Saturday, 31 May 2014

New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2014

Advice to Young Writers from Yvonne Morrison

Shortlisted in the Picture Book Section of the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults for
The Three Bears (Sort Of) Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

Photo: Thanks to Yvonne Morrison
Just two things: read and practise.

The more you read good writing, the more you will get a feeling for what works and what doesn’t. You might want to keep a notebook, and if you come across a really striking sentence or clever simile, jot it down.

Then – practise. You don’t have to write complete stories when you practise your writing. Paragraphs, or even sentences are fine. What you want to do is re-craft your work to make it as interesting as possible. Character or scene descriptions are a good starting point. Observe people around you. How would you describe them in a few sentences?

Many writers like the phrase “Show, don’t tell,” and so do I! How much better it is to write: “The man’s skin was wrinkled like discarded tissue paper, and as he shuffled forward I imaged I could hear his tired joints creak…” rather than “The man was old…”

Okay – now it’s your turn. How would you describe: a crying newborn baby, a rough looking criminal, a busy young mum?

From: Too Good to Miss Volume 2 May 2011

Storylines 2014

The Australians Are Coming! – 
So is Storylines 2014

Storylines Committees up and down the country are already well ahead with their planning for this year’s Family Days for 2014.
The actual dates for The Day are:

Dunedin Family Day, Saturday 23 August.
Christchurch Family Day, Sunday 24 August.
Wellington Family Day, Sunday 24 August.
Northland Family Day, Whangarei, Saturday 30 August.
South Auckland Family Day, Saturday 30 August.
Auckland Family Day, Sunday 31 August.

And as usual there is the excitement of overseas writers and  illustrators who visit as part of the festival.
This year we welcome two amazingly prolific writers from Australia:

Jackie French and Gary Crew

Photo: Australian Writers’ Centre

Photo: From Dr. Gary Crew’s collection

Jackie will be at the Family Day for Storylines in Auckland then heading to Christchurch for the Writers’ Festival. She will have come from the Melbourne Writers’ Festival then, after Christchurch, heads to Brisbane for yet another festival. Gary (who will be equally busy, I just don’t have the details,) will be attending the Wellington Family Day.
Jackie was here a couple of years ago for the Wellington Storylines and I remember well, to my great embarrassment, that I managed to lose her at Wellington Airport where I had gone to meet her. In spite of making contact on our mobiles she eluded me as we went up and down on escalators and planned meeting places in the cafes, and finally took a taxi to her hotel.  

Friday, 30 May 2014

Picture Books - Matariki

NZ Writers and Illustrator
Rebecca Beyer and Linley Wellington, illustrated by Christine Ross
Daniel’s Matariki Feast
Duck Creek Press 2014   $19.99pb 32pp
ISBN 978 1 8773 7891 1
Themes: Elements of Matariki/ First days at school/ Maori New Year

Daniel is off for his first day at school and is full of anxieties and worries about meeting new children and leaving his mum behind.  But who could be shy for long when there is so much to do to prepare for the Matariki Feast? All the elements of Matariki are cleverly woven into Daniel’s story – the appearance of the stars/ the honouring and remembering of ancestors/ the harvesting and planning for replanting and the sharing at the feast. Christine Ross has brought her magic to the illustrations making it a special book to share with a group and for stimulating discussion and many activities.   

Year 2 up/ Age 6

This year Matariki will start on 28th June.
Source:  Manatu Taonga  - Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Another great book for this time is:
Matariki by Sharon Holt, illustrated by Deborah Hinde and reviewed on this blog on May 1st 2014. 

(Do you remember a time when there was absolutely nothing, no books, no pictures to share the excitement of Maori New Year with children? Google the words for more material) 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Fiction Age 6 up

Swedish Writer and Illustrator

Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Eriksson

My Heart is Laughing

Gecko Press 2014   $19.99pb 119pp

ISBN 978 1 8775 7951 6

Themes: Bullying/ Friendship/ One parent families/ Primary school life/ Sequels (stand alone)

We first met Dani in My Happy Life (Gecko Press 2012) and she loses none of her charm and exuberance in this new title. Living with her Dad in a one parent family, sad because her very best friend in the whole world, Ella, has moved away, Dani has a lot to worry about. No wonder she finds it hard to make new friends at school all of which ends in pinching (of flesh!), bullying, throwing of sauce bottles (some of which explodes in the long suffering (and large) teacher’s face and the general mayhem created by unhappy children. This is a wonderfully easily accessed story (it is translated by Julia Marshall) with really charming illustrations that mirror completely what we are reading in the text. {Please look at the expressions on the faces – perfect!) Apparently the writer and illustrator who are both Swedish, meet in a coffee shop at the beginning of the process where Rose (the writer) reads the story aloud to Eva (the illustrator) who then takes the script home and works on creating the images. Rose is not allowed to see the pictures until they are finished but then, as she says, she always feels they are even better than she could have imagined and she is happy.  I think this would be a great read-aloud.

