Category Archives: New Zealand

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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That’s NOT a Hippopotamus! by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis

Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis are the dream team when it comes to picture books in New Zealand.  They have written and illustrated so many fabulous picture books, from the Marmaduke Duck series to Toucan Can.  Their books are always a joy to read aloud and their latest book, That’s NOT a Hippopotamus! is no exception. Adults and children alike will love this book!

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In That’s NOT a Hippopotamus! we follow a class of children and their poor teacher on an outing to the zoo. They discover that the hippopotamus is missing and they race off all over the zoo as they try to track it down.  Some of the children think they’ve found the hippo but they don’t quite get the right animal.  One of the children, Liam thinks that he sees the hippo but no one pays attention to him.  When it gets to the stage that the children are all forlorn and their teacher has almost had a nervous breakdown Liam finally gets everyone to listen to him.

That’s NOT a Hippopotamus is a hilarious story that will have adults and children in fits of giggles.  After creating so many books together Juliette and Sarah have a real knack for creating funny, entertaining, but also very clever, picture books.  The thing that makes this picture book stand out for me is that there are so many layers to it.  As the children chase after different animals (thinking they’ve found the hippopotamus) Juliette gives the reader little details about each animal so you can guess what it is.  There is this great sense of anticipation about what the animal will be, and you often get it wrong (which makes it even better).  On one page a boy says ‘I see him Miss! He’s on the ground.  I’ll get him while he’s snuffling round.’ There is an elephant’s bottom poking around the end of the page so you think it might be an elephant, but it’s actually a warthog.  Another layer of the story, told through the illustrations, is Liam spotting the hippopotamus.  He tells his teacher that he’s seen the hippo but she doesn’t pay him any attention.  The hippo is actually hiding in the exhibits though, and if you look carefully you will spot him.

I love the way that Juliette MacIver plays with words and she has certainly had fun with this story.  She has used some very clever rhyming and I love what the children yell out each time they catch an animal, ‘I got ‘im, Miss! I got ‘im, Miss! I got ‘im by his trotter, Miss!’  I know kids are going to love calling out ‘That’s NOT a hippopotamus!’ too.

This is a picture book that kids will beg to read over and over again and it is one that I think adults will be very happy to.  I absolutely love it!

 

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Barking Mad by Tom E. Moffatt

The Tom Fitzgibbon Award is a fantastic award given out by Storylines each year that helps to launch the careers of unpublished authors in New Zealand.  There have been some wonderful winners of this award, including Leonie Agnew (Super Finn) and Juliet Jacka (Night of the Perigee Moon), who have gone on to write more great books.  Tom E. Moffatt was the winner of the 2016 Tom Fitzgibbon Award with his book Barking Mad, and judging by this book, Tom has a very bright writing career ahead of him.  Barking Mad is absolutely hilarious!

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At first, Fingers refuses to believe that his Granddad has gone BARKING MAD! But what straight-thinking grownup goes around LICKING the postman, growling like a dog and chasing hospital security guards up trees? And when Fingers and his sister Sally discover a BIZARRE machine in Granddads workshop, mix-ups turn into MIND-SWAPPING madness one look at Granddads dog DaVinci is proof of that!

Barking Mad is a crazy, hilarious read that will have you laughing out loud.  As soon as I read the blurb I knew that this was going to be a book for me and I wasn’t disappointed.  Just the idea of a grandad swapping minds with his dog was enough to make me laugh.  You can just imagine how crazy and silly the story is going to be.  Just when you think the story couldn’t get any funnier, it does.  Can you imagine swapping bodies with your grandad, your sister, or your brother?  That’s probably too scary to even think about!

I really loved the characters in this book.  The main character is Finn Butterby, but everyone calls him Fingers, as in Butter Fingers, because he is quite clumsy.  When Finn gets told that he has to carry his grandfather’s very delicate mind-swapping invention you just know that something is going to go wrong.  I love the way that Tom portrays the grandad’s dog DaVinci too.  Because Finn’s grandad has swapped minds with his dog, DaVinci often acts quite human-like, like when they find him reading a newspaper.  Finn and his sister also mix up their names and start calling them DaVanddad and GraVinci.

