

View Full List

Best of 2017: Picture Books – Christchurch City Libraries

View Full List

Good reads for younger dudes

View Full List

When was the last time you read a kid’s book yourself? Here’s a fantastic recommendation: the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney!

Stay tuned to hear more about the author Jeff Kinney – he is talking in Christchurch tomorrow, brought to you by WORD Christchurch and Penguin Books NZ in a sold-out event. We will be reporting back!