By the time you read this blog, I hope to be on the receiving end of the gracious services of airline personnel as we wing our way to Italy on a long-awaited trip.
This trip has been four years in the making, starting with my husband learning Italian (thanks Mango Languages!), followed by library colleagues making all sorts of wonderful suggestions on what to do and where to stay (whilst others provided terrifying horror stories of things that could go wrong), and one dear colleague who helped my husband get conversation practice by meeting us for coffees and setting him up with an Italian pal for chats. Thanks one and all.
But now for the really important question on everybody’s lips: “What will you be reading in Italy?”
A friend’s suggestion:The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce. “For your trip” she said sliding it across the café table. From the author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I thought I’d get home and just read the first couple of pages. Within two days I had read the whole book. It is every bit as good as Harold Fry, with the same complex characterisation, the same zingy dialogue, the same fullness of heart. But with a more complex resolution of plot. All that this book is missing is a soundtrack list. I loved it, but now it can’t come to Italy with me.
A book from my must read list:Dianne Athill is a favourite author of mine – she is one of that breed of really old women (she is now aged 99) who still writes. If you’ve not done so yet, read her book Alive, Alive Oh! which asks the question, should you live to be 100 years old, what will you remember? One of the things Diana hopes to remember is sex! I’ve had her A Florence Diary on one of my must-read lists, and it’s time has almost come. It is a small book on her trip to Florence with her cousin when she was a young woman. I shall read it in that city. Into my case it goes.
A serendipitous find: How could I resist The Lovers’ Guide to Rome by Mark Lamprell. This one crossed my path in the course of a day’s work and it felt as if it were meant to be. What I love about the first few pages is that they include quite an arty little map of Rome. My husband and I both love maps, they form part of the early folklore of our relationship. It turns out that “the Eternal City has secrets only lovers can glimpse.” This one is coming with, and as an eBook on my iPad!
A book which has nothing to do with Italy at all: A possible antidote to all this Latin charm is the in-your-face 2017 novel entitled Johannesburg by Fiona Melrose. Here were my first thoughts: Nobody writes novels about Johannesburg. No-one even calls the city by its full name any more. The library won’t have this book, and even if they did no one in New Zealand would read it. Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong. Set in Joburg in the twenty-four hours after Mandela’s death, the first few pages convinced me that this is a brilliant book.
And if I do read this book in Italy, I think we can safely say I will be the only person in the whole of that country reading an English novel set in South Africa and with the title Johannesburg. And there is something about that which I find perversely appealing!
My personal favourite is Eowyn Ivey’s new one To the Bright Edge of the World – Alaskan wilderness, science and exploration bordering on the world of magic and myth. Sophie, young and newlywed in the 1880s, is fascinated with the science of photography and a bit of a weird outcast among the other women, while her husband Allan is leading an expedition across the unexplored (by white people, at least) wilderness of Alaska. I could use lots of words like ‘frontier’ and ‘isolation’ and ‘fascinating detail’ and ‘gosh white explorers are awful when it comes to the native people.’
If you like stories with huge scope that traverse through multiple countries and confront harsh historical realities, have a look at Homegoing, a story of half-sisters with two remarkably different destinies. One young woman, Effia, is given in marriage to a high ranking British official, while her half-sister, Esi, is held in the dungeons below as a slave. The ramifications of the distance between them and the unhealed scars of slavery run through this novel for seven generations.
Similar in scope is Annie Proulx’s new novel, Barkskins. Both Homegoing and Barkskins begin in the 18th century, but Barkskins opens in New France. At over 700 pages it should keep you going all holidays, and take you through the two intertwining families through the generations.
Or if you want to load up on an entire epic series, let Conn Iggulden’s five book Conqueror series take you back to the time of Ghengis Khan on the Mongolian Plains, or head east, to David Kirk’s Sword of Honour if you want to meet some samurai out for revenge.
For something perhaps a little gentler, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a beautiful story of a deep and powerful friendship between two women in 19th century China. Something a little bit more modern? Under the Udala Trees is set in the 1960s and 1970s in Nigera, a dangerous place to be if you’re a woman in love with another woman. A debut novel of gender equality and the right to love in a country recovering from civil war.
