Saturday, 31 October 2015

Bob Kerr's story of a New Zealand town and its newspaper

NZ Writer and Illustrator

Bob Kerr

Changing Times – The Story of a New Zealand Town and Its Newspaper

Potton & Burton 2015  $19.99pb 32pp

ISBN 978 1 9272 1353 7

Themes: Newspaper closures/ New Zealand history

/ Sophisticated picture books/ Website extension

A small town newspaper, The New Zealand Times is about to close and Matt McPherson is off on his bike to make the last deliveries. What follows is a densely packed, easily followed history of the paper (and New Zealand ) from the time Emily and James McPherson set the first edition up by hand to the day it goes on line with its own blogspot. You can switch in to the blog at: which is an extension of the book and takes you into great resources such as Papers Past, an amazing animated history of typography, references to articles in Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand and on it goes.

Every page in the book is packed with information and brought to life with Bob Kerr’s magical and original illustrations. Please don’t let this book  die in a picture book box in a primary school library although of course small children will learn a lot from the illustrations. It is a book to be appreciated by much older students and once you get into the accompanying blog it’s a whole new ball game. 

It’s so good to see a new book from Bob Kerr after all this time – and did you know, his very first job was in Tokoroa, where he was born, delivering the South Waikato Times?

Year 4 up/ Age 8 up 
I took this photo of Bob signing books at the launch of Changing Times  out at the Children's Bookshop Kilbirnie on Tuesday last week. Sorry it is so dark.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Robots are landing

Belgium Writer and Illustrator
Leo Timmers
Gecko Press 2015  $19.99pb 40pp
ISBN 978 1 9272 7194 0
Themes: Creativity/ Family stories/ Robots/ Tolerance
Sam absolutely knows there are robots out there in space so why doesn’t his family understand him. Because they know they are always right, that’s why! However, after Sam has built himself his own robot who proves to be an understanding companion, the tables are turned. This is one of those amazing books where you don’t really have to read the words for the story to be absolutely clear to the children with whom you are sharing it. My copy now has a totally ‘well-used’ look due to small fingers (both female and male) that have explored the pictures in depth for many minutes at a time.   
Preschool up/ Age 4 up (older children will enjoy this too)

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Paul Beavis Hello World! To be launched this Saturday at The Gecko Party at the Children’s Bookshop Kilbirnie, Wellington

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Paul Beavis
Hello World!
Gecko Press 2015  $20.00pb 32pp
ISBN 978 1 9272 7199 5
Themes:  Friendship/ Monsters/ Running away/ Sequels/ Tolerance
Remember the Little Monster in Mrs. Mo’s Monster? He started off being rude and noisy and then he and Mrs. Mo became a team?  But now the Little Monster is bored because Mr and Mrs. Mo are so busy painting the outside of the house they have no time for him and he decides to run away.  Of course Little Monsters really are no good trying to cope on their own so guess who comes looking for him when he gets hopelessly lost…A warm story of friendship with much of the story extended in the images. This is a great book to share with a small group who may keep finding things that you (the reader aloud) have missed. 
Find more about these books at:
Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievment 2015

It's been a week of literary events as befitting NZ Book Week 2015 (26.10.15 to 1.11.15) and there's much still to come. Among these events are the launch tonight of Bob Kerr’s latest picture book/ story Changing Times at the Wellington Children’s Bookshop at Kilbirnie, at 6pm. Then also at the Wellington Children’s Bookshop this coming Saturday 31st October at 5pm  (Halloween and also BOOKSHOP DAY) is a double launch (Barbara Else’s The Knot Impossible and Paul Beavis’s Hello World!) surrounded by a party to celebrate Gecko Press’s 10th Birthday.

On Thursday last week I was off to the Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement which was held in the Grand Hall at Parliament House.  It was a privilege to see the writers been honoured (by the Hon. Maggie Barry Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage) and to listen to their excellent speeches. A sofa or chair from which one could also see would have been good as the speeches as well as being excellent were quite long and lasted in total for over an hour. 

