Announcing Annual – a treasure trove for Kiwi children

annual_coverWe’re so excited about the eagerly-awaited publication release of Annual from Gecko Press (edited by Kate De Goldi & Susan Paris). Annual is a real game-changer as the first publication of its kind in New Zealand.

Annual is a 136-page smorgasbord of stories, comics, satire, how-tos, poems, games and puzzles aimed at 9-12 year old children – and their families.

There’s a dictionary of crazy words that come in handy on car trips, a sophisticated ‘spot the similarity’, a found poem from school newsletters, a maths-nerd’s memoir full of tricky logic puzzles, and top-class fiction that spans Christchurch Botanic Gardens in the 19th century, the loss of a brother, a Kiwi beach holiday and a board game.

A Box of Birds: A Collection of Odd Words to Take on a Road Trip by Kirsten McDougall, in Annual

Annual’s fantastically illustrated double-spread contents page by Dylan Horrocks is a work of art in itself and the publication features a curation of specially commissioned pieces and collaborations from 41 New Zealand writers and illustrators, including: Bernard Beckett, Fifi Colston, Gavin Bishop, Dylan Horrocks, Barbara Else, Coco Solid, Samuel Scott, Whiti Hereaka, Paul Beavis, Renata Hopkins, Ben Brown, Sharon Murdoch, Damien Wilkins, Jonathan King and many others!

Why a New Zealand annual?

Kate De Goldi, co-editor of the Annual from Gecko Press, could see there was a “hectic” trend in children’s writing – popular books for children such as those that are slapstick or fantastical or series titles (think Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants). She says that while these books are great, the current market does not run in the favour of more nuanced, complex books.

Inspired by, and harking back to memories of children’s annuals in the UK like Bunty The Books for Girls, De Goldi reminisces that “Annuals were like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag – you always see something new every time you opened one.”

Annuals were full of literary miscellany – a home for practitioners, writes, emerging talent. Kate remembers being given annuals for Christmas and how for some children it may have been the only book they got in a year so it was something to be savoured and enjoyed all year long.

With Annual, the editors set out to “reimagine an iconic book format for today’s young readers.” Lorde, Taylor Swift and “selfies” are in there. Indeed one of the charms of Annual is how it manages to reference pop culture yet still feel nostalgic.

The Island of Misplacia from B.O.N.E. by Gavin Mouldey, in Annual

Christchurch writers, illustrators and artists showcased

Street art by Wongi
Whare & Whānau by Wongi, Flickr File Reference: 014-12-15-IMG_3940

Speaking of nostalgia, it’s evident Kate De Goldi has a soft spot for Canterbury. Born and raised here, a Christchurch connection appears throughout Annual in various forms: From local writers such as Gavin Bishop, Ben Brown and Renata Hopkins to the street art of Christchurch in a commentary on Wongi Wilson’s Whare & Whānau (2014) in Spray Can Renaissance.

Due to the CBD’s rebuild, Wilson’s mural, that was on the corner of Tuam and Manchester streets is barely visible now, making this snapshot of a certain time and place more poignant.

We asked Kate to tell us more about the inaugural Annual:

Kate, how did the idea for Annual came about?

Author, Kate De GoldiFor some time I’d been bothered by the fact that there seemed to be a dearth of good, original New Zealand reading material for readers between 8 to 12, the reading group that American publishers/booksellers call ‘middle-grade’ (between ’emerging’ readers and young adult readers), roughly between 8 and 12 years. Additionally, I was sorry that there were no publications anymore for emerging writers for that age group to publish short form material.

One day a couple of years ago while I was out running round the hilly streets of Wellington and thinking about these things, it suddenly occurred to me that an Annual – a miscellany of stories, comics, poetry, articles, art, puzzles, games etc – would be a great solution to both of these issues. By the time I’d finished my run I’d thought of two people who could help make it happen – Julia Marshall, the publisher for Gecko Press and Susan Paris, the editor of the School Journal.

Why is this ‘Annual’ so significant for New Zealand?

As far as we know there’s never been a New Zealand publication like this for New Zealand children. This is the first publication of new, commissioned material across a variety of forms for this age group. It’s also the first publication to draw contributions from such a wide range of writers and artists – well known writers and illustrators for children, but also new writers and artists or writer/artists who usually produce work for an adult readership.

Annual is also an attempt to broaden the notion of what is allegedly ‘suitable’ for children. We believe that the 9-12 age group is a very sophisticated readership, one that’s hungry for different kinds of reading – fiction, non-fiction, graphic material, and great art – so we’ve commissioned work that is varied and substantial and with real literary merit. But the editors (Susan and me) have a pretty developed sense of the absurd, too, so we wanted the Annual to have funny – even silly – contributions as well as solid stuff.

