New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults – 2018 finalists announced

The finalists for the 2018 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults have been announced.

“From sharks and dawn raids to earthquakes, kidnap plots, Jean Batten and the familiar chaos that is kids at breakfast time, their range is diverse. But they all share the magical ability to transport, inform and delight, says convenor of judges, Jeannie Skinner. “These books, fiction and non-fiction, help us try on different lives, see the world through another’s eyes, and be inspired by stories of our past, present, and possible futures.”

The judges say the real strength of the shortlist is the range of vividly drawn and memorable characters who encounter challenges, both physical and mental. They were also delighted by the richly authentic voices, which reflect the unique New Zealand landscape, vernacular and humour, with convincingly drawn family and peer dynamics. Powerful settings of imagined futures, whether dystopian, inter-planetary or steampunk, add variety and wild imagination to the vibrant mix. (Read the judges’ full comments).

The awards are administered by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust and the final award winners will be announced Wednesday 8 August 2018.

A special congratulations to Canterbury finalists Gavin Bishop for Non-Fiction and Jenny Cooper (Amberley) for Illustration.


Picture Book Award Finalists

Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction Finalists

The authentic voices of young New Zealanders are heard loud and clear in the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Junior Fiction shortlist. Whether in the past or present, drama or comedy, the judges found the characters to be warm and vividly real, as they face challenges and negotiate relationships.

Read Christchurch City Library’s interview with Stacy Gregg about The Thunderbolt Pony and keep an eye out for her following book The Fire Stallion (due out late September 2018).

Copyright Licensing NZ Award for Young Adult Fiction Finalists

The Copyright Licensing NZ Award for Young Adult Fiction was another exceptionally strong field this year, with themes of survival against the odds, challenges and mental health issues. Most importantly, the judges say, the authors in this category all nailed the voice of their young adult characters “in these well-written and deftly plotted books”.


Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction Finalists

The judges were excited to see such a bountiful number of high calibre nominations for the Elsie Locke Non-Fiction Award and they say the finalists shine with the authors’ expertise and passion for their subjects. “These non-fiction books take sometimes complex subjects and distil the essence, clearly and honestly, for their young audience to show what makes our world so interesting, wonderful, and various.”

Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for Te Reo Māori Finalists

The entries in the Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for books written entirely in te reo Māori were described as ‘Ahakoa he iti he pounamu’ …they were “precious like greenstone”, and the judges praised both the content and the quality of the language used.

  • Hineahuone, Xoë Hall, translated by Sian Montgomery-Neutze (TeacherTalk)
  • Te Tamaiti me te Aihe Robyn Kahukiwa, translated by Kiwa Hammond (Little Island Press Ltd)
  • Tu Meke Tūī! Malcolm Clarke, illustrated by Hayley King (AKA Flox), translated by Evelyn Tobin (Mary Egan Publishing)

Russell Clark Award for Illustration Finalists

Best First Book Award


Christchurch City Libraries was pleased to host a session with author Joanna Grochowicz in the 2017 school holidays based on her book about Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey, Into the White.

More information about the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults:

An integral part of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is the HELL Reading Challenge, now in its fifth 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 (open until December 2018).

Freerange Little Prints – your chance to collaborate on books for kids

We thought you might be interested in this opportunity from Freerange Press:

Book out and read in: FESTA - Tree Houses for Swamp dwellersFreerange Press is calling for submissions for original, imaginative and interesting children’s books, based around our journal topics, which explore themes responding to life for an urbanized humanity (the city, politics, design, art, pirates). We want to make books that both kids and adults love, that encourage a shared reading experience, as well as exploration and discovery.

We are looking for a combination of great language and illustrations/visual material in the following categories:
Non-fiction (all ages – up to 12 years)
Picture books, from simple (think 3-7 years old) to relatively complex (6-9 years)

We want to hear your thoughts, imaginings and artistic expressions on how to interpret our journal themes for kids. These publications have canvassed a myriad of ideas, from the big to the silly, from the city and the self through to tricksters, gardens and humanimals.

We welcome those who wish to collaborate on a book as an illustrator or writer, and we are happy to discuss proposals at all stages of development, including conception, ongoing or relatively complete projects that are seeking publication. They just need to fit our focus. Read more about the journals and submission process here.

The first round of submissions closes on 31 May.  Please contact Emma for more information:

From the meaningful to the delightful: Cool new stuff from our selectors

In the field of philosophy, psychology and religion there are interesting titles coming along soon.

Cover of David and Goliath

Gary Quinn’s The Yes frequency deals with the much vaunted idea of mindfulness and encourages the reader to break habits that lock them into self-defeating behaviours.

