Curate Your Own Personal Film Festival (from the Library DVD Collection)

The Press reporter Charlie Gates wrote a fascinating article about the decline in DVD rental stores in Christchurch: Ghosts and survivors in fading DVD market. There may be fewer places to hire DVDs from, but you can still get ’em at your local library!

Because I am decidedly average at getting to the movies, the library DVD collection is there to rectify my movie fails. I watched The Last Jedi recently, re-watched the beautiful Japanese animated time-travel body swap movie Your Name, and am looking forward to watching Lady Bird and Phantom Thread.

DVDs - Matuku Takotako: Sumner Centre
DVDs at Matuku Takotako: Sumner Centre. Flickr Sumner-2017-08-18-DSC03137

This led me to make my own list of an imaginary Film Fest of recent(ish) NZ docos!

New Zealand Docos

No Ordinary Sheila

The story of this writer, illustrator, natural historian and outdoors adventurer Sheila Natusch.

Spookers

“Every weekend come rain, hail or shine, this diverse group of amateur performers unite to terrify punters at the southern hemisphere’s largest scream park, situated in a former psychiatric hospital. Director Florian Habicht reveals the transformative and paradoxically lifesaving power of belonging to a community that celebrates fear. “

Poi E

“With humour, energy and emotion, the movie Poi e is the story of how that iconic song gave pride to generations of New Zealanders.”

My Year With Helen

“With unique access to high-ranking candidate Helen Clark, award-winning filmmaker Gaylene Preston casts a wry eye on proceedings as the United Nations turns itself inside-out choosing a new Secretary-General.”

McLaren

The story of Formula One motor racing team originator Bruce McLaren “A fearless racing driver, a visionary and brilliant engineer”.

Pecking Order

“Join members of the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club in the lead up to the NZ National Championships, as they battle history and each other in a quest for glory and for the love of their birds.”

Seven Rivers Walking

“With walkers, rafters, farmers and fishing folk, we journey the alpine to spring rivers of Canterbury. Exploring above and below the surfaces, uncovering ways through our current freshwater crisis. This lyrical documentary from New Zealand is an intimate portrait of the struggles around water – globally the most precious resource of our time. ”

Tickled

“After stumbling upon a bizarre “competitive endurance tickling” video online, wherein young men are paid to be tied up and tickled, reporter David Farrier reaches out to request a story from the company. “

The Art of Recovery

“As demolition gangs reduce ruins to rubble, a dynamic group of artists, innovators and entrepreneurs are bringing life back to the streets of post-quake Christchurch, empowering the people and creating a promising future for a dynamic new city. ”

Hip Hop-eration

“These Hip-hoppers may each be almost a century young, but for Kara (94), Maynie (95) and Terri (93), the journey to the Las Vegas World Hip Hop Dance Championships is just the beginning of a life’s journey. ”

Find New Zealand documentary films in our collection.

 

A fiction lover’s mid-year review

2018 is screaming past at quite a rate and I have had the pleasure of filling this time with some quality reading!

I’ve made a list of the novels that I have enjoyed so far in 2018 and made comments on each so you can better decide whether they might be for you – my guess is that they’re so good you’ll want to read all of them!

There’s a decent representation of my favourite authors here too – the universe smiled upon us this year for new books from amazing authors. I was particularly excited to get a hold of First Person, the latest from the great Tasmanian Richard Flanagan. He’s a Booker Prize winner for his 2013 novel Narrow Road to the Deep North, and could go again with First Person, it’s very VERY good!

And another great Australian author Tim Winton; I was eagerly awaiting the chance to read The Shepherd’s Hut, another triumph for the doyen of Australian literary fiction.

And then there was The Free by Willy Vlautin. His economy and direct use of language, and his ability to accurately depict the struggles of everyday rural and poor America makes him one of the most exciting American authors working today, in my humble opinion, and he’s producing consistently outstanding work.

And most recently I’ve finally gotten my hands on Macbeth by Jo Nesbo! Hogarth Shakespeare have really nailed it by engaging Nesbo to do Macbeth and it’s definitely one of my highlights for the year – that and Flanagan’s First Person will be hard to top!

I’ve also included some modern sci-fi, some new Scandi-Noir, some historical fiction from NZ, and a classic from Kurt Vonnegut – and I’ll let you read about them yourself 🙂 (Please note that a number of these titles are also available in eBook or eAudiobook formats, so you’ve got plenty of options!)

2018 – The Best of Fiction…. so far!

List created by DevilStateDan

The highlights of my explorations through the fiction collection of Christchurch City Libraries for the first half of 2018. Some titles are new, some have been out for decades, all of them are great!

