This Beats Perfect: YA author Rebecca Denton sings out

CoverThis Beats Perfect is a contemporary young adult story about finding your voice. There’s music, social media and girl meets boy. Author Rebecca Denton was a teenager in Dunedin in the early 1990s rocking out to the ‘Dunedin Sound‘ and has been ensconced in the music scene ever since. Her novel even includes a playlist. We went ‘backstage’ to talk to Rebecca about writing her first book and musical influences.

The novel’s title is a perfect play on words. The story is based a little bit on the author’s own life experiences of being 17. Denton was a singer-songwriter herself but too shy to put herself forward due to a “fear of failure.” She says that “always in the back of my mind since I was really little I wanted to write… a book, a movie… write, write, write” and that it was a matter of finding “creative courage” to do so. In a way, this first novel is like putting a song out there. I interviewed Rebecca to hear more.

Rebecca Denton (image supplied)
Rebecca Denton (image supplied)

Rebecca, you have said you still feel like a kid, 18 at heart, and in This Beats Perfect you say you get to revisit dreams that you didn’t chase. Can you tell us more? Both the main male character Amelie and Maxx are held back by a fear of failure – about playing their own music to a wider audience – whether it’s anonymous Amelie feeling performance anxiety as she falters at her auditions or famous Maxx afraid to break out of the boy band mould he’s found himself in. Has this focus on a fear of failure come from somewhere for you?

I picked up the guitar from 14 (after I rather shortsightedly deemed my piano and trumpet were highly uncool). I wrote a few songs and played the odd gig but I was so terrified performing that I never chased this passion with the ferocity I should have. As a teenager I was afraid of being judged for many reasons but one of the most critical was that I felt if I wasn’t exceptional then it wasn’t worth trying.

This all or nothing fear of being nothing but *the best* never left me. It followed me right through my career in advertising and TV and really held me back. I was too afraid to stand out creatively, make bold decisions and believe in and listen to my own voice. Because of this I never fully put myself out there.

Then I got older, wiser, and realised that creativity can be a personal pleasure and it didn’t matter if that outspoken friend or peer I looked up to didn’t like what I did. It didn’t need to be for them. When you get wise to the fact that critics are not the custodians of pleasure, you become free. See: PUNK ROCK.

“Not everyone is going to like what you do no matter how real you are.” – from This Beats Perfect

How does the saying ‘write what you know’ apply to your novel?

When I decided to write a book, I didn’t have time for tonnes of research (due to small children) so I thought: What did I do at 18? Who did I want to be? Let’s relive that. And luckily I’d spent my career working and being around music and musicians so I was able to draw on that. I didn’t know everything of course. I got a little help from some friends.

Rebecca, you moved to Dunedin as a young teenager and went to Logan Park High School. How has growing up in Dunedin shaped this young adult novel? Tell us more about the influence of this time and place on your novel?

Frankly, I hated high school. But Logan Park has produced some pretty crazy talented folk* over the years. I didn’t click with my music teacher, or perhaps any teachers while I was there, but I appreciate some things looking back. The school was far more liberal and supportive of creativity than some of the more conservative single sex schools in Dunedin.

By the last couple of years of school I was so tediously bored and from about the age of 16 I started sneaking out of school and hanging out at the student union at Otago University in my school uniform or this little café near the university where they sold Dime bars, mugs of tea and single Camel cigarettes.I fell in with a music crowd and started sneaking into gigs at the Empire and the Crown. The 3Ds, The Clean, The Chills, The Bats, Bailterspace, Straitjacket Fits – I listened to or saw them all, multiple times. I was so lucky to be living in Dunedin at that time – it felt important. And in the days before the internet, small towns in the South Island never really felt important.

This time of my life totally influenced the book. I had the most amazing, clever and eccentric group of girlfriends with whom I shared everything and explored everything. There was a lot to love, and a lot to leave behind but it’s still with me, everyday. There are elements of people who have been a part of my life intertwined everywhere.

* Such as Kiwi musicians Andrew Brough, Jane Dodd, Graeme Downes, Martin Phillips
Read more from the library about the Dunedin Sound

The tagline title to This Beats Perfect is ‘She’s NOT with the band…’ In your novel, the main character Amelie is definitely NOT a groupie. Tell us about the character’s need to not be defined by a either a boy or her father.

I wanted to explore an area of music we don’t normally find a lot of women – and that is production and composing. PRS for Music (The Performing Rights Society) did a report in 2011, and discovered that only about 13% of registered composers in the UK were woman – I’ve not seen the numbers but I’m pretty sure it’s around the same or maybe even less in engineering and producing. So a heroine songwriter was a must – but a budding engineer was even more interesting to me.

Amelie shows her nuanced musical knowledge in the novel, rattling off obscure genres (like Nerdcore, Japonoise, Baby Metal, Nintendocore, Happy Hardcore and Fidget Bass). A depth of music appreciation shows in your writing. The playlist aspect you’ve created to tie-in with the book is unique. Each chapter is titled after a song. Can you tell us more about that idea?

