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.
It is difficult not to reveal one’s age when discussing anything you may have read or watched in your childhood but I loved watching the Famous Five on TV.
I was an Enid Blyton reader during my childhood but my oeuvre during my younger years had been more along the lines of the Magic Faraway Tree and the dubiously titled “Mr Pink Whistle Interferes.” So whenever I picture the Famous Five they will always be the TV versions.
As I got older mystery and adventure books drew me in and I started reading the Five’s adventures plus I also discovered Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew…who doesn’t love a story with secret passageways, torches, penknives, trapdoors, panelling that moved to reveal hiding places, treasure maps, spooky castles and adults whose dastardly plans were foiled by children (and a dog) – clearly I was an Agatha Christie reader in development.
The Famous Five were brothers Julian and Dick, their sister Anne, cousin George (Georgina) and Timmy her dog. They seemed to never age – which was sort of true as Blyton hadn’t planned on writing so many (she planned 6 but wrote 21) – and so Five seem to go into a time vortex and remain perpetually pre-teens! Either that or they never went to school and are on never-ending school holidays!
I imagine everyone had a favourite in the group. Julian was the self-assured older brother, while Dick was the more laid-back and famished second child, and the youngest sibling was Anne (who always seemed to be turning her ankle). But it was cousin George that I think most readers probably wanted to be – mainly because Timmy was her dog!
As a grown-up you realise that all was not well in Blyton land – she had a troubled personal life – and her books can seem anachronistic and politically incorrect in 21st century terms. But her books still endure today and are still heavily read by children (and adults). She was extraordinarily prolific and wrote hundreds of books for children of all ages – including Noddy, The Secret Seven, Mallory Towers and St Clare’s school stories, and the aforementioned Magic Faraway Tree books.
But it is the Five that are perennial favourites with lots of readers.
I suspect it has a lot to do with children getting the upper hand on adults, and the endless eating – ice cream, scones, sticky buns and cakes, hard bolied eggs, apple pies, etc.
In fact I’m off to have a cup of tea and a slice of ginger cake now…
The author Dav Pilkey is passionate about promoting reading and writing and we have a Captain Underpants prize pack to give away to a lucky library member, including:
2 movie passes to see ‘Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie’ at any Christchurch Hoyts cinema, and a Captain Underpants activity book pack. Thanks to Hoyts Northlands for supplying the movie passes!
All you need to is make up your own creative title for a pretend Captain Underpants book and complete the entry form.
At school in England in the early 1980s I was given the opportunity to join an afterschool computer club. The only problem was that, being the early 1980s, our school didn’t actually have a computer. We had to write our programs in thick, dark pencil on stacks of cards that were taken away to a mysterious place, which we never got to see, where they would be fed into a computer.
Our teacher would bring the output to class the following week (or the week after that if there had been a glitch, or someone else needed the computer that week) and we would pore over the results with eager anticipation. Usually we quickly realised that we had made a fundamental error, and set about re-writing our program before waiting another week (or two) to see how things turned out. It was a glacially slow process, but an almost magical one. I don’t think I ever knew where this semi-mythical computer was, or what it looked like, but I imagined a strange colossal machine the size of a small house, similar to those depicted in Cold War science fiction films such as War Games, which were popular at the time.
Obviously, things are very different now. We are living in the age of the so-called digital native (although this may be a myth), but arguably because computers are so advanced now, we actually have fewer opportunities to tinker under the hood than we did in the early days of home computing. Early computers often required their users to manually input programs (written in languages like BASIC) before you could run them. You could buy magazines full of code for various simple games that you could type into your computer and then run. You could even change the code to alter the parameters of the game. This meant that we learned much more about how computers worked, and how to get them to do what we wanted, than is usually the case these days.
Modern computers are much less amenable to this sort of tinkering. Messing about with the code on your computer is likely to lead to a catastrophic system failure, so although computers are now embedded in almost every aspect of our lives, we often have very little idea about what makes them tick.
The ubiquity of computers in society, coupled with the general ignorance of most people as to how they work, has been recognised as a serious problem. Recently, there has been a strong push among educators to get kids coding. Code clubs have sprung up all over the place, digital technology is set to become part of the New Zealand curriculum, and lots of books have been published aimed at getting kids coding, with varying degrees of success.
Recently, my 9-year-old daughter and I read a series of three graphic novels called Secret Coders, which aim to teach coding through the medium of storytelling. These books centre around Hopper, a young girl who finds herself at a strange new school. Along with two new friends, Josh and Eni (many of the names in the book reference famous computers or computer scientists, such as Grace Hopper and ENIAC), Hopper falls into a series of adventures that require the gang to solve various puzzles to figure out what’s really going on at the school.
Many of these puzzles require them to program turtle-like robots to perform particular tasks. The puzzles get increasingly complex. As the reader is encouraged to solve these puzzles for themselves before reading on, almost without realising it, by the end of the first book we were writing programs in a computer language called Logo. There are also some owls living in the school who have a very unusual way of communicating in binary, which adds to the air of mystery. The story is genuinely captivating, and kept us turning the pages. The graphics are engaging, the characters are delightful, and the puzzles are intriguing.
