Tuesday, 23 February 2016

New Zealand Festival Writers Week


I have done my booking for New Zealand Festival Writers Week 8-16 March 2016.

I didn’t really have to think about it too much – I just booked for everything that was remotely connected to children and young adults because I knew they would all be special. Anna MacKenzie talking about the story that grew into her novel Evie’s War, what sounds like a stimulating and provocative panel discussion chaired by Mandy Hager entitled the Kids Are All Right, storytelling by Paul Beavis creator of Mrs. Mo, Joy Cowley celebrating her 80th year and launching her new book The Road to Ratenburg…

And of course the excitement of overseas writers to add even more riches to the mix.

This year they are:

Cornelia Funke   Image Chicken House

Sally Gardner  Image: Orion Children's Books

 For a full programme if you haven't picked up one of the booklets yet go to: 

See you there?!  BM

Monday, 22 February 2016

Loved Anne of Green Gables? Try this!

USA Writer
Laura Amy Schlitz
The Hired Girl
Walker Books 2016  $29.99hb 389pp
ISBN 978 1 4063 6140 7
Themes:  Baltimore 1911/ Diaries/ Jewish family life/ Love stories/ Pennsylvania - rural life 1911/ Religion/ Roman Catholic Faith

Joan Skraggs is fourteen but she answers to eighteen and she longs for elegance and respectability.  She is locked in what seems like an inescapable mire of never ending domesticity and servitude to a family (hers) of what must be the most ungrateful, unpleasant and frankly grimy group of men to ever come off the pages of a book for children and young people. When she finds herself in an elegant house in Baltimore as the ‘hired help’ to a particularly outgoing Jewish family, the contrast could not be greater. Through the pages of Joan’s diary where she really does pour out her heart, the reader sees the prejudices and outlooks of the American society of 1911 where everyone is supposed to know their place.
There has been a lengthy controversy about some of the attitudes in this book and it is worth following the discussion – just Google The Hired Girl.
Readers who loved Anne of Green Gables and other books of that ilk will revel in the pages of this oh-so-readable story. I will be really interested to see how it issues in schools and in public libraries
Laura Amy Schlitz Image Walker Books
Year 8 up/ Age 12 up

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Wanted - Gaelyn Gordon's Fortunate Flats

My neighbour, an older man in his 80’s, is a keen reader of children’s books – both for his own pleasure and for sharing with children and grandchildren. He recently came across Gaelyn Gordon’s Fortunate Flats with which he fell in love and is anxious to own a copy. I have promised to try to help him but so far have been totally unsuccessful. There do seem to be a few copies in library stackrooms around New Zealand but the libraries, understandably, want to keep them.
Is there anyone out there, anywhere, who has a copy of this book they would be willing to part with?

Gaelyn Gordon, illustrated by John Tarlton
Fortunate Flats
Reed Publishing, 1995
ISBN SP 86948 929 2   (an unusual ISBN)

Gaelyn - Image Storylines

From Storylines Website:
Originally a teacher of English and drama, Gaelyn Gordon (1939–1997) produced numerous books for children of all ages, books that often combined myth, fantasy, science fiction and contemporary issues. Her picture book Duckat (1991) is a favourite with New Zealand children. Gaelyn was a versatile writer and performer. She wrote several books for adults, and was a member of the literary performing group Metaphor. Her death in 1997 was a great loss to New Zealand children’s literature. The Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award was established in 1999 to honour her memory and contribution to children’s literature.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

The first title in a new series by Alexandra Bracken


USA Writer

Alexandra Bracken


Passenger Series # One

HarperCollins 2016  $24.95pb 486pp

ISBN 978 1 4607 5204 3  

Themes:  Families/ Journeys/ Love stories/ Music/ Searches/ Time travel

Etta Spencer lives in New York City where her love of the violin and of her family fills her days. Then, in one amazing evening  (and in a piece of writing that hooks the reader deeply into the story) everything changes and Etta travels back in time to 1776 – and finds herself in the middle of a raging sea battle. Miles from home in time and space and becoming more and more involved in the activities around her, Etta meets the powerful Ironwood family  - a family that seems to know an incredible amount about her and who are unwilling to let her go.  And then there is Nicholas…

This is exciting and addictive writing from the author of The Darkest Mind series    

Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

Alexandra Bracken lives in NYC and is 29 years old. Visit her on www.alexandrabracken.co

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

New from Dr. Seuss - 25 years after his death


USA Writer & Illustrator

Ted Geisel AKA Dr Seuss

Horton and the Kwuggerbug and more lost stories

HarperCollins  2016  $24.95hb 45pp  

Themes:  Stories in rhyme

It seems almost too good to be true! Four new stories about characters we have all loved and known for so many years  (Horton the elephant/ Marco/ Officer Pat plus a new short but subtle tale about The Grinch) have been discovered 25 years after their author and illustrator died in 1991. The text (there seems to be more than in the earlier books) is a delight to read aloud and the stories themselves give us new insights into the familiar characters.