Behaving Badly in the 1800s – mostly young adult fiction, these are books about people busting out and breaking rules. Another list by Alison.
Dead Dames – books written by dead women. A list by Alina.
Microhistories – discover the unusual and often surprising history of things like sugar, human waste, bananas, milk, coal, plants and that most mysterious of the cutlery family, the fork. Another list by Alina.
The Best (& Worst) Children’s Books of 2016 evening was held on Wednesday 23rd November, hosted by the Canterbury Literacy Association and Christchurch City Libraries. The books showcased at the event covered the spectrum of wondrous and picturesque, funny and gross, through to beautiful and poignant – including sobering reminders of the realities of social problems facing children today.
In light of changing times, be they due to earthquakes or bookstores closing, it is heartening to see supporters of children’s literature and literacy continue to come together as a community to celebrate and reaffirm their shared joy of children’s books.
Highlights from the annual Best (& Worst) event, attended by over 70 people, were primary students from several schools speaking about their current favourite books. Alongside this youth voice was book-talking from Mary Sangster (The Original Children’s Bookshop) and even some impromptu book-singing with the audience spurred on by Lynette Griffiths, Families Outreach at Christchurch City Libraries, as part of her picture book discussion.
Best Children’s Books of 2016 as selected by Mary Sangster, The Original Children’s Bookshop
Circle by Jeannie Baker follows the godwit’s incredible flight over awe-inspiring scenes as above such beautiful landmarks as the Great Barrier Reef and China’s breathtaking cityscapes.
The Night Gardener by Terry Fan. One day, William discovers that the tree outside his window has been sculpted into a wise owl. More topiaries appear, each one more beautiful. Soon, William’s gray little town is full of color and life. And though the mysterious night gardener disappears as suddenly as he appeared, William—and his town—are changed forever. With breathtaking illustrations and spare, sweet text, this book is about enjoying the beauty of nature.
Younger and older fiction
Olive of Groves and the Great Slurp of Time by Katrina Nannestad. Starting off in 1857 at Mrs Groves’ Boarding School for Naughty Boys, Talking Animals and Circus Performers, this story goes backwards and forwards in time after Olive is invited to go time-travelling by a strange visitor. Disturbing things start to happen at Groves as a result. Mary felt there was a nice use of language and reckons boys would like it just as well as girls. Time travel books for children in 2016 seem to be popular.
The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon. Subhi’s imagination is as big as the ocean and wide as the sky, but his world is much smaller: he’s spent his whole life in an immigration detention centre. The Bone Sparrow is a powerful, heartbreaking, sometimes funny and ultimately uplifting hymn to freedom and love.
Lonesome When You Go by Saradha Koirala. Paige plays bass in high school rock band Vox Pop in the tense build-up to the Rockfest competition. This novel, published in New Zealand, is about practising solo, performing like a rockstar and how contributing your best self to something can create a force much greater than the sum of its parts.
Dear Charlie by N.D. Nomes. Recommended for older high school students. Sixteen year old Sam is picking up the pieces after the school shooting that his brother Charlie committed. Yet as Sam desperately tries to hang on to the memories he has of his brother, the media storm surrounding their family threatens to destroy everything. And Sam has to question all he thought he knew about life, death, right and wrong. “Absolutely fantastic.” says Mary.
Best Picture Books of 2016 as selected by Lynette Griffiths, Families Outreach for Christchurch City Libraries
Lynette has been a librarian for all her working life and is passionate about both illustrations and words. “I’m always looking for a resource that creates a surprise and smile to its reader, be that young or old.” She says that what makes a good picture book in her world is: “One that takes me out of my comfort zone; one that pushes boundaries; something I might not of seen or heard before; something familiar but different; something that can cover all ages and something that makes me go WOW!”
