Learning Chinese in Context 功夫在字外

Chinese is one of the most spoken languages in the world. It was created and developed in a rich social, cultural and historical context. For people growing up in a different environment like Christchurch, learning Chinese can be challenging. Fortunately there are resources and strategies that can help.

Combining learning resources 整合学习资源

In Christchurch, there are diverse Chinese learning resources available, thanks to online resources and international migration. Some examples are as follows.

Local Chinese language schools 中文学校

Free Chinese Learning resources at Christchurch City Libraries 免费图书馆资源

Mango languages logo Rosetta Stone logo Dragonsource logo

Cultural Events

The combination of the three types of learning resources will create an ideal environment for learners to immerse in the social and cultural context of Chinese learning. Especially, Mango Language and Rosetta Stone Library Solution are good complements to class learning and enable learners to be independent in the learning process

Learning Chinese characters with stories 通过故事学中文字

Unlike English, Chinese writing is a logographic system with each character simultaneously encoding sounds and meaning at the level of the syllable. For example, the Chinese character “word”, 字, is explained as follows.

字: 篆体: , 乳也。从子在宀下,子亦聲

The seal script of the Chinese character “word” is  , referring to bringing up a son in a house so that he can become well-educated and literate (be able to read and understand words). The semantic part宀 represents the house, and the sound of 字 (zì) encodes that of the phonetic part 子 (zǐ).

Cang Jie’s creating Chinese characters ,仓颉造字, is a widely accepted explanation of the legendary origin of Chinese language. It is believed that Chinese writing was invented by a legendary figure Cang Jie, 仓颉,a court historian of the powerful Yellow Emperor. Inspired by the patterns of the tracks left behind by the feet of birds and other animals, he created Chinese writing with basic strokes as follows.

8 Strokes of Han Characters
8 Strokes of Han Characters, Wikimedia Commons.

Xu Shen 许慎,a scholar of Han dynasty (206BCE-220CE), compiled a dictionary entitled “On graphs and composite graphs”, 《说文解字》. It explains the meaning, the sound and the composition of Chinese characters. Publications based on the dictionary, such as “Pictograph of Chinese Characters”, 《画说汉字》, are also useful resources for learners to understand the composition of Chinese characters and familiarise themselves with the historical origin of these characters.

When Lu You, 陆游, a poet of Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279) taught his son to write poems, he suggested, “if you want to learn how to write a good poem, you must go beyond gaining techniques on poetry writing”, 汝果欲学诗, 功夫在诗外. The idea can be applied to learning Chinese; that is, 功夫在字外. We should not only focus on gaining linguistic skills but also put an effort in broadening our knowledge on the social, cultural and historical context of the origin and development of Chinese language. Then, learning Chinese can become effective and fun.

Find out more

Hong Wang
Network Library Assistant

Learning music with Lynda

Have you discovered our Lynda? I have.

Lynda logo

I’m struggling with music notation and learning to read music… I should have paid attention when I tried to learn at 11, because now when I’m trying to learn at 55, it’s quite painful.

It just isn’t straight forward, there are weird rules and exceptions, and it’s more mathematical than I thought it would be. Add to that, I’m looking at it from a jazz perspective and my brain not only hurts but feels numb.

I’ve got books, and I’m in a class, but I recently thought, “hey there’s that Lynda woman in our Christchurch City Libraries eResources who offers videos to learn about just about anything… I wonder what she has to offer me?”

So I got my library card and my PIN ready to go: it’s one of our resources you do have to be a  library member to use. I logged into Lynda, after finding it in the eResources section of our website.

Next, the search for ‘music’, which yielded a plethora of results from Intro to songwriting, Insider’s guide to today’s music biz, and Finding music using apple apps, and there amongst them was Music Theory.

I settled on learning musical notation and worked my way through a series of videos that I could stop, back up, repeat until some of what I was reading and practising was sinking in. There was also music theory for songwriters, improvisation and theory, and one I’m obviously not quite up to, Music Theory for Fun!

In the process, I learnt that you can adjust the skill level to suit you, as well as choose from specific authors and teachers, the length of course you want and a wealth of other limiters to make the learning truly suited to you.

But wait, you say I’m not interested in music theory.. stick with me here, because there are so many other things to learn, such as:

  • Become a Photographer
  • Publish an eBook
  • Become a Web Designer
  • Become a Motion Graphics Artist
  • Be a Small Business Owner
  • Be a Six Sigma Black Belt

So, check out our Lynda and expand your horizons… I’ll keep on with my key signatures and triads (not of the Chinese gang variety!)