At the end of each book there is a link to a website where you can download a version of the Logo programming language and use it to write your own programs to create computer graphics. We tried it, and within minutes we were making snowflakes and other images using what we had learned from the books. A world of warning though – computer code is very unforgiving and one small typing error can give unexpected results, or even stop a program from working at all, which can be frustrating for young children; nevertheless, the necessary concepts were well within the grasp of my 9-year-old daughter. There’s also a nice website with extra activities, and you can even download a file for 3D printing your own replica of one of the robots from the book.
We had a lot of fun with these books, and I think we learned a lot too. Each volume follows directly on from the previous one, in a continuous narrative, usually beginning with the answer to a puzzle that was set at the end of the last book. We’ve read the first three books, and it seems that there will be more in the series. There are still lots of loose threads to tie up in the story, and there is clearly a lot more to learn about coding. We’ve looked at a few other coding books aimed at kids, but these were the ones that captured our imaginations the most, and it’s not just about learning a particular programming language, but understanding computational thinking – how to break a problem down into its smallest discrete units, each of which can be translated into a simple instruction to a computer, which is a skill that is likely to be applicable to other areas of modern life.
We’re really looking forward to reading the rest of the series. This feel like the start of what could be a long journey to understanding more and more about computers and coding. We intend to keep learning about this stuff, and if we find other useful library resources along the way we will tell you about them in future posts on this blog.
For younger children, My First Coding Book makes a wonderful introduction to computational thinking, with ingeniously creative use of flaps, pull-out tabs, and other devices that kids will be familiar with, to illustrate coding concepts with various games and puzzles…
The new library, community centre and museum Matuku Takotako: Sumner Centre opens tomorrow Saturday 19 August 2017. After the opening ceremony, Matuku Takotako: Sumner Centre will be open from 3pm to 4.30pm. You can explore this new facility, and borrow items from the library collection.
Today we had a look around this newest Ōtautahi community space just before it opens, and were totally wow-ed. We’re sure you will be too. Here are some of our highlights:
These artworks were designed by Fayne Robinson (Ngai Tahu), Christchurch and refer to the surrounding landscape, cultural narrative …
Take along a piece of paper and crayons or pencils – you can take rubbings off a series of rubbing tiles throughout the building.
A pakohe (argylite) touchstone carries the design of the landscape through the plinth and up onto the stone, which is also reflected in the mural, to ground it to its location.
Fab fresh collection
There’s a lot of pretty new stuff on the pretty new shelves. Looks sharp!
Old into New
This beautiful table is made from kauri from the old Sumner Library, & upstairs is reclaimed kauri and rimu. ^DR pic.twitter.com/f591ldEpVa
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
“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.
Snark – Being 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.
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.”
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
Des 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.
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.
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.
Pollard 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.
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?
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).
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.
From Saturday 12 August to Saturday 2 September at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre, Tibetan monks will be constructing a sacred cosmogram grain by grain with crushed marble coloured sand, representing a world in perfect harmony. There will be events including public talks and activities for children.
Balance and Harmony: The Creation of a Sand Mandala will open at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre with a ceremony on Saturday 12 August at 10.30am when the monks will perform a consecration service and pour the first grains of sand after being welcomed by local iwi.
The monks will slowly build up the mandala, labouring over their work for hours at a time as they place one grain of sand after another to realise an intricate symbolic design in vivid colour.
After painstakingly placing the elements of the cosmogram, the grains will be brushed away, signifying the impermanence of all things. This ancient art form was an integral part of Indian Tantric Buddhism.
Explore all the events related to Balance and Harmony: The Creation of a Sand Mandala:
Compassion, love, and patience
Sunday 13th, 20th, 27th August 11am to 12pm Free to attend, no bookings required. The Geshes (monks) will give talks in the library on how to cultivate compassion, love and patience from their training and perspective. This will cover ways to increase wellbeing and reduce internal emotional conflict. Known as the ‘four noble truths’ this will be discussed for practical everyday use, not from a religious perspective.
Inner Harmony and balance Saturday 19th and 26th August 2pm to 3pm Free to attend, no bookings required.
While the Sand Mandala is being created we will be hosting public talks by the Tibetan Monks. The Geshes will talk from their training and perspective on inner harmony and balance.
Children’s Activity: The Creation of a Sand Mandala
Sunday August 20th and 27th 2pm to 3pm Please contact us to secure a place – phone 9417923 or email email@example.com Here is a unique chance to attend a children’s mandala making programme. The Tibetan Monks will draw a lotus flower and children will have the opportunity to use the proper tools to fill it in with sand. There will also be mandalas to colour and iPad mandala apps with library staff. This activity is not suitable for pre-schoolers – to get the most of this activity children must have the motor skills to manipulate the tools. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Congratulations to our two Highly Commended entries who will each receive a library goody bag.
Congratulations to our talented finalists! We have certificates for our finalists; they are ready for you to pick up at Papanui Library after 9am on Saturday 22 July – please contact us at LibraryEvents@ccc.govt.nz to organise delivery if you are unable to pick-up.