This page has posts from Bee's Bookish Blog from 2014.
Anna Bailey and "Bill"
Anna Bailey of String Bean Puppets brings A-Long Hot Summer Story Festival to the branch libraries, with two different shows in January. Cannons Creek Library will host The Mermaid's Song at 11AM on January 16, and Whitby Library will host Once in a Full Moon, at 2PM the same day. Both shows are free, no tickets required. Anna took time to answer some questions for me in the midst of a busy spell of touring. She has peformed all over New Zealand this year, including a stint on the Interislander ferry at the tip of her South Island tour. She has also peformed twice in Australia, and twice in Thailand, where she took part in a 10-day festival featuring 400 puppeteers from 60 different countries, checking out 4-10 different shows each day.
If you had one tip for the budding puppeteer, what would it be?
"Be interested in everything as you never know what will be useful in the future. The puppeteer is a Jack-of-all-trades. You need to make puppets, create stories, put together soundtracks, perform, do publicity and promotion, balance accounts, talk to all sorts of people.
"One great piece of advice I was given was that not one of us is perfect. None of us have perfectly symmetrical, well proportioned,smooth faces and it is our imperfections and oddities which give us our character and individuality. The same is true for puppets. Embrace the 'mistakes' this is the true character of your puppet revealing itself. It is not how the puppets look which is important but how they move, how they connect with the audience and tell their story."
When did you begin honing your puppetry skills?
"As a child I was into reading and writing stories, making things, sewing dolls clothes, inventing imaginary worlds and playing out imaginary stories with friends which could run over a number of days or weeks. I was pretty convinced that my teddy bears came alive after I went to bed and dreamed up ways I could scientifically prove this to the world. When I got older I became interested in theatre and performing on the stage. I was in school shows and local theatre productions.
"I didn't see much puppet theatre while I was a child. The first puppets I met were probably two glove puppets belonging to my Mum which she kept in her bottom drawer - Sooty and Sweep - and when we were ill we were allowed to take them to bed. There was the touring show of Kids Up the Road which came around to the school every few years. We didn't have television while I was growing up so I didn't really watch The Muppets or Sesame Street but, when I was seven, I had glandular fever and had to stay home from school. A neighbour looked after me while my Mum was at work and while I was at her house I watched a programme [The Shari Lewis Show] with puppets on the television called Lamb Chop
How about the first puppet you ever made – who was that?
"I probably made lots of sock puppets and finger puppets but I didn't become really interested in puppetry until I was a nanny in Italy when I was 23. I went to see my first live puppet show with the children I was looking after and was inspired by what I saw and started making puppets straight away. A puppet I made called Pulcinella was a big learning curve for me. I had to sculpt a head out of clay and I didn't know where to begin. I made and re-made that head so many times before I cast it in plaster and filled it with wood paste. I still use that puppet now.
Don't miss your chance to catch Anna in action during A-Long Hot Summer Story Festival. The Festival's moniker conjures up a lovely series of images for her...
"Sunscreen, ice cream, sandy beaches, blue ocean, busking on baking hot concrete, and hats full of coins."
Levity Beet: A-Long Hot Summer Story Festival 2013/14
Levity Beet has been a favourite of Porirua kids since well before he rocked the house with a performance that had kids clambering on their mothers' knees - all the better to see him with - at last year's A-Long Hot Summer Story Festival. His six CDs - one of which comes in a book of scores to the songs - can always be relied on to get toes tapping, fingers snapping, and bellies jiggling with laughter. This Festival, he returns for a concert - Rock-Along! - and a musical instrument creation workshop - Play-Along. The workshop booked out within two days of the Festival opening, but there are still plenty of free tickets left to his concert.
The last email Levity sent me featured a rather interesting list of requirements for his workshop, and I'm currently carrying it around like the kind of shopping list you just can't shop for. If anyone can help me source 80 empty cans, 80 expired pens, 80 old rubber gloves, 240 large rubber bands, and 40 pieces of pipe that are three times longer than the cans (with a diameter of 15-50mm), I would be forever in their debt - as would the budding instrument builders Levity is going to teach how to make music with all this trash.
Levity juggles parenting duties, with his work as a songwriter and recording artist, and the travails of a troubadour - but did find time to give me some hot tips regarding the books and fellow entertainers that rock his world.
What is the best book you have read in 2014?
The Beasts of Clawstone Castle, by Eva Ibbotson
What is the best book you have read in the 21st Century?
Little Fur, by Isobelle Carmody
(Thanks for the heads-up, I've just ordered the whole series.)
Who is your favourite musician/singer?
Whoever listens well, responds with fun and plays with me.
What other children’s entertainers do you admire?
Kath Bee, Festus McBoyle, Mr Roberelli, Raffi, Billy Jonas...
What advice would you give to anyone contemplating the life of a troubadour?
Do it if you love to share fun, connection and inspiration with others.
We look forward to hearing the welcome a studio full of Levity Beet's kind of people can provide at his show on January 14 (free tickets available at Porirua Library Children's desk), and his booked-out workshop on January 15. And I was absolutely serious about the garbage - do drop it off, marked to my attention, care of Porirua Library.
'Twas the night before A-Long Hot Summer Story Festival, when all through Porirua Library, only the cleaners were stirring... But, what's this... could the Children's Librarian really be too excited to leave?
Actually, yes... I am!
We're expecting a lot of very special visitors to the vicinity of our beloved story chair tomorrow. We release 250 gorgeous goodie bags into the wild from 10AM, including a timetable of events set to rock the kids right through till January 30. The launch proper happens at A-Long Hot Christmas Story Time, at 5.30PM tomorrow night - and will feature the debut of 'The 12 Days of Porirua Christmas', which our facebook friends have written over the past two weeks. Sally and I have been working four strings apiece like crazy to score syllable busting phrases like 'six free digital magazines'... but we're confident you're going to love the results as much as we do.
The Festival has an extended running time and some very cool additional features this year - like Buddy Readers (you can come in and read to them!) and even a Doggy Reader (her name is Koko, and you can come in and read to her too!). The performance bill is made up of favourite performers from last year (like Levity Beet, and Little Dog Barking Theatre company), and some new faces in the story chair (like "My Favorite Hugs" author Debby Guddee). Highly acclaimed puppeteer Anna Bailey will be taking the Festival to Cannons Creek and Whitby library, with two different shows.
