Category Archives: New Zealand author

Ngā Atua: Maori Gods by Robyn Kahukiwa

There are some fantastic books of Maori myths that have been published.  Authors and illustrators like Gavin Bishop, Ron Bacon and Peter Gossage have brought these stories to generations of New Zealand children.  The Moana movie has recently brought Maori and Pacific mythology in to the spotlight, with children showing extra interest in these stories.  Renowned New Zealand artist, Robyn Kahukiwa has just published a fantastic book with Oratia Books that focuses on the gods from Maori mythology, called Ngā Atua: Maori Gods.

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Ngā Atua is the perfect book to introduce young children to the Maori gods.  It’s the sort of book that preschool teachers have been crying out for, as it is a picture book that introduces Maori gods with a simple text and bold illustrations.  The book introduces children to Tāne, Hine-te-iwaiwa, Tangaroa, Mahuika, Māui and many others.  Robyn Kahukiwa tells the stories of the gods and what they are responsible for.  Each of the illustrations that accompany the text perfectly capture the gods and their power.

Ngā Atua: Maori Gods is a beautiful book that will be loved by children across New Zealand.  It will be a book that will be read and enjoyed again and again and will be an invaluable resource for teachers.  I’m sure it will spark an interest in Maori mythology and encourage children to seek out the myths that have been brought to life by other authors and illustrators.

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Feel A Little: Little poems about big feelings by Jenny Palmer and Evie Kemp

There are lots of picture books around that deal with feelings.  They help young children to understand their feelings and relate them to different situations.  I recently discovered a New Zealand book that I think is one of the best for helping explain feelings to children.  It is called Feel A Little: Little poems about big feelings, written by Jenny Palmer and illustrated by Evie Kemp.

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Feel A Little is a book full of poems for children that help to explain different emotions.  There are poems about Happy and Sad, Angry and Confused, but also poems about Silly, Nervous, Curious and Shy.  Each emotion has a double page spread and is explained in a short poem on one page and an illustration on the other.  Confident, for example has a poem that starts, ‘Sometimes you feel small inside, too awkward to be you.  But other days you strut, you smile, you let the you shine through,’ and is accompanied by a colourful, smiling blob shape that shines bright.

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I love, love, LOVE this book!  It is a wonderful little book that I think all parents and teachers need to own and should be in all school libraries.  It’s a great book to have on hand whenever you need to help a child understand how they are feeling.  Each of the poems and illustrations perfectly captures the emotions and explains them in a way that children will be able to understand.  The poems are a joy to read aloud and the illustrations are fun.  It’s the sort of book that I could see teachers using with young children, getting the children to create their own pictures of emotions or even act out the emotions.

Go out and get a copy of Feel A Little and tell any parents, teachers and librarians you know about it.

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Wars in the Whitecloud: Wairau, 1843 by M.H. McKinley

One of the things I love the most about the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is that it always introduces me to New Zealand books that I hadn’t heard of.  One of the gems that I’ve discovered from the shortlist is M.H. McKinley’s brilliant graphic novel, Wars in the Whitecloud: Wairau, 1843.

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Wairau, 1843 is the first in the Wars in the Whitecloud graphic novel series that vividly brings to life important events in the early interactions between Maori and Pakeha.  This first book portrays the ill-fated meeting between early settlers and the Ngati-Toa tribe at Wairau in 1843.  It was a short but violent and bloody conflict and the author hasn’t shied away from portraying this.  M.H. McKinley stays true to these historic events while bringing to life both Maori and Pakeha figures who played a part in the conflict.  There are also extensive historical notes at the back of the book so that you can learn more about the events and the people involved.

As someone who loves both New Zealand history and graphic novels I absolutely love this book!  I loved studying New Zealand history when I was in high school and this is the sort of book that I needed.  Secondary school Social Science teachers all over New Zealand need to have this book put in their hands. It is an invaluable resource to make history come alive, not just for teenagers but adults as well.

The art is stunning throughout, with realistic depictions of Maori and Pakeha.  I especially like the art and layout of the front cover, which reminded me of a movie poster.  The only thing I didn’t like about the book was that there wasn’t enough of a margin throughout the book, meaning that you have to really pull the pages apart sometimes to read the text.

Wars in the Whitecloud: Wairau, 1843 is a finalist in the Best First Book Category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and it is certainly a winning book in my opinion.

 

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Grandad’s Guitar by Janine McVeagh and Fifi Colston

Sharing stories is an important part of our whakapapa. We share stories so that those who came before us are remembered and celebrated. Some of these stories lend themselves well to being made into a book that can be shared with people all over the world.  Janine McVeagh’s story of her husband and the connection that he made with their grandson through his guitar is one of these stories. In Grandad’s Guitar, Janine brings her family’s story to life with the help of Fifi Colston’s wonderful illustrations.