Cover of First person by Richard FlanaganFirst Person – A struggling writer gets an opportunity to ghost-write the memoir of a notorious con man in 1990s Australia but the road is a slippery one and lines become blurred as our man becomes ever deeper involved.

This is arguably Richard Flanagan’s greatest work to date, and he’s definitely entrenched himself at the top of the heap of contemporary authors.

Cover of Macbeth by Jo NesboMacbeth – This is obviously a retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and what a brilliant treatment and with Jo Nesbo as an inspired choice for author. It’s so obvious to me now that Macbeth was MADE for the Scandi-Noir genre treatment. It’s gritty, dark, violent. Full of power, betrayal, and characters walking the fine line between sanity and madness. For this story Macbeth is head of SWAT in a dangerous and corrupt town and together with his mistress, Lady, the rags-to-riches casino entrepreneur, they embark on a powerplay to seize control of the city. But Macbeth has a sketchy past full of drug abuse and violence and as he relapses things get out of control, people get killed, lines get blurred…

Cover of The shepherd's hut by Tim WintonThe Shepherd’s Hut – The doyen of Australian literary fiction has done it again with this book. It’s the very real account of a young man forced by circumstance to take to the roads and outback of rural Western Australia. Such brilliant descriptive writing will have you smelling the eucalypt in the air, and hearing the crispy arid saltlands crunching underfoot. Jaxie is running and he’s got a vague destination in mind – north. And he’s got to survive the perils of rural Australia, criminals, and the very land that seems to want to kill him from heat, thirst or animal attack. An outstanding book from a great Australian author and written in vernacular language too!

Cover of Machine learning by Hugh Howey

Machine Learning – A set of short sci-fi stories from the author of the super popular ‘Silo’ Series. Hugh Howey is one of the best contemporary science fiction authors working today and these stories are thought provoking, dark, ominous, and challenging. He features some stories from the world of ‘Silo’ as well as stories of AI, Aliens, Virtual Worlds, and some Fantasy too. Beaut writer, beaut stories!

Cover The free by Willy VlautinThe Free – Another winner from one of my favourite authors writing today. It’s a snapshot of everyday life in middle America amongst a group of individuals all experiencing life differently. The solo man keeping two jobs to stay afloat, the nurse who has seen too much and has a strained relationship with her mentally ill father, and there’s Leroy, an injured soldier who drifts between consciousness and another place. The characters all struggle in their way to navigate life and retain their dignity and sense of self, and the authors minimalist writing style is stark and very effective at conveying they way in which real people communicate with each other. If you like the human experience warts-and-all then give this a go!

Cover of The melody by Jim CraceThe Melody – This story centres around an ageing singer/performer who was once a celebrated entertainer commanding full houses of societys elite. Nowadays he shuffles around suffering from the recent death of his loving wife, but then thing take a sinister turn when he’s attacked in his own home by a creature of unknown origin. His world is challenged as he negotiates his way around the incident and who he once was, who he is now, and what his future holds. Supremely well written with great use of language.

Medusa – An outstanding addition to the world of Scandi-Noir and one of the best I’ve read. Solid character building, quick paced action, and interwoven plot of suspicion and intrigue, and a series of grisly crimes in rural Norway – everything you could want in a crime novel! Medusa

Cover of One way by Simon MordenOne Way – What do you do when you want to colonise another planet, say Mars for instance?!? Well you could take a leaf from the book of British colonialism and send convicts to do the hard yards before the rich and elite arrive – and that’s just what America has done in this new sci-fi adventure. A small team of “dangerous” felons are recruited to build the first habitation on the red planet, what could go wrong…? A murder perhaps, and with nowhere to run it’s a spacey-whodunnit! Good writing and full of wit, if you like ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir or his follow up ‘Artemis’ then you’ll get a kick out of ‘One Way’!

Cover of Only killers and thieves by Paul HowarthOnly Killers and Thieves – A great debut from a new author that really captures the Australian Gothic story. It’s the story of two young men, not boys but barely men, after a traumatic family event that sees them on a journey not of their choosing. The book describes the brutality of life in colonial Australia, the treatment of the indigenous population, and the rigourous adherence to the ‘old ways’ in this vastly alien and seemingly lawless world. If you like your reading to be vivid, violent, confronting, and troublesome then you’ll sure like this one!