Greet Pauwelijn from Book Island will be joining me for the Love-Along, based around the warm interactive format she brought to last year's Festival for the very lovely Grand-Along. I am looking forward to exploring the question 'What is love?' with Greet and groups and pairs of kids and their loved ones.
Gecko Press make another great showing with two of their best authors (Juliette MacIver and Barabara Else) on the bill. They also remain the Festival's most generous sponsor, providing many of the hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of book prizes we are itching to award to repeat visitors and competition winners.
Juliette MacIver visited the library yesterday to film a a video to gift to the Festival, and you can watch this space for the unveiling of that, coming soon. She and Loreena Dawson were performing 'Grasshoppers Dance', an accompaniment to the book of the same title which will be released by Scholastic next year.
I'll be featuring plenty of performer interviews here throughout the Festival, all the better for you to get a bit closer to your idols.
For the jump on the action in the meantime, why not borrow a baby and join Sally and I at the last Bee's Baby Time of the year. Sally's calling the shots, and the shots look suspiciously like... Christmas Carols! Come and join us, because it's got to be a lot more fun than queuing with a trolley of Christmas shopping, and even better - like everything we do - it's free!
Alright, I'm off for just one more sleep. I look forward to celebrating the spirit of the season with lots of you from tomorrow. And the spirit of the season is... stories!
Juliette MacIver and Loreena Dawson perform 'Grasshoppers Dance'
Linda Hansen/Shadow the Storyteller: telling tales
Local author Linda Hansen launches her debut children's novel An Unexpected Hero at Porirua Library on December 11. Linda is well known to Porirua families as Shadow the Storyteller, and although she performs for people of all ages in this guise, writing for children is fairly new to her.
"I’m glad I’ve come to it only after a lifetime of practising my craft. They deserve the best writing I can offer and I am having great fun with it."
The fact-based fictional novel tells the story of a boy who faces the difficult task of giving a speech on his family's hero, the conscientious objector Archie Baxter (1881-1970), in a community where everyone else's heroes went to war. Not only does the boy have to conquer the common fear of public speaking - which a field of cows helps him with - but he also has to face the disapproval of those who've never thought of war from a pacifist's mindset.
"The idea first came to me about four years ago through developing a story to tell to adults on ANZAC day. Then just over a year ago, at a weekend writer’s workshop, I met someone who reminded me about the 1914 commemorations which I’d forgotten about. I always have several writing projects going together, but that reminder gave me an incentive to focus more on Hero. From starting the actual writing until publication took about 18 months."
The result is a book which will appeal to lovers of the popular My Story series of books, presenting history through the eyes of a child.
"Children are curious when it comes to history; they enjoy hearing practical, relevant things about conditions in the times being talked about. They are also easily able to imagine themselves in different situations and seem to instinctively know that people are basically the same, no matter when and where they lived."
For those readers who are thinking of taking to the craft of writing, she suggests, "Get to know your writing voice the way you get to know your appetite. No one can digest a week’s food in one meal; so don’t begin with a huge project. Discover and taste the morsels that you enjoy, and learn to craft them well… a descriptive paragraph, some dialogue that pleases you, a poem about something that has touched you, letters telling of your passions, a short story with a distinctive beginning, middle and end, don’t pass up any chance to practice writing. Reading and re-reading your work will make you into your own teacher.
Linda is currently working on her next novel, which she explains "is for a slightly older audience, with characters who are rather more naughty".
All are welcome to come and meet her, purchase a signed copy of An Unexpected Hero, and celebrate the life of Archie Baxter, in the Children's Library on December 11 at 4PM.
Craig Smith and Porirua Library fans, 2012
Yee-ha! Look who's back in town! Craig "Mr Wonky Donkey" Smith is no stranger to Porirua crowds. He has performed here for the Library, and around town many times over the years since his first book and the accompanying hit song - which earned him an eternal nickname - made him a household name. His first CD 'for kids' was called - forgive me - Not Just For Kids, and its hilarious and highly infectious songs have been being turned into picture books and steadily released for the past seven years.The Wonky Donkey earned him the APRA Children's Song of the Year award in 2008.
As a youngster, Craig Smith was entranced by a mix of humour and stories coming out of his radio and record player.
"Spike Milligans Badjelly the Witch was a big feature. Kenny Everitt's Captain Kremin on the radio always made me laugh." A child of the 80s, he loved listening to Lindsay Yeo broadcasting from Wellington. "I still have the Buzzo Bumble tune in my head... Wally the Weta," he reminisces with a smile. "When I got older it was the great songwriters of the day who inspired me to pick up a guitar. In particular, Neil Young. I still like the oldies - Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Harry Chapin. But more contemporary are the likes of Keb Mo, Iron and Wine, anything original with its heart on its sleeve and something that challenges or makes you think."
The first song he ever wrote himself was a love song called 'Is it Too Much to Ask?' He doesn’t only write children’s songs – and has released an album he's very proud of called 45 South. "I part-recorded it with Stevie Wonder's back-up band in LA, and also had some help from the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. It's a real mixture of styles and thoughts, but I think that keeps an album interesting. Some environmental songs, fun and poppy tunes too." Another, earlier album for adults is called Don't Shake My Tree.
His new release for kids (and parents trying to shift them) is called Square Eyes, and aims to motivate kids to put down the remote control and get up off the couch. Craig's favourite way of doing that is paragliding, or as he puts it, "To fly like a bird on a wing and a prayer! Sometimes to get high you need to do a bit of walking up hills but the reward is awesome. Beats the gym and day!"
November 5 might be traditionally known as Guy Fawkes' day, but the fireworks will be happening on the dancefloor when Craig Smith plays the Spine at Pataka, at 4PM. All are welcome to this fabulous free event. Come prepared to have a very good time indeed, and if you can't wait until then, craigsmith.co.nz has some excellent resources for getting in the mood to get wonky.