My editor gave me feedback in the editing process that I needed to pack the book with more music. And I was struggling to come up with titles for chapters – so I thought, ‘hang on what about a playlist that reflects Amelie, the story and me?’

Listen to the This Beats Perfect playlist

The playlist includes New Zealand’s own The Chills (Heavenly Pop – funny ‘rock’ video, literally), The Clean‘s Tally Ho and Edward Gains. There’s hip-hop and The Beach Boys. Delightful discoveries in this playlist for me were Regina Spektor’s The Consequence of Sound and Sufjan Stevens’ Futile Devices. Amelie’s favourite artists mentioned in the novel include Marika Hackman, Laura Marling, SZA and Aldous Harding.

Hannah Harding: Lyrical writing
Aldous Harding at Lyrical writing session, WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival 2014. Flickr 2014-08-31-IMG_1823

You have specifically referenced Lyttelton musicians Aldous Harding and Marlon Williams in your novel. When Amelie’s sound engineer father encourages Maxx to find the soul of his own music, he takes him to see a musician he feels embodies this…

“His voice was deep as Johnny Cash, but with a modern cabaret feel, inspired and exquisite storytelling over timeless melodies.” “This isn’t songwriting for money, for fame, even for the audience’s entertainment.” … “Reminds me of Marlon Williams…”

I just want to support Kiwi musicians as much as possible, and I absolutely love what Marlon and Aldous are doing. Marlon Williams’ cover of the Screaming Jay Hawkin’s track Portrait of a Man is just so… so good.

Read our blogpost about Aldous Harding’s session on songwriting at the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival.

Any favourite memories or places in Christchurch for you?

When you live in Dunedin, Christchurch is the big smoke. I specifically remember I saw The Bats there when I was 16 (braces and all) with my friend Marea. She wore my mum’s home-knitted emerald green ’60s dress and I wore some cobbled together monstrosity.

What did you READ when you were a teenager?

You know, not a lot. I kind of stopped reading at around 13, well books anyway, and all my spare time was dedicated to music. Playing, listening, memorising lyrics. I did love books like Flowers in the Attic (yikes!) but honestly I just didn’t really read very much. I wish I had. I think if there had been a more interesting YA (young adult) reading community like there is today I would have read much more.

What role did (or do) libraries play in your life?

My father is an academic and writer so I spent a LOT of time in libraries with him when I was younger. Even today, when my Dad visits there will probably be some kind of trip to the library involved. I love going to them with my kids as well, snuggling up on a sofa and reading Hairy Maclary for the 100th time.

What’s your next project Rebecca? Any encores?

Book 2 follows on from This Beats Perfect, but it’s not Amelie’s tale, but the story of two young women: the privileged daughter of a record label executive who gets caught up in the business of selling celebrity secrets. And a hyper bubbly fangirl who has outgrown her idols and looking for what to do next. It’s fun, but also probably more layered than This Beats Perfect. Book 3 is in the same fictional world as well. I’m just starting it, but it will be about an all-girl punk band who scam their way to international glory. I can’t wait to write this book.

Rock on Rebecca!

More

This Beats Perfect would make a great read for artistically inclined teens or any young person wanting to give their passions and talents a push. This is the sort of book I want to give my musically minded daughter in her teens. It is published by Atom Books and Hachette New Zealand.

This Beats Perfect
by Rebecca Denton
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9780349002729

Rebeccalaunch
Author Rebecca Denton at This Beats Perfect book launch February 2017 (Photo credit: Carolyn Burke)

More about the author: Rebecca is originally from Melbourne, moved to Dunedin as a young teenager and later spent many years in the UK. New Zealand sits deepest in her heart. She now lives in Austria with her young daughters, a trumpet, 2 guitars, a keyboard, several vintage computer games. She spent her career travelling the world making music TV for MTV and Channel 4, and wrangling young adult audiences for the BBC and ITV. She’s filmed Iggy Pop, MIA, Kaiser Chiefs, Sonic Youth, Jack White, Dirty Pretty Things and The Klaxons, to name a few.

Rebecca’s recommendations

Rebecca says: YA literature is SO MUCH MORE than fantasy. There are so many incredible books out there (200+ debuts in the USA alone this year).

CoverCoverCoverCoversimonversusthehomosapienstheloveinterest

Read

Everyone teenager (and adult) needs to read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. The story was inspired by the killing of Oscar Grant, an unarmed 22 year-old African America by a transit officer and is one of a crop of books exploring racial injustice out this year.

Read Kiwi

Fellow writery mum Bianca Zander‘s Predictions or The Girl Below.

Magic

A great escapist read was Caraval by Stephanie Garber. Great fun – I really just lost myself in that book.
Read our Caraval review.

Queer stories

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is going to be a cult movie – so read the book first! And one of the most hotly anticipated YA books of the year is The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich. A fellow YA author said to me that it is ‘one of the best books you’ll ever read.’