Cover of The sons by Anton SvenssonThe Sons – On its initial appearance it seems like another addition to the massive genre of Scandinavian crime novels, but it’s much more and can stand alone as a piece of literary fiction deserving of high praise. Three young men have just served sentences for aggravated armed robbery. They are brothers, raised by the petty criminal and domestic abuser father that they committed their last crime with. On the final sons release we follow what happens next as they try to recreate some kind of normality – whatever “normality” means for each of them though is very different. Starting out I was worried that because I didn’t really like any the characters my attention may sway, but that fear allayed pretty early on by the authors great descriptive writing which bares all to scene of a family torn apart by the criminal inclinations of a small representation of their larger sum. This is part 2 in the ‘Made in Sweden’ series, the first book being ‘The Father’. Can’t wait for the next one!

For more view the full list

^DevilStateDan

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.

Finalists

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”.

Everythingiswrong

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

Everythingiswrong

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).

Library sounds – a mid-year review

I’ve been exploring the CD collection available through Christchurch City Libraries this year and I’ve found some absolute gems!

There’s a mix of styles and eras in this list and quite a representation of New Zealand music – and it just so happens to be New Zealand Music Month.

So sit back and get some sonic stimulation from some quality musicians from around the world of music…

2018 – The Best of Music

List created by DevilStateDan

Music highlights for the year. Some are brand new, some are decades old but new to me, all are great!

Versatile – Van Morrison doing jazz interpretations backed by a very slick big band. It’s really well produced and if you’re new to the American jazz standards then this is a great way in!

Utterance – I love this album! It’s a collaborative effort between three on NZ’s finest musicians; David Long (banjo w/effects), Natalia Mann (harp), and Richard Nunns (taonga puoro). These flavours blend beautifully to create haunting soundscapes that are textural and dynamic – truly beautiful sounds from Aotearoa!

The Jazz Messengers – The first album from the group that went on to be the band that every jazz player wanted to be in. They’ve had some huge names in jazz through their ranks over the years and this is a great way to start their 40+ album recording career!

The Kitchen Table Sessions – Beaut, home-cooked alt-country from NZ’s favourite adopted daughter, Tami Neilson. Great country grooves and a lady with a voice of gold – what’s not to love!?

Preservation – Some more beautiful, lyrical, melodic songwriting from NZ’s Nadia Reid.

Second Nature – This is just how I like the Blues; stripped back, acoustic, you can just imagine it on the porch on a hot summer day… This father and son team recorded this album in single takes with no overdubs whilst they were touring Finland in 1991, and it’s a timeless and solid an blues album as you’ll find.

Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band – Charlie Watts (drummer for the Rolling Stones) gives it his jazz side on this album, featuring the big band of Danish radio. Some great jazz music here particularly the ‘Elvin Suite’ numbers. After that you get the obligatory big band arrangements of some Stones songs, beautifully arranged and executed but nothing terribly exciting musically.

Dog – Stripped back acoustic blues doesn’t get much better than this album of what I like to call “porch music” from Charlie Parr. Solid songwriting and a very real connection with the blues makes this a great addition to the genre.

Don’t Let Them Lock You up – New Zealand music is in good shape these days and I really like the creativity and superb musicianship that is on display on this album. They usually perform as a duo but the recording process has allowed them to expand on their ideas and grooves, implement new harmonies and percussion lines, and get really solid and funky! Great album!

Black Notes From the Deep – A great jazz album from the British multi-instrumentalist jazz legend Courtney Pine. Brilliant small ensemble playing and solid musicianship on display. I really liked the instrumentals – not so much the vocal numbers – but that’s just my preference. It’s good compositions played really nicely without arrogance or naff-ness. Jazz fans should have a listen.

View full list

Te Tiriti o Waitangi / The Treaty of Waitangi, 1840

Waitangi Day is coming up so why not find out more about the Treaty of Waitangi? The Treaty of Waitangi Collection is an amazing resource. It has all the essential content for learning about the history of the Treaty and its relevance today. The collection is indexed by place and iwi so you can explore the history of the Treaty by your iwi or by your area. Bridget Williams Books and Christchurch City Libraries have provided this fact sheet on Treaty of Waitangi in the Canterbury region. This includes facts like:

Tī ovens (umu-tī) that date from the thirteenth century have been found in South Canterbury. These ovens were used to cook the roots and lower stems of young cabbage trees.
Read more about pre- European archaeology in chapter three of Tangata Whenua in the Treaty of Waitangi Collection.