Paula Green - Rabbit Island, late 1950s
Conversation turns easily to poetry when you're talking with Paula Green. Describing the first poems she remembers ever wanting to commit to heart - being the works of AA Milne - she references "the whole shaboodle of them", with no further explanation neccessary regarding what a shaboodle might be. "They are so good to say out loud whether you are young or old," she continues. "Juicy, juicy sounds — like sucking a Kerikeri orange.
Her typed answers might actually take wing acrosss the page... given the space of a relevantly suggestive topic. She recommends, for example, the budding writer 'be a hot air balloonist... and go f l y i n g through the real world and the world of your imagination.' It's an active demonstaration of her prescription to 'take risks, go on word adventures, and play!'
'Writers, including me,' Paula says, 'always say the number one tip is to readreadread and writewritewrite. It’s true - but to budding young poets, I am going to suggest earsearsears and eyeseyeseyes. If you use your ears, you get to explore how poems sound good, and if you use your eyes, you discover how real detail can spark your poem into life on the page.'
Recalling her own journey from childhood, Paula says, 'I think I was probably an odd child with an acrobatic imagination who felt like a bit of a misfit. I loved learning, I loved reading books and I loved inventing things. I loved school. What was my favourite subject? Everything! I loved reading all kinds of fiction and poetry, but I also loved the dictionary and doing grammar exercises. I would read the dictionary in bed with a torch to find fascinating words. I used to do endless puppet shows and plays with my siblings and my cousins. I used to write things. I was a major bookworm and my Grandma would get cross at me for always wanting to read a book. We didn’t have a TV but we did have access to lots of books at the Whangarei Library. We didn’t have much money either but I grew up with all kinds of other riches. I loved doing outdoor things and still do — especially at the beach and in the bush.'
This is the life she decided she wanted for her own daughters, now 18 and 20. 'In the summer holidays we stay at a gorgeous Northland East-Coast beach where we have no internet or cell phone coverage. There we like to read books, go for walks and go boogie boarding. We often like to travel to other parts of New Zealand, especially places with mountains and spectacular scenery. We love skiing and snow boarding. When school finishes this year, we are all off to Golden Bay for a few days. I love meal times because we have very good conversations. My family is really important to me. Most important of all really.'
Paula has just embarked upon her Hot Spot Poetry Tour of NZ. This week, it will bring her to Adventure School in Whitby, by student demand, and to Porirua Library. She promises to keep a travel diary on her fantastic interactive blog, NZ Poetry Box, which is jam-packed with the work of young writers, and plenty more activities to keep them busy. Paula - who has published works for both adults and children - gets a special kick out of the children who come and say hello at various tour stops, and the teachers and librarians who share their passion and ideas about writing, poetry and books with her. In fact, she even loves the modes of transport that bring her to each stop.
'I love seeing New Zealand from the airplane, in all kinds of weather. I even love looking down at the clouds.I love the way when you travel you get a notebook of ideas for poems. One day I will share them with you!'
Paula Green, The Hot Spot Poetry Tour - Porirua LIbrary children's area at 4PM on Friday, October 17
Hot on the heels of our Freedom to Read celebrations, Porirua Library are very proud to be hosting esteemed poet and author Paula Green on October 17. Paula is one of New Zealand's most highly regarded poets, having published a number of poetry collections of her own for adults and children, and edited several anthologies. Her new books of poetry in 2014 include The Baker's Thumbprint (for adults), The Letterbox Cat and Other Poems (for children), and she has also edited A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children, which is illustrated by Jenny Cooper.
When I told Paula we were currently running a poetry competition on the topic of the 'freedom to read', she had plenty to say. Her reply via email was so succinct, I'm sharing it in its entirety here. Viva la libre!
"We should feel free to read all kinds of books. Sometimes I think there is a ladder of books in the world and some readers turn their noses up at books on the bottom rung as though we should only read a certain kind of book. I think we should be free to read books from all rungs. Easy books. Fun books. Challenging books. Spooky books. Factual books. Some books might not have flash sentences but they might tell a wonderful story that grips you to the end. Some books might not have so much of a story but have sentences that are like little pearls on the page.
"We should feel free to take time out and sit in a cosy corner and read even though there is pressure on us to play rugby or cook dinner or climb a tree (nothing wrong with doing these things too though).
"We should have the freedom to understand and talk about what we read in all kinds of ways that don’t necessarily match what everyone else thinks.
"We should continue to have access to libraries where books are free to read and librarians are experienced and enthusiastic about possible book windows, doorways and paths for us to enter and follow.
"We should all have the freedom to read because we have food in our tummies, a strong roof over our heads, and schools and families and friends and Governments to care so much about us, we can read.
"We should have freedom to read the world and understand in all our reading that the world is a tremendous place with difference and sameness but that we are all human with beating hearts and searching minds and a great capacity to love."
Do join us, when Paula sets some words free - for free - for the Porirua people, on October 17 at 4PM, in the Children's section of the Main Library. Budding writers and poetry readers can also check out her fabulous website for kids, Poetry Box. It is always full of plenty of things to keep the young poet working at their craft. You are more than likely to spot a familiar Porirua face or two there as well. Stay tuned to this blog too, as I will be posting more about Paula in the days before she gets here. Last but not least, don't forget to put pen to paper and let us know what 'the freedom to read' means to you - entries can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or dropped at any branch of Porirua Library by October 12.
Every September/October School Holidays, we follow the lead of the American Library Association by exploring our freedom to read, particularly those books we have - due to challenges of one form or another - been told we should not. A series of events for primary/intermediate students will feature some of our favourite censor botherers this year (programme details coming soon). We are also very lucky to be able to extend this theme into the young adult arena, and start the celebrations early, with a very special visit by Wellington author Fleur Beale.
Fleur is the author of the classic bestselling YA thriller I Am Not Esther, which raises many points about when it is OK for a young adult to speak their own truth, even if it runs counter to that of their elders. It is an exploration of the life of a teenage girl caught up in a religious cult, which has been a set text at many New Zealand high schools for almost two decades.