Tell us about your childhood memories of annuals?

I grew up in a house full of books, including a wide range of very good children’s books. Comics were kind of frowned on, though – but I loved them… I read them at other people’s houses whenever I had the chance.

All the well-known British children’s comics of that post-War period (Girl’s Crystal; Princess; Rupert; Beano, Bunty, to name some) also had an Annual (a kind of bumper issue of the comic) published in time for the Christmas market. As a non-comic household we tended not to get the Annuals either – except one year when, for some reason, my sister Clare got Bunty. She was 8 that year, but claims she was still reading that Bunty Annual until she was 18. I believe her – the thing I noticed about annuals was that they seemed to last forever…every time you picked up a well-thumbed, familiar annual there was somehow always something you hadn’t noticed before and were very pleased to read.

When we were first thinking about our annual we knew we wanted it to be like that – a gift that kept on giving. It’s roughly aimed at a 9-12 readership but we hope that those readers will keep on dipping in over the years; and we’re confident there will be both younger and older readers – and adults – outside the designated age group who will enjoy many of the contributions between the covers.

How did this annual come together?

Once I had the annual idea I contacted Julia Marshall who was immediately very keen on the idea of Gecko Press publishing a miscellany of this kind (Gecko’s catchphrase is ‘curiously good books’). Then I contacted Susan Paris, who is a good friend, but more importantly has 12 years experience commissioning and editing the New Zealand School Journal a publication embedded in the history of children’s writing and illustrating in New Zealand and which is in many ways like Annual –  miscellany of varied forms, but for use in the classroom.

Susan and I began by dreaming up ideas for stories, poems, articles etc and then worked out who we thought would be the best writers and artists to work with those ideas. We needed to come up with the ideas ourselves to ensure a balance across the annual – different moods (sad, funny, silly, reflective); different settings (urban, rural); gender and cultural balance; different forms (realist, fantasy, historical etc). We worked hard to match our ideas with the right artist/ writer…for example, we liked the idea of a ‘found’ poem composed entirely of lines taken from school newsletters. We asked James Brown to have a go at that – we knew he was great with different poetic forms. We approached writers and artists who we knew enjoyed working within certain parameters but who could still make the piece their own.

Commissioning was just the first stage – we edited all the work for publication and worked with Gecko Press to find illustrators for many of the pieces. It was particularly interesting for me – a tyro* in this regard – to see a project of this size right through from inception to publication. Every aspect of the process was fascinating – and quite consuming…debating the best sequencing of all the contributions, debating the title and cover, the color of the cover…and more. And finally there’s spreading the word ahead of publication – talking to librarians, booksellers, teachers, any prospective buyers – preparing the website to go live. (* Tyro = beginner or novice).

Kate, you say that Annual is meant to be enjoyed by ‘backwards browse.’ What does that mean?

This was new to me – Julia told us that people nearly always explore a book, especially a volume of mixed material, from the back to the front.

It’s perfectly true. I do it myself, though I’d never noticed…and we’ve enjoyed watching people pick up Annual and check it out by fanning the pages from back to front. That’s good from our point of view – the first piece they see, then, is Naked Grandmother, the board game which is pretty entertaining. A ‘backwards browse’ will find you flicking through an annual until you fall on what you want to sink yourself into.

Annual’s cover is quite subtle compared to the treasure trove inside. Was that intentional?

Yes, that was intentional – the title written vertically and two lovely drawings by Gregory O’Brien…the chirping bird kind of heralding something good to come. And then there’s the color – a radiant orange.

We wanted the cover to be a striking design (that’s the work of Spencer Levine who also designed the interior) so that the prospective reader would be drawn to pick up Annual – and then begin the ‘backwards browse’ through the material between the covers – which is rich indeed, a real feast for the eye.

What is your hope for the book?

Firstly, I hope the book finds its way to the readers we had in mind when we were working on it – all those readers between 9-12 who are smart, curious and hungry for new material. I hope that readers outside that age group will check it out, too. I hope especially that it is bought by school libraries – that way Annual can reach readers who may not otherwise come across the kind of material inside.

We hope that Annual becomes an annual publication! We’re working on the second volume now and hope that we can keep on producing for as long as there’s an audience…We hope to keep on finding new writers and artists and giving them a platform to publish. We hope, too, that NZ writers and artists for children aspire to be published in Annual, that it builds an audience among practitioners as well as readers.