Listen

Start your ‘women in punk‘ journey with Patti Smith’s record Horses.

Watch

Grace Taylor. Seek out some of her spoken word performances online or Taylor’s TedX Talk. And then buy, share, support and help to raise up voices of the marginalised in New Zealand.

Support art

Go to Art Ache if you can (it offers original pieces of art at affordable prices). There was one recently in Dunedin, and they happen regularly in Auckland. Buy some affordable limited edition pieces by other New Zealanders and help boost our artists.

If you like the sound of This Beats Perfect …

lonesomewhenyougoYou may also like the recently released Lonesome When You Go by Saradha Koirala. Paige plays bass in high school rock band Vox Pop, which means keeping steady even in their most raucous rock and roll moments. But in the tense build-up to the Rockfest competition, Paige finds she can’t control everything in her life, no matter how hard she practises. Lonesome When You Go is a novel about practising solo, performing like a rockstar, and how contributing your best self to something can create a force greater than the sum of its parts.
Author Saradha Koirala taught English at high school in Wellington for ten years.
Read an excerpt from Lonesome When You Go.

Knights and Princesses Day

Knights and Princesses fun dayHear ye, hear ye!

The Princess and the PonyThe populace of Central Library Peterborough invite one and all for an afternoon of medieval entertainment, to take place from 1-3pm on Saturday the 25th of March. There will be crown decorating for those of royal blood, and shield making for any knights in need of armour. Catapults will be created and tested! If you are of an active disposition we invite you to attempt the quest, or if of a more mellow nature try out some medieval crafts and board games.

Prizes will be granted for the best costumes so bring your sense of chivalry and your best royal and/or knightly outfit to win! All welcome. This is a free event.

Need help getting into character? Check out my list of favourite books about knights and princesses for kids and teens.

Cover of Sir Gawain the TrueCover of The Princess in BlackCover of Tuesdays at the CastleCover of The Winter Prince

Caraval: Magical fantasy

If George R. R. Martin’s Westeros of the Game of Thrones series is a magical take on an historical Britain, then the world of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval is a similarly fantastical Italy.

The story starts on a sun-soaked isle, the home of heroine Scarlett Dragna and her sister Donatella, but inevitably progresses to the home of Caraval, where potions, wishes and magic are real and wind through it like its twisting canals (making it suggestive of an imaginary, fairy tale Venice).

Cover of Caraval

Scarlett and Tella are the daughters of the local governor, a murderous, manipulative brute from whom both sisters would love to escape. Scarlett, the elder cautious sister, hopes to do just that via an arranged marriage… but Tella has other, somewhat more adventurous ideas, involving a trip to the mysterious, magical game of Caraval.

The game is like a murder mystery dinner, but one that takes place over 5 days, involves a whole town as the set, and is infused with magic. It’s all just a game and nothing is real… but Scarlett, who is drawn into the game by her sister and is forced to hunt for her when she is abducted, comes to believe otherwise.

There are clues, chases, shadowy menacing figures, false leads, magically transforming clothes, revelatory backstories and more than a little bit of heady, romantic entanglement. Perfect, escapist, young adult, fantasy reading for a rainy weekend.

But there’s also character progression as the reader watches Scarlett discover her self-worth over the course of the book, starting out as a fearful, somewhat downtrodden character but eventually, through love for her sister and dogged determination, finding strength and confidence in her own choices.

As far as mysteries go, this one kept me guessing (and most of my guesses were wrong). The story is a bit slow to start, and if you look too closely you’ll start to find plot holes, but that said once the main characters are in the game, the pacing is such that it’s a diverting, page-turning ride to the dramatic conclusion.

Though, be warned, a couple of intriguing plot points are left deliberately open, suggesting a sequel may be in the works…

Caraval
by Stephanie Garber
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781473629158

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

In Eric Lindstrom’s latest young adult novel, A tragic kind of wonderful, Mel is a beautifully complex young woman grappling with confronting decisions and emotions, navigating relationships with her family, friends and her internal ‘animals’.

Cover of A tragic kind of wonderful

Lindstrom’s use of a first person narrative allows the reader to experience the intensity of Mel’s experiences, memories and decisions as she tries so hard to navigate her present dilemmas and the omnipresent events that led to her brother’s death.

As much as Mel would like to curl up and withdraw from the world, her own spirit and those around her prove time and time again the importance of connections and taking leaps of faith.

Mel must face her greatest fears and be honest with herself and others to an extent that to her feels like jumping over a huge cliff.

Before I read this book I thought my review would centre on the ever present challenge Mel had with her Bipolar disorder. However I now feel that Eric Lindstrom presented Mel’s experience so empathetically that I understand how mental illness did not define Mel but was ultimately what made her and her bonds with family and friends all the more tragically wonderful.

This book shows us ways in which mental illness and traumatic events can impact individuals in similar and very different ways and the possibilities for hope that exist at the darkest of times.