Its stand-alone sequel, I Am Rebecca, was released earlier this year, and is looking set to duplicate the classic status of its predecessor. Questions of personal identity are at the heart of both books - their domestic settings a thin veneer for the psychological terror lurking beneath. Both girls are restricted from speaking and acting in the way the average teenager would take quite for granted. The sect's dress code calls for modest clothing, a restriction on media, and the requirement to 'speak seemly', including refraining from abbreviating spoken words. Both books present absolutely compelling portraits of a teenagers enduring the kind of nightmares that visit within the home and community.
Fleur's writing is known for adhering to what she calls "the basic rule of story". "You must make your characters miserable!," she declares. "And if you’re going to give a character a problem, why not make it a really tricky one? However... in the past, society was much more structured and constricted. There was lots more to hedge people in and many more things for them to rebel against. We’re very fortunate to live in a country and a time where we are much freer than has been the case in the past. All this is excellent for us, but not so easy for writers who need to give their characters a problem – something to wrestle with."
Teenagers in many other countries are not so lucky. Fleur cites blogger and activist Malala Yousafzai as "a shining example of enormous courage", and among the bravest of teenagers. Malala was shot by a Taliban gunman while riding home on her school bus after sitting an exam. Like many 15-year-olds, Malala was an avid facebooker, but as a girl who believed in her right to be educated, living in the Swat District of Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, she did not enjoy the freedoms teenagers in this country might when it came to speaking her truths. Even a bullet to the head could not stop Malala, who went on to write her own story in the autobiography I Am Malala.
Fleur is a firm believer in the importance of young people writing their own truths. Although not a a diary writer herself, she believes it is enormously useful to jot down ideas as a form of research for any future time when one might be compelled to recall the times they refer to. Her best advice to budding writers lends itself well to the practice of the private space a journal provides.
"Just keep writing. Do it for yourself with the intention of never letting another person see it. That will help remove the critic from your shoulder and let you say what you want to."
Fleur will be joining us at the Helen Smith Room, in the Pataka complex, at 5.30PM on September 18. She is an engaging speaker, who is attracting an equally interesting audience, judging by RSVPs to date. To join the conversation, over post-talk drinks and nibbles, RSVP to email@example.com .
It's been two years since the Storylines Festival has been able to bring one of their fantastic Family Fun Days to Wellington. Last year's booking was cancelled due to shaky grounds rendering the Michael Fowler Centre - among much of Wellington - a no-go zone for the festival day. So, it is with heighened anticipation that we welcome the return of the greatest literary event on the kids' lit' calendar.
The guest list features Porirua Library friends including storyteller/author Moira Wairama (The Taniwha of Wellington Harbour), and her Soul Food storytelling partner Tony Hopkins, our current favourite author/illustrator Paul Beavis (Mrs Mo's Monster), and Storylines patron and beloved author Joy Cowley (New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2014 Junior Fiction winner Dunger among many others). Other luminaries on the list include authors Philippa Werry (ANZAC Day, the New Zealand Story), Sally Sutton (Roadworks, Demolition), Chris Szekely (Swim and Rahui), and storyteller Apirana Taylor. Australian author Gary Crew rounds out the living legends quotient for an often-awarded body of work stretching back to 1988, and including The Viewer (illustrated by Shaun Tan) and In the Wake of the Mary Celeste (illustrated by Robert Ingpen).
Fun and informative themed areas will include the Antarctica Zone - where you can join Shackleton Bear in icy climes with photos, slide shows, real penguins and Antarctica specimens, activities and crafts. In the War Zone you can gnaw on a sample of hard tack as you read World War One-themed books, make a medal, get inside a WW1 helmet for a back-in-time photo op', then remember fallen soldiers with a memorial poppy. The Monster Fun Zone will feature favourite characters like Mrs Mo’s Monster and the taniwha of Wellington Harbour. You can even come dressed as a monster and join in one of the monster parades. Te Papa’s ‘spider man,’ entomologist Phil Sirvid, will be on hand to teach you about New Zealand's creepy crawlies in the Bugs 'n' Bees Zone. Design a bug, go on a bug hunt, learn about bees, and bring along any beetles or bugs that you would like Phil to identify.
There is no need to wait until the day to get your Storylines mojo on. For children, there are writing and drawing competitions. For adults, there is the win-win opportunity to volunteer as a Storylines Task Force volunteer, allowing you inspiring proximity to the booked guests, and the chance to feel great about giving something of yourself to a fantastic cause. Follow this link to learn more about making your association with Storylines last more than a day, or register interest in volunteer roles.
Storylines Festival Wellington Family Day happens at the Michael Fowler Centre on August 24, 10AM-3PM. You will not find more fabulous, free family-friendly fun under one roof anywhere, unless you happen to catch it in one of the other towns it tours through (and yes, some of our customers have told me they actually are keen enough to travel to test this theory). See you there!
Author/illustrator Paul Beavis
Mrs Mo's Monster is a bright new picture book by debuting author/illustrator Paul Beavis. It's nine years since he came up with the story - sans pictures - which was rejected by publishers and agents across Paul's homeland, the UK. Two years ago he rewrote and re-illustrated it again, and saw it uniformly turned down again. Paul then moved to New Zealand, and rewrote the book again last year. Another round of rejections followed from the UK, but then an email arrived from closer to his new home, from Julia Marshall at Gecko Press. The rest is bright yellow publishing history, with early audiences snapping up the book with a vigour not so different than that of its titular monster.
Paul Beavis will visit Porirua Libraries as part of our Gecko Press July School Holiday Programme, to read the book and help kids draw their own monsters. Porirua Library is also running a monster-drawing competition, with Gecko book pack prizes for the winners. Paul talked to me about where to find a monster, and what to do with one once you have.
Which came first in your life: drawing or stories?
Drawing came first. My mother encouraged me to make a mess and I went from there.
Can you relate any early examples of either?
My first artistic breakthrough was when I learnt to draw arms that came out from the shoulders and not the side of the body. It was a drawing of solider with a red jacket. The story telling I learnt from my Dad, he had a habit of 'bending' the truth and I enjoyed the twists he put on life.
Is Mrs Mo’s monster modelled on any actual monsters you know?