There are lots of hilarious and often embarrassing situations in the book but my favourite part is the rescue/escape from the dog pound.  I know that this is one part that will make kids crack up.  Barking Mad is perfect for anyone aged 8+ who loves funny stories, especially for Andy Griffiths fans who are looking for something new.  I can’t wait to read what Tom writes next!

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Gecko Press’ Gorgeous Annual

Unfortunately I’m not of a generation that grew up with annuals.  I didn’t experience the joy of these volumes, chock-full of activities, stories and quizzes. Thankfully the wonderful Gecko Press have brought back this format with their gorgeous new book, Annual, that a new generation of kids will love.

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Editors Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris have mined the talented authors and illustrators we have here in NZ and gathered these gems into a truly radiant collection.  There are stories, short essays, comics, a song, crafts, activities and a hilarious board game.  There are well-known authors and illustrators, such as Barbara Else, Bernard Beckett and Gavin Bishop, but also some incredibly talented debut authors such as Gavin Mouldey, whose story B.O.N.E. is an absolute wonder.

Annual arrived on my doorstep on the morning that I was going away for a school holiday break with my family, so the timing couldn’t have been more perfect!  There is hours of entertainment in this book and there is something for the whole family. I especially enjoyed Kirsten McDougall’s A Box of Birds, a collection of odd words to take on a road trip.  I was thinking about some of these words as I was driving and I thoroughly confused my family when I yelled out ‘Tally ho, the salt!’ (a phrase to use when you first catch sight of the ocean).  We all enjoyed a ‘pootle’ (a wander along the beach with no destination in mind) and with 12-year-old boys in the car there were more than a few winkybubbles (you’ll have to look that one up yourself).

There are so many things that I love about Annual.  Being a Gecko Press book the standard of production is excellent, from the eye-catching red hardcover to the smell of the high-quality paper.  The variety of pieces in the book is brilliant, with something for every type of kid (and adult for that matter).  There are pieces to make you think, pieces to challenge you, pieces to make you laugh and pieces to unleash your creativity.  One of my favourite pieces is the comic strip Bad Luck Zebra by Sharon Murdoch and Susan Paris, which cracked me up every time I read it. Kate De Goldi, Susan Paris and Gecko Press deserve a standing ovation for this gorgeous book.

You will want to come back to Annual again and again to revisit your favourite bits and uncover some new delight that you might have missed last time.  Get a copy of Annual for everyone on your Christmas list.

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Maui and Other Maori Legends by Peter Gossage

For kids in New Zealand today there are lots of books in Te Reo Maori and retellings of Maori legends that they can enjoy, but when I was a kid there weren’t many around.  The Maori myths and legends that I was introduced to as a kid were those that were retold and illustrated by Peter Gossage.  Through Peter’s books I learned all about how Maui fished up New Zealand, how he discovered fire and how he slowed the sun. As an adult I love these books because the text is simple and the illustrations are striking. Penguin Random House NZ are releasing a very special collection of Peter’s stories this month.

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Maui and Other Maori Legends collects 8 of Peter’s beloved Maori myths, including Battle of the Mountains, The Fish of Maui, How Maui Slowed the Sun and Pania of the Reef. They are presented in a beautiful hardback that will with-stand the many readings that it is sure to have. The copies in my library have been very well loved by kids right from Year 1 to Year 8.  Their readability for any age is one of the things I love most about Peter’s retellings.

Every classroom and library needs to have this collection as it will be an invaluable resource.

 

 

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Winners of the 2016 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

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The winners of the 2016 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults were announced last night in Wellington.  Congratulations to all the winners and those who were chosen as finalists in the awards.  Congratulations also to the judges of this year’s awards who had the tough job of choosing the winners from all the fantastic books that were submitted.  It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it.  I personally think they made some great choices for the winners.  Kids also made some fantastic choices too in the Children’s Choice Awards.