By 1800, an estimated 20,000 people lived in the tribal area of Ngāi Tahu. This population spread from Kaikōura on the east coast and Tai Poutini on the west all the way down to Rakiura (Stewart Island) and other southern islands.
Read more about Ngāi Tahu in chapter one of New Myths and Old Politics in the Treaty of Waitangi Collection.

eBook titles in the Treaty of Waitangi Collection include:

Te Tiriti o Waitangi / The Treaty of Waitangi 1840

This eBook has reproductions of the nine sheets of the Treaty of Waitangi, comprising of the original document first signed at Waitangi on 6 February 1840 and eight copies. It also provides information about the sheets, and a map, and information about where the Treaty was signed. This title also includes some short biographies of many of the signatories, which show the range of people who signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

He Whakaputanga/The Declaration of Independence, 1835

He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni – known in English as the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand – is a constitutional document of historical and cultural significance. It was signed first by a group of powerful Northern chiefs at British Resident James Busby’s house at Waitangi. Also included in this title are some short biographies of some of the signatories.

The Treaty of Waitangi by Claudia Orange

Claudia Orange has produced several works on the Treaty of Waitangi including this award-winning title published in 1987. Other Treaty titles by Claudia Orange available in the BWB Treaty of Waitangi Collection include The Story of a Treaty; An illustrated History of the Treaty of Waitangi; What Happened at Waitangi?

Stories without End: Essays 1975-2010 by Judith Binney

This is just one of Judith Binney’s books that is available on the Treaty of Waitangi, she is regarded as one of New Zealand’s leading scholars on the subject. This book is a selection of essays that explore sidepaths and previously unexamined histories. They notably delve into the lives of powerful early Māori figures, including the prophets Rua Kenana and Te Kooti, their wives and their descendants, and the leaders of the Urewera.

More about Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Best book covers 2017 – My pick of New Zealand’s finest

It’s one of the pleasures as the year ends to slow down and smell the roses – or, in this case, stop and appreciate the book covers. Join me as I judge New Zealand books by their covers.

Christchurch Art Gallery

Gold medal winner for 2017 is our own Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu. It’s not a parochial choice. They’ve produced a standout series of publications to add to their award-winning output.

Aberhart starts here (by senior curator Dr Lara Strongman with Laurence Aberhart) is the companion book to the exhibition (on until 6 February 2018 – don’t miss it).  The striking cover cleverly matches Aberhart’s photo with the title added to the building as if it were graffiti, or a business name (in that attractive and distinctive typeface used in the exhibition). The text and the photos have been given room to breathe on the page. It’s a beautiful book with a kind of stately gravitas.

A more raucous beauty is Say something! Jacqueline Fahey by curator Felicity Milburn with Allie Eagle, Julia Holden, Bronwyn Labrum, Lana Lopesi, Zoe Roland and Julia Waite. Again, both words and images are placed to perfection on the page, with zingy pops of colour. The exhibition is on until 11 March 2018.

Christchurch Art Gallery have also made some rather stunning “Little Books” – (Birds, Sea, Flowers, Black – highlighting taonga from their collection. The covers are gorgeous, and the books have coloured page edges, foil, and ribbons to mark your page. Swoon.

The publication Bulletin always has outstanding covers to match its great content and striking internal visuals.  The colour scheme and Ann Shelton’s art on the cover of the latest issue are a visual symphony. B.189 had The Ramones on the cover!

Credit for this great mahi also goes to:

  • The students from the graphic design department at the Ilam School of Fine Arts who do the design on Bulletin;
  • Lecturer Aaron Beehre who is art director for Bulletin and who also designed the Little Books;
  • Photographer John Collie;
  • Designer Peter Bray who worked on the Aberhart and Fahey books.

Find books published by Christchurch Art Gallery in our collection.

Special mention

Illustrator Giselle Clarkson has had a phenomenal year.  Her art is full of life and fun. She created the much-shared biccies and slices taxonomy in Annual 2. Giselle does brilliant work in The Sapling, school journals – in all sorts of places and on wide range of topics (her natural history comics are fab). Kei runga noa atu – I would love to see a whole book by Giselle!

Here are some of 2017’s best covers:

Illustrators and artists

I particularly like the timeless quality of the first three covers. The historical tourist poster vibe of Maria McMillan’s The Sky Flier is quite striking too.

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Black and white and photographic

Photos are always a popular way of attracting a reader. I love the energy in Victor Rodger’s Black Faggot, showing the play in performance. and see that sense of motion and action in Floating Islander, Oxygen, and The Treaty on the Ground. In contrast see the stillness of Elspeth Sandys’ portrait, and the calm library depicted on the cover of The Expatriates.

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Colour

Magenta, lavender, pinky-purple – New Zealand book covers this year showed a bit of trend towards the pink side. I for one love it.  (Update: Spinoff books mentions book covers in their Second annual Spinoff Review of Books literary awards and picks the cover of Baby by Annaleese Jochems designed by Keely O’Shannessy as best cover).

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Te Reo Māori

Original NZ books in te reo Māori, and also translations of classics. It’s grand to see te reo front and centre.