I have three younger brothers. One is two years younger but the other two are 10 and 11 years younger. So, they were like little monsters when I was growing up, always needing a bit of guidance and lots of entertaining. For their night time stories I'd read books like The Three Little Pigs, but in a high-speed manner, so reducing the story to a series of single words that wouldn't last longer than a minute. For example: Pigs, three, wolf one, house, straw, puff-puff, gone, house, wood, puff-puff gone, house, brick, puff-puff, not gone.
Probably not the best way to calm young children before they go to sleep but fun all the same.
What do you think is the best job anyone forced to work with a monster could give them?
I'd send the monster off to work for demolition company and enjoy the peace and quiet, although thinking about it, it would be quite nice to crush some cars or knock down a building or two.
Are you working on any new bookish projects at the moment?
There are things in the pipeline. It would be great to see where Mrs. Mo and the Monster go next. But I need to find just the right story for them as much as the readers themselves.
Come and show Paul Beavis what you make of his monster skills on Thursday, July 10, at Porirua Library (10.30AM), Cannons Creek Library (1.30PM) and Whitby Library (3.30PM). All welcome.
Maya Angelou has ascended, to paraprase her son (and fellow author) Guy Johnson, in a family statement after the fact. She moved on up, at the ripe young age of 86, on May 28. There is another word for both these transitions, but it just doesn't seem to suit her at all. Her impact on literary culture - indeed, life! - is too indelible to ever be gone.
The author of seven much-loved volumes of autobiography, among many and varied written works and occupations - poet, dancer, singer, actor, activist, madam, teenage mother - she was no stranger to the Banned and Challenged books list. "Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him," she once said.
Her works for children include the gutsy Life Doesn't Frighten Me - illustrated by the late Jean-Michel Basquiat - and the recent Christmas work Amazing Peace - illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, with an accompanying recording read by Angelou.
Another great loss - teen mum and would-be censor botherer - to the literary canon this month has been that of Susan Lillian (Sue) Townsend - aged 68 and 8 days (as I imagine a book titled by her for the fact could have read). Townsend was the author of eight volumes of 'The Secret Diaries of Adrian Mole', numerous equally excellent and frequently as hilarious adult novels, one volume of autobiography, and a stack of plays.
Her most famous character - the titular 'Moley' - stepped onto the public stage aged 13 and 3/4, and the television series screened just in time for me to believe we were exactly the same age - although there were actually two years between us. The mere fact I mention this might suggest something of the extent of my over-association with this (apparently!) fictional creation.
Many people 'of a certain age' I meet are surprised to learn that - far from Adrian being an 80s relic, long gone the way of Margaret Thatcher - Townsend followed him well into middle age. He - by way of she - was a spot-on commentator on the times and issues I lived through alongside him.
The woman who gave us The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year left her bed for the last time on 10 April 2014. I was gutted to learn she had been working on a new Adrian Mole story at the time of her death. The book, which had the working title Pandora's Box, was due for publication later this year. A spokesman said: "We can confirm that Sue was in the middle of writing the book. Her editor had seen what she describes as 'a few wonderful pages'. It was supposed to be out this autumn and we are very sad that we won't be able to show it to the world."
I feel like I've lost a friend in the awkward, spotty boy, who grew into an uncommonly wonderful man - not withstanding a quite unsexy stint as a celebrity offal chef-cum-comic fall guy. Still overidentifying with him, even at our advanced ages... 'I expect the experience will give me a trauma at some stage in the future. I'm all right at the moment, but you never know.'
His scribe will be sorely missed too.
Jan Blake weaves her spell
Porirua families have a rare chance to experience an internationally touring master storyteller in the main library at a free event on Tuesday (May 20) next week, at 4PM. UK-based Jan Blake is one of the world’s leading storytellers. Her impressive resume includes being the only non-German recipient of the Thuringe Marchen Preis, a biannual prize awarded to scholars or performers who have devoted their lives to storytelling.
Her performance, The Calabash Children, comprises tales of stubborn sisters, ungrateful mothers, and beautiful friendships. A childless woman prays to be a mother, a little sister refuses to do as she's told, and a wicked godmother tries to get rid of her god-daughter.
Jan’s visit to this end of the North Island has been organised by In the Belly of the Whale School of Storytelling founder and co-ordinator Judy Frost-Evans. Judy lives in Pukerua Bay, and has studied and performed as a storyteller all around the world. She has been fundamentally instrumental in bringing a global wealth of storytelling to the local region over the past three years.
In the Belly of the Whale School of Storytelling offers long and short storytelling courses on the Kapiti Coast. It also faciliatates the monthly (first Thursdays) Kapiti Storytellers Circle, which is open to all aspiring and practicing tellers. In the Belly of the Whale offers personal development courses based on storytelling principles and processes – including a number which have brought world-class teachers Sue Hollingsworth and Ashley Ramsden from the International School of Storytelling in England to the region.
It was at a festival organised by Sue and Ashley, in Sussex, that Judy witnessed Jan performing, which prompted her to extend the invitation for Jan to visit New Zealand. Jan arrives in Porirua via the Auckland Writer’s Festival, and will present a Masterclass for storytellers on Friday May 23, followed by a ticketed evening performance for adults - Man, Woman, Life, Love - at St Peter’s Hall in Pakeakariki.
As Ashley says, “If you don’t know about the power of storytelling here’s your chance to fall under its spell. Jan will open you to the world of story, transport you, taunt you, seduce you, wrap you in the rhythm of her words, shock you, hold you in the heart’s holy places and bring you safely home.”
For more details on the Kapiti events, or how you can join me as a student of In the Belly of the Whale School of Storytelling, contact Judy via firstname.lastname@example.org. For more details on the Porirua Library free family-friendly show, contact Porirua Library’s Desiree Flaws via email@example.com.
We are very excited to unveil our Read NZ Made April/May school holiday programme, an annual celebration anticipating the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults (NZPBA), celebrating the works of beloved New Zealand children's authors and award nominees/winners past and present. Local nominees Gay Hay and Juliette MacIver (pictured, reading Margret Mahy's Bubble Trouble at our Mahy Memorial story time in 2012) will be our special guests during the holidays.