Here are the winners of the 2016 New Book Awards for Children and Young Adults:

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  • Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and winner of the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction

ANZAC Heroes by Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivancic; Scholastic New Zealand

  • Best First Book Award

Allis the little tractor by Sophie Siers, illustrated by Helen Kerridge; Millwood-Heritage Productions

  • Te Kura Pounamu Award for the best book in te reo Māori

Whiti te rā! by Patricia Grace, translated by Kawata Teepa, illustrated by Andrew Burdan; Huia Publishers

  • Picture Book Award

The Little Kiwi’s Matariki written and illustrated by Nikki Slade Robinson; David Ling Publishing (Duck Creek Press)

  • Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction

From the Cutting Room of Barney Kettle by Kate De Goldi; Penguin Random House (Longacre)

  • Young Adult Fiction Award

Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo by Brian Falkner; Pan Macmillan Australia (Farrar Straus Giroux)

  • Russell Clark Award for Illustration

Much Ado About Shakespeare illustrated by Donovan Bixley; Upstart Press

New Zealand children enthusiastically voted for their own specially selected finalists’ list for this year’s HELL Children’s Choice Awards. Each book wins $1,000. The winners are:

  • Te reo Māori

Te Hua Tuatahi a Kuwi written and illustrated by Kat Merewether, and translated by Pānia Papa; Illustrated Publishing

  • Picture Book

The House on the Hill by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Sarah Davis; Scholastic New Zealand

  • Junior Fiction

The Girl Who Rode the Wind by Stacy Gregg; Harper Collins

  • Non-Fiction

First to the Top by David Hill, illustrated by Phoebe Morris; Penguin Random House (Puffin)

  • Young Adult Fiction

Stray by Rachael Craw; Walker Books

You can read the full media release here, including the thoughts of the judges on each of the winning books.  You can download the Winners Poster here.

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Win Frankie Potts books

New Zealand author Juliet Jacka has just released her brand new series all about an inquisitive girl called Frankie Potts.  The first two books, Frankie Potts and the Sparkplug Mysteries and Frankie Potts and the Bikini Burglar are out now and are fantastic reads for ages 7-10.  They are full of excitement, adventure and fun.  Check out my review here on the blog.

Thanks to everyone who entered!  The winner is Chris.

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Introducing Frankie Potts

Meet Frankie Potts, the village of Tring’s number one girl detective.  She has flaming red hair, a questioning mind and an addiction to gobstoppers.  And she is REALLY good at solving mysteries.

Frankie Potts is the creation of New Zealand author Juliet Jacka.  She’s a new character that kids (especially girls) are going to love.  She’s inquisitive, confident and observant.  She has her eyes peeled for things that look unusual and out of the ordinary.  She carries a notebook everywhere with her and is always making lists of unusual things she sees and mysteries that she needs to solve.

In the first book in this fantastic new series, Frankie Potts and the Sparkplug Mysteries, Frankie finds a stray dog outside her favourite sweetshop and he follows her everywhere.  Her first mystery is:

  1. What’s my (sort of) new dog called, and where’s he from?
    • Waggles from Wichita?
    • Kirk from Canada?
    • Morris from Mozambique?

She decides to name him Sparkplug and everybody seems to go gaga for him, especially her formidable Grandma M.  Her grandma starts to act stranger and stranger and so Frankie adds more and more mysteries to her list.  She sets out to solve them with the help of Sparkplug.

The excitement continues in the second book of the series, Frankie Potts and the Bikini Burglar.  Frankie is on the lookout for a human detective sidekick to join her.  It’s not an easy task, especially when she has to deal with the new boy at school, the mean office lady, her arch-enemy Ralph Peter-McGee and tracking down the burglar on the loose in Tring.

The Frankie Potts series is full of excitement, adventure and lots of fun.  The covers make the stories look really appealing, with Phoebe Morris’ wonderful illustrations on the cover and throughout the books.  The series is perfect for 7-10 year olds, especially those readers who like the Billy B. Brown series by Sally Rippin or the Friday Barnes series by R.A. Spratt.

Stay tuned to read a special guest post from Juliet Jacka and a chance to win the first two books in the Frankie Potts series.

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