Friday, 27 June 2014

NZ Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2014 - the final night

The  Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2014 are over. And for the last time under the New Zealand Post Banner as after all those years of wonderful and generous sponsorship that finished on Monday night.
It was a glittering and memorable evening from the moment Barbara Else, the chief judge, looking elegant and calm as always made the initial remarks to the final announcement of the NZ Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year.
The tables were set with a true ‘wonderland’ theme which included a green iced cake under a glass dome on every table with a large notice simply saying ‘Eat Me’’ – which we did…
I had hoped to get some equally glittering and memorable photos of the ceremony but unfortunately the light never seemed to be right when I whipped out my iPad and the results were not what I had dreamed of with such exciting material to work with. 
Fleur Beale and Paula Green before the Award Ceremony

Catherine Foreman (on the right) before the Award Ceremony

Here are the final results pasted here with real congratulations to the writers and illustrators – but always remember – to have reached the shortlist also comes under the heading of being a winner.

MĀORI LANGUAGE AWARD Taka ki rō wai  by Keri Kaa and Martin D Page  Tania and Martin Rotorua

Saturday, 21 June 2014

And now I'm off to Auckland for the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults so - no more Blogging until I return next Thursday. I have some amazing new books to read while I travel...and I hope to take some good photos at the ceremony.

Fiction Age 10 up

NZ Writer 
Leonie Agnew
Conrad Cooper’s Last Stand
Puffin Books   2014  $19.99pb  223pp
ISBN 978 0 1435 7119 3
Themes: Bastion Point Occupation, 1978/ Family problems/ Search for God/ Stepfathers/ Tane, God of the Forests  

Conrad thinks he believes in Tane as he talks and shares his worries with him. But, he is not too sure if a Maori god would really want to listen to a Pakeha kid. However, he needs to persevere as Tane is the only adult ‘voice’ that seems to be listening as Conrad struggles with his search for a faith in God and with increasing problems with his family on the home front.  Written against the  background of the Bastion Point Occupation in Auckland in 1978  with a sense of humour to which children will really relate makes for an amazing and totally original story.  

Year 6 up/ Age 10 up

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Young Adut Fiction

Australian Writer 
Clare Strahan
Allen & Unwin   2014  $19.99pb  308pp
ISBN 978 1 7433 1603 0
Themes: Dealing with emotions/ Family life/ First love/ Friendship/ High school life/   

Clare Strahan -Image Allen & Unwin
Being fifteen, attending a school you hate, seeing your much loved dog getting old, having a weirdo mother and a missing father and finally being arrested for vandalism doesn’t add up to a cool year for Clover. It’s no wonder she feels she is about to crack into small shards and be trampled into the ground.  A first novel, this is a poignant, often funny and essentially truthful story of a teenager’s bid to make sense of the seemingly crazy world she inhabits. It is a story in which so many readers will recognise themselves.     

 Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

Note: Publishers quite often send me great material asking me not to blog anything about it until the publication date. What I usually do is to read the book (as I did with this one), make some notes and then tag the file to alert me just before the right date. Unfortunately in the way of computers sometimes the file just vanishes with the tag attached. That is why this book, which was published earlier in the year, is only appearing here now.    Let’s hope it hasn’t sold out because I know so many readers (especially girls) who would love it and learn from it.

While I have your attention – does anyone out there know much about the set up of blogs? I am being driven mad by the line spacing on mine. In the draft it looks perfect – single-spaced as I want – but 8 times out of 10, I ‘publish’ and there it goes again – double spaced in the bib details and spoiling the whole look of it.  The more I fiddle with it – the worse it gets. It is just a very simple blog  - maybe that is the trouble.
Computer gurus I find, though willing enough to try, are not experts in the set up of blogs and their consequent troubles.

What will it do when I push 'publish' for this entry I woder? 

Monday, 16 June 2014

Young Adult fiction (mature readers)

USA Writer
Hugh Howey
Century   2014  $36.99pb 368pp
ISBN 978 1 7808 9319 8
Themes: Brothers and sisters/ Families/ Post apocalyptic world/ Sand diving/ Science fiction 

The old world has vanished – buried beneath drifts of sand and on top of what used to be Colorado, Palmer’s family is falling part. To earn respect and to make money in this very unusual world you have to be prepared to sand-dive, to go down into the closed and chocking areas of where life used to be, to find any remnants that could bring back a semblance of normality. This is not an easy read, there are so many characters it is sometimes hard to keep track of them all and there is probably too much swearing.  However, for sci-fi fans and for people who loved the Wool trilogy, it will be a treat.