Kate, you’re very prolific. What is your next project?

Cover of From the cutting room of Barney KettleSusan (Paris) and I are well launched on the commissioning of Annual 2 – which is huge fun…We meet twice a week and spend hours talking and pitching ideas to each other, refining them and working out how best and who might turn them into gold.

I’m also working on a film script of my children’s novel From the cutting room of Barney Kettle another first for me and very interesting. (Set in High Street, Barney Kettle is a homage to Christchurch pre and post-quake).

Kate De Goldi is starting work on a novel in the new year and continuing a long term non-fiction project. (Her current project is a book about children’s literature bibliophile, Susan Price).


Here are some personal highlights from the book:

Continue reading

Fast Five with Julia Eccleshare

There are some wonderful authors and illustrators for children who are coming to Auckland in August as part of the 2016 IBBY Congress. You can read all about who we are excited to meet in our post about the IBBY Congress here on the blog. We approached some of the speakers and asked them a few questions about books and libraries.

Cover of Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter: Potraits of children's writersToday’s featured speaker is children’s literature expert and reviewer Julia Eccleshare:

What are you most looking forward to when you visit New Zealand for the 2016 IBBY Congress?

IBBY Congresses are the most amazing places to explore the discuss the ways in which children’s literature is both culturally universal and specific. Four days of talking about children’s books with like-minded colleagues from around the world is one of the best ways of spending time!

What is your favourite memory of libraries?

The local library of my childhood was a wonderful treasure trove which we visited every week, swapping the little paper ticket for the magic of a book. It would look very old fashioned nowadays. And it smelt of floor polish.

What are 5 of your favourite books?

Warrior Scarlet by Rosemary Sutcliff

Cover of The illustrated mumThe Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

The Arrivals by Shaun Tan

What do you love most about the world of children’s literature?

Working in a world full of imagination, hope and a largely benign and optimistic view of human nature and behaviour. Buried within their stories, children’s literature transmits values which will shape their lives. Every day I feel lucky and privileged to be part of that.

What do you believe is the most important thing that adults can do to encourage children to read?

Tell them stories, read them stories and encourage them to dream and wonder.


The 2016 IBBY Congress comes to Auckland

From 18-21 August, New Zealand is hosting the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Congress. This event brings together people, from all over the world, who are passionate about bringing children and books together. Three of us from Christchurch City Libraries are extremely excited to be attending this important Congress in Auckland, the first time that it has been held in Australasia.

There will lots of great discussions about connecting children with books, especially in the digital age, as well as the world finals of the Kids Lit Quiz and the Hans Christian Anderson Awards Dinner. Attending these events is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and has been on my bucket-list for a while.

Cover of The book thiefThere is an incredible line-up of speakers including Markus Zusak (author of The Book Thief), Australian Children’s Laureate Leigh Hobbs, co-founder of Weta Workshop Sir Richard Taylor, children’s literature experts Julia Eccleshare and Leonard S. Marcus, and some of our best local authors and illustrators. I am especially looking forward to hearing from Julia Eccleshare and Leonard S. Marcus, who are both experts in the field of Children’s Literature and incredibly respected.

The Congress concludes with the Auckland Storylines Family Day, which gives children the chance to meet many of our best children’s authors and illustrators. There is a huge programme of activities for the day for families in Auckland. I will certainly be blogging like crazy to share my highlights of the IBBY Congress.

Here is what Kim and Dan, who are also attending, are looking forward to at the IBBY Congress:


Illustrated children’s books are a real passion and specialty area of interest of mine so attending IBBY is an exciting opportunity to see a wide array of international and Australasian authors and illustrators.

Cover of SmileI am especially looking forward to a session with author and illustrator Raina Telgemeier from the United States: ‘My Life is a Comic, and Comics Are My Life!’. As a fan of graphic novels, particularly autobiographical comics, I find they are a great way for beginner or reluctant readers to get hooked into reading. Raina’s autobiographical graphic novels about common experiences of growing up have struck a chord with readers world-wide. Her tales of woe negotiating life with siblings (rocky road trips, pesky pets and parents apart) in Sisters or having to endure years of dental work after an accident as a youngster in Smile resonate with many in her best-selling award-winning graphic novels, including Drama.

As a cartoonist she has reinvigorated Ann M. Martin’s classic Babysitter’s Club series as graphic novels.

Despite her stories being female perspectives on sisterhood and pre-teen life, my young son is a big fan of Raina’s (if I don’t get an autograph I’ll be in trouble).

