Category Archives: New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards

Judges Diary: Highlights so far

N.B. All views and opinions expressed in this post are my own.  They in no way reflect those of the 2014 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards judging committee.

It’s now three weeks since I got my first lot of books that were submitted for next year’s New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  I’ve been mixing up my reading, switching between junior fiction and young adult fiction.  So far, I’ve been really impressed with the quality of the writing and the range of genres represented.  Deborah Burnside’s Rebecca and the Queen of Nations transported me back in time, Vince Ford’s Scrap: Tale of a Blond Puppy introduced me to the life of a sheep-dog, I spent a week in a hut with no power in Joy Cowley’s Dunger, and I met a young Odysseus in Catherine Mayo’s Murder at Mykenai.  One of my favourites so far has been Bugs by Whiti Hereaka, a Young Adult book about the unfolding lives of three young people in their last year of school in small-town New Zealand.

At the weekend I read my way through the 49 submitted picture books, labeling them and sorting them into 4 piles.  There are some truly brilliant picture books, some really bad ones, and quite a few in between.  It’s been interesting looking at what picture books have been included in ‘Best of 2013’ lists.  There have been a couple that others have highlighted at ‘bests’ which I consider fairly average, but I’m not going to name them.  It’s easy to identify the brilliant picture books, by their high-quality production and design, stunning illustrations, and text that flows and bounces.  Here are a couple of my picture book highlights:

I’m looking forward to meeting with my fellow judges and hearing their opinions of the books that they have read.  I’m curious to find out whether we have similar opinions on our top books.

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Judges Diary: Oh the anticipation!

Imagine my surprise when I came back from a couple of days away to find 3 big boxes of books waiting for me.  Ever since the announcement that I’m going to be a judge for the 2014 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards, I’ve been wondering which books will be chosen to be considered for the awards.  There have been so many wonderful New Zealand books published in the last year and I’ve had quite a few favourites.

NZ Post books 1

When I couldn’t wait any longer I opened the boxes to find 104 beauties (only the first lot of submissions) waiting for me to open their covers and discover the stories and information that await inside.  I was glad to find my favourites, those stories that have stuck in my mind, as well as some I had really wanted to read but hadn’t got around to, and some books that I hadn’t even heard of.  There are some whose covers and design jump right out at you and beg to be read, and others whose poor design and production will be barriers for some readers discovering the story within the pages.

NZ post books 2

I sorted the books into those that I have read and those that I haven’t, and as you can see by the photo there is quite a difference.  My first goal is to go back through those I have read so far this year and remind myself what it was that I liked/didn’t like about them, then start some serious reading of my ‘to-be-read pile.’

My mountain of books awaits me so I must get started.  I’ll report back soon on how the reading is going and what gems I have discovered.

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New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Judge Announcement

I’m thrilled to finally be able to announce that I’ll be joining Barbara Else and Ant Sang as a judge for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards next year.  I’m incredibly honoured to be a part of the awards and it’s very exciting.

I’ve been a part of the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Festival for the last 3 years, as the coordinator for the Canterbury Festival.  This is a role that I have loved as it has given me the chance to take the finalist books out to my region and share them with children of all ages.  The roadshow that our Canterbury committee did this year for the Festival was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a librarian, as we got to talk about the finalist books and read them to so many children in our region.  Having the opportunity to actually be one of the three people choosing which books are the best books in New Zealand over the past year feels absolutely incredible.  We have so many talented authors and illustrators in New Zealand who create some magical, captivating, adventure-filled and even heart-breaking books, so it is going to be a huge task to choose the best.

I’m going to have lots of reading ahead of me – approximately 120 books!  I’m certainly looking forward to receiving my first box of books and starting my reading.  There will be books that I’ve already read and loved, but there are sure to be some treasures that I’m yet to discover.  I hope to share some thoughts on my life as a judge here on the blog and talk about some of the books I’m reading.

How exciting is it to be a judge? Let Kermit show you:

To find out more about the 2014 judges check out the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards website.

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The 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards winners

The finalists in the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards gathered in Christchurch last night for the awards ceremony. The awards night is always themed and this year the organisers went for a ‘Witch in the Cherry Tree’ theme in honour of Margaret Mahy.  The book of the year was also renamed the ‘New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year’ this year.  I was  nervous myself, hoping that my favourites would take out the award, so I’m sure the authors and illustrators themselves were incredibly nervous.  Overall, I was pleased to see a couple of my favourites win awards, but I was disappointed that others missed out.  I think that Red Rocks and The Nature of Ash are amazing books and if I could give Rachael and Mandy an award I would.

Read below to find out who won each category, as well as the Honour Book and Children’s Choice Award.

Best Young Adult Fiction and New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year

Into the River by Ted Dawe

Best Non-Fiction

100 Amazing Tales from Aotearoa by Simon Morton & Riria Hotere

Best Junior Fiction

My Brother’s War by David Hill

Honour award, Junior Fiction

The Queen and the Nobody Boy: A Tale of Fontania series by Barbara Else

Best Picture Book

Mister Whistler by Margaret Mahy & Gavin Bishop

Best First Book

Reach by Hugh Brown

Children’s Choice

Melu by Kyle Mewburn, Ali Teo & John O’Reilly, Scholastic NZ

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Activity Ideas for the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Finalists

There are heaps of great activity ideas out there to help you celebrate the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  These ideas are aimed at teachers but you could try them out at home too.

