Category Archives: authors

2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults: Interview with Donovan Bixley

Donovan Bixley’s book Little Red Riding Hood … Not Quite, written by Yvonne Morrison, has been voted for by kids all over New Zealand as a finalist in the Children’s Choice Picture Book  category. Little Red is also on the judge’s finalist list. Donovan and Yvonne collaborated last year, on the Children’s Choice award-winning The Three Bears (Sort Of), and here is the interview that Booksellers NZ had with him last year. https://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/finalist-interview-the-illustration-of-the-three-bears-sort-of-by-donovan-bixley/

This is just one of three titles that Donovan has had recognised in the 2015 Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and two of these – this and Dragon Knight: Fire! are also in the children’s choice category. For that reason, this interview covered both books.

  •  What was your approach to illustrating Little Red Riding Hood…Not Quite – was it any easier than with The Three Bears?

Three Bears was a real head spinner, simply trying to figure out how on earth to illustrate the manuscript. I worried that it was all going to be a big mess of different styles and not hold together visually. Well, with last year’s award, obviously it seemed to have worked – so Red Riding Hood was much easier in that regard. However, it’s a tricky business doing a sequel. I figure a sequel should be more of the same, but different. So that’s what I tried to do.

  • What are the challenges and advantages of working on illustrations for authors who you have worked with prior?

I can usually see the finished book clearly in my head, and I forget that others aren’t telepathic. One of the best things about working with authors again and again is that I can just do a messy scribble, and they know what I mean because they’ve seen previously the process of how I can turn that little scribble into a finished painting. It saves lots of time and explaining.

  • Does how you illustrate junior fiction differ from how you illustrate a picture book? How do you target children in each age bracket with illustration?

For any book I try to expand and reinforce what the words are saying. But then I always like to stick in lots of little additions to discover. Some for adults and some for kids – as long as they don’t overwhelm the story that needs to be told on that page. For example, in Dragon Knight you might see Foole in the background (who strikes a remarkable resemblance to the idiotic Shlok from Dinosaur Rescue), although he’s not actually a character in the story. Similarly, Red Riding Hood contains dozens of hidden surprises – ‘hidden’ because I don’t want them to overshadow the flow of the story.

The main difference, is that in a picture book, the words are often reduced down to elegant and evocative sentences, meaning that the pictures carry a lot of the practical storytelling (the who, where, when, how). On the other hand, in a chapter book, the words are doing a lot more practical storytelling, which allows the pictures to do things which aren’t pure storytelling. So in Dragon Knight I can create all sorts of funny asides that expand upon the world of the actual story, like: ‘Dragon Illnesses’; or ‘Common Knight School Injuries’. On top of that, a chapter book has a lot of pages to fill. The text generally takes up about a quarter of the 96 pages. With all that space, I have a lot more freedom to control how the story flows, with dynamic reveals and page-turning surprises.

Of course I also try to do that in a picture book, but you have limited options with only 32 pages.

  • Can you recommend any books for children who love your style of illustration?

I love stories that have a lot to discover. A reason to go back again and again. Sometimes I look at favourite books I had as a kid and discover a joke that makes sense now I’m all growed up. Asterix, and Graham Oakley’s Church Mice series are examples of superb storytelling with pictures. They are jam-packed with funny references to things which you may not understand for years. Harder to find is anything by Mordillo, like his Crazy Crazy Jungle Life. Mordillo was a master of the wordless book. Another of my favourites is Bill Peet, if you can track down his marvelous books like How Droofus the Dragon Lost his Head, Wump World, or Burford the Little Bighorn. Bill Peet was one of the original founders of Disney and he worked on Dumbo before having a fall-out with Walt Disney and starting a second career in children’s books.

  • What advice would you give any would-be illustrator?

Absorb what other illustrators do. Figure out what you like and don’t like (and why) then develop your own ideas – that’s what makes you a unique artist. A picture book illustrator is different from other types of artist – you don’t need to be the best drawer or painter, instead you need to be a great storyteller.