Armstrong: The adventurous journey of a mouse to the moonby Torben Kuhlmann – Kuhlmann’s picture book transports readers to the moon and beyond! Here, dreams are determined only by the size of your imagination and the biggest innovators are the smallest of all. The book ends with a brief non-fiction history of human space travel from Galileo’s observations concerning the nature of the universe to man’s first steps on the moon. Lynnette loved the superb clever illustrations and says there’s so much information that it is nearly non-fiction.
Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers. A lyrical picture book about a little girl who sails her raft ‘across a sea of words’ to arrive at the house of a small boy. There she invites him to come away with her on an adventure where they can journey through ‘forests of fairy tales’, ‘across mountains of make-believe’ and ‘sleep in clouds of song.’
Older Fiction and Young Adult Reads of 2016 as selected by Jane Boniface, Heaton Normal Intermediate School
Jane has a wealth of knowledge of intermediate age and young adult great reads for tweens and teens. Jane is well-recognised by the National Library and School Library Association (SLANZA) in her position as the Learning Resource Centre Manager at Heaton Normal Intermediate School. She is a leading light at the school in promoting the culture of reading and provides a variety of seminars for classes in the skills required in today’s use of libraries and accessing information.
Jane’s 4 ‘Best Books’, in her own amusing made-up categories, were:
Best laugh-out-loud read-aloud with short chapters: Charlie & the War Against the Grannies by Alan Brough. Charlie just wants a paper round but he has to battle for it against the local hostile grannies already doing it. Fans of David Walliams would enjoy this funny story set downunder. Bite-sized chapters make for an easy read. “This book is not for the erudite or sophisticated reader” says Jane, “it includes how to say ‘fart’ in 10 different languages.”
Most poignant tear-jerker where one character must be a dog: When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin. Like a The Fault in Our Stars for 12-year-olds. Ben, always an outsider, is led into a deep friendship with Halley, who is being treated for cancer, by the special dog he and his adoptive mother take in. “It is well-written, about humanity and themes of friendship and love. It is beautiful versus morose,” says Mary. “If you liked Wonder you’ll like this.”
Book with the most potential to spark the most meaningful enquiry questions: Gorilla Dawn by Gill Lewis. Deep in the heart of the African jungle, a baby gorilla is captured by a group of rebel soldiers. Two children also imprisoned in the rebels’ camp. When they learn that the gorilla is destined to be sold into captivity, they swear to return it to the wild before it’s too late. But the consequences of getting caught are too terrible to think about. Will the bond between the gorilla and the children give them the courage they need to escape? Jane says: “Thought-provoking and disturbing,” It covers the not much heard about mining of coltan, used for mobile phones, and incorporates child slavery and child soldiers, climate change and gorilla habitats being destroyed. Uniquely told from different points-of-view: of both the children and the baby gorilla.
Best/Worstbook: Remade by Alex Scarrow. Leon and his sister have moved to London from New York and are struggling to settle into their new school when rumours of an unidentified virus in Africa fills the news. They witness people turning to liquid before their eyes and run for their lives. Great for reluctant intermediate readers.Jane Boniface perfectly illustrated a best/worst children’s book when she read this proclamation aloud from a passage in Remade. Although the novel, filled to the brim with gory details of a virus on the loose liquefying people, wasn’t her cup of tea, she said it was a real hit with the intermediate age boys at her school who clambered to read it after she told them it was “disgusting, grizzly and grotesque.”
What turns a cringe-worthy story into a ‘best’ book is that it encourages the love and pleasure of reading for a certain kind of reading interest and shows that while reading tastes are subjective, the right book for the right person at the right time is what matters.
This Best/Worst evening was a opportunity for these students to hone their book reviewing and book-talking skills in a nurturing environment.
Teachers, librarians, parents, booksellers, writers and illustrators cater for a wide variety of children’s tastes, interests and needs and for all types of readers (from the enthusiastic to the reluctant). The audience will have taken away a lot of new and varied book suggestions, not to mention some great book prizes in the book raffle draw. And if you want to hear about the couple of ‘worst’ books chosen, you’ll have to come next time. Chatham House Rules and all that.