Another lost script has also just been published – What Pet Should I get? ISBN 978 0 00871 7078 3. While children will of course love it for its being by Dr Seuss, to me it lacks the depth of the other title and reads more like a draft (which it possibly was). However, there is a fascinating 11 page article at the end of the book written by the publisher which explores the discovery of the manuscripts and gives a background to Dr Seuss’s  creative processes and his inspiration. It is most definitely worth adding to the ‘Seuss Collection’.
Year 1 up/ Age 5 up

In later years. Image: Seuss Enterprises

Dr Seuss and Me

Many many years ago (probably about 50) Dr. Seuss came to Wellington. At that time I was a Librarian at the Wellington Public Libraries and it fell to me to organise an early evening ‘lecture’. Innocently I thought I would only have to seat him on the stage, ask a few basic questions and he would keep us entertained for the next three quarters of an hour (with questions). The event was held in the old Lecture Theatre underneath what is now the City Gallery and had a minuscule stage. On it was room for three small chairs for the speaker, his publicist and me. There were children and their adults everywhere – packing tight on the floor right up to the stage (no Fire Regulations in force then, obviously). Dr Seuss and his wife arrived to much cheering and clapping. But there was a problem.  Dr Seuss turned out to be desperately shy and said he could only speak if his wife (Helen Geisel) came and sat beside him and the publicist took her vacated seat . She turned out to be a brilliant speaker, drew her husband out and turned what could have been a disaster into a magic evening for us all.   (I am sure Dr Seuss became a very witty and confident speaker and I know from then on I always made sure I had prepared any event I was asked to chair in the greatest detail!)

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Dorothy Neal White Collection February 2016 Meeting

This will be of real interest to teachers and parents and a nostalgic trip down 
Memory Lane 

The Friends of The Dorothy Neal White Collection
invite you to a talk by
Kay Hancock
“Sliding and Flying: Growing up with Ready to Read”
The Ready to Read instructional reading series was introduced to New Zealand schools by
the Department of Education in 1963. For the first time, New Zealand children were
learning to read from materials that reflected their own Southern Hemisphere worlds.
“where the sun shines from the north and Christmas Day is in summer, where the farm
looms larger than the factory, whose flora and fauna are foreign to the European textbook
writer …” (Clarence Beeby, 1957).
Kay will share what she has discovered about the depiction of New Zealand within these
fondly remembered Ready to Read materials. In addition to her slide presentation, Kay
will bring along copies of the books. Browsing and reminiscing will be strongly
5.30 p.m for a 6.00 p.m. start
Tuesday 23 February 2016
Tiakiwai Conference Centre, Lower Ground Floor, National Library of New
(Aitken Street entrance), Wellington
All Welcome
Non-members, gold coin koha would be appreciated

Note: if you come to this talk as a result of seeing it on this Blog please make yourself known to me as it is always very encouraging to find people have really read what I put up here!!    BM

Monday, 15 February 2016

A new title from Joy Cowley as she celebrates her 80th year


NZ Writer & Illustrator

Joy Cowley, illustrated by Gavin Bishop The Road to Ratenburg

Gecko Press 2016  $19.99pb 194pp

eBook available

 ISBN 978 1 7765 7075 1

Themes: Courage/ Fables/ Families/ First person narratives/ Journeys

Spinnaker Rat is a devoted father and loving husband with four little ratlets and a charming wife, Retsina.  When hunger forces them out of their home they decide to take a dangerous and long journey to the great city of Ratenburg - a positive El Dorado of a city talked about by all rats but actually found by few.

In a charmingly confidential manner, Spinnaker Rat wins the reader over very quickly with his wit and his obvious care for the welfare of his Family and Friends. His style may not be easy for all early readers but nearly every young reader and listener will hang on the words if they are read aloud with the sympathy and passion they deserve.

Year 2 up/ Age 6 up

The book will be released at this year’s Writers’ Week at Joy Cowley’s session at the Embassy Theatre, Wellington at 5pm on Sunday March 13th 

Image by Terry Coles

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Harry Potter Number 8 - Nineteen Years Later

I thought I would share this email I received today from Hachette NZ. I will give you more info as it comes to hand. Exciting news!

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a new play by Jack Thorne, is the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. It will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on 30th July 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes darkness comes from unexpected places.

Little, Brown Book Group announces today that they will publish the script book Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II, an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne written to be enjoyed on stage. The Special Rehearsal Edition of the script book (hardback, $49.99) will be published at 11.01am NZST on 31st July 2016, following the play’s opening on 30th July, bringing the eighth Harry Potter story to a wider, global audience. The script eBook will be published simultaneously with the print editions by Pottermore, in collaboration with Little, Brown Book Group in the UK, and Scholastic in the US and Canada.