Start your Chinese learning with nursery rhymes

Nursery rhymes are easy to remember, short to sing and have fun actions! So, in preparation for New Zealand Chinese Language Week (16-22 October) why not start your Chinese learning with Chinese nursery rhymes? Here are some easy Chinese nursery rhymes you can try. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about the different tones in Chinese. Try to match the tune.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are

小星星
xiǎo xīng xīng
一闪一闪亮晶晶
yì shǎn yì shǎn liàng jīng jīng
满天都是小星星
mǎn tiān dōu shì xiǎo xīng xīng
挂在天空放光明
guà zài tiān kōng fàng guāng míng
好像許多小眼睛
hǎo xiàng xǔ duō xiǎo yǎn jīng
一闪一闪亮晶晶
yì shǎn yì shǎn liàng jīng jīng
满天都是小星星
mǎn tiān dōu shì xiǎo xīng xīng

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Head, shoulders, knees and toes,
Knees and toes, knees and toes,
Head, shoulders, knees and toes,
Eyes, ears, mouth and nose.

頭兒,肩膀,膝,腳趾
tóu ér jiān bǎng xī jiǎo zhǐ
膝,腳趾 膝,腳趾
xī jiǎo zhǐ, xī jiǎo zhǐ
頭兒,肩膀,膝,腳趾
tóu ér jiān bǎng xī jiǎo zhǐ
眼,耳,鼻和口
yǎn,ěr,bí hé kǒu

Numbers

1, 2, 3
yī èr sān
4, 5, 6
sì wǔ liù
7, 8, 9
qī bā jiǔ
10
shí
(repeat backwards)

Christchurch City Libraries have a good range of Chinese learning materials as well as the eResources Mango Languages and Rosetta Stone.

Come join our New Zealand Chinese Language Week Celebration in the libraries from October 15th to 22nd.

If you would like to learn more Chinese nursery rhymes, do check out the Bilingual Babytimes every Tuesday at 11am in Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre.

Bilingual storytime with Anita
Bilingual storytime with Anita, New Zealand Chinese Language Week 2016, Flickr File Reference: 2016-09-Bilingual_storytime-Anita.jpg

Anita
Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

International Day of Older Persons 2017

Almost 700 million people are now over the age of 60. By 2050, 2 billion people, over 20 percent of the world’s population, will be 60 or older. According to Statistics New Zealand, here in Aotearoa by 2051, there will be over 1.14 million people aged 65 years and over. They are expected to make up 25.5 percent (or 1 in every 4) of all New Zealanders (4.49 million).

That’s a significant group of part of why the United Nations has an official International Day of Older Persons, and why Christchurch City Council has an Ageing Together Policy.

Resources for older people

Here at Christchurch City Libraries we have many resources and services that can be of use to older people, including:

  • Audiobooks
  • eBooks
  • Large Print books
  • eMagazines
  • DVDs with subtitles or captions for the hearing impaired

Find our more about library services for older adultsSeniors learning about eBooks

Events for older people

Community connections for adults

Classes and programmes for adults offered in our Learning Centres.

GenConnect

Informal tech instruction for Seniors provided by high school students at Upper Riccarton and Papanui libraries.

Positive aging and having fun

Marg Miller from Presbyterian Support will be sharing some of the tips and tricks to having fun when getting older.

Linwood Library
10am-12pm, Thursday 28 September.

Positive Ageing Expo

The Expo will be held at Papanui High School, and promises to be a fun day combining information about services for older adults with free entertainment.

Exhibitors will cover areas such as:

  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Recreation
  • Staying safe
  • Nutrition
  • Social Opportunities
  • Transport Options

And of course staff from various units of the Christchurch City Council will also be there. Pop down and see the stand from Christchurch City Libraries. Library staff will be available to chat about the many ways in which we can help you enjoy our vast selection of print, audio and online resources.

Papanui High School
9am-2.30pm, Monday, 2 October

Find out more

Cool stuff from the Selectors – Nature

9781472152244As Kingfishers Catch Fire: Birds and books by Alex Preston
Having kept notebooks over many, many years, Preston has collected the words of dozens of writers. Each chapter is arranged around a bird, each bird illustrated by Neil Gower. The Guardian gives this book a rave review:

Memoir, or rather memory, gilds the narrative. The most moving chapter describes Preston’s father, bedbound with lymphoma, as he watches a family of collared doves on the rooftop opposite his window. He is woken by a fledgling dove on the windowsill inside the bedroom and tries to rescue the bird. Describing himself in the third person, Preston’s father writes: “Placid and accepting, she allows his right hand to embrace her body… while he emanates all he can in telepathic sedation. It, or something like it, must be working, for her wings remain static and spread, her breast neither heaving nor fluttering … How warm to the touch. He wants to stretch the moment to eternity.” This, perhaps, is the essence of the book, this longing for communion, for connection with things other than ourselves.