Speaking of reading…
Holiday Reading List 2016 Launch
The evening also saw the launch of Christchurch City Libraries 2016 Holiday Reading List for kids. Categories include picture books, younger & older fiction, young adult and non-fiction.
Summertime Reading Club 2016 / 2017 Announced
At this event, Christchurch City Libraries also announced their annual Summertime Reading Club competition for 2016 / 2017 – this summer it will be a passport of reading activities to complete to be in to win some fabulous prizes.
Thanks to the Canterbury Literacy Association for their organising of this annual event. The purpose of the New Zealand Literacy Association is to encourage literacy learning.
The school holidays are the perfect time to come to the library, grab a stack of books, find a nice comfy spot and loose yourself in a story. Whether you are going away on holiday or staying home there is no better companion than a good book.
Whether you prefer the touch, feel and smell of a paper book or the ease of an ereader loaded with books we’ve got something for you. These books are some of the books that I have really loved recently so they come highly recommended.
This is the second book of stories about a girl called Mango Allsorts and Bambang, an Asian tapir, who is learning all about life in the big city. These stories follow the antics and mishaps of Bambang, from discovering his perfect hobby to trying to keep out of the clutches of his nemesis, Cynthia Prickle-Posset. The books are illustrated throughout and these add to the humour of the stories. The are very funny stories, perfect for ages 7-10.
Whether you love science or just a funny adventure story, The Many Worlds of Albie Bright is for you. The story follows Albie, whose mum has recently died. His parents were both scientists, and when Albie goes hunting through his mum’s research he finds everything he needs to be able to travel between dimensions. With only a computer, a box, and a banana, Albie sets off to find his mum in another dimension. He knows that there will be small changes between dimensions but he isn’t quite prepared for the crazy situations he finds himself in. This is a funny, inter-dimensional journey, perfect for ages 9+.
Meet the utterly irresistible Miss Petitfour. She loves baking and making and dancing with her cats, but most of all she loves to fly. All she has to do is pick up a favourite tablecloth (preferably the one with the paisley print), catch the breeze and she swooshes off on an adventure with her many cats (Minky, Misty, Taffy, Purrsia, Pirate, Mustard, Moutarde, Hemdala, Earring, Grigorovich, Clasby, Captain Captain, Captain Catkin, Captain Clothespin, Your Shyness and Sizzles) dangling paw-to-tail behind her. These stories are delightfully silly and you’ll love the antics of the cats. I really loved the illustrations and the authors love of words that shines through in the writing. Perfect for ages 7-12, especially anyone who is cat mad.
Anzac Day is coming up later this month and this is a great new book that highlights some of the heroic men and women who fought for their country. Anzac Heroes features 30 courageous Anzacs who served in World War One and Two. There is a profile on each of the heroes, including when they fought, how they were involved and what medals they were awarded. There is also a background on each of the wars, with a detailed map and a timeline. One of the things I love about this book is the Hall of Medals at the back of the book, that has information about each of the medals that were awarded to the Anzacs. This is a book to get lost in. It will keep you entertained for hours. It’s perfect for ages 9+.
Every year Grattan Institute releases a summer reading list for the Prime Minister. It recommends books and articles that the Prime Minister, or any Australian interested in public debate, will find both stimulating and cracking good reads.
I read this and thought the library could help other well-known people choose good holiday reading.
Public libraries are keystone public institutions for any thriving community, and as such can be leaders in making cities better places to work, play, and live. Here, Dudley shows how public libraries can contribute to ‘placemaking’, or the creation and nurturing of vital and unique communities for their residents.
The end of the year is approaching and that means it’s time to evaluate the best and worst of 2014’s crop of children’s books. Hosted by Christchurch City Libraries, in conjunction with the Canterbury Literacy Association, the Best and Worst Evening is a Christchurch literary tradition. 2013’s event was so popular the event has been moved to the larger venue of Upper Riccarton Library.
Speakers include Bob Docherty (children’s book guru and renowned promoter of reading and literacy for kids), Kirsten Smith (Kaitakawaenga – Ngā Ratonga Māori at Christchurch City Libraries) and a kids-eye-view from Briana.
