Have you ever come across an activity or hobby that surprises you by the extent of the passion felt by those who are involved, and by the global reach and organisation behind the hobby? I’m not talking about Star Trek conventions or Cosplay in general, but rather the world of Bonsai. A gathering of Bonsai enthusiasts matches anything Star Trek fans can generate in terms of excitement and passion, but without the funny uniforms or prosthetics.
I was lucky enough to be able to organise a few days off from my library duties and attend the recent National Bonsai Show and Convention in Dunedin on 7th and 8th October.
Perhaps you’re surprised that there is a National Bonsai show? There’s even a New Zealand Bonsai Association to oversee all things bonsai. This is not Japan, it’s true, but there are still plenty of people in New Zealand who would travel significant distances for such a gathering. And what a mixed lot they were! The Bonsai bug bites all equally – that gathering had everyone from a retired professor of agricultural systems to a carpenter, and, of course, a librarian. All were united by a passion for bonsai, regardless of background.
The convention had two main attractions for most, the national show itself, and the demonstrations and workshops with the famous (in the bonsai world anyway) bonsai professional Bjorn Bjorholm the first non-Japanese bonsai professional to work in Japan. Now based in the United States, Bjorn travels extensively to different parts of the world giving talks and demonstrations, so a chance to sit in with an acknowledged master was not to be missed.
Curious about the bonsai thing? The library can be your friend. There are a good range of books in the library covering the history, the aesthetic principles and the hands-on techniques. The library also offers access to articles from the best known English language Bonsai magazine, the Bonsai Journal.
And if you fancied finding out a bit more and maybe getting some hands on time with trees in the company of like-minded mini tree enthusiasts, why not go along to a local Bonsai club meeting? There are two clubs in Christchurch, both listed in the CINCH (Community Information Christchurch) database. See you there!
Love it or hate it, Halloween is upon us once again. Today it is a vastly different experience than the one that the Celts traditionally celebrated. For them it marked the reaping of the harvest, the end of summer and an opportunity for the dead to cross over to the living world and scare the daylights out of everyone. Sounds like great fun so far!
For us however, Halloween has become an attempt at recreating what is largely a Northern Hemisphere celebration – with Southern Hemisphere seasons, beliefs and inclination. And more often than not, if we try to emulate what we see on TV we are destined for disaster. So here is a cautionary tale of ‘How not to Halloween’. Sadly parts of this aren’t as fictional as I would like them to be.
Let us think for a moment… the pumpkins will have only just been planted and won’t be ready until around Easter next year. So now we will have to attempt to carve something sourced from the local supermarket. We pick out a nice Crown pumpkin and overlook the insipid grey colour and lack of grandeur. Beggars can’t be choosers. All it needs is a scary face carved in it and a candle to highlight your excellent pumpkin cutting skills. You take your sharpest knife and start to cut the top off what is arguably the toughest skin on any vegetable available*.
After you get back from the doctor, you decide that it is probably wise to do away with the carved pumpkin as you can’t afford to lose the use of your other hand. You may still be able to salvage it as a Halloween decoration however, as it is now rather realistically covered in blood.
Meanwhile, your kids are dressed up in the scariest costumes you could find at the local Opportunity Shop and are already dreaming about the sheer weight of the lollies that they hope to get. They wonder momentarily if that pillowcase is going to be big enough.
Leaving Hubby home in charge of the lollies; you venture forth into the bright sunlight with a handful of ghosts and witches in tow for the trek around what you thought was a friendly neighbourhood. How wrong you were. You find yourself greeted by grouchy people who can’t even fake being nice for the kids. They love to point out the error of your ways for daring to try and experience what is largely an American custom. Others will wander openly around their living room while your kids knock on a door that will never open. Some will go to the trouble of putting out ‘No trick or treaters’ signs to save you the energy of knocking. I like these people. We each know where the other stands.
Of course it isn’t all doom and gloom. There is the occasional legend that will gush over the kids costumes and hand over a lolly or two. But after an hour and a half of what amounted to a crushing failure; we head home defeated. I console the kids with the fact that if we’re lucky, their dad won’t have eaten his way through the entire bowl of lollies at home. It has been a rather disappointing experience. The kids don’t understand why their Halloween bears little to no resemblance of the ones that they have seen on TV. Let’s be honest – it’s still won’t be dark for another hour or more.