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Aotearoa’s first bookface cover?

Tom Scott might be the first author to do a sort of #bookface cover. Well, technically, more #illustrationface – either way it’s a great cover.

Cover

Cute as heck

Finally, let’s place together two critters that ought not be proximate. They are both so phenomenally cute …

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Browse more covers of  New Zealand books published in 2017

International “Best Book Covers” lists

Best book covers of previous years

For more on local book covers and design, see the PANZ Book Design Awards.

Love Letter to A Bookshop : New Zealand Bookshop Day – Saturday 28 October 2017

Bookshops I have loved, lost, and looted : a confession.

Write a love letter to your favourite bookshop – Dear Diary. I can’t send this to a Bookshop; I’m cheating on all of them! I have no control over myself. Wherever I go, I have to see the local bookshop. Where did it all start?

My first love was the Scholastic Book Club. Remember Lucky Books? Making my choices carefully from the brochure, I paid for them with my pocket money. I was so excited to see that pile of new books on my desk! I drove my family nuts with this one: Boo!

W. Carthew Bookseller And Stationer, Feilding Public Library, PHOTO_FDG_BUS_sh31.jpg

When I was a kid, Carthew’s Bookshop in Feilding was my door into the imagined world. They had the Beano… Carthew’s is no longer there, but the building remains.

Hopwoods Mitre 10 and Bennett’s bookshop, Broadway, Matt Ryan, 1988, Manawatu Heritage 2008P_Z5184_BUI_0970

Teen angst took me to Bennett’s bookshop in Palmerston North. The city store in Broadway, now Whitcoulls, had an impressive staircase. You could hide away in the quiet of the loft floor, which always had sale tables. Sale tables! Woo!

Bennetts University Bookshop at Massey Tiritea Campus was the place to get my set texts for English. This bookshop always had lots of neat little extras to look at and buy, like the Little Book of Calm. I’ve kept almost all of my Uni books…

Unity Books at the end of Lambton Quay was my Dad’s favourite bookshop. A treasure trove. Dad ordered a lot of books from there. I shared his love of David Attenborough, Jacques Cousteau and studied religion; making a beeline from the Beehive to visit whenever in Welly.

Moving back to the Manawatu for a bit I flirted with Poppies Bookshop in Feilding and had a co-dependent relationship with Bruce McKenzie Booksellers in Palmerston North. Nestled under Palmerston North City Library in George Street, Bruce McKenzie’s stock popular, classic authors, art and wonderful children’s books. Bruce supports local authors too, and hosts events! Glass of wine, anyone?

Since moving to Christchurch I’ve forged a relationship with Scorpio Books and I’m having an online affair with Book Depository.

I love to go to writers’ events. I’m like a moth to a flame. Scorpio are great supporters of literary events such as National Poetry Dayl. Btw they’re hosting the The Great Lit Quiz & Ngaio Marsh Awards on NZ Bookshop Day.

Book Depository sell both new and used books online. And they don’t charge postage! A match made in heaven for a book addict.

Last but not least is the thing I have for second hand books. I like nothing better than a good rummage for a bargain. What if I found someone I could treasure?! Whether its the Cat’s Protection League, the Hospice Shop, the Salvation Army or St Vincent de Paul, you’ll find me in the book section looking for Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, or that Mary Poppins I just can’t find for my collection.

Old flames back home are Trash and Treasures, who used to be in Rangitikei Street, and Star Bookshop in Cuba Street, Palmerston North.

Here in Christchurch I’ve discovered a comforting nest of rare jewels at Smiths, The Tannery Bookshop.

One of the books I treasure most is an old cancelled library copy of Witi Ihimaera ‘s Tangi. I can still see the pleasure on Witi’s face when he signed it for me at an author event in Palmy:

“My first book!” he exclaimed.

Dear bookshops, don’t ever change! I love that you take me as I am, and don’t judge me by my cover.

Lots of love,
A constant reader.

PS: Thanks to my love for you I’ve carted eight bookshelves worth of books with me all over New Zealand. My dream is to buy a bus and never pack up those books again.

Write a love letter to your favourite bookshop


Tomorrow Saturday 28 October is NZ Bookshop Day. Find out more:

Ah, the serenity of the West Coast

This Labour Weekend I’m off to the West Coast of our South Island again. I get an itch to escape to there fairly often and this time it felt like it had been too long since last visit. There is something wholly relaxing about leaving your busy city life for the wilds of ‘the Coast’.

Here are some West Coast reads:

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Be safe on our roads this holidays.

