Armageddon is coming…next week!

This year the masses will descend on Horncastle Arena for the annual Armageddon convention on the weekend of 2-4 June. The 4th of June being, conveniently, Queen’s Birthday holiday.

I myself have attended Armageddon religiously since 2012, after discovering that an actor from one of my then (still) favorite television shows would be in attendance. Last year I somewhat satiated my Tolkien obsession and obtained Pippin’s [Billy Boyd’s] signature on my beautifully illustrated yet dog-eared copy of ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ Other highlights include spending my hard-earned money on a replica Evenstar and discovering the stall that sells moonshine in hipster-ish mason-style jars. Does this still exist? Where was it last year? ;-(

Not much has changed. Still a shameless fan girl.

Because I get excited about these things, in preparation I will be wading through several of my favourite Armageddon-worthy television shows over the coming weekends: check out our catalogue for inspiration, and for my top picks.

And if you have a lot of time on your hands…check out these books:

Armageddon 2018- Must Reads

Cover of A Game of Thrones by George R. R. MartinA Game of Thrones – George Martin’s epic fantasy is intimidating to say the least, but well worth the time. Pick it up now and you just might get through it before the long-awaited Season 8 is released.

Supernatural – Ah, Dean and Sam. Sam and Dean. The excellent chemistry between the two lead actors carried me through a whooping 13 seasons of the TV show, but this fan-fiction is helping with my withdrawals somewhat.

Cover of Epic cosplay costumesEpic Cosplay Costumes – Who doesn’t love a good dress up…and the chance to upstage all the other Armageddon-goers.

Star Trek – Star Trek 101. Visually stunning effort by DK. If not the most comprehensive of guides, a great intro to the world of Star Trek for budding fans!

View Full List

Photos from our Collection

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of attending an Armageddon convention before, here is some of what you’ve been missing out on:

Three Furry Creatures. File reference: 2015-03-13-DSC00749
Pop culture baby onesies
Little nerds in the making. File reference: 2015-03-07-IMG_6159.
Pinhead cosplayer
A Pinhead Looking for Action. File reference: 2015-03-07-IMG_6156.

See more photos from Armageddon’s gone by

Youth Week events at Shirley Library

For all you gamers and budding artists out there, in honour of Youth Week we are putting on some exciting events at Shirley Library. Come along to our Playstation Tournament this Friday to WIN great prizes, and get in on this Drawing and Visual Storytelling Workshop, hosted by comic illustrator/fantasy artist Ryan Green, this Saturday.

So back to Armageddon. I’ll be there, rubbing shoulders with the sweaty rabble and hoping for a glimpse of a certain someone who may have rubbed shoulders with a certain Jon Snow.

Will you be dressing up this year? See you there 🙂

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.

 

Cavell Leitch New Zealand International Jazz and Blues Festival 2018

Frosty mornings, the threat of snow, and midwinter blues might be a couple of months away yet, but Christchurch is about to be hit by a different type of blues when the Cavell Leitch New Zealand International Jazz & Blues Festival comes to town later this week (May 23-27).

Returning to the city for its twenty-third year, this festival is a treat for lovers of jazz and blues, and offers a range of experiences showcasing local and international talent, and up-and-coming stars to watch out for in the future. Here are a couple that really stand out to me.

Kurt Elling, Grammy Award-winner and 8-times winner of the Jazz Journalists Association’s ‘Male Singer of the Year’ title, is headlining the festival, playing with the Kurt Elling Quintet at the Piano on Saturday, May 26. His is a voice that is an absolute pleasure to listen to, and with the backing of a live quintet, this is sure to be a magical evening.

Listen to Kurt Elling’s music in our collection (includes streaming music as well as CDs)

Whenever I think of jazz and blues, Billie Holiday is one of the first names I think of. Although we won’t be graced by the great singer herself, we will be able to experience the power of her repertoire when Mary Coughlan sings Billie Holiday in two concerts at The Piano on Wednesday 23 May. This show was first performed in Christchurch at the Jazz & Blues Festival fifteen years ago, and I’m hoping I get to it this time around – I was trying to decide whether to go see it back then, and didn’t, and have been kicking myself ever since.

Listen to Mary Coughlan’s music in our collection. 
Listen to Billie Holiday’s music in our collection (includes streaming music as well as CDs)

Having played clarinet when I was younger, I have always enjoyed hearing what Kiwi Nathan Haines has been up to in the music world, and am excited to see him here in Christchurch with Jonathan Crayford. With violin accompaniment, this duo will be reinterpreting the works of well-known classical composers to fit the jazz and blues style of the festival. Both Haines and Crayford have won the Best Jazz Album of the Year award here in New Zealand, and with this amount of skill on the stage I am really excited to see what they create.

Listen to music by Nathan Haines in our collection.
Listen to music by Jonathan Crayford in our collection. 