 Year 10 up/ Age 14 up

Fiction - Preschool up

Australian Writer and illustrator
Leigh Hobbs
The Big Book of Old Tom
Allen & Unwin  2014  $24.99pb  458pp
ISBN 978 1 7433 1844 7

Themes: Cats/ Funny stories/ Manners/ Mother-son relationships 

Old Tom, that disreputable, ugly but definitely lovable cat is here in five stories all in the one volume making over 450 pages in a satisfyingly chunky book. As most of the pages are illustration with very easily read text, it is a great book for not so confident readers. Old Tom lives with Miss Angela Throgmorton who lived alone and thought she liked it that way until one day, a knock at the door heralded the arrival of Old Tom in the traditional wicker basket  - Miss Throgmorton thought he was a baby monster but took him inside anyway. What followed was a series of totally over-the-top adventures and ones that children have enjoyed since the first Old Tom book came out in 1994. This edition contains the ‘classic’ stories  - Old Tom/ Old Tom at the beach/ Old Tom goes to Mars/ Old Tom’s guide to being good (my favourite) and A friend for Old Tom.

A good read aloud but for a small group, as everyone needs to see the illustrations.

Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Leigh Hobbs and Old Tom    Image: ABC Southwest Victoria

A note for enthusiastic and hard working but often rejected writers  - Leigh Hobbs’s first attempts at Old Tom were constantly rejected and he had given up hope of ever seeing the stories in print. Then, the editor from his present publisher wrote within days of receiving the manuscript saying she loved the stories and felt she and the writer should meet. The moral of the story is – never, ever give up. If you believe in what you are doing, eventually, you will succeed. (I didn't dream this quote up! It was Sir Peter Blake).

Sunday, 15 June 2014

NZ Post Book Awards for Children and Young People


Melinda  Szymanik and Des Hunt are two of the finalist in this years NZ Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults Junior Fiction Section

What have they been doing since I posted interviews with them back in May?

They have kindly taken time out of their busy (but busy) schedules to send me the following updates.

From Melinda

Image: The Auckland Central Leader May 2014
May was a bit of a wild whirlwind month for me with a school visit in Queenstown, and involvement in both the Dunedin, and Auckland Writers and Readers Festivals.  And the icing on the cake was wending my way back to the residency in Dunedin, via a lovely NZ Post Book Award tour in the central lower North Island. After the excitement of the shortlist announcements in early April it was wonderful to be sharing my book and the journey I took to write it, with young readers from Dannevirke to Napier. I spoke to students ranging from Years 5 to 8, from many schools in the area. Picked up at Palmerston North Airport on Tuesday morning, I was whisked off to my first appointment – a talk to a group of students at Dannevirke Library. From there I was driven to Waipukurau Library for another talk. The next morning I talked to students at Hastings Library and then headed off to Napier Library for the last leg of the tour. 

The librarians who met me, and transported me, who organised and facilitated the talks, were passionate book people, and kind and generous hosts. I felt welcome everywhere I went and the students and their teachers were enthusiastic and attentive. I read the short story that had started the whole thing off. I talked about writing, my book, the requirements of historical fiction and a little bit about myself. We talked about the etymology of words (important in historical fiction) and it was fun to discuss how old some words are like ‘okay’, and ‘plastic’ and ‘geek’ and how meaning can change over time. We talked about juggling the needs of a story, with the facts and truths of history. I told them why I thought it was important to know about the past. They listened, we talked and they asked great questions. For me the tour is one of the most exciting parts of the New Zealand Book Awards. Bringing authors and readers together is what it is all about.

From Des

Image: Barbara Murison
May was a busy month beginning with a Book Council Tour to schools in Hamilton. While this was not directly related to the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards I did discuss the awards and encouraged students to become involved. From Hamilton I moved to Auckland for their Writers’ Festival School’s Day. This is an opportunity for young readers from all over the north to listen to authors talk about their work. Again the day is not directly related to the NZ Post Awards, but did feature as the awards play such an important part in the life of an author.