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Kahu receives a battered, old guitar for his birthday. He would much rather have a shiny new one, but as his grandmother tells him the story of this guitar Kahu learns how to play the instrument and learns of his connection to his grandad. The guitar once belonged to his grandad who took it all over the world, along with his grandma. They traveled to England, France and Greece before coming home through Iran, Afghanistan and India. The guitar may look old and battered but it is quite a treasure that is now Kahu’s.

Grandad’s Guitar is a fantastic story that celebrates music and its power to connect people across countries and generations.  It shows the importance of sharing family stories to keep the memories of those who are no longer with us alive.  Janine’s storytelling makes you feel like you are a member of the family listening to her story.

I love the look and feel of this book. Makaro Press have done a wonderful job with the production of the book.  The paper is thick and the illustrations are glossy so you almost feel like you are holding Fifi’s original illustrations in your hands. Fifi’s illustrations take you back in time to the 60s, showing the fashion of the times and showing the different cultures through the food and clothing.  I especially love the music notes that flow through the illustrations.

This is a great book to share with children young and old. It’s an especially good book to use in a classroom because you could explore many different aspects of the story, from music and its ability to connect people, to family stories and how these are passed down the generations, or even looking at the different cultures that Kahu’s grandparents visit on their travels with the guitar.  With Matariki just around the corner I think this is the perfect book to share, as one of the things we celebrate at Matariki is our whakapapa.

Makaro Press have also created some wonderful teacher’s notes to go with the book too – http://www.makaropress.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Final-Teachers-Notes-Grandads-Guitar.pdf

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Here come the Miniwings!

Miniwings is a terrific new series by Sally Sutton and illustrated by Kirsten Richards that I have to rave about.  The first two books in this new series have just been released and I can’t get enough of them.  I want my own set of Miniwings!

The Miniwings series is about two sisters, Clara and Sophia, and the mischievous little Miniwings (think My Little Pony toys that come alive whenever it’s just them and the girls).  There is Moonlight (a unicorn who loves his food), Glitterwing (who rains glitter when she flaps her huge, sparkly wings), Whizz (a fast little pony who loves playing tricks), Comet (a show-jumping and dressage star who hates losing), Firestorm (who is brave and a little bossy) and Oceana (who is loves the water and is very messy).  They love to have fun and play tricks so they are always getting Clara and Sophia in to trouble.

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Glitterwing’s Book Week Blunder is about Clara and Sophia getting ready for Book Week at their school.  They meet their favourite author and try to make their book character costumes, with a little help from the Miniwings.

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In Whizz’s Internet Oopsie, the Miniwings discover the internet and the marvels of shopping online.  When they are left at home while the girls go to school the Miniwings find Mum’s credit card and go shopping.  When deliveries start turning up on their doorstep Clara and Sophia have to figure out how to sort out the mess, especially when one of their surprise packages is a goat.

I love everything about these books!  The covers are really eye-catching, with their appealing colours and sparkly stars, so you just know that girls in particular are going to be desperate to get their hands on them.  The Miniwings themselves are adorable but also super mischievous.  They each have very different personalities and Kirsten Richards shows this in her stunning illustrations.   Sally Sutton’s stories are so much fun to read and I know that kids are going to read these books over and over.  Sally has a lot of fun with language and has created her own Miniwing-ese.  The Miniwings  like to use words like ‘noggin-flash’ (idea) and ‘delishy’ (tasty).  The Miniwings also like to burst in to song throughout the story which made me laugh every time.

The Miniwings series are perfect for young readers who are just getting in to chapter books.  These fun, engaging stories are sure to hook young readers on books for life.  I can’t wait to see what the Miniwings get up to next!

 

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Flying Furballs: Unmasked by Donovan Bixley

Claude D’Bonair and his cat friends are back for their third Flying Furballs adventure in Unmasked.  Donovan Bixley’s Flying Furballs series is one of the best series for young readers around.  The stories are packed with action, close shaves, puns to make you laugh-out-loud, brave cats and horrid dogs.  They are perfect for newly independent readers because there are lots of Donovan’s wonderful illustrations throughout the story and they are just really fun to read.

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Claude D’Bonair is the heroic, young pilot in the CATS Air Corps, who you follow on his adventures in to DOGZ territory.  He flies all over Europe to try and foil the DOGZ plans and rescue fellow cats.  In the latest book in the series, Unmasked, Claude and Manx, CATs’ head engineer, have to go on an undercover mission to Venice to recover some secret plans.  With great escapes, explosions and marvelous inventions, Unmasked is another thrilling story in this fantastic series.