Year 2 up/ Age 6

Last Thursday night (May 22nd) I went to a very enjoyable evening hosted by Paper Plus at Porirua (great NZ Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults displays) and National Library. Julia Marshall spoke to us all about the new (and exciting) titles Gecko Press will be publishing (or have just published) over the next few months.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Young Adult Fiction

News of a new book by Fleur Beale is always news to watch out for. Sixteen years ago Fleur wrote I am Not Esther, the story of life inside a strict religious cult.  This title won the Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-Loved Book, has never gone out of print and was also published in the US and in Germany. On August 1st this year the story of Esther will be explored further in the new title:
I am Rebecca published by Random House 2014

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Fiction Age 10 up

UK Writer
Emma Shevah
Dream On Amber
Chicken House 2014 $16.99pn 266pp
ISBN 978 1 9084 3564 4
Themes: Bullying/ Family life/ High school life/ one parent families/ Sisters

Amber, whose full name is Amber Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto is part Japanese and part Italian and lives in London with her mother and younger sister. She has always missed not having a father  (he had walked out of their lives when she was very young) and now that she is starting High School she misses him even more. There are no happy endings in this realistic story but anyone who has grown up in a family where one parent is missing should feel satisfied with the resolution to the problems. This is a story with many funny moments, which should appeal mainly to younger girls. Not, I think, a book for the read-aloud list.
Year 6 up/ Age 10 up  (I don’t know about you but I have always found that children like to read about characters at least 2 years older than themselves).


Saturday, 24 May 2014

New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2014

An interview with Yvonne Morrison

Image of Yvonne: acknowledgements to Booksellers NZ

The Three Bears…Sort of  Scholastic NZ

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

Shortlisted Picture Book Section New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2014

I contacted Yvonne (who is presently living in the UK) to see if she would like to add anything since she wrote the answers to these questions but she feels she has managed to tell you as much as possible in the space.

For an excellent radio interview with Yvonne broadcast recently on National Radio go to:

 In a few days I will post the answers Yvonne gave me when I asked her for some advice for young writers for the May 2011 edition of Too Good to Miss.

The following questions were composed by Sarah Forster, Booksellers NZ

As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this book?
I honestly can't remember. I can remember exactly where I was at the time – lying on a sofa in the spare room – and what I was wearing – pink pyjamas with zebras on them – and that I was drinking a glass of chardonnay – and that there was a sitcom on TV – and that I wrote it with pen and paper, unlike most of my books, which I type. So that's how the idea came out, but I have absolutely no clue how the idea got into my head. It just appeared, fully formed.

Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?
I wrote this manuscript in about an hour, all in one go. Because it isn't rhyming like a lot of my other books, it didn't require much reworking. However, at the time, I didn't see how it could possibly be illustrated. I filed it away on my laptop in a folder I have labelled 'probably not'. (I have others labelled 'keep trying' and 'everyone hates these'.) A few months later, I was about to submit some other manuscripts, and just added it as a whim at the last moment to bulk out the submissions. But the other texts were rejected, and Three Bears was accepted! So it shows how much I know about the publishing biz.

Image: Acknowledgements to Scholastic NZ
Scholastic NZ then selected the illustrator – the brilliant Donovan Bixley who had previously illustrated my Wacko Kakapo and The Tuatara and the Skink. I figured I was in good hands then, but was still blown away by the results. Donovan adds so many layers to text – so many funny touches – and so many jokes just for adults.

Did you tailor this book to a particular audience – or did you find it found its own audience as it was written?
I wrote this for an audience of one – me – just to entertain myself, or possibly my husband too. Now, however, I can see exactly how I would use this book if I was a parent, or if I was still a primary school teacher (as I was for eight years), as a springboard for the teaching of critical thinking skills. I am a sceptic. Many people think this is synonymous with 'cynic' but there is a difference. Sceptics still see wonder in the world – in nature, and in art - but simply require that 'factual' claims require proof, and extra-ordinary claims require extra-ordinary proof. Magical thinkers believe in things without evidence; critical thinkers make judgements based on evidence. We are surrounded by so many persuasive people – politicians and marketers, psychic frauds and medical quacks – making claims that if we vote for them, or buy their products, we will be richer, or more beautiful, or healthier, or happier. Critical thinking skills give children armour against this. The Three Bears is a fun way to get kids to start thinking about the veracity of statements. Kids can practice coming up with their own questions about other stories. Parents can talk with their kids about the truth of claims made on ads targeted to them.