Cover of The amazing adventures of Razza, the ratI am also curious to hear more about ‘Generation Alpha’ from Witi Ihimaera (that is, the generation of children born from 2010 growing up in the digital age) and its impact on storytelling, fitting with this year’s IBBY theme of ‘Literature in a Multi-Literate World.’ Adding to this, the author talks focusing on indigenous issues in the world of children’s books will be especially pertinent to New Zealand.

I am really looking forward to the library tour of various libraries throughout Auckland and getting great inspirational ideas to share with Christchurch City Libraries. Bookending IBBY is the annual Storylines Festival of New Zealand’s Writers and Illustrators Family Day, the largest children’s literacy festival of its kind in the southern hemisphere. which will offer a taster ahead of the Storylines Festival in Christchurch, 28 August,held at Upper Riccarton Library and which looks to to be a great lot of literary fun for the whole family with craft and activities, from figuring out how to fix a bike puncture, to author readings and performances. See the line-up of author appearances and other activities at the Storylines website and follow the Storylines Christchurch page on Facebook.


My objective for the conference is to gain exposure to many new ideas and current ways of thinking of how best to engage kids with reading, and about promoting literacy and recreational reading to young adults.

I am a strong advocate of recreational learning for all ages and will seek out inspiration from the conference, listening to the key note speakers, their ideas and experiences, and forming relationships with others from around New Zealand who are engaging in the same areas as myself (and all of us!).

I am particularly interested in the retention of traditional culture and depiction of traditional stories in modern formats to make the stories accessible to young people.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to:

  • Cover of Jane and the magician by Martin BaynonMeshack Asare: An Indigenous Literature in the Global Context
  • Leonard Marcus: Illustration Unbound: Narrative Art across Genres, Age
  • Sir Richard Taylor/Martin Baynton: Groups, Cultures, and from Paper to Pixels and Beyond, Stories on the screen
  • Raina Telgemeier: My Life is a Comic, and Comics Are My Life!
  • Witi Ihimaera: Storytelling in Generation Alpha

We’ll be bringing you more info about the IBBY Congress in the next couple of weeks, including Fast Five interviews with some of the speakers.

Horowitz and Gleitzman and Walliams, oh my!

Some of the biggest names in the children’s literature world are descending on Auckland next week for the Auckland Writers Festival.  I’m lucky enough to be going to the festival and I’m incredibly excited about meeting my literary idols.

There is a brilliant line up of children’s authors coming to the festival this year and some really big draw cards – Alex Rider author Anthony Horowitz, the hilarious David Walliams, Australian author Morris Gleitzman and the creator of Captain Underpants, Dav Pilkey. All of these authors have a huge number of young fans all over the world and I’m sure their sessions will be sell-outs.

Cover of Eagle strikeCover of Mr StinkCover of NowCover of Captain Underpants and the revolting revenge of the radioactive robo-boxers

I’m especially looking forward to David Walliams session. I loved his TV series, Little Britain, and was sceptical when he started writing for children, but his stories are hilarious. His style of story is very similar to Roald Dahl, with lots of laughs and characters that make you squirm. If your children haven’t tried his books yet they are well worth a read. They are especially great for reading aloud and will have you and your children laughing out loud.

I love having the chance to hear authors talk about their books and it’s fantastic that the Auckland Writers Festival have managed to get such big names over here in little old NZ.

Best and Worst Evening draws large audience

Gavin Bishop speaking at Best and Worst 2011
Gavin Bishop’s best picture books

The Best and Worst Books for Children evening was attended by over 70 book lovers last night. Held at South Library, the audience keenly followed the advice from experts such as local author, Gavin Bishop, to enjoy the delights of picture books. He gave special mention to Grandpa Green by Lane Smith which uses topiary as a metaphor for memory loss to help children understand Alzheimers.

Heather Orman, a teacher from Thorrington school shared what works well in the classroom. One of her favourites for encouraging wonderful visual art and story writing was Tell me a Dragon by Jackie Morris.

Sheila Sinclair of the Children’s Bookshop waxed lyrical about the beauties of Northwood by Brian Falkner and Covershared her store’s best sellers for the year. No one guessed the Auckland top seller, which was Curly from Shirley by Emma Pullar. Sheila felt this expressed in a very tangible way the positive wishes of other New Zealanders for Christchurch’s recovery.

Louise Easter, children’s literature expert from Christchurch City Libraries shared her selection of books that were perhaps not at the top of her Christmas list and you can read the  full list of the libraries’ recommendations for good holiday reading for children and young adults on the library website.

Cover Cover