Flying Furballs is hugely popular in my library and I’m always trying to get new kids hooked.  The series is especially great for 7-9 year olds and they would be fantastic stories to read aloud to a Year 3/4 class.  I can’t wait to read more Flying Furballs adventures!

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Ruru’s Hangi by Nikki Slade Robinson

Nikki Slade Robinson’s award-winning picture book, The Little Kiwi’s Matariki, is my favourite book to read around Matariki.  In this book Nikki Slade Robinson introduced young children to Matariki through Kiwi and his friends in a simple yet fun way, using a mixture of English and te reo in the text.  In Nikki’s latest book, Ruru’s Hangi, she introduces young children to the concept of a hangi as the creatures celebrate the arrival of Ruru’s babies.

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Ruru has been sitting on her eggs for 30 days and 30 nights and on day 31 the eggs wriggle and hatch.  Kiwi hears Ruru’s elated cries and goes to tell the other creatures in the forest.  Kiwi has an idea to celebrate the arrival of Ruru’s babies and gets the other creatures to help out.  They dig a hole and gather all of the things that they need to make a hangi.  When the hangi is ready they call Ruru and they share the kai together to celebrate.

Ruru’s Hangi is a perfect introduction to the hangi for young children and is another wonderful bilingual text from Nikki Slade Robinson that is great to share with young children, especially preschoolers.  Nikki introduces children to native birds and creatures, like the Tui, Katipo and Weka who all help to prepare the hangi. Nikki’s illustrations are fun with each of the creatures having a distinct personality.  The Te Reo used is basic and weaves effortlessly in with the English, so this is a great book to share even if you know very little Te Reo.  Nikki uses lots of repetition in the text, like:

‘Ka pai, perfect!’ they said. Shhh! Don’t tell Ruru!’

Nikki ends the book with a simple explanation of how to prepare a hangi, just like the creatures in the book have done.  Ruru’s Hangi is a invaluable resource for early childhood centres and schools.  It is a book that will be used by teachers and librarians around the country but also a book that children will love.  Anyone who is looking for a wonderful bilingual story to share with their children should get a copy of Ruru’s Hangi.

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Lonesome When You Go Blog Tour – Interview with Saradha Koirala

Saradha Koirala is the author of the wonderful Lonesome When You Go, a YA novel that follows Paige and her high school rock band in the lead up to Rockfest.  To help spread the word about Saradha’s book, her publisher, Makaro Press has set up a blog tour.  I’m very pleased to be part of the Lonesome When You Go blog tour and today I get to share my interview that I did with Saradha about her book.  Thanks for joining me Saradha!

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  • What inspired you to write Lonesome When You Go?

I was on a train heading out to Johnsonville to see my brother and his oldest friend and just started thinking about when we all played in a band together in high school and what an excellent and tumultuous time that was in the midst of all the other dramas that those years can throw at you.

I wrote the briefest idea out on a scrap of paper there and then and talked to them about it when I arrived. We had a good old reminisce!

Our high school band’s rise and fall was pretty ordinary really and I wanted the story to be much more dramatic than that. It was a chance to revisit that time but I also ended up amalgamating a bunch of different high school experiences – as student and teacher – and a whole lot of rock and roll times, real and imagined. It seemed like a fun concept and it did turn out to be a lot of fun to write.

Being a high school teacher lent itself quite naturally to wanting to write for teenagers too, and I had an idea of what I thought some of the young women I’d been teaching might want to read about – a cool rock chick who isn’t fixated on a mysterious sparkly boy!

  • What are the songs that shaped teenage you?

I spent a lot of my early teen years listening to whatever I could find in the house, which was mostly popular tunes from the 60, 70s and 80s. It wasn’t until people started giving me mixed tapes and I could buy my own CDs that I really saw how music could change my views of self and shape my teenage identity.

Radiohead, Violent Femmes, Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Jr, Stone Temple Pilots and Shihad were often on high rotation in my CD player. Music is much easier to access these days, but back then I really got to know the few albums I owned inside out! I would analyse the lyrics, read the liner notes, talk to my friends about them, sing along and all that.

I really think those bands of the mid-nineties tapped into a collective feeling that teenagers hadn’t been able to vocalise yet. They gave us permission to feel moody and outraged, while also acknowledging the sweetness we desired from the world. But it’s been a long time since I was a teenager, so maybe that’s Paige talking.

  • What genre of music best sums up your life?

Some days I would say it’s been a bittersweet folk album in the vein of Joni Mitchel’s Blue, but mostly I like to look at life as an Indie pop band full of cheesy catchy lyrics, bright colourful beats and frivolous synthesizers.

If Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan could write a soundtrack for the novel then everything in the world would make sense to me!