  • What do you find yourself drawing when you aren’t working, perhaps when you are just thinking something through

If I’m mindlessly doodling tend to draw little swirling lines, usually with pointy arrow heads for some reason. It takes about a year before the pad on my drawing desk ends up completely covered with these squiggles and gets thrown away. It’s not the type of thing I normally keep.

I don’t really do any drawings are not ‘work’. I’m not the type of artist who secretly longs to paint landscapes or abstract art. I love the art form of the picture book, it’s my artistic obsession, so that’s what I do for fun. When I’m not working on ‘work’, all my spare time is devoted to scribbling research pictures, reference compositions and doodles for projects that I hope will be published one day. Usually these books start as something that I want to draw pictures of – I wrote Monkey Boy so I could draw pictures of 19th century warships, battles and ghastly ghouls. The only thing I draw outside of picture books are my family. I have quite a collection of drawings and paintings of my three daughters.

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If you want to know more about Donovan, check out his website here: http://www.donovanbixley.com/

For reviews of Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite), check out the Booksellers NZ review here: http://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/book-review-little-red-riding-hood-not-quite-by-yvonne-morrison-illustrated-by-donovan-bixley/

And my review here on the blog.

This is day seven of the blog tour featuring each of the finalists in the Children’s Choice category of the awards. Later today, I will post Yvonne Morrison’s answers to the author’s interview for  this title.  Yesterday’s feature was I am not a Worm, by Scott Tulloch, whose interview can be found here: http://thriftygifty.blogspot.co.nz/2015/07/nz-book-awards-for-children-and-young_2.html.  Monday’s feature will be our third picture book, Doggy Ditties from A to Z, by Jo van Dam and Myles Lawford will be covered back on Thrifty Gifty http://thriftygifty.blogspot.co.nz/.

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Chris Riddell – Children’s Laureate 2015-2017

It was fantastic to wake up to the news that Chris Riddell has been named the UK Children’s Laureate for 2015-2017.  Chris is the nineth laureate and follows in the footsteps of such giants of the children’s literature world as Malorie Blackman, Michael Morpurgo, Anthony Brown and Anne Fine. Chris Riddell is a fantastic illustrator who has worked with Neil Gaiman, Russell Brand, Martin Jenkins, and most notably with Paul Stewart on their Edge Chronicles series. Has also written and illustrated his own books, including the Ottoline series, the Goth Girl series, and the picture books The Emperor of Absurdia and Wendel’s Workshop.

His plan for his two-year post as Children’s Laureate is to encourage people to draw every day, he’ll post a daily illustration on his online ‘laureate log,’ and he wants to “to celebrate librarians at the heart of our schools.”

If you don’t follow Chris Riddell online you really should.  He posts some of his wonderful illustrations to his Facebook and Twiiter pages.  Follow him or http://www.facebook.com/chris.riddell2.

Check out the Love Reading 4 Kids UK Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/lovereading4kids) as Chris has illustrated each of the previous Children’s Laureates .  They are absolutely wonderful illustrations!

Here is my virtual book display of some great books by Chris Riddell.

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I Can’t Wait For…Soon by Morris Gleitzman

Morris Gleitzman’s Once , and the sequels Then, Now and After, are some of my favourite books.  As soon as I started reading Felix’s story I felt like he was my best friend and I wanted everything to work out for him.  If you haven’t read this brilliant series yet (you really should) it’s about Felix, a boy growing up in Poland during World War Two.  His story is heartbreaking and harrowing and Morris Gleitzman really tugs on your heartstrings.  I wrote a post back in 2013 about the books that hold a special place in my heart and these books certainly do.

I heard Morris Gleitzman talk at the Auckland Writers Festival about Felix and his story.  Morris told us that he’s not ready to let Felix go yet (which I can totally understand) and that he has 7 books planned in this sequence.  That means we still have 3 books to look forward to about Felix.  The next book in the sequence is Soon, coming this month from Penguin Random House.  Here is the blurb:

I hoped the Nazis would be defeated.
And they were.