When we get home we find that the only other people that have come around trick or treating were teenagers who didn’t bother to dress up. And when my daughter finds out that they made off with her plastic skeleton that I’d propped next to the ‘bloody’ pumpkin; she probably won’t forgive me.
I know that there are houses somewhere that are re-enacting their version of Halloween – I’ve seen the lollies disappearing from the shops. Maybe next year I’ll save myself some time and heartache and just ask them where they live. At least then we can be assured of a guaranteed result!
So if your kids are begging you to join into Halloween this year, you think you can avoid these amateur mistakes and you are looking to earn some easy brownie points; here are some books to help you achieve this.
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).
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.
KidsFest is full of winter holiday fun for kids in Christchurch and Canterbury. It runs from 8 to 22 July. KidsFest is always popular and many events book out quickly, so have a look and figure out what things you want to do! Tickets are on sale 9am this Thursday 1 June.
Caterpillar craft for ages 5 to 8 years. Create your own mini MAKE company caterpillar to take home. All sessions run 10.30am to 11.15am.
Free, bookings required. Phone 03 941 5140.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar at the Gardens Storytime for ages 3 to 7 years Explore and discover scenes from The Very Hungry Caterpillar nestled in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Follow the team from the Christchurch City Libraries around the beautiful gardens, as they bring these scenes to life through the art of storytelling.
Free, bookings required. Phone 03 941 5140.
More KidsFest events
Here are a few KidsFest favourites:
More FM Lantern Parade on Saturday 8 July is the launch event for KidsFest, and this year it starts in Cathedral Square and winds its way to Margaret Mahy Playground where there will be fireworks.
Explorer night at the Museum (we went last year and it was busy and fun romping around the Museum on a cold winter night). Free and no bookings required, it’s on four nights from 6pm to 8pm: Tuesday 11, Thurs 13, Tues 18 and Thurs 20 July.
The Christchurch Brick Show ($5) Saturday and Sunday 15 and 16 July. Fun for all the family to be honest – amazing LEGO displays to admire, hands-on play areas, and more.
David Wiesner And The Art Of Wordless Storytelling This is definitely a book for someone who has an interest in children’s illustration as it contains well-researched and far-reaching essays on the history and development of book illustration as an art form.
David Wiesner is of course the focus, and I enjoyed revisiting his wonderful illustrations. I remember sharing these books with my children, all of us having varying viewpoints about what was happening, delving deeper into each illustration with each reading. This is a beautifully produced book.
From the sublime to the ridiculous! Crafting with Cat Hair is the sort of book you just have to have a look at because it is so unlikely. Taking itself completely seriously, this book gives you in-depth instructions on how to use your moggie’s fluff for felting crafting pleasure. Perhaps if you are so inclined, it could be a way to immortalise your feline friend.
Food Fights and Culture Wars
Chomping away on my couple of pieces of dark chocolate, it was interesting to read about the violent past of chocolate. The chocolate we eat today is barely recognisable as the cacao that was produced by the early Mayan people.
Cadbury (whose Dunedin factory is set to close next year) was founded by Quakers. Their desire to fend off slavery underpinned the chocolate trade. Filled with beautifully reproduced pictures from the British Library, this is a fascinating romp through history and food.
Samoan computer session Thursday 1 June (1PM to 3PM) South Library. We will look at the latest online news, music and videos online from Samoa. E mana’omia lo outou susū mai tatou fa’ailoga fa’atasi le Gagana Samoa ma fa’ata’ita’i le fa’aaogaina o le Komeputa. E a’o’aoina ai le su’eina o tala fou, musika ma nisi mea aoga mai Samoa i luga le upega tafa’ilagi (internet).
Christchurch City Libraries has a brand new initiative for 2017 and it’s all about MUSIC!
We are celebrating Christchurch stories. We are celebrating music. And most of all, we are celebrating libraries and the way they can enrich any creative pursuit you are undertaking, at any stage of development. Christchurch City Libraries have a wealth of resources that can help you learn, discover or simply enjoy music.
Our collections and our communities can also inspire the creation of music and we are fortunate this year to have Adam McGrath to share his expertise.
