Sunday, 30 March 2014

Young Adult Non-Fiction

NZ Writer and photographers
Harriet Rowland,  (images from various sources but mainly from Harriet)

The Book of Hat

Makaro Books (Submarine) 2014  $24.99 207pp
ISBN 978 0 4732 7285 2
Themes:  Blog entries/ Cancer/ Death and dying

When she was 17 and still a student at college, Harriet Rowland was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a very rare form of cancer. For the next two years Harriet (known as Hat) kept a Blog
(myexperienceof and the book is a selection of these entries which she helped to edit. Without seeing one sentence of self pity or anger we are privileged not just to read the words, thoughts and feelings of a most remarkable young woman but to enter into a world and an experience that stays in our minds.
Please read it.

From Harriet’s Blog of 21.2.14
On Wednesday I had one of the most magical nights as I launched my book 'The Book Of Hat' into the world! It is actually amazing and the night was out of the world spectacular! The first print run has sold out but If you want to buy copies of "The Book of Hat" you can contact the publisher Mary McCallum at What people didn't realize at the magical launch was that in the morning poor mum wasn't even sure if I was going to be alive in the afternoon to do this. It surprises me sometimes how she doubts my abilities. There was no way I was missing my own book launch.

Year 9 up/ Age 13 up and adults

Kids' Lit Quiz 2014

Mind blowing young readers with their phenomenal knowledge of the contents of so many books made up the Wellington Regional leg of the Kids’ Lit Quiz (brain child of Wayne Mills senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland) last Friday (28.3.14) at Papakowhai School, north of Wellington. All of us who were privileged to be part of the team of markers came away knowing just why we spend so much of our lives working with books for children and young adults…

The winners of the Wellington Regional heats were Wellesley College from Eastbourne, second were Mt Cook School and third came Evans Bay Intermediate. 
For a complete list of winners in each region (as they happen) just Google 2014 Kids Lit Quiz 

The New Zealand final will be held at National Library, Wellington on Tuesday June 10th 1pm.  The World Final will be held at the Princess Pavilion, Falmouth, Cornwall, United Kingdom also at 1pm  on July 8th  2014.

(This is probably my favourite book event of the year!)

Photo of Wayne acknowledgements to Central Connecticut State University USA

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Fiction Age 6 up

Australian Writer and Illustrator
Frances Watts, Illustrated by Gregory Rogers
The Complete Adventures of Sword Girl and Friends
Published as The Secrets of Flamant Castle
Allen & Unwin 2014  $24.99  570pp
ISBN 978 1 7433 1954 3
Themes:  Fantasy/ Funny stories/ Ghosts/ Jealousy/Talking animals

To be published early April 
Tommy was a small kitchen girl with big dreams and aspirations. She fantasizes about becoming a knight and feels her steps on the way to that dream are coming true when she is made the Keeper of the Blades that entails caring for all the swords in the castle. Dreams never run smoothly though and if it hadn’t been for a large cast of talking animals and helpful ghosts Tommy would have found herself back in the kitchen. The book contains the six stories about Tommy, published between 2012 and 2013 and although 570 pages sounds a bit daunting it is easily read (and listened to) and is full of comfortable illustrations by the late Gregory Rogers. Google his name for the story of a remarkable career.
Year 2 up/ Age 6 up (although younger children will enjoy listening to the stories)

A Booky Week!

On Wednesday I went to a wonderfully run and organised seminar on copyright at Raroa Intermediate School here in Wellington under the auspices of SLANZA (The School Library Association of New Zealand Te Puna Whare Mātauranga a Kura). A most articulate and charming young man from Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand spoke to the group for about an hour – mostly in the form of answering questions. Like many people in the audience I came away feeling slightly anxious but determined to find out even more.    
 Go to: for more information.

From the seminar I went straight out to Kilbirnie to the Children’s Bookshop where Juliet Jacka’s Tom Fitzgibbon awarded book Night of the Perigee Moon was being launched. It was a real family affair as the launcher was Juliet’s aunt, Fleur Beale, many of Juliet’s relatives had travelled to be there and the whole fantasy feeling of the evening was enhanced by the presence of Juliet and Dan’s two daughters, Rose and Imogene, dressed as small pink fairies complete with magic wands. See below.
The award will be officially presented in Auckland at the Margaret Mahy Day next Saturday March 29th.