Those honoured were:

Social anthropologist Dame Joan Metge  (non-fiction)

Playwright Roger Hall  (fiction)

Roger Hall ( image NZ on Screen)
Poet Bernaadette Hall (poetry)

Bernadette Hall (photogapher untraced)

Martin Edmond (son of poet Lauris Edmond) was awarded the 2015 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship

Joan Metge  (photographer untraced)
Martin Edmond (Image Booksellers NZ)

The awards were established in 2003 and every year New Zealanders are invited to nominate a writer who has made a significant contribution to NZ Literature in the categories above. If they wish, writers may also nominate themselves for the awards…

New Zealand Birds and their Beaks

To be launched at Paper Plus North City, Porirua 
at 2pm Saturday 31st October (Bookshop Day)

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Gillian Candler, illustrated by Fraser Williamson
Whose Beak Is This?
Potton & Burton 2015  $15.00 32pp
ISBN 978 1 9272 1361 2
Themes: Adaptation/ Beaks (Birds)/ Language/ New Zealand birds/ Observation Skills
This is a guess-before-you-turn-the-page publication showing the diversity of the beaks of 12 mainly well-known New Zealand birds. What do beaks do? They peck, sip, spear, fish, snap and crack and they come in many shapes, sizes and colours. Children should find this whole concept intriguing and, even if they don’t know the bird to which the beak belongs the first time I guarantee this will be a book that will be looked at over and over and the important aspects of adaptation may become clear to them. Fraser Williamson’s images are eye-catching and for what is essentially a non-fiction title, Gillian Candler’s text has in places, an almost lyrical quality to it.
More information for educators and parents will be found at:
Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Society of the Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection

I went to an intriguing meeting of The Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection last Wednesday evening at the National Library here in Wellington. It is exactly 150 years since Lewis Carroll created Alice in Wonderland. To celebrate The Friends asked Tatjana Schaefer from the English Department at Victoria University to speak about her, her writer and some of the books written for children at that time that would have influenced him. The talk was thought provoking, controversial and totally fascinating. There were many questions and comments.

As always, the meeting was preceded by a delicious feast of food and wine – disappointingly none of it shrank or increased in size to match the mood of the book.  

Alice by John Tenniel

I was very flattered to be introduced as the new Patron of the Society. Watch out for much more about the Society in these Posts from now on – the meetings are so special and of real interest to all lovers of children’s books – not just those working in libraries or schools. 

 for more information.
Google: Dorothy Neal White for a background to a woman who had a real influence on the  development of the children's book scene in New Zealand
Dorothy Neal White at Yellowstone National Park in the1950s

Thursday, 22 October 2015

For all lovers of original fantasy

NZ Writer

Jan Goldie

Brave’s Journey

IFWG Publishing, Australia 2015  $21.50pb 250pp

ISBN 978 1 9251 4884 8

Themes: Coming of age/ Elements/ Fantasy/ Mothers and sons/ Quests

A silver necklace showing four elements - Earth/ Air/ Fire/ Water  - bind this story of Brave who used to be a fairly ordinary teenager and True bossy and self opinionated who he feels is just out to make his life unbearable. And where are we? It certainly isn’t the world as we know it. There are riches here for all lovers of fantasy who enjoy a totally original story where nothing is really as it seems and they will be hoping (as I am) for a sequel to follow soon.       

Year 8 up / Age 12 up
Photo of Jan by James Stanbridge

For more information about the writer go to:

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Break Out at the Rest Home

UK Writer & Illustrator  David Walliams, illustrated by Tony Ross Grandpa’s Great Escape HarperCollins 2015  $24.99pb 450pp ISBN 978 00081 3519 5 Themes: Dementia/ Death of a grandparent/ Escape tactics/ Rest Homes/ World War II

Grandpa has increasing dementia but it doesn’t stop him from living a rich and full life as he imagines he is still the flying ace he was in World War II. With his grandson Jack, he plans an escape from the Rest Home where he now lives, imagining it is a Prisoner of War Camp. With the dreadful Matron Swine in charge and her ‘army’ of helpers he could be forgiven for thinking this.  A great book to read aloud (a treat for both the reader and the listeners) although to my eye some of the writing is a bit, shall we say, ‘clunky’? I did wish the writer hadn’t kept referring to Jack as The Boy which cut into the magic of the tale. However, apart from that it is all go with its easy reading style, many words in large font to break up the pages and the amazing images from Tony Ross who must have really enjoyed having a character like Grandpa to bring to life.