Eldon Taylor’s Choices and illusions mixes science and spirituality while Douglas T. Kenrick’s Rational animal looks at our decision-making processes and finds that many are entirely irrational and proposes a new alternative based on evolutionary science.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of the bestsellers Blink and The tipping point,  has a new book, likely to be a big seller, named David and Goliath,  which sets out to challenge how we deal with obstacles, disadvantages and disabilities.

Reza Aslan’s book Zealot- the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth has had a lot of advance publicity and its attempt to balance the Jesus of the Gospels with the historical records of the time should give food for thought.

Moving into the area of children’s books,  Judith Kerr, famous for The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the iconic Mog books, has written Judith Kerr’s creatures  It is a lavishly illustrated retrospective. Our selector loved seeing the very early drawings Kerr did as a child. She tells the story of her life from war torn Europe up until the celebration of her 90th birthday.
Cover of Judith Kerr's creaturesCover of Maurice Sendak

Another great big fabulous tome to drool over is Maurice Sendak:  A Celebration of the Artist and His Work. Described in the book as the pre-eminent Children’s book artist of the twentieth century, we certainly have no argument with that!  Celebrate his 60 year career with this full colour catalogue of more than two hundred images exhibited at the Society of Illustrators in New York in June and August 2013.

And the winners are….

The awards ceremony for the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards was held in Auckland last night to announce the winners of our country’s top awards for children’s and young adult writers.  The winners are:

Picture Book  and Book of the Year – Old Huhu by Kyle Mewburn & Rachel Driscoll

Nonfiction – E3 Call Home by Janet Hunt

Junior Fiction – The Loblolly Boy by James Norcliffe

Young Adult – Blood of the Lamb: The Crossing by Mandy Hager

Children’s Choice Award – The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley

Children’s Choice Nonfiction – Dear Alison by Simon Pollard (editor)

Children’s Choice Junior Fiction – Friends: Snake and Lizard by Joy Cowley and Gavin Bishop

Children’s Choice Young Adult – Brainjack by Brian Falkner

Honour Award – The Word Witch by Margaret Mahy and David Elliot, edited by Tessa Duder

Best First Book Award – The Bone Tiki by David Hair

As usual, I can’t pick the winners (luckily I’m not a betting man) but I was glad to see my favourites (Brainjack and Wonky Donkey) getting the childrens’ vote.  I think we should leave the voting up to the children every time as they pick the books that appeal to them, not what appeals to adults.

Did you manage to pick the winners and what did you think of the judges choices?

New NZ stories for children

Lately I’ve been reading some new children’s books that are written by New Zealand authors about Kiwi kids.  I really like it when New Zealand authors write about life in New Zealand, because I can relate to it so much better than American authors writing about American kids.  The scenery is something I recognise and the experiences of the characters is often something that has happened to me or something I did when I was a kid.  

Jack Lasenby is an author who has been writing for years and his books always have a slice of Kiwi life.  I like to think of him as Barry Crump for kids, because his books are made up of lots of little stories about life in a small country town, the mischief that kids get up to, and the crazy stories that adults tell them.

 Jack’s latest book, The Haystack, is full of these amusing and entertaining stories that are told from the point of view of Maggie who is being brought up by her dad in the 1930’s Depression.  They’re set in a little Waikato dairying township called Waharoa, where several of Jack’s other books have been set and where he grew up.  I loved these stories because of the closeness of Maggie and her father, and the way that Jack creates the atmosphere of Waharoa.  You can almost smell the wood smoke and feel the hot sun beating down on the dusty roads.

If you like the Percy Jackson books, you should try The Taniwha’s Tear by David Hair.  This is the second in the series and so it carries on the story of Matiu Douglas who came face to face with creatures from Maori legend in the first book, The Bone Tiki.  Like Percy Jackson, Matiu discovers he has powers and that the gods and monsters of legend (in this case Maori legend) are real and he must help to save our world. 

This is another book for children that is distinctly New Zealand and the combination of scenery that you recognise, action, adventure, myth and legend makes it an exciting and unique read.

If you’re interested in New Zealand children’s authors, we have a great page on our Kids website which has interviews with authors such as Joy Cowley, Margaret Mahy, David Hill and Brian Falkner.

Authors descend on Gold Coast for Somerset Festival of Literature

While others are gearing up for the New Zealand Post Writers and Readers Festival in Wellington, I’m counting down the days to the Somerset Festival of Literature at Somerset College on the Gold Coast from 17-19 March.  This festival brings together some of the top Australian authors and illustrators for children and young adults, such as Jackie French, Melina Marchetta and Markus Zusak, as well as some of my favourite international authors, Patrick Ness and Derek Landy.

The Festival consists of three days of author talks with primary and secondary school students, book signings, book launches and other entertainment on the Somerset College grounds.  There are loads of sessions I can’t wait to go to including Patrick Ness, Derek Landy, Jackie French, James Moloney, Anthony Eaton, and Markus Zusak.  If you have any questions that you’re dying to ask these authors, feel free to comment and I’ll do my best to ask them on your behalf.  I’m hoping to set up some interviews with a couple of the authors and I’ll be blogging from the festival so you’ll be able to hear all about it.