For the New Zealand Post Book Awards Festival I visited three schools in and around Tauranga: Greerton Village School, Pyes Pa School and Oropi School. We had a fun day. At each school I did a presentation which included my usual science metaphors and ended with the explosion of a large balloon. Many questions were asked and answered. A highlight for me was the chance to see the giant concrete tuatara at Pyes Pa School. The first novel I ever wrote featured a tuatara called Shaky.

Later in that week I had a Skype session with 11 members of the BookBuster’s Junior Book Club at Opunake library. They had read Project Huia  as their celebration of the NZ Post Awards and had lots of questions which I enjoyed answering. Towards the end of the session I drew a number out of a hat and the winner received a signed copy of the book.

Another group that studied Project Huia to celebrate the awards was the Virtual Learning Network Primary School. This school has students from the extreme north of New Zealand down to Stewart Island. I joined them online for half an hour on June 10. They had terrific questions which went much wider than the writing of Project Huia. This session capped off a most-enjoyable month celebrating New Zealand writing for younger readers.

Note: Des sent me some good photos of some of the activities described above but at present I just can't download them. I'll try again in the morning.   BM

And now it is a short seven days to the Awards Ceremony in Auckland when five Finalists become five Winners  (although, of course, everyone is already a winner for getting this far.) I intend travelling to Auckland by bus on Sunday 22nd. Why bus? i am just not a flier except in the case of dire emergency or to go overseas..

Watch this Blog!!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Picture Books

NZ Writer and Illustrator

Errol McLeary   Purrs, Paws and Claws Scholastic NZ 2014  $19.99pb  28pp

ISBN 978 1 7754 3227 2

Themes: Cats/ Stories in rhyme

This book has been sitting on my desk for a few weeks as I  really wasn’t sure about the ‘verses’ which range from brilliant to, to be honest, a tad tedious and hard to read aloud. However, having been visited this morning by an enthusiastic two-year-old-red-head** who thought the verses the funniest he had heard (and he comes from a reading family) and demanded most of them were read at least two times, I came to see them through a child’s mind and admitted I was wrong (again!!). The exuberance and the sheer life force of the images of the cats as they hip-hop, steal jelly, sit in the pasta, take their coats to the Laundromat and have a surprising fright in the dark of the night, are highly addictive. 
Preschool up/ Age 4 up

** Of course Bengy liked the marmalade cats best of all. 

Picture Books

To be published August 2014

Australian Writer and Illustrator
Bob Graham
Vanilla Ice Cream
Walker Books 2014  $27.95hb 38pp
ISBN 978 1 4063 5009 8
Themes: Changes/ New experiences/Freedom/ Human rights/ India/ Sparrows

From the dust of India, a small sparrow flies on to a cargo ship bound for Australia. From the docks it is a short flight to the Café Botanica, set amidst the skyscrapers of a big city where the sparrow meets Edie, a baby in a pushchair.  In a short second or two, the lives of Edie, the sparrow and a large brown dog that is the catalyst, change for ever. What is it about? Children will take what they understand and need from the story and will make up their own from Bob Graham’s, as always, enchanting water colour paintings. Adults will find a story that shows how a wild sparrow's journey from the other side of the world sets in motion a new experience for a very little girl plus something about basic human rights.

Preschool up/ Age 4 up.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Picture Books

French Illustrator
Ronan Badel
The Lazy Friend
Gecko Press  2014  $24.99hb  24pp
ISBN  978 1 9272 7141 4
Themes: Bravery/ Courage/ Determination/ Friendship/ Jungles/ Sloths/ Wordless picture books

The lazy friend of the title is Sloth who remains asleep through the whole drama and yet, he is the cause of it all! When the tree fellers come to the jungle, they cut down a tree on which Sloth is fast asleep and load him on to a truck. Snake, his friend, slithers into action and follows him onto the truck while the other friends wave a sad goodbye. The power of the illustrator, Ronan Badel, is such, that he manages in a few simple lines, to convey abject misery on the faces of Toucan and Frog as they sit on a tree stump, waving. Dramatic adventures follow and then Snake organises the escape and the pair make it back home with Sloth opening one slightly bemused eye on arrival. Stories within stories abound here and there will be more to discover on each opening of the book. Older students may well wonder at the skill of the artist who manages to tell such a story of courage and determination without actually writing one word.
Adults with imagination will have much delight in telling and sharing the saga in their own words.  
Preschool up/ Age 4 up.