A tragic kind of wonderful
by  Eric Lindstrom
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008147471

Mask Making at the Makerspace Workshop

Come and check out our mask display at the South Learning Centre. Students at the Marker Space Workshop afterschool programme investigated the meaning behind masks and why people wear masks. They then researched and drafted their own mask ideas. Their brief was to incorporate an accessory that could be 3D printed.

masks

Marker Space Workshop afterschool programme delved into the World of Wearable Arts (WOW). But it was more than just costume making – it involved a trip to Creative Junk and sewing lessons with a sewing machine – but also circuit making with LEDs and Arduino chips.

Students were asked to create an Kiwiana outfit which included an electronic circuit with flashing LEDs.

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Booking and enquiries

To book a place on one of our courses please phone (03) 941 5140 or email: learningcentre@ccc.govt.nz.

Hillmorton High: Hunters & Gatherers’ Book Reviews

Here is a list of Hillmorton High: Hunters & Gatherers’ Book Reviews, as assembled by Kate into a booklist.

CoverJanuary Gabrielle Lord

This book is about a 15 year old boy called Callum that has to stay alive for 365 days. Someone is trying to kill him, and this same guy may have killed his father. This is the first book in a series, January. Each book represents each month. If you are interested in action books, you should start reading this series. The great thing about this book is that when the exciting parts come (which is almost the whole book), you get such a clear picture in your head of what’s happening.

Reviewed by Dylan

CoverBatman: Battle for the Cowl Tony S. Daniel

This book starts with letting us know that Batman (Bruce Wayne) has died. Without Batman, Gotham City has gone completely insane. Nightwing, Robin and the rest of the Bat Family have been taking control, but every time they get to the crime scene there’s a note saying, “I am Batman.” They know that this person is not the real Batman.

People who enjoy DC Batman and a lot of takedowns (‘takedowns’ are ways of knocking people out quickly) – this is definitely the book for you! This book will seem interesting to those who enjoy epic fight scenes or like mysterious things happening in books. If you’re not interested in that stuff, then this will be boring.

Reviewed by Eustice

CoverCollins Easy Learning Spanish Conversation

Spanish is a fun language to learn. The Collins Easy Learning: Spanish Conversation is a guide to having a worthy conversation in Spanish. This book is for all people that want to start speaking Spanish. It has examples with the phrases just in case you don’t understand. For example: ¿Qué te parece si nos quedamos un día más? How about staying one more day? They have phrases for almost any situation and it has a pronunciation guide too.

Reviewed by Matthew H.

The Beginner’s Guide to Adventure Sport in New Zealand Steve Gurney

The book starts off about Steve Gurney when he was young. He was the last kid picked for bull rush, and was picked on and teased about being a slow runner. He proved them wrong when he won the Coast to Coast a record 9 times! He became an adventure sport legend! He wrote this book to help beginners with adventure sport in New Zealand. He talks about tramping, biking, climbing, paddling, snow sports, and triathlons. He recommends places to go mountain biking, and good techniques for kayaking. He even shows you how to change your tyre if it pops, and suggests good protein foods for energy.  I would definitely recommend this book for beginners and people who just want that little tip, or two.

This book would most definitely be open to boys and girls! I think it would be great if there was more girls getting out there and doing adventure sporting!

It is special because Steve Gurney is a New Zealand sporting legend! An adventure sport legend giving you tips on hobbies or sports that you like is pretty amazing! I would recommend to check it out at your local library! I like this book so much and find it so interesting I have read it about three or four times! There are more Steve Gurney books out there, like Lucky Legs & Eating Dirt.

Reviewed by Matthew L.

Guinness World Records

This book gives us facts about world records like parts of human bodies and fastest vehicles at the current time. If you are like me and like to look for facts, this is a book for you. The great thing about this book is that it gives you lots of different and interesting information.

Reviewed by Neihana.

CoverBunny Drop Series Unita Yumi

Bunny Drop (also known as ‘Usagi Drop’), is a series filled with a lot of drama, comedy, and a bit of romance thrown in. It is about a 16 year old girl, Rin, who lives a motherly life unlike other teenage girls. She is adopted by her uncle, Daikichi. So, you could say, he is kind of like an uncle, but mixed in with some father. Rin has a journey to find out who she is and why she’s here. Along her journey, there are always speed bumps for her, but she has great friends with great personalities that she can count on. People who would like to read this book are probably, the ones that are into drama because trust me, it has a lot of drama! And others that like these books might be people who are into the genre – romance! I think what’s special and unique about this is all the intensity and drama. There is also a lot of scenes that can make you laugh, cry, but mostly laugh!! This series, I think is one of a kind.

Reviewed by Bernadine

CoverCaptain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People Dav Pilkey

 This book is about how George and Harold are going to a school which is very bad, unhygienic and has terrible teachers. When George and Harold go into the Purple-Potty 3000 (a time machine they built), everything reverses so the school is very good, hygienic and has great teachers.

People who are into books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and other Younger Fiction will enjoy this book. The special thing about this book is that it has lots of drawings, lots of comics and little things that make it fun to read.