Gay is nominated for Watch Out, Snail!, illustrated by Pataka's own Margaret Tolland. This is the second book for the team who produced the LIANZA Book Awards-nominated Fantail's Quilt. Gay will visit Porirua Library (at 10.15AM) and Cannons Creek Library (at 1.30PM) for a story time and craft session on April 24.
Juliette is nominated for Toucan Can!, illustrated by Sarah Davis, who also provided the pictures for two of Juliette's previous much-loved books: Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam, and Marmaduke Duck and Bernadette Bear. Toucan Can! was named a notable book in the 2014 Storylines Notable Book List. Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam was a finalist in the NZ Post Children's Book Awards in 2011. Marmaduke Duck and Bernadette Bear was a finalist in the LIANZA Awards in 2012. Juliette will visit Porirua Library for a story and craft time on May 2 at 10.15AM.
Whitby Library will focus on Lynley Dodd's Hariy Maclary books, with preschoolers in particular catered to on Friday May 2, at 10.30AM. Lynley has been honoured with numerous awards, distinctions and nominations throughout her illustrious career. Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack won the Children's Choice Award at the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults in 2000, to name but one.
Cannons Creek Library will feature a selection of beloved authors and titles in their unique Kiwi Faves programme. Current NZPBA nominated titles getting an airing will include The Boring Book, by Vasanti Unka, and The Three Bears - Sort of, by Yvonne Morrison with illustrations by Donovan Bixley. Both these books feature subverted narratives in surprising ways. The Three Bears - Sort of is illustrated by Donovan Bixley, well known for his illustrations in over 70 books, including Kyle Mewburn's Dinosaur Rescue series, and half-a-dozen books of his own. Vasanti Unka and Kyle Mewburn received a 2011 NZPBA nomination for Hill and Hole, which also won the LIANZA Russell Clark Award, and the Gerard Reid Award for Best Book at the PANZ Book Design Awards.
The Main Library will be featuring works by Kyle Mewburn on April 30 (10.15AM). On April 22 (10.15AM) we will feature works by Margaret Mahy - whose accolades, including the highest recognition available to a writer or illustrator of children's books, the biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2006) are too numerous to mention. Her book The Moon and Farmer McPhee, with luminous illustrations by David Elliot, was Book of the Year at the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards 2011.
By promoting the NZPBA, we offer children the chance to familiarise themselves with the finalists, expose them to the cream of the year's kids-lit' crop and favourites from previous winners and nominees, and give them to chance to have their say in the awards process via the Children's Choice award. Voting cards are available at your local library, and voting closes on May 30. This gives everyone the chance to be the one lucky voter who wins $500 worth of Booksellers Tokens for personal use, and another $500 worth for their school. We also get to have a really good time with some really great books.
As NZBA Chief Judge Barbara Else (no stranger to awards herself) says, "New Zealand literature for children and young adults continues to achieve impressive heights. All the finalist books repay reading and re-reading, and will unquestionably delight readers of many ages."
The winners of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults will be announced on June 23.
I have just been handed the Top Titles Report for the Junior and Older Fiction categories, counting issues over the past 12 months. We had a fun little game of 'Guess the Titles' before revealing them, and I have to say, I came up trumps because there were so few surprises.
Ten of the top 20 Older Fiction titles are by Jacqueline Wilson, not narratively linked, but instantly recognisable by the Nick Sharratt covers which have come to be synonymous with Jacqueline Wilson's output. Six of the top 20 Older Fiction titles are from Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series - with Cabin Fever taking the top slot. These stories progress through the protagonist's life, but do not repeat the same formula for each book, and are probably helped by being a movie franchise.
Two Andy Griffiths titles make the Older Fiction cut, again, highly recognisable by sidekick Terry Denton's illustrations. One of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books comes in at number seven (The Titan's Curse). And, as if to prove enough enthusiastic word-of-mouth promotion will do a book good, RJ Palacio's devastatingly moving Wonder sits indpendently of any supporting instalments at number 13 (if you haven't read it yet - you simply must!).
The incredibly unique Wonder aside (and you really would be hard-pressed to read anything else quite like it), these figures reflect the popular desire for comfort reads, where the reader feels safe in the knowledge that more of the same sort of thing they've enjoyed before can be relied upon to provide enjoyment again. And why not? If you know what you like, after all. It is important to remember that getting kids into the habit of picking books up in the first place is step one on the road to self-directed literacy.
With younger readers, a budding desire for familiarity manifests in a more visual way, and tends to be more formulaic in terms of text. New readers let visual and narrative familiarity dictate their tentative steps forward. Some parents despair at the broad series judder bars their new readers seem to be permanently abreast of, but just as you won't see many teenagers with trainer wheels on their bicycles, the use-by date for the books below will pass your child so quickly it will be hard to remember in a few years time.
The number one book of the top 20 Younger Fiction titles comes as no surprise... and goes some way towards validating the amount of shelf space reserved for the biggest series fiction title known to girlkind. Ruby the Red Fairy is the first in composite 'author' Daisy Meadows' Rainbow Magic series, and takes the top place on this list. Rainbow Magic books were the most-borrowed children's books at libraries in United Kingdom, and the second-most borrowed books overall at those libraries, for 2010 and 2011. At Porirua Library, for the period 2013-14, six titles represent the Rainbow Magic series among the top 20 Younger Fiction titles.
I'm excited to see one Jane O'Connor's Fancy Nancy early novels (Poet Extraordinaire)come in at number two. Nancy is a feisty - unapologetically fancy - and engaging, real world role model, who is always up to something extravagantly imaginative in an already popular series of picture books, emergent readers, early novels, card games and jigsaw puzzles. Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, the first Fancy Nancy title came out in 2005, and spent nearly 100 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List, launching a series that now numbers more than 50 books, which have sold in excess of 24-million copies, and been translated into 18 languages.
Clearly, Porirua kids pick their heroes and heroines from a league of international standing.
Number three on the Younger Fiction Top Titles Report is taken by a DC Super Heroes/Villains title, and interesting to note it's the tale of a female supervillain (Poison Ivy) beating out a slew of male contenders in a genre popularly considered the male domain. In a related aside from the Young Adult section - the Top Titles Report for YA Graphic Novels ranks more than half superhero titles, and male superheroes at that. Further investigation into the assumption that these are being taken out by male readers is a desirable and interesting prospect. I mean, how often am I told that male teens simply do not read?