Our annual Holiday Reading list will also be officially announced on the night. Holiday Reading is a recommended selection of new titles added to Christchurch City Libraries in 2014 and includes picture books, chapter books, young adult and non-fiction titles.
Come along this Wednesday night (19 November) to Upper Riccarton Library at 7pm. Bring a gold coin for refreshments and early Christmas raffles.
I am a happy reader. The main reason for this unexpected happiness is that I have been making satisfying reading choices over the holiday period. At this time of year I endeavour to have a variety of books so I can read to my heart’s content. My heart is contented and my reading mojo is a happenin’ thing.
I started my holiday reading Dust by Hugh Howey, the last book in the Silo series. This story pulls the threads of the previous books together in an unforgettable and memorable way. As I was reading this last book I was continually thinking about the politics, ethics, and values and of those living in the silos. At the end it was difficult to leave the characters behind with Juliette and Solo remaining firm favourites for their strength and determination to remain true to themselves. A thought provoking read and I highly recommend this series.
Wildfire at Midnight was my next choice and very different read. This book was first published in 1956 and is a detective story with a difference. Set on the Isle of Skye, it involves murders, mountaineering, druids, pagan rituals and is full of drama. I couldn’t put this book down as the main character kept going off by herself and getting into dangerous situations adding further tension to the story. Mary Stewart is a skilled writer who keeps the reader guessing.
Ace, King, Knave by Maria McCann was the perfect complement to my previous reads. This book is full of deception, scheming, and charm. It has an array of colourful characters and immediately transports the reader to eighteenth century England. This is a textured read. I was drawn in by the drama, card games, different social levels, street slang, and the authenticity of the times. A glossary adds further interest and connection for the reader. A satisfying read.
My next choice After Her by Joyce Maynard was a slow start but interesting enough to keep me reading. This is a murder mystery told from an unusual viewpoint. Patty, the storyteller, is the daughter of a detective who is put in charge of finding a serial murderer. The story describes the pressures on family life, the destruction of a career and the consequences of these murders later in life. It is a fascinating and poignant read.
My last holiday read was Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. This book is based on a true story about the last executions in Iceland. The landscape and characters dominate this well written and touching story. It is a moving and unsettling read. Highly recommended.
My summer reading has been disappointingly dismal so far. I had selected several works of fiction that I intended to consume over the course of my summer holiday whilst lounging languorously in the North Island sun (looking luscious of course!) Sadly, there wasn’t much lounging to be had with a three year old demanding to be entertained), and not one of my selections managed to capture my imagination or attention long enough for me to finish them, leaving me feeling disgruntled and out of sorts that I had some time and nothing GOOD to read close to hand.
It was inevitable then, that amazing books would catch my eye and clamour for my attention the minute I returned to work. First to catch my interest this morning was a little gem entitled Pounamu Treasures Ngā Taonga Pounamu by Russell Beck with Maika Mason. A quick flick through shows that the text and accompanying images (taken by Andris Apse) gently introduce the reader to the world of Pounamu, discuss the geology associated with pounamu, before looking at traditional weaponry, adornments, and tools. The author then investigates the European influence on design and current contemporary carving designs. The photography captures the absolute beauty and elegance of the pounamu and taonga showcased within this publication and I can’t wait to get this home to have a more in-depth read.
My second discovery was made soon after, again while browsing the shelf. Entitled Te Hao Nui, The Great Catch, I feel in love with the cover art before i had even opened the book. A quick dip into its depths over morning tea reveal that I appear to have stumbled across an unexpected treasure trove of stories of unique and beautiful objects. Stephen Fox writes in the foreword that, “This publication celebrates the rich and diverse collections of Te Manawa.” (The Museum of Art, Science and History based in the Manawatū), the back cover blurbs states it “provides fascinating insights into the history, people and places of the Manawatū and beyond. Dame Judith Binney is also quoted on the back cover- “Storytelling is an art deep within human nature. It follows that the art of transmitting the ‘histories that matter’ to successive generations is as old as human existence.”