Of course, all the big names need to start somewhere, and the Jazz & Blues Festival supports these young up-and-comers and Christchurch locals. Georgie Clifford and Alice Tanner are two such ‘noteable young women’, and Christchurch local Kate Taylor, front-woman of the All-Girl Big Band, is also one to watch. On the festival’s last day, five Christchurch high schools will show off their jazz skills in the Festival High School Jazz Band Concert at Christchurch Boys High School on Sunday 27 May.

For something a little different, join chef Richard Till and local band The Eastern for an evening of Southern Fried Chicken and music at the Lyttelton Arts Factory on Friday 25 May and Saturday 26 May.

As you see, with so many different artists on the programme, there really will be something for everyone. I recommend getting your tickets now so that you don’t miss out on this wonderful musical experience. And, once the festival’s over, check out our jazz and blues resources to stay in the swing of things.

Jazz and blues in our collection

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Jazz and blues eResources

Naxos Music Library Jazz streams over 9000 jazz albums, from jazz legends to contemporary jazz. It covers a wide range of jazz music with recordings from over 32,000 artists. Labels include Blue Note, Warner Jazz, EMI, Enja, Fantasy and more. New albums are added weekly.

Jazz Music Library includes material from Concord Records, including New Zealand pianist Alan Broadbent, major jazz figures such as Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and more. There are also recent jazz figures such as Diana Krall, Esperanza Spalding, and even Michael Bolton singing Sinatra standards! The collection includes works licensed from legendary record labels, including Audiophile, Blue Note, Concord Jazz, Jazzology, Milestone, Nessa Records, Original Jazz Classics, Pablo, and Prestige. Also included are Marian McPartland’s Peabody Award winning Piano Jazz Radio Broadcasts and never before released performances from the Monterey Jazz Festival and great jazz venues. Jazz Music Library is part of Music Online: Listening Plus.

American Song provides online access to over 100,000 tracks from  every genre and music period of American history.

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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Science and the city

More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and this number is continuing to rise. As more and more of us are crammed into these cities at ever increasing densities, there is an urgent need for innovative ideas that enable us to live together happily in comfort and good health. To achieve this, city planners are increasingly turning to science and technology for what are sometimes called smart city solutions.

As part of Techweek 2018, on Monday 21 May, Christchurch City Council’s Smart Cities programme will be hosting the 2018 Smart Cities Innovation Expo at Novotel Hotel, Cathedral Square Christchurch. Entry is free, and from 10am – 4pm visitors will be able to see a wide range of interactive exhibits showcasing local and national cutting-edge ideas for improving city life, from urban augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, and smart sensors, to rapid earthquake response systems, cycling innovations, and interactive apps. In anticipation of this event, I’ve put together a list of books that explore the many ways that science and technology can help us to understand cities and make them better places to live. Enjoy!

Science and the city

List created by robcruickshank

Books about how science and technology help us to understand cities and make them better places to live

Cover of AerotropolisAerotropolis – A look at one possible future for the world’s cities

Built – This fascinating history of structural engineering from ancient times to the modern day

Built on Bones – What happened when we started living together in cities? – the archaeological evidence

Christchurch: Our underground story – A brilliant locally produced “lift-the-flap” book for children about what lies underneath our feet here in our very own city.

Darwin Comes to Town – Why cities are the best places to study evolution

Cover of The endless cityThe Endless City – A look at the future of cities around the world from the Urban Age Project at the London School of Economics – also check out the sequel – Living in the Endless City

Feral Cities – A fascinating account of urban wildlife around the world and how animals are adjusting to city life

Happy City – A travelogue the looks at the psychology of urban life around the world and how we can make cities happier places to live

Cover of The history of future citiesA History of Future Cities – A fascinating look at how four global cities have each developed and embraced modernity in their own unique ways.

View more titles in the full list

Pink Shirt Day 2018

If you have ever been bullied, you will know what it is like. You might wonder why they are doing it and when they will stop. You might feel sad or depressed. You might feel anxious, worried and alone. You are not alone, and you can get help.

It is tragic that bullying has become the huge problem that it now is. When I was at school, the school bully could torment kids to and from school. Play time and lunch time was another opportunity for bullying. Lesson time was usually safe, because the bully was older and in another class. Bullies rarely bullied you in your own home. Now, with social media and cell phones, bullies can torment their victims any time. It has to end.

There is never a good reason for bullying. I know people are more likely to be bullied if they seem different from their peers in some way. They might be clever or popular, different race, have different religious views. They might have disabilities. They might be a different weight or height. It could be a difference in sexuality or gender identity. We need to celebrate diversity and embrace our differences. We are not all the same and isn’t that good?

Pink Shirt Day started in 2007. Two Canadian students took action against homophobic bullying, getting the whole school involved, when a fellow student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt. In New Zealand, Pink Shirt Day will be on Friday, 18th May. Show your support for diversity in you school or workplace. Stand up and speak up.