Geronimo Stilton - an Italian journa-mouse - takes six of the top 20 Younger Fiction spaces. Zac Power - a pint-sized secret agent - takes three spaces. The perenially popular Enid Blyton takes one - although the fact she has so many different titles probably works against her in terms of splitting the vote. Joining Blyton as another representative of Banned Books Week's biggest headaches, Captain Underpants (and the Periolous Plot of Professor Poopypants: the Epic Fourth Novel) ranks at number 13.
If you're wanting your kids to read to an arbitrary prescription of good taste, the Top Titles Report is certainly not going to provide any delights or surprises - with the excpetion of Wonder (have I mentioned how awesome that book is?). But, if you want to know what the kids are really reading, these are the cold, winged/caped, rainbow-flavoured, slightly poopy-smelling facts, as even Geronimo Stilton's journalistic talents could reveal them. One thing these lists confirm for me, is that it's the kids' own taste, not that of their adults, that tells the true tale of repeat business down at the Junior desk. Discovering - as you are forced to read aloud - the plot of the 130th Rainbow Magic book is the same as that of the first is surely a small price to pay for imparting a lifetime love of literature.
Gran Marg and Phoebe Campbell at the Grand-Along
This is the official announcement of prize winners for A-Long Hot Summer Story Festival. And what outstanding work they, and all entrants, delivered. It was very hard - but also very inspiring - to narrow things down to available prizes with some of the competitions.
That said, I know that we were all winners when it came to the Festival this year. And by 'all', I don't just mean the 109 participants who achieved 'reward' status, of four to - in many cases - eight sign-ins. Yes, there are goodie bags awaiting their collection at the junior desk for those people.
But what about those of you who laughed until you cried at Adrian Kirk's Read-Along, or bonded with grandparents and special family friends at the Grand-Along, or learned how to play a Honkytromblastic at Levity Beet? You were all winners, judging by the smiles on your faces. How about the kids who got to meet local hero Juliette MacIver, and have her help them learn how to improve their writing? All winners, I vouch.
That said... some special prizes have been awarded for competition winners, and they are as follows:
Gemma Lovewell, Phoebe Scott and Gretchen Bubendorfer each win a copy of Juliette MacIver's Toucan Can and a Frog Who Lost His Underpants plush toy.
Sune Weyers and Phoebe Scott each win a copy of Maia and What Matters.
Kingsley Walton and Theo Wall each win a copy of Bernie and Flora.
Meg Winchester and Daniel Lovewell each with a copy of Sir Mouse to the Rescue.
Emma, Simon and Pop Avery were the winners of the surprise competition launched by Book Island at the Grand-Along, taking home a copy of Maia and What Matters.
Additional consolation prizes for that workshop were awarded to Phoebe Campbell and Gran Marg (with thanks to Gecko Press), and Sune Weyers and Susan Kleynhans (with thanks to Random House).
Jessica Strachan, Gemma Lovewell and Gretchen Bubendorfer each win a set of James Patterson books including: Middle School - the Worst Years of My Life, Middle School - Get Me Out of Here, and I Funny.
The Heer family - Chenthi, Jarne and Ekkam - Daniel Lovewell, and Gemma Lovewell, each win a Levity Beet CD.
Sune Weyers wins a worm farm and worms, a visit from the Zero Waste co-ordinator to show her what to do with them, and a native plant.
Lucia Wall wins a family pass to Zealandia, a native plant, and a copy each of Gay Hay and Margaret Tolland's books Watch Out, Snail! and Fantail's Quilt.
Cody Griffiths wins a family pass to Zealandia, a native plant, and a copy each of Gay Hay and Margaret Tolland's books Watch Out, Snail! and Fantail's Quilt.
Congratulations to all winners!
Little Dog Barking Theatre's Peter Wilson and Shona McKee McNeil
Last year's Little Dog Barking peformance of The Little Kowhai Tree was deemed by many A-Long Hot Summer Story Festival fans to be a 2012/13 highlight. So, it is with great excitement that we welcome them back this year, performing The Pond, on Friday, January 17. (There are a couple of tickets left as I write this, but it's looking like another full house).
The company has a fine pedigree; director Peter Wilson was the founding artistic director of the Capital E National Theatre for Children for 13 years. While with Capital E, he created many popular early childhood programmes including - Farm at the End of the Road, Seasons, On our Street and Songs of the Sea - several of which have become national classics. For Little Dog Barking he has created A Sausage Went For a Walk/Party Pigs, The Little Kowhai Tree, Paper Shaper, Paper Plays, Duck, Death and the Tulip, and The Pond. We are grateful they could make time to visit us, as the pace of their schedule shows no signs of letting up in 2014. I talked to Peter Wilson about the exciting year that has been, and the even more exciting one to come.
What does the phrase A-Long Hot Summer Story Festival conjure up for you?
A-Long Hot Summer Story Festival conjures up several weeks of warm sunny days with a pile of books I have been waiting to read. Sitting under a shady tree, with my picnic basket and my pile of books, I wile away the days reading book after book after book. In the evenings I reflect on the pages I have read and the imaginations of the writers who filled those pages with exciting and challenging stories.
Can you give us an account of the adventures you had taking the Little Dog Barking proposal abroad in 2013?
Little Dog Barking Theatre toured our production of Duck, Death and the Tulip [Gecko Press, 2008] to the Nelson Arts Festival and Tauranga Arts Festival during 2013, and is getting very excited in 2014 about being invited to perform Duck, Death and the Tulip in Nanchong - China in June 2014 - for the first Asian Pacific Puppet Festival, Edinburgh in August for the Edinburgh Festival, and back to China in November 2014 to the Shanghai International Arts Festival.
As well as the excitement of working in overseas countries with Duck, Death and the Tulip, Little Dog Barking Theatre will also be performing the production in Auckland and Lower Hutt during 2014. Another production - A Sausage Went for a Walk/Party Pigs - will be touring in the greater Wellington region in first and second term. The brand new production, Rupert, premieres in May of 2014, and will tour throughout the metropolitan region for second, third and fourth terms. Rupert is the story of a boy who is born in a suitcase . Rupert sets off on a journey of discovery to find out who and what he is - and why he was born in a suitcase. Rupert is an original story written by me.
