Fast Five with Gavin Bishop

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.

Gavin BishopToday’s featured speaker is award-winning New Zealand author Gavin Bishop:

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

I have been privileged to visit many other countries to talk about my work and have always been looked after well. It is my turn now to make the visitors to the New Zealand IBBY Congress feel welcome. I have also been involved through the Painted Stories Trust with mounting an exhibition of NZ illustration for the IBBY Congress. This will be an exciting show featuring 20 of our top illustrators.

What is your favourite memory of libraries?

I love to visit a library with no idea in my mind of what I want to read. I wander along the shelves waiting for something to catch my eye. Suddenly a title, or a particular cover design shouts at me. This is one I will take out to read today.

Cover of Snake and lizardWhat are 5 of your favourite books?

  1. Moa by Quinn Berentson
  2. Cole’s Funny Picture Book No 1
  3. Snake and Lizard by Joy Cowley
  4. The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle by Hugh Lofting
  5. The Cleaner by Paul Cleave. A thriller set in Christchurch. Rather nasty but exciting and not for children.

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

I enjoy the support you get as a writer for children. The world of children’s literature is a very encouraging and nurturing one on the whole.

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

Read to them from the time they are babies. Make books part of their lives. Throw books into the toy box or into the doll’s pram or the back of a trike.


Kōrerorero mai – Join the conversation

Fast Five with Kate De Goldi

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.

Kate De GoldiThe first featured speaker is award-winning New Zealand author Kate De Goldi:

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

I’m looking forward very much to hearing a range of speakers from different literary communities and cultures – hearing about the strengths and deficits in their communities in terms of bringing children and books together. It’s a rare opportunity to hear a number of commentators who have immersed themselves in children’s literature and the reading life of children, so there’s sure to be much to learn.

What is your favourite memory of libraries?

My ur-library was the old Christchurch City Library on the corner of Hereford Street and Oxford Terrace. I spent countless hours there as a child and learned the great pleasure of browsing the shelves, finding old, loved books to reread, but always happening on something new, too, which would often take my reading in another direction. For me, still, there is nothing to rival the pleasure of an unhurried browse of library shelves and a tall pile of books gathered to take home from the library.

Entrance, old Library
Entrance, old Library [1970s] Flickr File Reference: CCL-150-T-028

Perhaps my favourite memory of that old library was the upstairs reading room where I often took myself (instead of to school) during my seventh form year – and read all manner of unexpected things. In my memory that time and space is associated with intellectual expansion and wonderment – but also a sense of security and uninterrupted self-directed learning.

For the last twenty years the Wellington libraries have been my favourite city spaces, particularly Wellington Central. I have never lost the feeling of cresting excitement when I walk through the automatic doors and into that fabulous abundance of books, of unending potential…

What are 5 of your favourite books?

I read very widely in adult literature and have many favourites, but I’ll confine myself to children’s books for this. These five books are ones I frequently re-read – my criteria for a favourite book.

1.      cover of Ounce, dice, triceOunce, dice, trice by Alistair Reid; drawings by Ben Shahn. The New York Review Children’s Collection.

This book is like a visit to a glorious circus – where words dance, fly, juggle and tumble. It’s a celebration of the wildness and wonder of language at play.

2.      Cover of FrederickFrederick by Leo Lionni; Dragonfly Books

I love all Leo Lionni’s work but especially this timeless fable about the great importance of those who – while seeming idle – are closely observing the world, then giving it back to us as poetry

3.      Cover of The red shoeThe Red Shoe by Ursula Dubosarsky; Allen & Unwin

I admire Dubosarsky’s work enormously. This is an eerie modern fairytale in which a family three sisters watch – and often misinterpret – the strange goings-on between the important adults in their life. Viewed through the eyes of six year old Matilda, this haunting story reminds us how very differently the young see the world unfolding around them.

4.     Cover of The one and only IvanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate; HarperCollins

A life-changing book: Ivan, a silverback gorilla, narrates the story of his captivity and work in a circus mall; with tender voice and images of great beauty, he helps the reader to understand properly the nobility of all living creatures, and the urgent need for kindness to the most vulnerable.

5.      Cover of The other side of silenceThe other side of silence by Margaret Mahy; HarperCollins

I think this is the greatest of Mahy’s many splendid novels. Using the elements of a lesser known Grimm tale, ‘Jorinda and Jorindel’ – thick forest, old castle, shape-changing witch, innocent maiden, adventurous young man, captive birds – Mahy weaves a profound and moving – and thoroughly contemporary – story about the riddle of parenting, the manipulation of children, the vanity attendant on talent, the complex responsibilities of the writer, the frailties and possibilities inherent in being human. Somewhere in the RNZ archive there is a most wonderful audio of Bronwyn Bradley reading the book aloud.