Would you recommend any books that you love, that inspired or informed your book in any way?
Children's books that I love include Who's a Pest? by Crosby Bonsall, and Benjamin and Tulip by Rosemary Wells. Both use language beautifully.

Tell us about a time you’ve enjoyed relaxing and reading a book – at the bach, on holiday, what was the book?

I can't think of a particular occasion, sorry. I have not read a book for a very long time - apart from the odd textbook chapter. The last book I read cover to cover was Genetics for Dummies. I have read approximately 300 scientific papers in the last six months. This is because I am currently at university, studying for an MSc in Primate Conservation. However, I have an ever growing (virtual) pile of e-book files to download as soon as I am done. I tend to switch between scientific non-fiction and fiction, and I'm afraid my fiction tastes are not at all 'sophisticated'. I like comedy, such as Christopher Moore, Jasper Fforde and A. Lee Martinez, and my two adult novels (self-published) are written in this style. I also like cosy mysteries of the English manor house party style. I watch these on telly too – often just for the fantastic period costumes of the twenties and thirties. I am a fan of these decades, and so I LOVE P.G. Wodehouse. As for where to read – anywhere comfy is fine... hammocks, bed, bath – although the latter has been curtailed by my use of an e-book reader. I do love the medium though – mostly because I travel so often. I am homeless and move houses every few weeks, house sitting full-time. One box of textbooks is enough to lug around without having a stack of novels too!

In the Belize Animal Sanctuary
What are your favourite things to do, when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?
I love dancing – my husband and I teach 1920s-1930s style swing dance, and I love travel, and animals. I am passionate about animal welfare, and do a lot of campaigning about this. I also enjoy volunteering as a keeper at animal sanctuaries, and have done this in Thailand and Belize. I urge everyone to do what they can for wild animal welfare – particularly if travelling overseas - please be a responsible tourist!

Visit Yvonne Morrison online:

Book of Hat - Harriet Rowland

Congratulations to everyone involved in the production of The Book of Hat by Harriet Rowland Makaro Books (Submarine) 2014 
It was top of the INDIE TOP 20 FOR THE WEEK ENDING 17 MAY

Go to for details

Plus the book is also top of the Young Adult /Children's List run by Nielsen Bookdata.

 John Rowland  wrote on Facebook: Hat would be so pleased that she would go shopping.

Visit for much more info on the book
Harriet - acknowledgements to Fifi Colston

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young People - Children's Choice 2014

If your class has not already entered for this there are only 5 short days left to do so!
for details.  

Coming very soon (like within 48 hours I hope) an interview with shortlisted writer Yvonne Morrison, writer of The three bears, sort of.....

Monday, 19 May 2014

Picture Books

NZ Writer & Illustrator (a brother and sister team)
Tania Norfolk, illustrated by Chris Norfolk     Grasshopper’s Week
Craig Potton Publishing 2014 $19.99pn 36 pp
ISBN 978 1 9272 1306 3
Themes: Days of the week/ New Zealand bush/ Repetitive stories

When Grasshopper asks his old friend Tree what day of the week it is, Tree replies not only with the right answer but with some additional information of his own (Wild Wind Day/ Wobble Day/ Song Day). This gives the artist (the writer’s brother) a chance to introduce some small but lively characters from the New Zealand bush and for them all to celebrate together by dancing around the tree. A whimsical story, which would be fun to share with a very young group, preferably in the out of doors.


 Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Sunday, 18 May 2014

New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2014

It does now seem a while since the shortlists were announced for this years awards. Here is the full list for you to print out and keep in your wallet!
If you are anything like me you think you remember them all. Of course it is always there on-screen but I find it useful to be able to carry it about with me. Especially helpful at meetings when people ask you who the finalists are and you don’t have your iPad with you.


More news of the shortlist writers and illustrators coming soon.


Picture Books

Machines and Me: Boats by Catherine Foreman; Scholastic New Zealand

The Boring Book by Vasanti Unka; Penguin Group (NZ), Puffin

The Three Bears … Sort Of by Yvonne Morrison & Donovan Bixley; Scholastic New Zealand

Toucan Can by Juliette MacIver & Sarah Davis; Gecko Press

Watch Out, Snail! by Gay Hay & Margaret Tolland; Page Break Ltd



An Extraordinary Land by Peter Hayden & Rod Morris; HarperCollins Publishers (NZ)

Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry; New Holland Publishers

Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber & Brian Lovelock; Walker Books Australia

The Beginner’s Guide to Hunting & Fishing in New Zealand by Paul Adamson; Random House New Zealand