Will you wear a pink shirt on Friday 18th May? Will you join me in saying “No” to bullying behaviour?

For tips on how to prevent bullying, check our catalogue for books about school bullying, cyber bullying and workplace bullying. Or check out some selected titles about bullying below.

Pink Shirt Day 2018

List created by Valerie_L

Cover of Bullies, bigmouths and so-called friendsCover of How can I deal with bullying?Cover of Bullies, cyberbullies and frenemiesCover of How to handle bullying and gangsCover of How can I deal with bullying?Cover of Bullying beyond the schoolyardCover of Dealing with bullyingCover of Bullying: How to Help your Child Cope With Bullying

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The timeless tradition of nearly forgetting Mother’s Day

The second Sunday of May. Or, this year, Sunday 13th May. A day which – much like birthdays and anniversaries – I usually forget until the last dire minute. Cue me rushing through the mall right before it shuts trying to find a gift both thoughtful and needed. A thing which, by the way, doesn’t exist when you’re looking for it.

The history of mother’s day can be traced back to its ancient roots. Spring celebrations in ancient Greece honoured Rhea, the mother of the gods, with offerings of honey-cakes, drinks and flowers. The ancient Romans celebrated their mother of the gods too – Cybele, or Magna Mater, ‘Great Mother.’ They built her a temple in Rome and over several days during the March equinox, the festival of Hilaria was held in her honour. Even the ancient Egyptians held their own annual festival in celebration of the goddess Isis – she being revered as the mother of Pharos and a divine symbol of motherhood.

In a more modern age, mothering Sunday in the UK (the fourth Sunday of Lent) became a day where workers could take time off to visit their mothers; and in the United States a woman named Anna Jarvis is credited with beginning Mother’s Day there from 1908, following the death of her own mother. (Find out more about the history of Mother’s Day at The Legacy Project)

These days, we don’t so much bother with honey cakes and the lighting of the ceremonial fires, but Christchurch City Libraries do have a wealth of material, images and resources to help us celebrate mother’s day the way it should be (with a good book).

We could start with this handy Staff Pickles list, along with some of my top picks:

Cover of Five forget Mother's DayCover of MiracleCover of MothersCover of Mother's Day on Coronation StCover of Mother's and Father's day treats

Here are some photos from Christchurch City Libraries’ digital collection of mothers being mothers in times past and present.

How were many Cantabrians celebrating mother’s day in 1984 you ask? By joining in a nuclear free parade, of course: 

Nuclear free parade, Akaroa, Mothers Day, 1984 from Kete Christchurch. Entry in the 2009 & 2014 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt by Jan Shuttleworth. Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ

And you thought that our Babytimes could get crowded:

Mothers and babies gathered outside St. Helen’s Hospital, Sydenham [1909]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 2, IMG0075
Adorable family standing in front of the United Services Hotel in the square: 

Mother and Daughters in Cathedral Square (early 1940’s). File reference: HW-08-CE-018. From Flickr.

On a final note, it can be observed that in our busy lives we often neglect to make time for ourselves. Could this be any truer than for the busy mother? Enter All Right? who have brought us a fresh new idea in the form of these popular downtime dice, to remind us to take time out for ourselves. Downtime dice can be nabbed (free!) in libraries, but get in quick – they’re going fast! Check out their website for ideas about downtime activities.

Wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day!

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

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Best of 2017: Picture Books – Christchurch City Libraries

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Good reads for younger dudes

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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!

Robert Webb: How Not To Be a Boy – WORD Christchurch, Tuesday 15 May, 7.30pm

CoverDiary this! On Tuesday 15 May 7.30pm, WORD Christchurch, in association with Auckland Writers Festival, presents Robert Webb in conversation with Kiwi comedian and writer Michele A’Court. Robert is a comedian, actor, and writer, appearing in such gems as Peep Show and Mitchell & Webb.  He will be speaking about his new book How Not To Be a Boy at the Charles Luney Auditorium, St Margaret’s College, 12 Winchester St, Merivale. Robert will also be signing copies of his book after he speaks. Find out more and buy your tickets. 

In his book, Robert looks back to his childhood, through to his university years where he met his friend and comic partner, David Mitchell (both performing for the famous Cambridge Footlights).  We are with him for his school days, and as he grapples with grief after the death of his mother.

Growing up, Webb found that society expected boys and men to love sport and play rough, drink beer, never to talk about their feelings, and never to cry. When Webb became a father, he began thinking about the expectations society has of boys and men – and how these expectations were often at best, absurd, and at worst, limiting and emotionally damaging.

Webb will discuss, among other subjects, how various relationships made him who he is as a man, the life lessons we learn as sons and daughters, and “the understanding that sometimes you aren’t the Luke Skywalker of your life – you’re actually Darth Vader.”

More Webb

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