I hoped the war would be over.
And it was.

I hoped we would be safe.
But we aren’t.

Soon continues the incredibly moving story of Felix, a Jewish boy still struggling to survive in the wake of the liberation of Poland after the end of World War Two.

I can’t wait to read Soon to find out what happens to Felix next!

What are your thoughts on the series?  Have you read them?

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2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults Finalists

colour-logo-rgb-large1It’s finally here – the day I can shout about the wonderful books that we have chosen as the finalists in the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.  It was a mammoth task, reading our way through 120 or so books, to choose just 20 to be named the best books for children and young adults in New Zealand from last year.  It was incredibly difficult choosing only 20 books but we believe we’ve chosen the best books in each category and I’m looking forward to all the events during festival week that will celebrate these books, authors and illustrators.

Congratulations to all the finalist authors!  Check out the list below.

Picture Books

  • Machines and Me: Boats by Catherine Foreman
  • The Boring Book by Vasanti Unka
  • The Three Bears (Sort of) by Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Donovan Bixley
  • Toucan Can by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Sarah Davis
  • Watch Out, Snail! by Gay Hay, illustrated by Margaret Tolland

Junior Fiction

  • A Winter’s Day in 1939 by Melinda Szymanik
  • Dunger by Joy Cowley
  • Felix and the Red Rats by James Norcliffe
  • Project Huia by Des Hunt
  • The Princess and the Foal by Stacy Gregg

Young Adult Fiction

  • A Necklace of Souls by RL Stedman
  • Bugs by Whiti Hereaka
  • Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox
  • Speed Freak by Fleur Beale
  • When We Wake by Karen Healey

Non Fiction

  • An Extraordinary Land by Peter Hayden and Rod Morris
  • Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry
  • Flight of the Honeybee by Raymond Huber, illustrated by Brian Lovelock
  • Beginner’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Paul Adamson
  • Wearable Wonders by Fifi Colston

Maori Language Award

  • Taka Ki Ro Wai by Keri Kaa and Martin D Page

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Timmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done by Stephan Pastis

Clueless detective Timmy Failure is back on the case in his latest book, Now Look What You’ve Done.

He doesn t like to pull rank. To reveal that he s this guy: Timmy Failure, founder, president, and CEO of the greatest detective agency in town, perhaps the nation. But he is. And he s about to crack the biggest case of his generation: a school competition to find a stolen globe. It s his ticket to bringing home a $500 prize, which is guaranteed to set him up for life. But someone is clearly trying to game the system. Hoodwink. Con. Defraud. So it s up to Timmy Failure, with the dubious help of Total, his lazy polar-bear partner, and his unlikely new ally, eccentric Great Aunt Colander, to find a way to avenge these shenanigans. Defeat this injustice. If he can only get his entry form in on time.

If you’re looking for a book full of ‘greatness,’ ‘shenanigans,’ quirky characters and antics that will make you laugh out loud, then Now Look What You’ve Done is the book for you.  Timmy’s latest shenanigans have everything I loved about the first book, but even sillier.  There’s more Molly Moskins, more Total (Timmy’s 1500 pound polar bear partner), more Corrina Corrina (aka The Wedgie or The Weevil Bun), but there are also hilarious new characters, like Timmy’s Great-Aunt Colander (inventor of the Boom-Boom Shoe Wheel).  Stephan’s cartoons are hilarious and add extra humour to the text.  I love the way that they capture Timmy’s somewhat strange outlook on the world.

The thing I love the most about the Timmy Failure books is the language that Timmy uses.  He sounds like a hard-boiled detective, even when he’s talking to his mum.  Kids who read these books will certainly increase their vocabulary.

Timmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done is perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate.  It has been kid-tested and passed with flying colours.  I read both of the Timmy Failure books to my 10 year old boys and they absolutely love them.  I often hear them quoting things from the books.

Grab a copy from your library or bookshop now.