Reviewed by Matthew C.

CoverDemon Dentist David Walliams

Alfie HATES the dentist, you could tell with his yellow rotting teeth. He hides all his dentist letters from his dad who is in a wheelchair. But ever since a new dentist came to town, the teeth under the pillows have been taken; but what was left was something unbelievable.

Who is doing this? Why would they need so many teeth?
Anyone who likes a scary book will love this book (it isn’t too scary, just a little bit).

This book is special because it isn’t like our world – in this world you might wanna hold onto those teeth!

Reviewed by Bella

CoverThe Sorcerer in the North John Flanagan

The most important characters in this book are Will and Halt. Will and Halt are two rangers that go on a long journey to kill the evil sorcerer, because people have gone missing and been getting killed in the north.

This is an amazing book to read because in some parts it’s really funny, but it has lots of action too. The Sorcerer in the North is a great book for young adults because this particular book has some swearing in it.

Reviewed by Ryan

Matilda Roald Dahl

This story is about a little girl called Matilda. She could read before she went to school. She read all the books in the children’s library. Her family doesn’t like her because Matilda reads books and her family doesn’t like to read books, they like watching TV. Matilda wants to go to school. Then finally, her Dad takes her to school. Her teacher Miss Honey tells her class to be nice to Matilda. At school the principal Miss Trunchbull, throws a boy and Matilda helps the boy to fly away with her secret, superpowers. This book made me laugh out loud, you will like this book if you are into funny books.

Reviewed by Hellen

CoverTwilight Stephenie Meyer

This book is about vampires.

Bella Swan moved to Forks after living with her mother in Arizona, now she is living with her father Charlie.

Bella is endangered after falling in love with Edward Cullen, the Vampire.

I recommend this book to a person who likes vampires and romantic stories.

This book is special because it became a movie. Also, it was the #1 New York Times bestseller.

Reviewed by Pharot

CoverExtra Special Treats (…Not)  Liz Pichon

This book is about one boy named Tom who has a cousin called Marcus.He doesn’t like Marcus because Tom throws snowballs at Marcus.

I think people who like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, people who like action and adventure, and also people who have annoying sisters would like this book. Liz Pichon is very creative and you can easily see this picture in your head.

Reviewed by Joshua

CoverLiteracy My Prize: How I learnt to Read and Write Michael Marquet

This book is about a guy who did not know how to speak or communicate with people when he was a child. Also, he did not know how to read or write, not even his name. I think this is a great book for kids with the same learning problems because the kids would not read it but their parents can read it to them. This book is very inspirational for those who are having trouble learning in and out of school.

Reviewed by Tanja-Marie

Class ACover Robert Muchamore

This book is about children infiltrating a drug dealing company. The children have to somehow make friends with the drug dealer’s children. What’s unique about this book is that there are multiple spies instead of just one kid. If you have read the Alex Rider books and liked the action in there then you would probably like the action in this as well. I would highly suggest you read The Recruit before you read this book because that way you would know more about James Adams.

Reviewed by Talal

CoverHarry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone J.K. Rowling

This book is about a young boy named ‘Harry Potter. One day he gets a letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He had no idea what this was about.

He had never heard about this place or knew that his parents were magic either! It didn’t take long for him to make some new friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.

I think that this book would appeal to people that like fantasy, magic and action-packed stories with lots of suspense. It’s also the beginning of seven book series with lots more adventures. If you liked the Harry Potter movies then you will probably really enjoy this book!

This book is unique because it was something different for this age group, and I really liked it! It wasn’t really a type of book that I was used to or had really read before.

Reviewed by Reuben

Spiders Barbara Taylor

This book is nonfiction and is about Spiders which are arachnids. They can be in any shape and any colour but always have eight legs. They eat insects and some even eat big things like centipedes. Some spider species are different because they don’t make webs to catch prey instead they hunt their prey. To do this some spiders have big eyes, great jumping skills and have good camouflage.

This book has detailed pictures of spiders. It is fun to read and it has good facts. People who likes arachnids/spiders should read this.

Reviewed by Simon

Girl Online On TourCover Zoe Sugg

Girl Online on Tour is about a girl (Penny) that has anxiety. Her boyfriend Noah is a pop star, so she travels around Europe with Noah and his band and ends up in Brighton. In Brighton Noah performs in a show, watching from the crowd she loses her phone. Penny falls and hurts herself and leaves the stadium because she can’t cope with the crowd and Penny may have a panic attack.

I like that this book has different settings, from all over Europe and more stories from real life. Zoe is actually a famous Youtuber. For age 11-13. If you like her very first book would really enjoy this book.

Reviewed by Holly

Page by PaigeCover Laura Lee Gulledge

Page by Paige is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel about sixteen year old Paige who has just moved from Virginia to New York. Paige decides to try out her Grandmother’s drawing lessons and keep a sketchbook. Soon she is happy again.