My only problem will be lugging a suitcase of signed books home with me again!

Celebrate Christmas with some magical stories for children

A lot of adults are sick of Christmas with only two and a half weeks to go, but there are lots of children out there who are excited and eagerly awaiting the big day.  There are plenty of ways to celebrate Christmas in these last few weeks:

1. Read some of the magical Christmas stories that we have here in the library.  One of my favourite new Christmas books is Father Christmas needs a wee by Nicholas Allan about Father Christmas who has too many drinks when he is out delivering presents and desperately needs to get home for a toilet break.  We have plenty of other great Christmas books in the library and you can check out a selection of these in our Children’s Christmas Reading Booklist.

2. Bake some special Christmas cookies, cupcakes or mince pies using recipes in our Christmas cookbooks.

3. Make some very creative Christmas crafts and decorations to make your tree look stunning or put them up around your house.

4. Listen to some Christmas music.  There are plenty of traditional Christmas carols that you can sing along to or new Christmas songs by The Wiggles, Hi-Five or Bob the Builder.

5. Watch some very funny Christmas movies, including my favourites The Santa Clause, Elf, Muppet Christmas Carol.

If you want more ideas of Christmasy things to do or want to find out some information about Christmas and how different people celebrate it, you could check out our Children’s Christmas pages.

The best (and worst) children’s books of 2009

My favourite book of 2009

Next Wednesday (18 November) the annual Best and Worst Books of the Year event is being held at Upper Riccarton library from 7:30-9pm.  Everybody is invited to come along and hear from librarians, booksellers, publishers and authors about what their favourite books were this year.  It’s always a fun night with drinks and nibbles available and if you want to get your hands on a Jenny Cooper original illustration there is one being auctioned on the night. 

Our Holiday Reading List is also being launched on the night so if you want to find some great children’s and young adults books to read over the summer break, come along and get a copy.

Pull up the blankets, turn out the lights, cuddle your teddy, time to say goodnight

I’ve noticed that there has been a bit of a run on picture books about bedtime lately and they’re all really cute.  Here’s just a couple of my favourites:

9781842709153Bedtime without Arthur by Jessica Meserve is about a girl called Bella who has a very special bear named Arthur who protects her from monsters when she is asleep.  “He is as brave as a knight.  He is as strong as ten elephants.  And he does karate.”  While Arthur is fighting the monsters in the shadows, Bella is dreaming of rainbows and rainforests, but one night Arthur goes missing and Bella has a horrible sleep because she can’t stop thinking about the dragons, slugs and grizzly bears that she is scared of.  She searches everywhere for him and finds that he has made another friend.  This little bear has lots of character and the illustrations are adorable and so bright.

9781842708217One of my favourite illustrators, Chris Riddell has also written and illustrated a picture book about the monsters that hide in your room.  Mr Underbed is about a boy called Jim who is dozing off one night when a friendly monster pops out from under his bed.  His name is Mr Underbed and he’s a bright blue, fluffy thing with a bulbous pink nose and a friendly face, and he tells Jim that it is very uncomfortable sleeping under the bed and asks if he can sleep in his bed.  Jim invites him in but this is only the start of the long string of monsters who want to share his bed, including Pinkie the bedside table rabbit and Grimble, Grumble and Groan the toy trunk triplets.  Will Jim ever be able to get to sleep?

9780747599715Stormy Weather by Debi Gliori doesn’t have the humour of the previous two books and is more of a lullaby for parents to read to their children before bed.  The different animals tell their children how they will watch over them and protect them while they sleep.  The text flows nicely and is a pleasure to read with perfect ryhthm to lull children to sleep.

Is your teacher an alien?

Do your teachers speak in a really weird language when they think you’re not looking? Do they wear a brass wrist band that they use to communicate with someone in another galaxy? Do their eyes flash blue when you annoy them?  If you answered yes to all of these questions it is very likely that your teachers are aliens from another planet and you should get as far away from them as possible.

In Mark Haddon’s new book, Boom!, Jim and Charlie do exactly the opposite when they discover something weird is going on.  When Jim overhears a conversation between his teachers, he believes that they are trying to get him sent to a new school and so with the help of his best friend Charlie, they bug the staff room.  However, what they actually hear is two of their teachers speaking in a strange language and so they set out to find some answers to these strange goings-on.  This story has everything – action, adventure, aliens, mysterious men in gray suits, cool alien technology, a strange language and lots of laughs.

You may know of Mark Haddon as the author of the hugely popular Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  Boom! is a completely different sort of story for a different age group but it’s an out-of-this-world read.