Picture Books

French Writer and Illustrator
Dorothée de Monfreid
The Cake
Gecko 2014  $19.99pb 32pp
ISBN  978 1 8775 7945 5 hb
ISBN  978 1 9272 7144 5 pb
Themes: Cooperation/ Group behaviours/ Rebellion/ Responsibility 

Tiger wants to make a cake. A chocolate cake. The four other animals want to make one too but none of them likes chocolate. Tiger is bossy and mean and won’t listen to any other suggestions but rabbit, bear, dog and monkey have their own way in the end. Or do they? Children and adults may put a very different interpretation on the resolution of the story.
Bright colours, speech bubbles and full of situations that will be familiar to all children.    
Preschool up/ Age 4 up

(To be published next month - July 2014) 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Non Fiction Picture Book

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Mary Taylor
Old Blue – the Rarest Bird in the World
Scholastic NZ  (first published 1993 – redesigned and updated edition 2014) $19.99pb 32pp
ISBN 978 1 7754 3237 1
Themes: Chatham Islands Black Robins/ Conservation programmes/ Survival

In the 1970s there were only five Black Robins left in the entire world and only two of them were females. Then into the frame stepped Dr. Don Merton from DOC (Department of Conservation) who, with his wildlife team set up a rescue and recovery programme. Thanks to this team whose hard work and many adventures which included abseiling the birds down the side of sheer cliffs, by 2012 the New Zealand total of Black Robins had grown to 256 birds.
Mary Taylor first wrote about and drew the images for this incredible story back in 1993 so it is a real pleasure to see this brand new edition 21 years later. Although it looks like a picture book the text is more suitable for confident readers although quite young people would enjoy having it read aloud.
If you go to the Chatham Island airport you will see a plaque erected to Old Blue ’saviour of her species’. She laid more eggs and mothered more chicks than any other Black Robin. When she died in 1983 newspapers throughout the world printed the headline Famous Robin Old Blue presumed dead.

Go to: for an interesting documentary about the robins. 

Year 4 up/ Age 8 up

Kids' Lit Quiz National Finals National LIbrary 10.6.14

Part of the winning team and their coaches

Many congratulations to Awakeri School in the Bay of Plenty near Whakatane.

They were the winners on Tuesday (June 11th) of the national finals of the Kids’ Lit Quiz held at National Library in Wellington.

Shortly the team of four will be off with their ‘trainers’ (and a big congratulations to them as well) to take part in the International Finals to be held this year in Cornwall. A young person’s programme of events that have been organised for them (and other winners aged 11-13 from around the world) sounds amazing.

As usual it was a stimulating experience to be watching and we all felt much admiration for the volunteers (including the unflappable Quizmaster, Wayne Mills) for all the hours of work that go into this event every year starting around April as the regional heats begin.

Quiz master Wayne Mills in poster form
In the shiny halls of National Library the early arrivals wait to go into the event area
Here are some photos I took on Tuesday. They are not my best ever so if I find some better ones taken by other people I will replace them during the week.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Young Adult Fiction (and Adults)

Here is the whole jacket which is quite spectacular
NZ Writers

Tim Jones and others (see below)

Lost In the Museum

Phoenix Writers  2014  $24.99pb 220pp

ISBN 978 0 4732 8320 9

Themes: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa/ Short stories/ Scary stories

What happens when the museum closes for the night? Many writers and illustrators have imagined the scenario but here is a new and original take on the idea. 21 pieces go to make up this collection of short (some scary) stories in a whirlwind sort of book, full of energy and enthusiasm.  Many artefacts will be familiar to any visitor to Te Papa – Big Baby (what a sad story) and John Britton’s V-1000 but there is also the resident ghost buster (Miss Evangeline Marple), a cross-dressing bridegroom, a misplaced ice-cream vendor, and a lost pterodactyl. Miss Marple and Tui Merriweather (the (fictional) Museum Director) are the thread that hold the stories together.