I would recommend this book for any keen artist or as a teenage read. It is ideal for both girls and boys as it has strong characters.

The illustrations really tie the story together, which is what helps make it so special. I loved this book because it is a deep, moving story that is bound to capture your heart as well as your artistic self!

Reviewed by Katie

HatchetCover Gary Paulsen

This book is about a kid called Brian that goes to his Dad’s house to see him because his Mum and Dad have split up. On the way the plane pilot dies from a heart attack but Brian survives the crash and the only thing he has got is a Hatchet!

You will like this book if you like the woods and adventure stories. It is a really good descriptive book because you can see it clearly in your mind.

Reviewed by Andrew

Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia NicolsonCover Louise Rennison

This book is about a young teenage girl who is about to turn 15 and struggles to handle her first crush and her stone-age parents. I recommend this book for young teenage girls because this book gives good advice on how to handle being a teenager and how not to handle being a teenager. In this book there’s a lot of twists, bumps and funny moments that can also help a young girl during the teenage phase. I really like this book because it helps control my emotions, to me, it’s like a girl bible.

Reviewed by Destiny

Never Google HeartbreakCover Emma Garcia

This book by Emma Garcia has everything a really good romance story would need. It has love, great story, someone else falls in love with the boy, and pretty much anything a great romance story needs to hook people in. What’s special about this romance is that Vivienne (The main character) wants to start a website where people can give advice to heartbroken women. What’s also unique is that at the start of every chapter, there is something like a quote or something that relates to that chapter. I would recommend this to young adults as it does have a few swear words but I think that just adds to the story so the reader can feel the emotions better. Overall, this is a great story in my opinion and would be worth reading it if you enjoy romances and suspense.

Reviewed by Jerry

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog DaysCover Jeff Kinney

This book is about a boy named Greg who was always playing video games during the summer holidays. The rest of his family were outside playing and the weather was fine while Greg was playing games inside. I suggest this book for kids and maybe young adults. This is a really funny book and it even has a movie about it. I like the book better because it has lots of pictures in it and even though they look like stick people, it still has lots of features in the pictures. A great thing about this book is that it is part of a series and there are movies about it.

Reviewed by Maria

Double ActCover Jacqueline Wilson

The book is about identical twelve-year-old twins, named Ruby and Garnet. Ruby is the oldest and she is super hyper and she often gets in trouble. Garnet is the smart, intelligent, neat one. Ruby is mainly bossy and Garnet always does what either Ruby does or what Ruby tells her to. Everyone keeps telling Garnet she doesn’t have to be the same as Ruby, but if she doesn’t Ruby gets angry and won’t talk to Garnet. Their mother has sadly passed away, and their father is dating this woman called Rose and well Ruby absolutely hates her, but Garnet however is OK with her. Mainly the book is based on an empty old account book they found and the text in the book is their writing. The girls audition for a main twin part in ‘The Twins at St Claire’ but Garnet ruins everything. Then they both find a piece in the paper that will change their whole lives.

If you’re into drama and page turners, or books with a twist, this is the book for you. It has ups and downs. The unique thing about this book, is that there’s no other book like it. This book really is special.

Reviewed by Katy

MatildaCover Roald Dahl

This is a book about a girl called Matilda she had to take care of herself ever since she was born. She is a very different kid because when she was about 3 she started going to the library and reading lots of books.  She was 5 and a half she went to school because her Mum and Dad were not ready at all. Miss Honey is the nice teacher and Miss Trunchbull is the principal, and is really mean to the teachers and kids. Everyone is scared of her. But what Miss Trunchbull does not know is that Matilda has a secret power. If you love Roald Dahl, this is a must-read.

Reviewed by Anna

LegendCover Lu Marie

This book is about a 15 year old girl who tried to find out who murdered his brother Ian. She finds out that a boy named Day, was the one who killed his brother. Or did Day kill his brother? Find out for yourself if he is innocent, or if he is a murderer.

If you really like action, this book is for you. This book is really interesting, with lots of action and more. If you do really like it, there will be another book coming out named Prodigy. If you like The Stormbreaker, then you will LOVE this. I don’t want to spoil anymore, so have fun with this comic.

What’s special about this book you might ask, well, it has 3 categories or genres.

  1. Action                  2. Emotion                     3. Romance

When you read through this comic, you will find that action is harder than you think, emotion for you to feel and romance could be one of your talents with girls/boys, if you are very confident.

Reviewed by Conrad

Adventure Time: The Duke based on an episode by Merriwether Williams and Tim McKeown

This book is a book with lots of funny comedy scenes and a little bit of anger. It’s about a human boy called Finn and his best friend/brother Jake which is a dog. They accidently throw a boomerang potion into Princess Bubble gum’s window which makes her half bald and green!?! She thinks it is the Duke of Nuts because he eats all of her pudding, but actually it’s his obsession. So Finn and Jake help the Nut Duke avoid being put in the dungeon, and also saving themselves from trouble.