Wearable Wonders by Fifi Colston; Scholastic New Zealand

Junior Fiction

A Winter’s Day in 1939 by Melinda Szymanik; Scholastic New Zealand

Dunger by Joy Cowley; Gecko Press

Felix and the Red Rats by James Norcliffe; Random House New Zealand, Longacre

Project Huia by Des Hunt; Scholastic New Zealand

The Princess and the Foal by Stacy Gregg; Harper Collins Publishers (NZ)

Young Adult Fiction

A Necklace of Souls by R L Stedman; Harper Collins Publishers (NZ), HarperVoyager

Bugs by Whiti Hereaka; Huia Publishers

Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox; Gecko Press

Speed Freak by Fleur Beale; Random House New Zealand

When We Wake by Karen Healey; Allen & Unwin

Winner – Māori Language award
Taka Ki Ro Wai by Keri Kaa & Martin Page; Tania&Martin

(Thanks to TV3 for this version of The List)

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Young Adult Fiction

NZ Writers
Lee Murray, Jan Goldie, Piper Mejia and Celine Murray
Conclave - a collection of science fiction and fantasy
Leapy Sheep 2014  $15.62 plus delivery costs  261pp
ISBN 978 0 4732 8198 4 (print)
ISBN 978 0 4732 8199 1 (epub
ISBN 978 0 4732 8200 4 (mobi)
Themes: Fantasy/ Sci-fi/Novellas

In four different novellas, all with a different take on the word Conclave, four writers from Tauranga have created a group of stories that are all remarkable for their believability (the test of any good fantasy or sci-fi story) and for their readability. A landlocked mermaid, on-line friendships to mysteries hidden in DNA, from a fleet of spaceships heading to a hopefully brave new world to Conclave Seven - a Universal Games event, everything has its roots in logic and yet the vibrant imagination of all four writers soars high above it all.

Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

Piper Mejia, Celine Murray Lee Murray,
Jan Goldie****
****Google their names because they have all written other stories and books and between them have an impressive collection of awards. This includes a short listing for The Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award for 2014 and winning The Sir Julius Vogel Award for science fiction and fantasy writing (two times).   

Go to:

Questions and queries to Jan Goldie :  Jan <>

The four writers are most generously sending me three copies of Conclave as Giveaways to school/ college libraries. These will be sent to the first three people who email me after reading this message. Don’t know my email address? Look on the About me- Barbara Murison page on this Blog.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Young Adult Fiction (and non-fiction!)


NZ Writer
Benedict Reid
Out Of Sight (an e book)

Young Entrepreneurs Ltd 2014 US$9.99 170 pp
To order go to
Produced by Mary Egan Publishing 2014
Themes: Bands/ Self employment/ Teamwork

What do you do when you love music and the life that goes with being involved in a band but you can’t hold a note in your head nor can you play an instrument? You become a manager of course!
This is a fast paced story with characters that will be instantly recognisable by today’s young adults and who speak their language. But wait! There’s more!
Out of Sight is more than just a story. It also comes with free membership to an online community. The Out Of Sight Base enables budding entrepreneurs to develop their business ideas, team up with other young people and find mentors who can help them bring their idea to market. Go to: for more details or contact Karen McKenzie

Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

Note: although Benedict Reid is the author of the book, Peter Shirtcliffe of Wellington has commissioned the whole enterprise.
Image: Dominion Post

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Picture Books - the Grandpa series

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Joy Watson, illustrated by Wendy Hodder
Grandpa’s Cardigan
Grandpa Series – newly designed
Scholastic 2014 (1993) $19.99pb    32 pp
ISBN 978 1 7754 3239 5
Themes: Grandfathers/ Grandmothers/ Recycling

Stories about Grandpa and his long suffering but devoted wife have been favourites since the first book in the series Grandpa’s slippers was published in 1989. Each story in the series is perfectly developed with a strong plot, a problem to be solved and a satisfying resolution –a wonderful model for new writers in the genre to study. In Grandpa’s cardigan, Grandma persuades her husband that his old cardigan is past its use by date so she mends it, washes it, parcels it up and takes it away. Then she sends Grandpa off to town to buy a new one, which he does. Only it turns out to be his old cardigan, which he finds in the local Op shop. The illustrations synchronize wonderfully well with the text and the tone of the book. I do feel though (and always have about nearly all picture books about grandmas and grandpas) that this couple in reality would still be out in the work force and not sitting about in comfy clothes and slippers (they would only be in their 60s). Is it time we began a new genre about GREAT grandma and grandpa?
Preschool up/ Age 4 up (and for all ‘budding’ picture book writers)

Here are the other books in the series all newly designed in 2014: 
Grandpa's slippers (1989)
Grandpa's cat (2006)
Grandpa's shorts (my favourite!) (2001)
Grandpa' shed (2003)