Actually I say that because I think he’s a master of creating story and character in very few words, but his music probably isn’t quite garage rock enough to capture the rock and roll aspect of the book.

So in that case, I’d say The Pixies. I kind of had The Pixies in the back of my mind as I described Vox Pop playing and I think they’re just an incredible band with a totally kick-ass bass player.

  • What is the most important lesson that you learned from being in a band?

Because I tend to be quite a self-sufficient person and my favourite things to do (writing and reading) are largely solo tasks, I think playing in bands taught me how to be part of something beyond myself. I never really played team sports, but was always in school orchestras, choirs, chamber music groups and, later on, rock bands.

In all those groups we had competitions to work towards, tours to organise, performances in front of sometimes many, but often very small audiences, rehearsals to get to on time and other band members to consider when making decisions and playing. It isn’t enough to just learn your part well and play it through, you really need to tap into what everyone else is doing and how they’re going, what they need and how what you’re doing affects all of that.

  • As well as being the author of Lonesome When You Go you’re also a poet.  Is the process of writing a novel similar to writing poetry for you?

They’re really very different processes for me and I’ve continued to do both simultaneously since finishing Lonesome. I enjoy being able to shift between the different forms.

When writing a novel I find I can set myself much more tangible goals – 1000 words a day, complete a particular scene etc. It’s a more continuous process too, as you’re developing and building on what you wrote last time and thinking about where you left your characters and what might happen to them next. With a novel there’s a lot of planning involved (for me, anyway) and behind the scenes stuff that helps inform my picture of the characters and their world.

I find poetry more difficult to describe in terms of a process as I’m less systematic about it. The poems come from everywhere and sometimes when I least expect them. I find I need to be open to poetry’s own schedule rather than try and force out a number of lines a day or give myself a deadline to complete something. Poetry doesn’t have to stay within a certain world or voice either, so there’s less need for continuity or meeting reader expectations.

The crafting process is probably similar for both. I think you need to be able to look at the world in a certain way to be a poet, and it’s a way of seeing the world that I really value.

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New Dinosaur Trouble series from Mewburn and Bixley

I’m always on the lookout for great series for young readers who are just starting chapter books.  Sally Rippin’s Billie B Brown and Hey Jack series and James Roy’s Chook Doolan series are always flying off the shelf.  I was really excited to hear that Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley were releasing some new adventures of Arg, the brainy caveboy from their Dinosaur Rescue series, but aimed at beginner readers.  The Great Egg Stink, the first book in their new Dinosaur Trouble series is out now and it is a whole lot of disgusting fun!

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Arg is bored waiting for his mum to bring home some food.  When his mum returns with armfuls of eggs Arg discovers that one of the eggs might hold something he doesn’t want to eat.  Things are about to go from boring to exciting and a bit dangerous, especially if Arg’s sister Hng finds his egg.

The Great Egg Stink is a great intro to the wacky prehistoric world of Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley.  It’s the perfect chapter book for beginner readers, with a simple but entertaining text and heaps of Donovan’s wonderful illustrations.  Like their Dinosaur Rescue series, this new series is full of disgusting details that boys will love and plenty of laughs.  There are farts, vomit and  (my favourite part) an exploding mastadon.

The thing I love the most about the books that Kyle and Donovan create together are the puns.  They don’t disappoint, starting with puns about the ‘web’ and Arg’s ‘tablet.’  They don’t dumb anything down for these younger readers, which makes this series a perfect one to hook kids on reading.

We need more of these clever, engaging early chapter books for young readers so I hope that we see more series like Dinosaur Trouble.  I can’t wait to promote Dinosaur Trouble to the young readers at my school.

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Who Sank the Boat? and Other Stories by Pamela Allen

I love Pamela Allen’s stories.  My parents read them to me when I was young and now I read them to my daughter.  Her stories have stood the test of time and Pamela is still writing and illustrating new stories today.  Penguin Random House New Zealand have just released a beautifully packed collection of Pamela Allen’s stories just in time for Christmas.

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Who Sank the Boat? and Other Stories is a hardback collection of just some of Pamela Allen’s best stories.  Inside you’ll find Who Sank the Boat?, My Cat Maisie, Belinda, Alexander’s Outing, Brown Bread and Honey, Daisy All-Sorts, Grandpa and Thomas, Cuthbert’s Babies and Share Said the Rooster.  There is also some information at the start of the book about Pamela Allen and the many awards that she has won throughout the years.

This is collection to curl up with and share with the young ones in your life.  It’s the perfect gift book to put under the Christmas tree and it is a book that will be shared again and again.  I will certainly enjoy re-living my memories of Pamela Allen’s stories with my daughter as we try to figure out who did sink the boat, how to get Belinda back and try to teach Billy and Ben to share.

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