The Phoenix Writers (Tim Jones, Lyn McConchie, Glynne MacLean, Phillip Mann, Tracie McBride, Rob Campbell, Lillian Hetet, Jenny Hammond, John Homes, Eileen Mueller, Jeena Murphy, A J Ponder, Vic Scott, Jean Stevens and Lorraine Williams) are part of the Phoenix Science Fiction Society which is based in Wellington. 
Google the title to see where to buy, as this book is available in several forms. 

Year 9 up/ Age 13 up (and adults)

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

LIANZA SHORTLIST 2014 Announced Today

Here are the results of the LIANZA Shortlist that was announced today.

A very big congratulations to everyone on the lists and good luck for the final announcements to be made in August. See the links below for details. 

LIANZA Young Adult Fiction Award
Recon Team Angel, Book 3: Ice War by Brian Falkner, (Walker Books Australia)

Dear Vincent by Mandy Hager, (Random House New Zealand)
When We Wake by Karen Healey, (Allen & Unwin)
Bugs by Whiti Hereaka, (Huia NZ Ltd)
Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox, (Gecko Press)
Cattra’s Legacy by Anna Mackenzie (Random House New Zealand)

LIANZA Esther Glen Junior Fiction Award

 Dunger by Joy Cowley, (Gecko Press)
Brave Company by David Hill, (Penguin Books)
Project Huia by Des Hunt,(Scholastic New Zealand)
Felix and the Red Rats by James Norcliffe, (Random House New Zealand)
A Winter’s Day in 1939 by Melinda Szymanik, (Scholastic New Zealand)

LIANZA Russell Clark Illustration Award
Bruiser and the Big Snow by Gavin Bishop, (Random House New Zealand)

Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber, illustrated by Brian Lovelock, (Walker Books Australia)
Taka Ki Ro Wai by Keri Kaa, illustrated by Martin D. Page (National Treasures Design Ltd trading as Tania & Martin)
The Teddy Bear’s Promise by Diana Noonan, illustrated by Robyn Belton, (Craig Potton Publishing)
Henry’s Map by David Elliot (Random House New Zealand)

LIANZA Elsie Locke Non Fiction Award
Wearable Wonders by Fifi Colston, (Scholastic New Zealand)

Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber, illustrated by Brian Lovelock, (Walker Books Australia)
The Beginner’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing in New Zealand, by Paul Adamson, (Random House New Zealand)
Anzac Day, The New Zealand Story, What it is and why it matters by Philippa Werry, (New Holland Publishers (NZ)

LIANZA Te Kura Pounamu (te reo Māori)
Taka Ki Ro Wai by Keri Kaa, illustrated by Martin D. Page (National Treasures Design Ltd trading as Tania & Martin)

Meariki by Helen Pearse-Otene, illustrated by Andrew Burdan, (Huia NZ Ltd)
ao (series) Te Pātiki, Te Mānawa, Te Whai, Te Tāmure by Huia Publishers, (Huia NZ Ltd)
hoe: He Pakiwaitara mō Hinemoa rāua ko Tūnekai by Chris Szekely and Andrew Burdan, (Huia NZ Ltd)
Ngā Kaitiaki a Tama! By Kawata Teepa and Jim Byrt, (Huia NZ Ltd)

For more details on HELL  Pizza’s community support visit 
Follow the LIANZA Children’s Book Awards:
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Monday, 9 June 2014

Young Adult Fiction

Australian Writer
Suzy Zail
Alexander Altmann A10567
Black Dog Books 2014  $21.99pb 282pp
ISBN 978 1 9221 7999 9
Themes: Auschwitz/ Horses/ Survival/ World War 1939-1945

When fourteen-year-old Alexander’s father said to him ‘never let them see you are scared’ he was talking about horses on their farm out in the country. But now Alexander is imprisoned in Auschwitz, he has a number tattooed on his arm and being scared has taken on a much more sinister meaning.  Based on the true experiences of a man the writer met while visiting the Holocaust Centre in Melbourne, and not just about the horrors of the concentration camps – it is a story about horses and their training.
There are many things in the book that are upsetting to read but ultimately it is a story of hope.

Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

Also by Suzy Zail, also about Auschwitz but also about music (and falling in love)