Bic Runga Drive’s back to Christchurch

Soulful singer-songwriter Bic Runga, born and raised in Christchurch, is coming back to her hometown for a 20th anniversary concert celebrating her first album Drive, on Friday 20 October at Issac Theatre Royal.

20th+Anniversary+of+Drive+tour

She will be playing her much-lauded and loved songs that have stood the test of time such as Sway, Suddenly Strange and Bursting Through, alongside songs since then, included in The Very Best of Bic Runga (released 2017).

Drive

There must be quite a few of us who, in their 20s, would have filtered their relationships and emotional experiences through the lyrics of Bic Runga’s songs when the album was first released, and sang along to Drive, while driving around. Her music has cross-generational appeal and now I don’t know who is the bigger fan, myself or my daughter, but we’ll both be there up front in the majestic theatre to sway to her beautiful and equally majestic voice.


We caught up with Bic for a few quick questions ahead of her concert in Christchurch. She shares her reading interests and formative library memories.

Bic image 5
Bic Runga on tour in Australia, March 2017. Photo credit: Amanda Lee Starkey

Bic, you grew up in Christchurch, in Hornby, and went to Cashmere High School… what special places do you think of fondly here?

My favourite places are the Arts Centre where I did a lot of hanging out as a teenager. Lyttelton and Governors Bay are also really special places to me.

What role did libraries play in your life growing up?

I used to catch the bus to the library in town most Saturdays, and I discovered all the music I love there. I used to get out cassette tapes and that’s where I discovered The Smiths, The Sex Pistols, The Cure, The Cocteau Twins. It was unlike the music my parents played at home, so it was really my own place.

Central Library
Literature Arts & Music: audiovisual issue desk, Ground Floor. 1995. Flickr Arch52-BWN-0036

What type of reading do you enjoy? Any recommendations? What are you looking forward to reading?

I like non-fiction. I like science books and I love books about space! And I like music biographies. I liked Patti Smith‘s Just Kids, and I love Marianne Faithfull‘s autobiography Faithfull. The Phil Collins‘ autobiography Not Dead Yet I’ve heard is really funny, I’ll get to it soon!

JustKidsNot Dead Yet

Are there any special books or stories you remember fondly from your childhood? And what books are your own children enjoying at the moment?

I remember reading the Ramona Quimby series (about 3 sisters) when I could first read a chapter book. And any of the non-fiction Usborne Books for children. Anything by Roald Dahl worked on me as it does my children now.

BeezusandRamonaRamona's worldmatilda2RoaldDahl

My kids are mad about Minecraft, there’s an unofficial Minecraft book they quite liked called the Elementia Chronicles by Sean Fay Wolfe. So if you can’t peel your child away from Minecraft, you could try the book!

Can you recommend any music or artists out of Christchurch who have taken your interest?

At the show at the Isaac Theatre Royal I’ve asked Asti Loren to sing a duet with me, she has such a beautiful voice. I love how self motivated she is, she posts a lot of stuff online and really does everything herself which is such a different world from my generation when you needed record labels and directors and stuff.

If a young person was interested in being a musician today, what advice would you give them?

I’d say just practice a lot, practice slowly and make it your meditation. Everyone wants fame, but it seems no one wants to practice enough!

We asked Bic to share a surprising fact about herself (and it may just be her next creative project) …

I’ve just learned how to draft clothing patterns slowly over the last few years and I’m ready to do a fashion project, maybe using wool. I’m really excited to do something creative that’s not music, but I think the two will work together well.

Finally Bic, you are donating money from every ticket purchased to your Christchurch show to the Māia Health Foundation, who are raising money for projects for Canterbury’s health system. Can you tell us more about that?

I’m proud to be an ambassador for the Māia Health Foundation alongside (fellow Cantabrians) Jake Bailey and Brendon McCullum. It’s still quite a new charity so I’m constantly trying to raise their profile in everything I do. Our main projects right now are a helipad as part of the hospital so the rescue helicopters don’t have to land in Hagley Park 8 minutes away, and more beds for parents in the children’s ward so families can stay together.

 


Bic has won a multitude of awards and worked on many musical projects and collaborations in the twenty years since Drive was released, too numerous to mention here. Most recently, Bic has written a song for a New Zealand children’s annual of stories, poetry, comics, art and other miscellany Annual 2 which has just been published is aimed at 8 to 12 year olds. Her song, Next Thing You Know You’ll Be Happy, is based on the idea that happiness comes from simple pleasures.