This book is a comedy book and it’s suitable for people who love cartoons. It has some twists in the book which is interesting. Also, this book is for both boys and girls which is good. It’s really interesting and cool in ways. It tells the story in a different format, which is really cool because it’s from a television episode.

Reviewed by Kaylene

One PieceCover Eiichiro Oda

This Manga is called One piece and it is about a boy named Monkey D. Luffy, that ate a Gum-Gum Devil fruit that turned him into a rubber man. His mission is to be the king of pirates by getting treasure called the ‘One Piece’ but it is in the most dangerous part of the sea called the Grand line. In the Grand Line there are monsters and other devil fruit users.

Will he get the One Piece?

If you like adventure and action you will like this book, which is what I like the most about this Manga series.

Reviewed by Shea

Death BringerCover Derek Landy

This book is about the adventures of Skulduggery Pleasant, the skeleton detective, and his young apprentice Valkyrie Cain. This is the sixth book in the nine book series. If you like lots of action, magic, a complex story, plot twists, mystery and lots of characters then this book is for you. In the sixth book in the Skulduggery series, Death Bringer builds on the story in the first five books. I would recommend reading the first five books in the series before you read this one otherwise this book won’t make any sense.

Reviewed by Riley

The 13-Storey TreehouseCover Andy Griffiths

This story is about Andy and Terry Denton. Andy is the story writer and Terry is the illustrator. They live in a treehouse with 13 storeys.

Terry turns a cat into a canary by painting the cat yellow! So I think people who like comedy and funny things will like it.

It was the first book in the series, and in every book the treehouse gets an extra 13 storeys, so if you like this one you have other books to read after this.

Reviewed by Alexander

Have your say about library events and programmes

preschool-sessionsWe are reviewing our schedule of public programmes and events and would love to hear from customers (and potential customers) about which activities you’d like to see prioritised.

Have your say! We welcome any suggestions.

If you’d rather do a paper version, fill one out at your library and pop it in the survey box. You can also download the survey [PDF] and drop the printed copy off. (consultation closes 12 Feb)

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YA reviews: Clover moon, Don’t even think about it, and Think twice

Want the skinny on books? Check out what the Cashmere High School Read and Review Team have to say.

Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson

Cover of Clover moonYet another (amazing) book about a broken family. This sad story about a young girl who lives in rags is definitely a must-read for Jacqueline Wilson fans. I loved the connection with Hetty Feather! The beginning of the story is all rather upsetting, with almost no chance of getting any better. But at the end things turn out just fine! Clover is a sweet girl who loves to look after children, she doesn’t tend to get along well with kids her age however Clover is brighter than most of them! She uses her intelligence to find her place at The Girls’ Institute and finally a more permanent home.  I would love another book about Clover to see what she gets up to!

Don’t Even Think About it & Think Twice by Sarah Mlynowski

Cover of Don't even think about itI absolutely love this two-part series about telepathy! Jam-packed with an amazing plot and heaps and heaps of love triangles. Before reading this book, I warn you that the ending contains a massive plot twist; that requires a little knowledge about chemical elements. Some of my favourite things about these books, besides the unique use of telepathy, was probably the range of personalities. Each character was different and all of them went on different journeys, experiencing their ESP (telepathy) in different ways.

Both reviews by Genevieve (Y9)

Read more reviews by high school students

The Beano Annual 2017

CoverDid you read comics when you were young?

I’m English and grew up on this one. If you enjoyed The Beano in your younger years, or are young now, you’ll get a laugh out of this annual. Many of the classic characters are still there – such as Dennis the Menace (and his dog Gnasher), The Bash Street Kids, Bananaman, Roger the Dodger and Minnie the Minx.

The old favourites look ever so slightly different, as some have been drawn by new artists. The stories are up to date with modern technology, media and language, but the essence of the old Beano remains.

Christchurch City Libraries also hold a really interesting History of The Beano which tells how Gnasher first arrived (then mysteriously disappears) in Beanotown. A must for purists.

CoverAnd did you know, you can also view the latest weekly issues of The Beano on PressReader? The last three months are available – just sign in with your library card number and password.

I also discovered Blimey! a blog on British comics.

Enjoy!

Summer Writing School for Youth 2017

sfyw-summer-writing-school-poster-no-marksThe School for Young Writers in Christchurch is holding a Summer Writing School and Workshops, 16-20 January 2017. The Summer Writing School comprises a week’s worth of writing for teenagers, with special guest tutors alongside some of our regulars. On the final day students will get an opportunity for 1:1 mentoring as they complete a piece for the special magazine that they will produce.

There are also opportunities for younger children (Year 7-9) to let their imaginations loose in short workshops with James Norcliffe and Heather McQuillan on the 24th January. Information can be found on their Facebook page. (Please note: the years 4-6 sessions on Jan 23rd are now full).

We spoke to Glyn Strange, founding director and Heather McQuillan, associate director of The School for Young Writers about the Summer Writing School and Workshops:

Why go to The School for Young Writers throughout the year? Who is it for and what will they get out of it?