Year 4 up/ Age 8 up

NZ Bookshop Day 2015

NZ Bookshop Day will be held on Saturday October 31st. Already I have five different events I want to go to that day! We are spoilt for choice.
Go to or just Google NZ Bookshop Day.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

All of Hairy Maclary

 NZ Writer & Illustrator Lynley Dodd Hairy Maclary Treasury – the complete adventures of Hairy Maclary CD – all the stories read by Kyle Pryor and introduced by Lynley Dodd Puffin 2015 $50.00hb 333pp ISBN 978 0 1433 0901 7 Themes: Dogs/ Stories in rhyme

The complete adventures of Hairy Maclary and all his friends (and enemies) brought together in 333 glorious pages plus a CD with all the stories read enthusiastically by Kerry Pryor with brief introductions from Lynley Dodd. And with such a handsome piece of book production (with its own bookmark) what more is there to say?

Preschool up/ Age 3 up

A dingle-dangle scarecrow brought to life by Jenny Cooper and the Topp Twins

NZ Illustrator  (words from an Old English Children’s Song)
Jenny Cooper illustrator/ CD  - words sung by the Topp Twins
Dingle-Dangle Scarecrow
Scholastic 2015 $21.00pb 24pp
ISBN 978 1 7754 3194 7
Themes: Children’s songs/ Farm animals/ Nighttime/ Stories in rhyme
 What story could be more simple than that of the Dingle- Dangle Scarecrow who can shake his feet and hands all night long then, when the farm animals begin to wake for a new day, flop down and go to sleep? All the children I have shared this with so far have found it totally hilarious  (so did I) and have really appreciated the chance to shout VERY LOUDLY ‘I’m a dingle-dangle scarecrow with a flippy-floppy hat’.  There is the charm of Jenny Cooper’s perfectly ‘matching’ images and a special bonus of a sing-along with the ever ebullient Topp Twins and their guitars on the attached CD. A thoroughly cheerful experience for everyone! 
Preschool up/ Age 3 up

Note: I was so enchanted by this story and by sharing it that when I wrote the first post about it I imagined this was all happening in the daytime. Not so and I have now removed that post. Sorry for any confusion.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Restrictions lifted on Ted Dawe's Into the river

Hurrah for the Film & Literature Board of Review who, just hours ago, has removed all age restrictions and classifications on Ted Dawe’s young adult novel Into the River.
Now you can
Read it
Display it
Promote it
Sell it and buy it.
And you and the young people for whom it was written can make up your own minds about it.
The book does deal with strong issues (ones that many young people face every day) but never once does it condone them – quite the reverse.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Peter Godfrey - an oral history

NZ Writer, photos from various sources Elizabeth Salmon Peter Godfrey Father of New Zealand Choral Music – an oral history Mākaro Press 2015 $40.00pb 274pp ISBN 978 0 9941 0658 2 Themes: Choirs/ Choral music/ Interviews

In a series of interviews, recollections and many photos Elizabeth Salmon has put together a highly readable, often entertaining and sometimes emotionally challenging life of Peter Godfrey, the man who has been named the father of New Zealand Choral Music.  Much of the book is in the words of the man himself egged on by the sort of questions that ask to be explored.

On Saturday afternoon, October 10th, nearly 200 people gathered in the social hall at Parklands, Waikanae where Peter now lives to hear the book being launched by Peter Averi, listen to some wonderful music and to spot the well-known musicians, singers and composers who had come to celebrate the launch. Peter now suffers from dementia so it was particularly moving when he stood up to faultlessly conduct the choir and then at the end of the launch to give a speech in which he thanked everyone for coming admitting that he no longer remembered their names but saying how happy he was to see them.