Thus far, the stories encapsulated in the table of contents look promising. Each entry details the story of a different object, complemented by an impressive selection of delectable imagery by Michael Hall. A small selection of the treasures showcased within include; a Polish Army League paperweight, Brydon Speedy’s Pā Kahawai, Queen Anne Boleyn’s Purse, a Senufo mask from the Ivory Coast, Mere Ngareta’s Kahu Kiwi, Regent Confectionery’s Sweet Roller, Helena Harcourt’s Fencing Uniform or my absolute favourite thus far, Phoebe Pinfold’s Pine needle tea set. I have delighted in showing this section to everyone in the workroom this morning– I think it is indescribably fascinating that someone would have had the time and patience to create and construct an entire tea set from pine needles, macrocarpa nuts and straw.
So, as of this morning my summer reading looks like it may be on the up and up. Have you read either of these or do you have any suggestions I can add to my list?
I’m feeling a bit pleased with the library booty I’ve gathered up for holiday reading.
It’s been a fan-blooming-tastic year for poetry, and am looking forward to getting my teeth into Magnificent Moon by Ashleigh Young. It has had great reviews and I confess I got even more keen when I read her blog post on the book launch:
I suddenly realised that I’d made a serious omission in that poem: the vomit. Ah, the vomit! There is always another layer – of something, maybe not always of vomit – underneath the story, festering away. Which is why I’m now very excited about future projects. My six-year-old self is feeling very gleeful right now as well, because she finally got a book.
My ideal bookshelf art by Jane Mount, edited by Thessaly La Force Ideal bookshelf neatly captures the personalness and attractiveness of books on a shelf. Yes, I suppose a librarian would say that …
The book features the ideal bookshelf of a pretty damn cool range of peeps, from Judd Apatow to:
writers Chuck Klosterman, Jennifer Egan, and Michael Chabon, musicians Patti Smith and Thurston Moore, chefs and food writers Alice Waters and Mark Bittman, and fashion designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte.
Plus Thessaly La Force ties with Sonnet Stanfill for my favourite author name of the year.
Given that Luca Turin is my homeboy, I think I’ll like a perfumey exploration. Though this description makes me a bit iffy:
When Denyse tells a famous perfumer of a sensual night spent in Seville under an orange tree in full blossom, wrapped in the arms of a beautiful young man, the story stirs his imagination and together they create a scent that captures the essence of that night.
Pop culture guff
Silhouettes from popular culture by Olly Moss. This is the dude behind some of the coolest pop culture referencing stuff around including Video Game classics and the spoiler tshirt from Threadless. While away some time guessing who the silhouettes are – from the Big Lebowski to Saved by the bell.
The History of the NME by Pat Long and How soon is now? The Madmen and Mavericks Who Made Independent Music, 1975-2005 by Richard King will fill the need for a meaty beaty big and bouncy music tomes.
Jeffrey Eugenides’s new book, The marriage plot, was a great holiday read. Engrossing, with fabulous writing (I actually copied passages down, something I very rarely do), and with a plot and characters that leave you guessing
It is ostensibly a book about manic depression, and I was interested that the blurb did not mention this. I guess as a subject area it is not a big seller for publishers, but in the hands of Eugenides it is superb. He either has, or knows someone with, manic depression – that, or he has done some very good reading on the subject, as his writing rings true.
The main character, Laurence, comes from a classically dysfunctional family. He has a brilliant mind, is sharp, witty, caustic, popular – and has manic depression. He is not always nice, but he is always interesting, and this is what attracts Madeleine, a young literature graduate who is filled with the confidence of coming from a well-off family and an uncomplicated happy childhood. In all of this mix is Mitchell, grappling with his burgeoning spiritual awakening and his other type of awakening that involves the lovely Madeleine!
Life, as you can imagine, gets very complicated, and Eugenides manages to hold all three characters confidently in the palm of his hand, gently juggling their tale of love, lust, distrust, illness and ultimately self-awareness without being at all melodramatic.