 

 

 

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Wonderful collections for little New Zealanders

Random House New Zealand have just released two new collections of stories for young New Zealanders.  Stories for 6 Year Olds and Stories for 7 Year Olds are chock full of short stories by some of our best local authors, and they’ve been specifically chosen for these age groups.

In these two books you’ll find stories by Kate de Goldi, Barbara Else, Margaret Mahy, David Hill, Sandy McKay, along with some talented new authors.  The stories are a mixture of the ordinary and the extraordinary, and about all sorts of things, from pets to monsters, climbing trees to camping.

They’re perfect books for their age groups, with a font size that’s appropriate and appealing stories.  They can be read by the children themselves or read aloud by parents or teachers.  There is something for every reader in these wonderful collections.

 

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Guest Post: Juliet Jacka on Night of the Perigee Moon

Think up your best insult, and be in to win a copy of Juliet Jacka’s award-winning Night of the Perigee Moon.

Do you like magical talents, talking cats, dogs and bats? Or how about fantastical feasts, yo-yo masters and entomologists in the making?

Then my book’s for you. Here’s the blurb.

All Tilly Angelica wants for her thirteenth birthday is to be normal! But with her changeover party looming and her mad, magical family gathering from near and far, Tilly is set to inherit a terrifying or tantalising talent of her own. But what if she inherits Hortense’s talent of super-smelling, with an oversize nose to match?

As the enchanted Angelicas gather and Arial Manor becomes a madhouse, Tilly’s troubles are tripled by her creepy cousin Prosper, and his sinister plot to bewitch the family by harnessing the powers of the Perigee Moon.

Halfway through the book, my heroine Tilly has to come up with a hit list of inventive insults. Here are three of her favourite ones.

“You’re an ox, an ass, a slubberdegullion!”

“You belligerent fleck of llama spit.”

“Earth vexing hedge pig.”

Can you come up with something similar? Send me your best one-liners (no rude words, thanks!), and the winner gets a free, signed copy of my book.

Have fun! Get inventive. Then email me at nightofperigeemoon@gmail.com

Juliet
Night of the Perigee Moon, winner of the 2013 Tom Fitzgibbon Award.

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Winners of the 2014 ALA Youth Media Awards

The winners of the 2014 American Library Association (ALA) Youth Media Awards were announced yesterday in the US.  These awards, which include the prestigious Newbery, Caldecott and Printz awards, are presented to the top books, video and audio books for children and young adults.  Here is the list of the 2014 award winners:

  • John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures,” written by Kate DiCamillo.

Four Newbery Honor Books also were named: “Doll Bones,” written by Holly Black; “The Year of Billy Miller,” written by Kevin Henkes; “One Came Home,” written by Amy Timberlake; and “Paperboy,” written by Vince Vawter.

  • Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

“Locomotive,”  by Brian Floca and illustrated by Brian Floca.

Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named: “Journey,” written and illustrated by Aaron Becker; “Flora and the Flamingo,” written and illustrated by Molly Idle; and “Mr. Wuffles!” written and illustrated by David Wiesner.

  • Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:

“Midwinterblood,” written by Marcus Sedgwick, is the 2014 Printz Award winner.

Four Printz Honor Books also were named: “Eleanor & Park,” written by Rainbow Rowell; “Kingdom of Little Wounds,” written by Susann Cokal; “Maggot Moon,” written by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Julian Crouch; and “Navigating Early,” written by Clare Vanderpool.

  • Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults:

Markus Zusak is the 2014 Edwards Award winner. His books include: “The Book Thief” and “I Am the Messenger,” and “Getting the Girl” and “Fighting Ruben Wolfe.”

  • May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award recognizing an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children’s literature, who then presents a lecture at a winning host site:

Brian Selznick will deliver the 2015 lecture.

Author and illustrator Brian Selznick graduated from Rhode Island School of Design intending to be a set designer for the theater, but a stint at Eeyore’s children’s bookstore in New York City changed his mind and his first book was published while working there. He left to pursue a full-time career in children’s book illustration, but he still designs theater sets and is a professional puppeteer. Among his award-winning works are illustrations for two Sibert Honor Books and a Caldecott Honor Book. His groundbreaking “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” was awarded the 2008 Caldecott Medal.

  • Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children:

“Parrots over Puerto Rico,” written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, and illustrated by Susan L. Roth, is the Sibert Award winner.

Four  Sibert Honor Books were named: “A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin,” written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; “Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard,” written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate; “Locomotive,” written and illustrated by Brian Floca; and “The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius,” written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan.

  • Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished book for beginning readers:

“The Watermelon Seed,” written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli, is the Geisel Award winner.

Three Geisel Honor Books were named: “Ball,” written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan; “A Big Guy Took My Ball!” written and illustrated by Mo Willems ; and “Penny and Her Marble,” written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes.

  • YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults:

“The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi,” written by Neal Bascomb, is the 2014 Excellence winner.

Four other books were finalists for the award: “Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design,” written by Chip Kidd ; “Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II,” written by Martin W. Sandler; “Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers,” written by Tanya Lee Stone; and “The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy,” written by James L. Swanson.

For the full list of ALA award winners you can read the press release on the ALA website.

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Win Pinocchio by Michael Morpurgo

“Now – there’s no point in pretending here – I was, and still am deep down, a puppet. Everyone knows Pinocchio is a puppet. I reckon I must be just about the most famous puppet the world has ever known. But the truth is I’m not just a puppet, I’m more than just bits of wood and string. I’m me. So I thought it was about time that I, Pinocchio, told you my story…”

So begins this stunningly beautiful interpretation of the classic story. Michael Morpurgo channels Pinocchio’s words to tell the famous puppet’s story in his own inimitable, cheeky and always funny way.

To celebrate Michael Morpurgo Month I’m giving away 2 copies of Michael Morpurgo’s latest book, his retelling of the classic story, Pinocchio.  It’s a beautiful little book, with colour illustrations by Emma Chichester Clark.  Even if you’ve read the story of Pinocchio before, you won’t have heard Pinocchio’s story quite like this.  Michael Morpurgo has a great way of bringing classic stories alive and retelling them in a way that is unique and entertaining.

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winners are Stephanie and Vicki.

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More Than This by Patrick Ness

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Patrick Ness.  He’s one of my favourite authors and I love everything he writes, whether it’s for adults or teens.  It’s been a particularly good year for fans of Patrick this year, as he’s published two books, one for adults, called The Crane Wife and a Young Adult book called More Than This.  The thought of a new Patrick Ness book always gets me excited, because I never know quite what to expect.  When Patrick revealed the details about More Than This, he gave just enough to whet reader’s appetites but left you with a huge sense of mystery.  When I picked up my copy of the book, Patrick hooked me in straight away and it haunted me right until the end.

A boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonising memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this.

More Than This is a tense, suspense-filled read that haunts you, so that every waking minute you are thinking about the story and trying to figure out what’s happening.  It’s one of those stories that is very difficult to explain to people without ruining the story for everyone.  I haven’t felt so obsessed with a book in a long time, wanting to just loose myself in the story and help Seth reveal the mystery of the world in which he finds himself.  Just when you think you’ve figured out what’s happening, the story takes a completely different turn.

Patrick Ness is brilliant at creating suspense (fans of his Chaos Walking Trilogy are familiar with this) and there are plenty of cliff-hangar endings in More Than This. There were so many times that I finished a chapter and had to immediately go onto the next to find out what happened.  I’m sure there were times when my colleagues wondered where I had disappeared to.  There were a couple of times where I cursed Patrick Ness out loud.  He really knows how to keep you addicted to a story!

Like his other books, Patrick has created very real characters who you feel for and are rooting for.  You follow Seth’s journey to find out what has happened to him, while at the same time, putting together the pieces of his life and discovering what led him here in the first place.

One of my favourite things about More Than This is the ending, which leaves the story open, but left me totally satisfied.

I can’t recommend Patrick Ness’ books highly enough and More Than This is one of his best.  He just keeps getting better and better.  Grab a copy of More Than This now. You won’t regret it!

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