Annual 2
Annual 2

 

Take a look inside Annual 2

BicRungasongsheetAnnual2
Bic Runga’s song about simple pleasures, composed especially for Annual 2 (2017)

MORE

Buy Tickets: Friday 20 October, Isaac Theatre Royal
Listen: Bic Runga’s CDs in our catalogue
Browse: Bic Runga’s website
Read: In-depth background on Bic on Audioculture
Watch: Before she was famous, she formed the duo Love Soup with Kelly Horgan as a seventh former at Cashmere High School in Christchurch and they entered the Smokefree Rockquest Canterbury Finals in 1993, earning her first recording contract afterwards (see their performance of Superman Song from the 5 minute point in this video).

 

Ada Lovelace Day 2017: Celebrating New Zealand women in science!

It’s that time of year again – when we celebrate Women in Science! Today (Tuesday 10 October 2017 ) is Ada Lovelace Day. Its aim is to celebrate women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

This year I’m featuring pioneers of science in New Zealand. From the nation’s very beginnings, these women classified and preserved our unique flora and fauna, made incredible discoveries, and improved the health and wellbeing of future New Zealanders.

Conservation: Pérrine Moncrieff (1893-1979)

From left; Perrine Moncrieff, Mr Martin, Mrs Claasen, Mr Gourlay, Mr Osborne (?).. Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand :Photographs relating to Perrine Moncrieff. Ref: PAColl-3295-1-10. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22428306
From left; Perrine Moncrieff, Mr Martin, Mrs Claasen, Mr Gourlay, Mr Osborne (?).. Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand :Photographs relating to Perrine Moncrieff. Ref: PAColl-3295-1-10. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. https://natlib.govt.nz//records/22428306

Pérrine Moncrieff came from the United Kingdom after World War One to settle in Nelson. With skill in art and an interest in bird life, she devised a pocket guide; New Zealand Birds and How to Identify Them (1925). In the preface she wrote,

“…it is to be regretted that, despite the fact that Man cannot replace them, the appalling destruction of our unique native birds and forest continues to this day.”

(from New Zealand Scientists : Pioneer Women: Ellen Blackwell (1864-1952) : Pérrine Moncrieff (1893-1979) : Muriel Bell (1898-1974) : Betty Batham (1917-1974) : Trends in their life and science. 1989: Women Into Science Education. Perrine Moncreiff, p.2.)

Moncrieff wrote articles on bird migration, protection, the endangered South Island Robin, and reaction of animals to the Murchison Earthquake (1929).

In 1932 Pérrine was appointed the first female President of the Royal Australasian Ornithological Union. She lobbied for the conservation of birds, forests and soil against gold mining and milling; successfully establishing the Abel Tasman National Park in 1942.

In 1974 Pérrine was awarded the Order of Oranje-Nassau by the Netherlands. Abel Tasman, who first discovered New Zealand, was from Holland, and the Dutch had sponsored the park. In 1975 she was honoured as Commander of the British Empire, but sadly she wasn’t recognised by the scientific community.

Read:

Robin Hodge. Moncrieff, Pérrine, first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol. 4, 1998, and updated online in October, 2001. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4m57/moncrieff-perrine (accessed 9 October 2017)

Botany: Ellen Blackwell (1864-1952)

R. K. Dell. 'Blackwell, Ellen Wright', first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol. 3, 1996. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3b37/blackwell-ellen-wright (accessed 9 October 2017)
R. K. Dell. ‘Blackwell, Ellen Wright’, first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol. 3, 1996. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3b37/blackwell-ellen-wright (accessed 9 October 2017)

Ellen Blackwell lived in New Zealand long enough to collaborate with Robert Laing on the book; Plants of New Zealand. She travelled the country with Robert and her brother Frank, researching and photographing native plants, later writing a large part of the text for their book.

As well as describing the pine, palm and lily families of New Zealand flora, Blackwell’s readable style included snippets of local culture and legend:

“The reader was given advice on the preparation of the bracken rhizome for eating, the suitability of matai wood for ballroom floors, how to use nikau palm in the construction of huts and supplejack for ropes and baskets.” (Ibid. Ellen Blackwell p.3.)

Plants of New Zealand refuted some previously held ideas on the Lancewood species as well as the nature of mangroves.  She identified that their ‘shoots’ were actually aerial roots.

Ellen’s large part in the creation of the book was largely ignored and although some went in to bat for her, she was uncomfortable with publicity and distanced herself from the controversy.

Read:

R. K. Dell. Blackwell, Ellen Wright, first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol. 3, 1996. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3b37/blackwell-ellen-wright (accessed 9 October 2017)

Nutrition : Muriel Bell (1898-1974)

Hocken Snapshop (29th Aug 2017). Bell, Dr. Muriel Emma. In Website Hocken Snapshop. Retrieved 9th Oct 2017 12:41, from http://hocken.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/30481
Hocken Snapshop (29th Aug 2017). Bell, Dr. Muriel Emma. In Website Hocken Snapshop. Retrieved 9th Oct 2017 12:41, from http://hocken.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/30481

Muriel Bell, born in Murchison, is known for starting the programme for Free Milk in Schools in 1937.