 Image: Barbara Murison

Another pleasant ‘literary’ affair was that Friday (21st March) was National Poetry Day and in conjunction with the Museum of Wellington City & Sea, NZSA (New Zealand Society of Authors) ran a lunchtime guided tour around some of the plaques and benchmarks on the Wellington Writers Walk. With a couple of other members of the committee I helped lead the walk and we were lucky to have such a lively group, all of whom had questions to ask and some of whom had stories to tell. As we stopped by each writer we asked someone in the group to read aloud the words on the benchmark or plaque. The sun was shining on the harbour and we almost felt the presence of some of the writers and poets, now dead, but whose work keeps them well and truely alive. 

 Image: Barbara Murison                   

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Fiction - 9 up

Australian Writer and Illustrator
Bill Condon, Illustrated by Beth Norling
The Simple Things
Allen & Unwin 2014  $15.99pb 160pp
ISBN 978 1 7433 1724 2
Themes:  Family Life/ Friendship/ Growing up/ Old Age/ Solo Mothers  
Stephen really doesn’t want to go and stay for three weeks of his precious holiday time with boring old Aunty Lola even if his mum and dad will be there as well. For Heavens Sakes she’s nearly 80 and he’s never met her before although she does send him money on his birthdays. Like the title of the book, this is a simple story about family values, loyalty and friendship and with a totally unexpected surprise near the end!  It would be a pleasure to read aloud to the right group of say 9 and 10-year-olds and probably (and I apologise if this sounds rather sexist) an all girl gathering.
In my opinion, the cover does not do justice to the story it enfolds.
Year 5 up/ Age 9 up

Note: I have started using a colour code for the four categories of books I review:

Magenta: Picture Books
Blue:        Fiction
Red:        Young Adult 
Green:     Non-Fiction

Picture Books

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Nikki Slade Robinson
Munkle Arvur and the Big Dry
Scholastic 2014  $19.99pb          32pp
ISBN 978 1 7754 3213 5
Themes:  Droughts/ Series/ Sharing of resources/ Water conservation  
In Tikaroo Town (population 350) something bad is happening to the town’s water supply. The taps are drizzling dust; the mayor has no water for his bath and Miss Pettigrew Moore, famed for her prize vege garden, is now growing limpulous leeks. But all is not lost! Munkle Arvur  (eco-hero of Munkle Arvur and the Bod) is in charge of the town water supply and realises at once the source of the problem. It is his old enemy - the Bod so he pulls on his hat, jumps on his bike and sets off to find him.
Nikki Slade Robinson, author and illustrator, must have had so much fun writing and creating the images for this story with its strong links to Dr Seuss. 
Year 2 up/ Age 6 up

Picture Books

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Peter Millett, illustrated by Trish Bowles

The ANZAC puppy
Scholastic 2014  $19.99pb          32pp
ISBN 978 1 7754 3097 1
Animals in wartime/ Friendship/ Futility of war/ Loyalty/ Love stories/ Western Front/ World War One
Based on a true happening Peter Millett and Trish Bowles provide the perfect pairing of text and image to tell the story of Freda, a Harlequin Great Dane puppy who went to war. Freda’s original owner, a young girl called Lucy, could not afford to feed her and had put her up for adoption. Sam, a handsome and very young soldier, on his way to the trenches and horrors of World War One, took her in his rucksack to the War Zone. Years went by. Sam became a man, sick of the noise and mud and the death in the trenches. Freda became a loyal and helpful dog and, back in New Zealand, Lucy was becoming a young woman …
Two pages at the end of the book provide the real story of Freda who spent the war as a camp dog for the New Zealand Rifle Brigade based near Birmingham. 
A really good read-aloud for the days leading up to April 25th  – And just in case you hadn’t caught up with it  - this year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One.
 Year 2 up/ Age 6 up

Picture Books

USA Writer and UK Illustrator
Randi Zuckerberg, illustrated by Joe Berger
Picture Corgi 2013  $19.99pb  32pp
ISBN 978 0 5525 7152 4
Themes:  Digital words
Dot is a bright little girl – you can tell just by looking at her picture on the cover – and she knows all about the digital world – tapping and tweeting, surfing and swiping and talking and talking and talking. Then Mum says ‘go outside Dot – time to Reboot! Recharge! Restart!’ and when Dot gets through the door she remembers there is another meaning to all the digital words but a place for them all in her modern world. This is a simply told story that makes its point in a cheerful and memorable way with easy text and really great images.
Year 1 up/ Age 5 up

Randi is an American business woman and  the former Director of Market Development and Spokeswoman for Facebook.  She is just 32 years old and this is her first picture book.
Joe Berger is a London based illustrator, filmmaker and Cartoonist. He is 12 years older than Randi. Google his name for details of the picture books he has illustrated.
Image of Randi from her website. 