CoverBritain’s Wild Flowers: A Treasury of traditions, superstitions, remedies and literature by Rosamond Richardson
Keeping with the literary/nature bent, Richardson traces the history of wild flowers and celebrates the important role they have played in literature as well as their uses in food, medicine and their place in history and myth.  A very beautiful book that is ideal to dip into.

9781473651975Basic Mathematics: An Introduction by Alan Graham
I reserved this book on a whim…I am not known for my mathematical ability and thought that it was about time I tackled what could almost be called a phobia. I must confess to scanning this book and promptly returned it, obviously I will need some more indepth counselling before I can tackle my “issues”. However, in the brief time that this book held my attention I did think it was very user-friendly, tackled basic concepts, and would be especially useful if you were struggling with keeping up with your school age children’s maths.

9780714873527Honar: The Arkhami Collection of Modern and Contemporary Iranian Art
A very disappointing cover hides a luscious book documenting the Afkhami collection of Iranian art. The art in the collection is incredibly varied and at times surprising. Each artist has their own essay, plus there are well written and interesting chapters devoted to the collection itself and to Iranian art history.

9781783963508What’s Your Bias? The Surprising science of why we vote the way we do by Lee De-Wit
We may think that we make rational decisions when it comes to voting but apparently we are just as much affected by our personality traits and unconscious biases as we are by what the news media and political debates are telling us. Perhaps you want to know more about why you think Jacinda is just the ticket or what it is about Bill that makes him irresistible? Apparently you will get to know more about yourself and the bigger political picture!

Arrrrrr it be Talk like a Pirate Day

Ahoy mateys! If it’s pirate chatter ye be after, you’ve come to the right place. Mango’s Pirate Language Course will teach you everything you need to know to “parley” in perfect Pirate.

Don’t be a lily-livered landlubber, belay yer carousin’ and haul wind smartly. Get on to Mango Languages and find some booty. Take your language skills across the seven seas me hearty, and join in the conversation. Arrrre ye up for the challenge of becoming a swashbuckler!

What be yer Pirate name, me hearty? check out the Pirate name generator below!

Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori – Māori Language Week 2017

This year Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) has shifted from its usual end of July timing to 11-17 Mahuru (September). This year we also celebrate the 30th anniversary of te reo Māori as an official language of Aotearoa.

The theme for this year’s Māori Language Week is –

Kia ora te reo – Let the Māori language live

In celebration of Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori we will be publishing a blog post each day incorporating te reo Māori or highlighting te reo Māori resources.

Te Reo Māori i Te Whare Pukapuka – Māori Language at The Library

Christchurch City Libraries – Ngā Kete Wānanga o Ōtautahi will be celebrating Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori with Wā Kōrero/Storytimes throughout the week with te reo Māori songs and stories. There will also be a couple of storytimes sessions extra to our usual schedule delivered by a bilingual presenter at Linwood and Aranui.

See our events calendar for a session near you.

Preschool storytimes
All our wā kōrero/storytimes sessions during Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori will include Māori language stories/songs

If kapa haka is more your thing, get your takahia on at Aranui Library, 2-3pm on Thursday 14 September where St James School – Te Kura o Hato Hemi will be performing.

Adding te reo Māori to your library experience can be as straightforward as the tap of a screen – why not simply try out the reo Māori option on our māu e tuku (self issue) machines?

Using māu e tuku/self issue
There are a variety of language options on our self-issue machines including Te Reo Māori.

Or learn a new kupu (word) by reading our bilingual library signs or even just learn to say the Māori name of your local library.

Mahuru Māori

Beyond the official week celebrating te reo, a further initiative, Mahuru Māori, encourages te reo Māori speakers of all levels of ability to commit to speaking te reo Māori only during the month of Mahuru/September. Other options are to speak te reo Māori anake during a chosen day of the week, or for one week of the month. Te reo speakers can join the Mahuru Māori Facebook Group for support and help to complete the challenge. For te reo tweets during September follow @MahuruMaori.

Ngā Rauemi Te Reo Māori – Māori Language Resources

Whaowhia te kete mātauranga – Fill the basket of knowledge

There are many, many resources available for anyone wanting to improve their te reo Māori knowledge. Here are some suggestions for filling your basket.

Kōrero Māori ki… – Speak Māori at…

In addition to online resources and titles available at your local library, the following initiatives and events can help bring some te reo into your day.