  So much of the book is about young people and shows how Peter encouraged and helped them to achieve in their musical careers and, although the book is primarily for adults, it will sit happily in the Music Collection in secondary schools.

Elizabeth Salmon (writer) and Peter Godfrey Photo by Howard Chamberlain

New from the writer of My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece

UK Writer
Annabel Pitcher
Silence is Goldfish
Hachette NZ 2015 $24.99pb 365pp
ISBN 978 1 5101 0043 5
Themes: Blogs/ Search of identity/ Sperm donors
 By chance Tess reads on her father’s Blog that when he first saw her within seconds of her birth he felt nothing but revulsion and rejection at this little, red, squalling creature and could hardly bear to touch her. Her first thought is to run away, away anywhere but when that doesn’t work she runs away mentally and emotionally. It’s a pity Tess hadn’t asked some questions or relooked at the Blog the next day when the Post was complete but then, of course, there wouldn’t have been a story to tell. There are characters to believe in (and feel great sympathy with) and an original plot that I don’t think other writers have touched on. There are plenty of stories when young people discover they have been adopted but I can’t think of one where a young person finds that although her mother is indeed her mother her, ‘father’ is no relation and her conception was due to a sperm donor.  In other words just the originality we would expect from the writer of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece (Orion 2011) and On Ketchup Clouds (Indigo 2012). Just to lighten the story there are several very funny moments.   
Year 8 up/ Age 12 up

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Tinderbox Conference Wellington NZ October 1-4 2015


Oh dear – The Best Laid Plans so often go astray. I had thought of writing a real run down on one of the most successful and enjoyable conferences (Tinderbox, what else?)  I have been to in years but somehow the time has melted away and if I am ever to make a hole in the large pile of wonderful new books waiting beside this desk my reporting back will need to be much more modest.

How could an event that was so many (many) months in the planning stages go by so very quickly?  And this time last week it hadn’t even started. The venue of St. Catherine’s College at Kilbirnie was excellent – plenty of space for large keynote speaker type sessions and yet smaller classrooms for more ‘intimate’ workshops. Highlights for me? Listening to Andy Griffiths as he took us on a lightening quick tour of his road to success/ the amazing Skype session so deftly and cheerfully chaired by Maureen Crisp, the conference coordinator, with Susan Kaye Quinn, laid back American author and editor/ having a chance to meet so many writers for whom I have done assessments in the past but who I have never met face-to-face/ the great Conference Dinner on the 18th floor of the James Cook Hotel (I lost my keys around 11-30pm)/ the session on ePublishing with Sue Copsley but most of all, the wonderful atmosphere of friendship and equality created by Maureen and her team of committee members (a team of Goddesses (no Gods I fear))  as Mandy Hager described them).  The Tinderbox can’t fail but set blazing feelings of inspiration and determination (once everyone has recovered from the full on experience).

And three photos I took on my iPad during the weekend (there are about 98 more...) 
Maureen Crisp and Maria Gill at the party at the Children's Bookshop Kilbirnie

Tania Roxborogh

Monday, 5 October 2015

Goodbye Bill Taylor

A recent image of Bill - acknowledgements to Booksellers NZ
Photographer of a younger Bill Taylor unknown

I have just arrived back from the Tinderbox Conference for children’s and young adult's writers and illustrators held in Wellington and what a wonderful four days it was – more, much more (with photos) tomorrow. However, in the midst of all this happiness and success there was also much sadness when we heard that William (Bill) Taylor, writer and amazing human being, had died on Saturday morning at Taumarunui Hospital. Google his name for full details – plus details of his funeral this coming Thursday.    

No more tales now from Bill but what a legacy of stories he has left behind from his long writing life. 

Bill Taylor's advice to young writers:
Keep your eyes and your ears open - above all keep an open mind and don't forget to live life to the full.  
from Too Good to Miss Marigold Enterprises August 2009