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Mature Readers (and adults)

USA Writer
Lissa Price
Doubleday 2014  $26.99pb          273 pp
ISBN 978 0 8575 3136 0
Themes:  Dystopian stories/ Mind control/ Sequels/ Sci Fi stories
This is the exciting although creepy conclusion to the story begun in Starters and made all the more so because it hasn’t been expanded into a trilogy or a series which must have been quite a temptation for the writer!  The plot, to say the least, is complicated. In Starters, the first book in the duo, everyone between the ages of 20 and 60 has been killed in a particularly chilling ‘spore war’  - the old have the money – the young have none. Callie, 17 and the hero of the stories, has allowed a controlling chip to be placed in her head in order to survive. Now, it is possible for her to have that removed but first she must make an enormous decision about the implications it will have. This is one of those rare stories where we actually see the main character developing and growing as the plot unfolds. The books will surely be enjoyed by readers who have devoured The Hunger Games.  
Year 8 up/ Age 12 up

Non-Fiction 6 years up to adult

Australian Illustrator and Designer
Charlotte Trounce
Australia – A Three-Dimensional Expanding Country Guide
Walker Books   2014   $12.95hb (slipcase) 14pp
ISBN 978 1 4063 4679 4
Themes:         Australia – Description and Travel/ Fold-Out Books/
Although this could hardly be described as a resource book on Australia it is a charmingly illustrated small (very small) square book with pages that expand out to around 1.5 metres with ‘pop-up’ images.  Among place shown are the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Parliament House, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Twelve Apostles, Port Arthur, Daintree Rainforest, St Peter's Cathedral, Wave Rock near Perth, Uluru, the Ghan, Kakadu National Park and the Great Barrier Reef.  
 It is a simple enough concept but  one that that might inspire enterprising children to make their own New Zealand version.
Year 2 up/ Age 6 up to adult

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Writers Week Wellington NZ 2014

On Sunday last (9th March)  I went to David Hill’s writing seminar held at the ever-generous Children’s Bookshop at Kilbirnie. David is such a magnificent teacher and in the two hours we spent with him my iPad almost ran out of battery power due to all the notes I was tapping in it.

David gives his full attention to a student at the seminar
 Image Barbara Murison
It was a beautiful day so I spent some time after the seminar in the sun at Island Bay (too far to go back to Waikanae) just down the road from the bookshop but not just idling in the sun although that was tempting. I had an assessment with me and was inspired by the previous two hours to continue with the report.

6pm and several of the people who had been on the course arrived as well as about 200 writers, overseas and local, illustrators, editors as we celebrated the launch of Mary McAllum’s new book Dappled Annie and the Tigrish and applauded Kate de Goldi as she gave a speech of praise and thanks to Gecko Press who were behind the function. I was really delighted to be able to spend some time talking to Ulf Stark (Can you whistle Johanna?) 

                                                                                                             Kate de Goldi
Image Barbara Murison

A quick sleep, then back to Wellington for the NZ Book Council Lecture given by Eleanor Catton who in spite of only having 40 minutes sleep the night before and who had only put the finishing touches to her lecture half an hour before she was due to give it, was a lucid and confident speaker. 

Her lecture ended, we had about 20 minutes to get from the Embassy Theatre at Courtenay Place to the City Gallery to be present in the not-one-seat-left auditorium as Gavin Bishop gave his ‘state of the nation’ Janet Frame lecture.   It was one of those wonderful times where you felt the 40 minutes allocated was far too short and you could have gone on listening all evening. It was particularly warming for the many children’s illustrators (Adele Jackson, Fifi Colston amongst them) in the audience as Gavin spoke about the pleasures and problems so close to their hearts.