There are some general Schools Resources on the Booksellers NZ New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards pages – http://booksellers.co.nz/awards/new-zealand-post-childrens-book-awards/2013resources.

Check out these books and their activity ideas:

Picture Books

Junior Fiction

Young Adult Fiction

Non-fiction

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2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Finalist: My Brother’s War by David Hill

My Brother’s War by David Hill is a finalist in the Junior Fiction category of the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  This was one of the books that I hadn’t read at the time it was released, but I read it recently as part of my challenge to read all of the 2013 finalists. 

I’ve been a huge fan of David Hill since I was a kid.  I remember See Ya Simon being read to me at school in Year 6, laughing out loud one minute then crying the next.  One of the things I love about David is that he hasn’t stuck to one type of story.  He’s written historical stories, hilarious school stories, thrilling adventure stories, and even some science fiction (Bodies and Soul is one of my favourites).  David is a finalist in the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards with his novel, My Brother’s War, which offers a different perspective on the Great War and the New Zealanders who went to fight.

My Dear Mother,

Well, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve joined the Army!

Don’t be angry at me, Mother dear. I know you were glad when I wasn’t chosen in the ballot. But some of my friends were, and since they will be fighting for King and Country, I want to do the same.

It’s New Zealand, 1914, and the biggest war the world has known has just broken out in Europe.

William eagerly enlists for the army but his younger brother, Edmund, is a conscientious objector and refuses to fight. While William trains to be a soldier, Edmund is arrested.

Both brothers will end up on the bloody battlefields of France, but their journeys there are very different. And what they experience at the front line will challenge the beliefs that led them there.

My Brother’s War is a compelling story about two brothers who have very different opinions and experiences of the First World War.  William feels very strongly that he needs to play his part in the war and so he enlists in the army.  The people in his town commend him for being brave and doing his part.  He believes he is doing what is right to protect his country and the people he loves.  He can’t understand his brother and thinks that his refusal to enlist is ‘wrong and stupid.’  His brother, Edmund, is a conscientious objector who believes it is wrong to go to war and kill other people.  The story switches between their two points-of-view so you see the huge differences in their experience of war.  The story is mainly told in the third person, but each of the characters write letters to their mother which gives more of an insight into their thoughts and feelings.

You experience the build up to the fighting and the horrible conditions of the battlefield through William’s story, but it was Edmund’s story that shocked me.  I knew a little about conscientious objectors before reading this book but Edmund’s story really opened my eyes to how horribly they were treated.  Conscientious objectors like Edmund were labeled cowards and treated like second-class citizens.  Edmund constantly refuses to obey army orders, but in the end really has no choice.  He’s put on a boat and taken to France where he is forced on to the battlefields.  In the training camps he is locked away with little food and water, and he also faces excruciating punishment for not following orders.  Edmund is incredibly strong-willed though and stands by his principles.

A quote from Edmund towards the end of the book sums up war perfectly , ‘I never knew some men could do such dreadful things to one another, and I never knew some men could be so kind and brave.’

My Brother’s War presents a view point of war that hasn’t been dealt with before and it’s a story that all older children should read.  It would be a great book to share as a class text in Year 7/8 as it would create a lot of discussion.

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Tina Matthews reads A Great Cake

Tina Matthews is a finalist in the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards with her book, A Great Cake.  I’m a huge fan of Tina’s books, which she both writes and illustrates.  This video is Tina reading her wonderful book, and she tells me that there will be more videos to follow of her other books.

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The 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Finalists

nzpcba_new_logoThe finalists in the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards were announced this morning.  There is a great selection of books this year, by some of our best authors and illustrators.  I think that the picture book and junior fiction categories are particularly strong and the judges have got a huge job ahead of them.  I’m aiming to read all of the finalists before the week of the Festival this year so I’ll be sharing my thoughts on each book here.  I’m also the Canterbury coordinator of the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Festival and we’ve got some great events in the pipeline.

What are your favourites?

Picture Book

  • mr-whistler-cover-working-final-2.inddA Great Cake, written and illustrated by Tina Matthews
  • Melu, written by Kyle Mewburn and illustrated by Ali Teo and John O’Reilly
  • Mister Whistler, written by Margaret Mahy and illustrated by Gavin Bishop
  • Mr Bear Branches and the Cloud Conundrum, written and illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton
  • Remember that November, written by Jennifer Beck and illustrated by Lindy Fisher

Junior Fiction

  • The ACB with Honora Lee, written by Kate De Goldi and illustrated by Gregory O’Brien
  • The Queen and the Nobody Boy by Barbara Else
  • My Brother’s War by David Hill
  • Red Rocks by Rachael King
  • Uncle Trev and His Whistling Bull by Jack Lasenby

Young Adult Fiction

  • Earth Dragon, Fire Hare by Ken Catran
  • Into the River by Ted Dawe
  • The Nature of Ash by Mandy Hager
  • Reach by Hugh Brown
  • Snakes and Ladders by Mary-anne Scott

Non Fiction

  • 100 Amazing Tales from Aotearoa by Simon Morton and Riria Hotere
  • At the Beach: Explore and discover the New Zealand seashore by Ned Barraud and Gillian Chandler
  • Kiwi: the real story by Annemarie Florian and Heather Hunt
  • Taketakerau, The Millenium Tree by Marnie Anstis, Patricia Howitt and Kelly Spencer

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