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

I greatly value a body of literature that has the young eye at the heart of its story telling and exploration of language. It is so good to be reminded again and again (as an adult) what it is like to be new to the world, to be decoding everything around you in order to understand what it is to be human. I deeply appreciate, too, that the very best of children’s writers deepen and expand the form in which they work, offering subtle, nuanced, complex literature to young readers, a literature where story, character, language and moral complexity is rendered as artfully as in any literary form. Many people immersed in the world of children’s literature – writers, critics, academics, readers – have an acute recall of what it is like to be a child. It is not that they are arrested developmentally, more that this part of life is still very present to them, so that their young eye is still working to a high level. I really like meeting people like that!

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

I think reading oneself – ie, modeling reading to the ever-alert child – is a fundamental requirement. You are demonstrating to children that a fully rounded life includes an sustained reading life.

I think reading aloud to children as far into their school years as possible is very important too. It can tide them over their own reading humps or resistances and bring them to more and more sophisticated story.

Thirdly, ensuring that the local library is a regular and enjoyable part of a child’s life – allowing them to feel that the library is a second home – an astonishing resource in their lives, allowing them to experience the unhurried pleasure of browsing and taking risks with books, allowing them to make friends with librarians. It’s good to own books, of course (if you are able) – particularly for re-reading which I think is an important part of a reading life. But the library’s resources are deeper and more vast than any bookshop’s so it’s an even more important place for the reading life.

Lastly, I would suggest that we need to listen to what our children’s reading interests really are – and validate them, while continuing to provide a range of possibilities. A Lego instruction sheet is a reading experience. A picture book is always a good thing no matter your age. And there’s always room for airheaded series books, too. A thorough reading life for a child will always have dross as well as pearls.


Celebrate our Olympians with Golden Kiwis

The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are now only a few weeks away. They start on 5 August and run until 21 August. There are around 350 athletes and support staff that make up this year’s New Zealand Olympic team. I wonder how many medals we will win this time?

New Zealand author David Riley has just written a great book all about the amazing athletes who have won gold medals at the Olympic Games over the years. The book is called Golden Kiwis and David takes us on a journey through ‘100 years of Kiwi excellence in the Olympic Games.’

David gives us some background information on the Olympic Games, from the very first Olympics in Greece in 8BC through to the modern Olympics of today that started in 1896. You then learn about the outstanding sporting feats of all of our gold medal winners, from our very first with Malcolm Champion (great name for an athlete!) in 1912, through to Valerie Adams and Lisa Carrington. It’s great to see that Golden Paralympians like Sophie Pascoe are also included in the book.

There are some really great features of this book that I like. There are heaps of photos of the athletes, especially the action shots of them competing in their sports. One of the coolest features of the book is that David has included QR codes with each athlete so that you can scan the code and watch a video of them competing and winning.

Golden Kiwis is an inspiring book that just goes to prove you can achieve your goals if you set your mind to it.

We have an author interview with David Riley and here is a video of him talking about his book, Golden Kiwis:

If you want to find out more about the Olympics and New Zealand sportspeople try these:

We also have a great page about the Olympics for kids on our website so check that out for more information and links to other great websites.

Florence Preston – Good in parts

CoverReasons to love New Zealand writer Florence Preston:

  • Her writing is Good in parts.
  • She’s a Southland woman – Florence was born in 1905 in Invercargill.
  • I really like the cut of her jib:
    “My own pet hates are mostly the offspring of television: the wailings and wigglings and screamings and grimacings of pop singers, female and male; claque audiences in the wings; and ‘spectacular’ shows during which for no apparent reason the artists keep changing their clothes”.
  • She uses the word claque! What a great word – according to Wikipedia it is an organized body of professional applauders, and members of a claque are called claqueurs.

I’ve found this in the Source, which led me to this Literature Resource Center article on Florence.

If you feel compelled to read some of her books (I do!), search BiblioCommons for Florence Preston.

Have you read Florence? What do you think?

My favourite NZ books – Mandy Hager

photoIt’s always incredibly hard trying to tease out only one or two authors when we are blessed with so many amazing writers in this beautiful small country of ours but, if I think about it, all the writers I really admire have one very important thing in common: they all write books with a warm humanity at their core.

What do I mean by this? I guess I mean that whatever they write – even if the actual story is scary or funny or violent or heart-breakingly sad – the underlying message is about the need to champion and protect everyone’s basic human rights – and to act from a place of love, not greed, or fear, or ignorance, or hate. Maurice Gee does this, as do Sherryl Jordan, Anna Mackenzie and Fleur Beale (just to name a few!)

I like books that have something to say about the world we live in – books that aren’t afraid to have an opinion, even if it’s one I don’t agree with! How about the next time you pick up a YA novel you read it with these thoughts in mind: what is the author really trying to say? How does the theme reflect what’s going on today? What ideas could I take away from this and action in my own world? Give it a go!

Mandy Hager