  • A cafe – Order your drink of choice in te reo at any of the cafes in our libraries (South, Upper Riccarton and Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre) or at The Kitchen cafe on the ground floor of the Christchurch City Council building on Hereford St and from 11-16 September you’ll get an extra sweet treat to go with your drink. Need help with how to place your cafe order in te reo? Te Taura Whiri o Te Reo Māori (The Māori Language Commission) has produced this fantastic guide to awhi you.
  • The post office – NZ Post is celebrating Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori this year with a range of stamps featuring Māori kupu (words) to do with technology. Learn new words like “ahokore” (wifi), “Pūnaha Kimi Ahunga” (Global Positioning System) or “waka hiko” (electric car).
  • Cover of Disney Moana Music From the Motion Picture Soundtrack : Piano, Vocal, GuitarThe movies (Moana Reo Māori) – Disney’s hugely successful animated feature with a Polynesian setting, Moana, has been dubbed entirely in te reo Māori (including the waiata) and will screen in cinemas during Māori Language Week… for free (though online booking fees may apply). There are limited session times so get in quick for tickets. For a taste of what to expect, watch a video of the cast singing to Taika Waititi and whanau (via Facetime).
  • Anywhere – Te Puni Kōkiri is distributing special “kōrero” badges so if you see someone wearing one it’s a tohu that they can carry out a conversation in te reo Māori and are happy to do so. Give them a cheery, “kia ora” if nothing else!

Ngā Rauemi mō Ngā Tamariki – Children’s Resources

Search our catalogue

We’ve also made lists of modern classic picture books in Te Reo Māori and Māori stories for older children.

If you know of other resources, events or initiatives in Ōtautahi to help people celebrate Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, please feel free to let us know about them in the comments below.

The joy of coding

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.

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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.

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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.

CoverCoverCover

In the meantime, if you’d like to know more, there is an excellent new biography of Grace Hopper, namesake of the protagonist in “The Secret Coders” books, aimed at a similar age group.

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…

More about coding

Adult Learners’ Week – Celebrating the Value of Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learning is great for health, wellbeing and mental agility. Adult learners of all ages and backgrounds report benefits like better self-esteem, greater tolerance, confidence and career prospects.

Adult Learners’ Week/He Tangata Mātauranga runs 4-10 September and celebrates all adult learning whether it’s upskilling for a better job, preparing for further study, improving life skills or having fun. It is supported by the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO and incorporates International Literacy Day on September 8.

If you’ve ever been curious about our learning programmes for adults – sessions on learning how to use a new piece of technology, family history research, or polishing up your CV – Adult Learners’ Week is a great time to head along and try out what we have to offer.

Library events during Adult Learners’ Week

  • eResource Taster sessions, Central Library Peterborough –  Each session focuses on a different eResource. Learn about accessing/downloading digital newspapers (PressReader), eBooks (Overdrive), eAudiobooks (BorrowBox), and eMagazines (RBdigital Magazines) as well as tips for researching family history (Ancestry Library) or online language learning (Mango Languages)
  • Technology Help Drop-in Sessions, several libraries – Have a specific issue relating to a device or piece of technology? Drop-in and get some guidance.
  • ESOL Club, Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre – This club is for non-native speakers who would like to practice English in a relaxed, pressure free environment. Every week we will have a different themed topics to guide conversational practice.
  • Family History Help, Fendalton and Upper Riccarton Libraries – Looking for more help with your family history research? A volunteer from the New Zealand Society of Genealogists will be available to help you with your family history questions.
  • CV drop-in, New Brighton Library – A librarian will be on hand to assist customers who are needing help with their resume. We can offer guidance on creating, updating, and editing your CV.
  • Learner License Course, Aranui Library – This course, delivered by Literacy Christchurch, is designed to give you all the knowledge and confidence needed for best success at passing when sitting for your learners licence test. Laptops and devices will be available for use during the class times to sit practice tests and for researching questions.
  • How to organise and edit your digital photos, South Library – Learn how to organise your photographs and do some basic editing using online photo editing software. Please ensure that you bring your camera and USB download cables. Cost: $7. To make a booking please call 941 5140

Find out more

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

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

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

Session One: Tania Roxborogh, Leonie Agnew and David Elliot

TaniaLeonieDavidAug2017
Tania Roxborogh, Leonie Agnew and David Elliot, signing books after their talk in Christchurch, 7 August 2017

Tania Roxborogh

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

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

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

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

David Elliot

Snark

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

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

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

Leonie Agnew

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

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

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

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

NZCYAFInalistsc
Books by Leonie Agnew & Tania Roxborogh on display

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


Session Two: Des Hunt, Jenny Cooper and Simon Pollard

DesHuntAug2017
Author Des Hunt, August 2017

Des Hunt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Des Hunt with the audience, August 2017

Jenny Cooper

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

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

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

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

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Illustrator Jenny Cooper, August 2017

Simon Pollard

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

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

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

Find books by Simon Pollard in our collection.

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Simon Pollard, August 2017

Questions from the kids

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

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

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

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

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What advice would you give for budding writers and illustrators?

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

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

READ MORE

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

More awards information:

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