Muriel studied medicine at Otago University and stayed on to research human metabolism, gaining a doctorate in 1928. She became a lecturer there in 1935. In 1940 she was appointed Director of the Medical Research Council’s Nutrition Research Department, and Nutritionist to the Department of Health.

During World War Two, when there were food shortages, Muriel consulted on diet and low cost meals. She found a source of Vitamin D in fish oil, and devised a rosehip syrup to supplement Vitamin C for children.

Muriel also discovered, when implementing the free milk in schools programme, that exposure to the sun destroyed vitamin C and riboflavin (vitamin B2) in milk. Covered trucks were then used to deliver it. She discovered that iodine is linked to healthy thyroid function, and that it isn’t present in New Zealand soil. So she introduced iodised salt.

She found a link between fluorine and healthy teeth, campaigning for it to be added to tap water, and researched links between cholesterol and heart disease.

In 1952 Muriel was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, and in 1959 she was made a Commander of the British Empire. She also wrote for the New Zealand Listener on nutrition for many years.

Read:

Philippa Mein Smith. Bell, Muriel Emma, first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol. 4, 1998, and updated online in June, 2012. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4b21/bell-muriel-emma (accessed 9 October 2017)

Marine Biology: Elizabeth Batham (1917-1974)

Elizabeth Joan Batham. Ormsby, Mary Louise, 1947- :Negatives of portraits used in "Herstory '84". Ref: 1/4-110043-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23155427
Elizabeth Joan Batham. Ormsby, Mary Louise, 1947- :Negatives of portraits used in “Herstory ’84”. Ref: 1/4-110043-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. https://natlib.govt.nz/records/23155427

Elizabeth Batham was born in Dunedin. Interested in the sea and its biology from childhood, she was an accomplished artist and photographer at school. She studied plankton and sea life in Otago Harbour for a Bachelor of Science in botany and zoology at Otago University.

After gaining a Ph.D on sea anemones at Cambridge in England, Batham took up the first role of Director at the Portobello Marine Biological Station in Otago, turning it into the highly respected research facility it is today; offering international study and courses for school students.

In 1962 Elizabeth was made one of only five female Fellows of The Royal Society of New Zealand. She was so dedicated that she would row to work when the ferry wasn’t working, and would dive for so long she often ran out of air.

Politics, administration and a male team of scientists, threatened by a female boss, made it difficult for Batham to manage the growing facility at Portobello. In 1974 she left to study at Victoria University of Wellington.

Betty sadly disappeared while diving in Seatoun.

Read:

John Jillett. Batham, Elizabeth Joan, first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol. 5, 2000. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/5b13/batham-elizabeth-joan (accessed 9 October 2017)

Paleontology: Joan Wiffen (1922-2009)

Joan Wiffen is my hero. In 1975 she found New Zealand’s first ever dinosaur bone.

Like many of us, Joan fossicked for shells and ammonites in sea cliffs as a child. After taking geology night classes Joan learned that the geology of north west Hawke’s Bay made it possible to find reptile bones, although no one had found any. Yet.

Joan concentrated her searches around the Mangahoua Stream northwest of Napier. Her first major find was a vertebra from a theropod – a carnivorous dinosaur that walked on its hind legs 65 million years ago.

Buried in sandstone rocks in treacherous cold water, were dinosaur fossils from both carnivores and herbivores.

Joan found more theropods, a sauropod (a titanosaur : a huge, herbivorous long necked dinosaur), a hypsilophodont (a small bi-ped), an ankylosaur (like an armadillo), an aquatic, air breathing mosasaur, plesiosaurs (like the loch ness monster) and a flying pterosaur.

Ankylosauria, collected Mangahouanga Stream, New Zealand. Purchased 2014 (tbc). CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (S.045836)
Ankylosauria, collected Mangahouanga Stream, New Zealand. Purchased 2014 (tbc). CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (S.045836)

Wiffen experimented with new techniques which yielded great results. Her collections are held at GNS Science in Lower Hutt. Some have been lent to the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa.

Joan Wiffen was awarded a Commander of the British Empire, the Science and Technology Bronze Medal and and Honorary DSc from Massey University in 1994. In 1995 she was honoured with Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 2004, she was awarded the Morris Skinner Award from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

She continued dinosaur hunting until her death at the age of 87.

Read:

Heritage scientist timeline – Joan Wiffen.

Further reading