Adam is best known for his work being the driving force of the band The Eastern, who are widely regarded as the hardest working band in the lands. But did you know about his social conscience and the value he places on not only community but public libraries too?
During the time of the earthquakes Adam and his band played widely across Christchurch, acoustically and at no charge. His drive was to help communities in their recovery in the best way he could – by giving relief from stress by way of music. He continues to contribute to the creative output of our city, playing regularly here in New Zealand, touring across Australia and over to Europe, sharing the stories he has gathered along his journeys.
In the lead up to New Zealand Music Month, Adam will be spending time in our libraries all over Christchurch. He’ll be reaching into the depth of our digital resources, searching and exploring our physical resources, and most of all he’ll be connecting with the people of Christchurch by hearing their stories and discussing their lives/loves/losses. He will use much of what he discovers to inspire new works, songs and music, and during May, Adam will be performing a series of “Live in the Library” concerts, during which he will tell his stories of us, the people of Christchurch.
Come and celebrate with us at one of our concerts – hear new work by Adam McGrath, performances from our communities, or even a group made up of some of the musical talent we have on our library staff. Who knows….. YOUR story may be put to music by Adam McGrath.
We’ll be speaking with Adam throughout his process and he’ll be giving us some insight into his creative processes, and his musical background. Keep an eye on our website for interviews, Q&A, and more. Stay tuned!
Nanogirl is coming to Christchurch with a bang! She is putting on two shows on 5th December at the Isaac Theatre Royal. Expect explosions and excitement at Little Bang, Big Bang – the Live Science Show. One hour of science where Nanogirl blows things up, blows things over and blows your mind!
Covering Bernoulli’s principle, firing a massive air vortex cannon, holding fire in her hands and exploding thousands of ping pong balls, this show has science like you’ve never seen it before! Safe for all ages, this family friendly show shows you simple experiments you can do at home.
We asked Nanogirl – aka scientist Michelle Dickinson – a few questions ahead of her upcoming visit
What resources would you recommend for kids interested in science?
Actually my favourite place to go is online to places like the Science Learning Hub as they have great New Zealand content for all ages and for teachers that includes local content.
I also love Rosie Revere, engineer as an engineer myself, it’s so great to read a book with such a strong female engineer lead character to get girls and boys interested in and familiar with the word ‘engineering’.
What did you read as a child that you enjoyed? What books inspired you?
I read a lot of science fiction books which I loved as they helped me to think about what a future world could look like which helped me to think big about working on solutions that could help our future by helping to create technologies and materials that don’t exist yet.
What do you enjoy reading these days?
Now I’m a total non-fiction biography addict as I follow influential leaders that I admire as I try to piece together how others have overcome challenges in their lives to create the successes they were aiming for.
What role do libraries play in your life?
Libraries used to be the place that I went to borrow books when I was younger but now they are spaces of technology for me as I help libraries who have 3D printers and robotics centres in them and instead of the hardback books I used to borrow, I’m now an avid audiobook borrower from my local library.
What advice can you give young people wanting to pursue a career in science?
The best scientists and engineers are always asking questions and always testing their theories through creating experiments and researching their ideas, so my advice is to never stop being curious.
The art of typewriting
Our Selector has always found creating a picture using type to be rather appealing so has enjoyed the 570 illustrations ordered into letters and numbers, punctuation pictures, interlocking words, animals, household objects, maps and texts.
The Fall of the House of Wilde
A new and interesting slant on the many times subject of biography Oscar Wilde which puts him as a member of one of the most dazzling Anglo-Irish families of Victorian times, and also how the family were involved in the broader social, political and religious context of the times.
Black DollsFrom the Collection of Deborah Neff
Keeping with the doll theme, but from a totally differnt angle this book presents over 100 unique handmade African American dolls made between 1850 and 1930 from the collection of Deborah Neff, a Connecticut-based collector and champion of vernacular art. It is believed that African Americans created these dolls for the children in their lives, including members of their own families and respective communities as well as white children in their charge. Stunning photography.
Outlander Kitchen You’ve read the books, watched the TV series, now it’s time to cook Mrs. FitGibbon’s Overnight Parritch; Geilli’s Cullen Skink; Murtagh’s Gift to Ellen; Sarah Woolam’s Scotch Pies and Atholl Brose for the Bonnie Prince.