David Shelley, CEO of Little, Brown Book Group said: ‘We are so thrilled to be publishing the script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. J.K. Rowling and her team have received a huge number of appeals from fans who can't be in London to see the play and who would like to read the play in book format – and so we are absolutely delighted to be able to make it available for them.’

Monday, 8 February 2016

When is a cute little bunny really a monster?

USA Writer & Vietnamese (lives in USA) Illustrator

Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illustrated by  LeUyen Pham

The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde

Candlewick Press 2016  $23.00hb 86pp

 ISBN 978 0 7636 6513 5

Themes: Funny stories/ Rabbits/ Series/ Transformations

At first glance, Princess Magnolia and her unicorn, Frimplepants, just seem like any other old princess and unicorn but, when the princess’s glitter stone rings they turn into the Princess in Black and her faithful pony, Blacky. They are geared to solve any mystery or unusual happening that may present itself. This time they are confronted by a multitude of adorable little bunnies which may just not be a cute as they look.  The Princess in Black series are great for newly independent readers with their well set out pages, easy reading, very funny stories and plenty of illustrations to match the words. 
Fun to read aloud. 

All three have received starred reviews in Kirkus Reviews – a great honour.  Kirkus, an American Review Journal reviews titles before their publication and is well worth a visit on the net if you are not really aware if it.  

Years 2-4/ Ages 6-8

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Carlos found the harmonica in the attic

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Dawn McMillan, illustrated by Andrew Burdan
The Harmonica
Scholastic 2016 $19.00pb 28pp
ISBN: 978 1 7754 3344 6
Themes: Ancestors/ Harmonicas/ Music/Secrets/ Uncles and Nephews
Carlos’s Uncle Jack is long dead presumably killed in World War II – but Carlos’s mother had told him many stories about his uncle and especially of the wonderful music he used to play on his harmonica. One day, in the attic, Carlos happens across a box of Uncle Jack’s old treasures and there, as shiny and silver and as perfect as it ever was, is Uncle Jack’s old harmonica – waiting to be played. This is a gentle and thoughtful story about family love and the ties that exist between the generations. The full-page illustrations totally reflect the mood of the story. Dawn McMillan is a truly versatile writer who can produce slap-stick comedy like I need a new bum and now this story … 
Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Tuesday February 9th I have just received the following from Penny Scown who is the senior editor at Scholastic NZ in which she says:
Thanks for the kind review of The Harmonica.
Just wanted to point out, however, if you look a little more closely at the image, that the war Uncle Jack died in is much more recent than WWII – probably Afghanistan or somewhere like that. Also bearing in mind that Jack is Mum’s brother and Mum is probably only in her 30s …
 I didn't think it through did I? When I re looked at the images there are very many clues to say of course it is a much more recent war and as for Mum - yes she would be an old woman should it be WWII....

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

In a society where perfection is the rule you can't afford even one mistake.


Irish Writer
Cecilia Ahern
HarperCollins 2016 $35.00pb 402pp
ISBN: 978 0 0081 2636 0
Themes: Dystopian stories/ Perfection
Celestine North is almost perfect – she has to leave that claim to her mother although she is certainly getting there. She is a model daughter, clever and well adjusted. But, Celestine is about to make a mistake and in a society where perfection is valued above all else, even one mistake can have devastating consequences. I really wanted to LOVE this book and I very nearly did except there is something just a little bland about it. However, it will be read and borrowed extensively and is about to be  made into a block busting movie like two of the writers earlier books.

Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

Cecelia Ahern - image Dublin Herald

So I’m blind? Get over it

USA Writer
Eric Lindstrom
Not If I See You First
HarperCollins 2016  $22.99pb 409pp
ISBN 978 0 0081 4634 4
Themes: Blindness/ Fathers and Daughters/ High School Life/ Love stories/ Secrets/ Strong Female Characters

Parker is blind.  (So I’m blind? Get over it…/ Blind, not deaf – not stupid say the buttons on her torn army jacket). Parker who is not always the most loveable of characters shares a slice of her adolescent life with the reader, a slice in which she tries to come to terms with things other than her blindness.   Things like the death of her father and the return of an old boy friend. Eric Lindstrom is a father, a teacher and has worked in the interactive entertainment industry for years as a creative director. This is a debut novel and is so involving and I feel readable you just hope that at this very moment he is working on another title  - equally riveting.

Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

A sllght breakdown

No I haven't vanished! There has just been a slight break down with the size of the font in which this blog is showing at present. 
Having struggled for 2 hours to get the show on the road again I am now throwing the towel in until tomorrow. Perhaps it will mend itself overnight. Grrrh!

Barbara Murison