The School for Young Writers is for Years 3 to Year 13. Young writers get the pleasure of working with skilled teachers in groups of like-minded children. Regular tuition produces results. We also have a correspondence programme for those who can’t make the class times.

What kind of writing activities and exercises do you do?

Heather: Stories, poetry in all its forms, creative non-fiction, jokes, flash fiction, memoir, song lyric, play script, monologue, twists on genre, fantasy, slam poetry, whatever the children ask for and whatever our creative tutors can come up with.

Tell us about some of the tutors at the school.

Summer school tutor, James Norcliffe

Glyn: James Norcliffe is one of New Zealand’s most admired writers of poetry (Burns Fellowship and many other awards) and fiction for young readers. Heather is also an award-winning writer of fiction for young people as well as poetry, short story and flash fiction ( She is the current National “champ” in Flash fiction). Gail Ingram is New Zealand’s best poet for 2016 (New Zealand Poetry Society). Greg O’Connell is renowned for his interactive poetry shows  and poems published in the School Journal. Stephanie Frewen is an award-winning scriptwriter. The plays her students write are broadcast on Plains FM and many are preserved for all time in Radio New Zealand Sound Archives.

Can you share some top tips for youth who want to write?

Join the School for Young Writers (of course). And enter the competitions in our Write On magazine. Teenagers submit to Re Draft – an annual anthology of the best teenage writing in New Zealand.

What about young people who think “I’m no good at writing…”

Glyn: Some of our best writers said that when they joined us. We are not there only for the gifted and talented. People don’t know they have a talent until they try it.

Heather: Sometimes young people have not had the opportunity to express their own creativity through writing. Our programmes are “low stakes.” We don’t use rubrics, mark or judge writing. Our goal is to help a young writer develop a piece to be the best expression of their ideas. This is a joyful process.

What changes do you see in the students over the course of the year?

Glyn says the changes are “immense” and Heather agrees: “For some it takes a few sessions to warm up and let their ideas free. Once they do then amazing things happen. Learning that all writers redraft is often key to the breakthrough.”

Can you share some highlights from the School for Young Writers this year?

Glyn: The greatest kick for me was to see the change in a young writer who came to us writing very dark stuff. By the end of the year, eligible to enter our annual Re-Draft competition for teenagers, this person won a place in the 2016 book The Dog Upstairs. This nationwide competition is for writers up to university level, so it’s a great achievement for such a young writer to win a place.

Heather: This year we held a poetry reading event in association with WORD Christchurch and New Zealand Poetry Day. It was a thrill to see usually shy young people stand up and read their pieces with confidence. I also love working in schools and a seeing the transformation over two days as reticent, vulnerable writers realise that they have something worthwhile to write, something that others want to read. Standouts have to be a group of Year 7/8 country boys (never laughed so much in a workshop) and a gorgeous group of teenagers in Queenstown who were open, enthusiastic and extremely talented. They even gave up their Saturday to attend.

Your favourite authors writing for children and young adults?

Of course we love James Norcliffe! Most of our young writers are also avid readers and they recommend writers to us!

cover of Pirates and the nightmaker Cover of Felix and the red rats Cover of The Loblolly boy Cover of Dark days at the Oxygen cafe

Some of YOUR Top picks of books for youth in 2016?

Heather: Being Magdalene by Fleur Beale. I went back and reread her others. Anything Patrick Ness has written. I’m a bit behind on my YA reading having been a University student this year and reading the modernists. I’m looking forward to some holiday immersion in YA books.

Cover of Being Magdalene Cover of A monster calls Cover of The knife of never letting go Cover of The rest of us just live here

What drives you to commit so much passion for this work?

Glyn: All of our tutors do it for the love of writing and with a passion for ensuring the future of New Zealand literature.

The School for Young Writers is based at Hagley College. What’s the association?

Glyn: Hagley College offered to support us and we gratefully accepted. We are a separate organisation and a registered charity. Hagley is our venue.

Tell us about the publications the writing school is associated with.

Cover of They call me ink, Re-Draft 15Glyn: The School for Young Writers has always emphasised the importance of publication. Without it, writing is like a house without a roof. Write On magazine gives everyone a chance to strive for the pleasure of seeing their name in print and encourages them to lift their game as far as possible. The Re-Draft competition began when we had developed teenage groups whose work was good enough to publish in book form. Re-Draft challenges our senior students to pit their skills against the best in the country. The results are amazingly good. New Zealand literature is alive and well and has a good future. Your blog should include this.

What are some things you’ve heard the students say about their experiences at the writing school?

Glyn: You should see the smiles on their faces when they emerge after two hours of fun learning. They don’t need to say anything. It shows. The younger ones often excitedly share their work with Mum on the way home.

Heather: They keep coming back and stay for years. For some of the students The School for Young Writers is their safe place, they make special friends and can be themselves. We love quirky. We value individuality.

Check out what is on offer for youth at the Summer Writing School this January.

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