A group organized by the Wellington Children’s Book Association later went across the road to the Felix  Café where, over what I thought was a particularly  good meal, we were able to explore the ideas raised (and many others) in more detail.

And a word of praise to Kathryn Carmody, Programme Manager Writers Week  2014 – you did a superb job!


Now, it’s back to the computer where I will try to get some sort of routine into my life again. Since I moved up here to Waikanae (very pleasant it is too) 3 months ago, I have been planning routines – now is the time to live them.

Image of Kathryn Carmody - acknowledgements to Booksellers NZ

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Picture Book

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Raja Hidzir
Hugo and the Tortoise
Thumbnail Books   2014  $19.99pb    32pp       
ISBN 978 0 4732 6950 0

Themes:         Missing pets/ School projects/ Tortoises

When Hugo finds a friendly tortoise wandering around in the street and there is no sign of his owner, he takes him home. With the help of a sturdy video camera, he decides to involve him in his school project  -  A day in the life of a tortoise.  With a satisfying twist in the plot the reader finds it is the camera that is the catalyst for Hugo (not his real name!) and his original owner being reunited. 
This is an attractively set out book with illustrations I know children will really respond to and it radiates a warm sense of good humour.  
It is available from the publisher and from some bookshops:

Thumbnail Books
PO Box 22077
Wellington 6441

Year 1 up/ Age 5 up

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Book Activity on a Grand Scale

It has been a week of intense book activity for me!

On Friday last I went to my first event in the current festival to a session titled The Quiet Volume – ‘a live literary experience for two’  - a new way of looking at the act of reading. It was interesting but would have been better perhaps held somewhere were there were actually books surrounding the participants and not the National Library which, since it went digital, is strangely denuded of words on paper. The whispering voice in our headphones kept asking us to look around and view the different ways people were interacting with their books. However the people in the vicinity were only interacting with their screens. I understand the programme had originally been devised for the reading room of the British Library - see image above.

On Saturday I went to a really sparkling event held by the Kapiti Children’s Writers Group.  Here Jill MacGregor, writer and photographer of the much anticipated and now much appreciated Children of the Pacific series spoke to us about the books and about some of the ups and downs of self-publishing. Tareima's String, Kiribati was one of the first books I reviewed on this blog (nearly a year ago). Just Google Jill’s name for the list of her books and for information about a remarkable woman who believes passionately in what she is doing and in the importance of documenting cultural practices.


Last night I went to the Ministry of Education Information Evening for Writers, Illustrators and Photographers held at Te Papa. Neale Pitches (South Pacific Press and Lift Education) MC’ed the evening where the audience filled the Vodofone Room and extended to a large virtual audience. Whether people went away (into the bitterly cold night in Wellington or from their computers with the virtual audience) feeling satisfied, bemused or anxious would be hard to say. It was very obvious that everyone concerned was working tremendously hard and hopefully there will be a follow-up meeting later in the year.

              (Photo of Neale Pitches - BPANZ)

- And this is only the beginning for me because the delights of Writers Week start in a few days – book launches/ discussions/ seminars/ parties... Wow!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Fiction - Age 10 up


NZ Writer

Juliet Jacka

Night of the Perigee Moon

Scholastic NZ     $19.50pb         2014

ISBN 978 1 7754 3203 6

Themes:         Enchantments/ Families/ Fantasy/ Magic/ Survival

Tilly Angelica is about to turn thirteen which means a big family party will be held, wonderful food will be prepared and Tilly’s special talents will be made known. But all Tilly really wants is to spend the day hanging out with her friends and being ‘normal’. However, the Angelica family who are coming to the party from all over the country are not normal. They are all slightly mad; they are magical and it seems likely they are all about to be enchanted by a discontented cousin who wants Tilly’s family home.      

This is a perfectly paced story, full of humour, believable characters and one that would be a pleasure to read aloud to a group. I can well see why it was given the Tom  

Fitzgibbon Award for 2013.  Recommended.

Year 6 up/ Age 10 up

Juliet Jacka  2013
 image Barbara Murison

Night of the Perigee Moon will be officially launched at the Margaret Mahy Day and AGM of Storylines on Saturday 29 March 2014 at Kings School, Remuera, Auckland. And at the Children’s Book Shop Kilbirnie, Wellington on Wednesday 19th March 2014 at 6pm. Google Scholastic New Zealand for more details.