Can you name your top reads of 2013, and what you’re planning to read for 2014?
I have to confess that I had a very busy year, creating new plays, directing and performing in those plays, as well as touring our work to New Plymouth, Hawkes Bay, Nelson, Tauranga and Palmerston North. Very little time was left for reading. I did read an awful ot of children's books, searching for stories that might adapt to the stage - not all stories make good theatre adaptations. One that stood out is Guji Guji [Gecko Press, 2006], which might end up in our 2015 programme. I also re read many of Micheal Murpurgo's books after seeing the stage adaptation of War Horse [various, 1982] in Melbourne. I read most of Gecko Press 's new publications as they come out. I expect that my reading in 2014 will continue to be a menu of the latest children's books with the occassional adult best seller thrown in.
To learn more about Little Dog Barking, download colouring sheets, and hear their music, visit www.littledogbarking.co.nz ; or, if you're one of the lucky ticket-holders, catch them with us this Friday.
Adrian Kirk learned how to do this from a book!
Adrian Kirk is bringing his national sensation, the Reading Rocks! show, to A-Long Hot Summer Story Festival on January 16, at 4.30PM. He's a clown (but not the red-nose kind), a maniac (but not the axe-wielding kind), and an avid reader who swears he learned everything he knows from books. Mere hours before he rocked the Palmerston North new year's eve celebrations, he took a moment to answer some questions for us about topics dear to the hearts of all our Festival fans.
What does the phrase A-Long Hot Summer Story Festival conjure up for you?
Two pictures come to mind...
No. 1) Lying on a white sand beach in the sunshine reading a good book, between cooling off in the sea, eating sandwiches with real sand, and smelling sun tan lotion.
No.2) Sitting in a tent, reading a good book, listening to the rain drumming on the tent whilst the wind whips the flaps, wearing all the clothes in my pack and still being cold and damp!
What were the three best books you read in 2013?
This year I discovered a new favourite author... Michael Robothom. I started with his first novel, The Suspect, and enjoyed it so much I ended up reading everything that he has ever written! So that would be nine of the best books of 2013, but I would also add in Cool, by Michael Morpurgo and The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein.
What are your top three books of all time?
Tricky question. So many books and only allowed to choose three! In no particular order...The World According to Garp, by John Irving, The Bone Collector, by Jeffery Deaver, and The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.
What’s on your reading agenda for 2014?
Hmmm.....Well at the moment I'm reading a book called The Home Buchering Handbook, which is teaching me how to butcher my own meat...
So much for my reassurance about the lack of axe wielding then...
You can learn anything from a book! My mother-in-law gave me the autobiography of Bear Grylls, Mud, Sweat and Tears for Christmas. Not my normal read, but I'll give it a go! At my local library at the moment I have Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden on order. Their last copy eventually fell to pieces, having been read so much, so I'm waiting for the new one to arrive! The other book on my list for 2014 is The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, recommended to me by the Librarian at St Andrews School in Christchurch, when I performed there in 2013.
Eighteen book recommendations in four parargraphs - a pretty fair indication of the way Adrian Kirk rolls. Tickets to his show are going fast, and are available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org while stocks last. Be in quick, because you never know what you might not learn if you're not.
Levity Beet needs little introduction to his legion of fans in Porirua, many of whom have already snapped up tickets to his A-Long Hot Summer Story Festival show on January 15. Equal parts inventor/songwriter/musician/storyteller, he's the kind of recording/performance artist the back-slash key was apparently made for. He combines a talent for reconfiguring trash with wordplay, to invent new instruments like the fizzunkafone, honkytromblasic, and glove pipes. His live performances often work the tales of such creations into stories that introduce songs with titles like 'Sometimes I Make Mistakes', 'Three Mice With 20/20 Vision', and 'Old MacDonald Sold the Farm'. Ultimately, he's a performer with something for everybody, a family entertainer in the best sense of the word, capable of enteraining audiences from 3 to 103. Emailing from his home in Takaka, he talked trash and summer with Bee's Bookish Blog.
What is the most fun you have ever had with a piece of rubbish?
I loved tuning old bar heaters and wiring them up as electric mbiras.
What items are you most partial to rescuing from recycling bins?
Broken musical instruments and plumbing fittings
Have you ever been really surprised by the sound you have managed to generate from a new invention, or does the sound in your mind drive the quest for the materials to make it?
I have often been quite mistaken as to the sound that my ideas will produce, or how the instruments could be played, and its often during the process that I refine ideas or discover new possibilities. Sometimes I spend a long time making 'failed' instruments - but I always learn something new, even if that might be: 'It does not work this way!'
What does the phrase A-long Hot Summer conjure up for you?
Standing waist-deep in the Takaka river, skimming stones and swimming through an enormous school of fish that hangs out under and around the bridge on the highway.
We are running a song lyric competition to celebrate your visit… any tips for the young musician seeking their muse?
Eavesdrop people's conversations in cafes - then use some of their conversation as lyrics.
Take a brisk walk on the beach til you feel your heartbeat getting stronger - use your heartbeat as a rhythm, and hum along with a little tune.
Go to the library blindfolded, reach out, and the first book you touch is the name of your song (I got the Collins Crossword Completer).
Notice what really makes you laugh, cry, rage or surprised, and write about that.
Look up 'cliche' and see if you can avoid it mostly.
Use 'cliches' and give them surprise or unusual endings.
Dance in your pajamas on the trampoline til you are exhausted, then lie down and look at the clouds and see what shapes/songs are already written there.
Fantastic advice from a man who has already been immortalised in the words of one of the song lyric entries we've received so far. To be in to win one of Levity's CDs, simply write a song or lyric using the theme 'A-Long Hot Summer Story', and email your entry - along with your name, age and postal address - to email@example.com, with the subject line 'Levity', by January 17. You can order free tickets to his show on January 15 by emailing the same address, or asking at Porirua Library's junior desk. See you on the dancefloor!
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