Picture Book Nook: The Green Bath by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Steven Kellogg

It has been almost a year since one of our most treasured authors, Margaret Mahy, passed away.  Since her passing there have been three wonderful new Margaret Mahy stories published.  This month, Scholastic are publishing another new Margaret Mahy story, The Green Bath, illustrated by one of Margaret’s previous collaborators, Steven Kellog.

Sammy likes to have adventures of all sorts, but he could never have imagined the adventures that he would have when his father brings home a big, green bath.  When Sammy takes a bath to clean up for his grandma’s visit, the bath escapes from his house with Sammy inside.  The bath takes Sammy on an adventure on the seven seas, with mermaids, a sea serpent and pirates.

The Green Bath is a wonderfully-wacky Margaret Mahy story that will have kids imagining their own bath-time adventures.  Margaret has let her imagination run wild with this story of a boy who’s bath tub comes to life.  The story is full of Margaret’s wonderful language and characteristic wordplay.  I especially like ‘ Sammy bewildered them with bubbles and baffled them with soapsuds,’ and the way that she describes the buccaneers as ‘beaten, bubbling and blustering.’  Steven Kellog’s illustrations are delightfully silly and perfect for this watery, bubble-filled adventure.

The Green Bath is the perfect bedtime book to share with your children, especially just after a bath.  Just don’t go reading it before bath-time or you might find your bathroom covered in water and bubbles!



Win a Margaret Mahy DVD Pack

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed two wonderful new DVDs about Margaret Mahy.   Margaret Mahy’s Rumbustifications takes us inside Margaret’s home in Governor’s Bay as she reads 5 of her stories and 11 of her favourite poems to her grandchildren and pets, and A Tall Long Faced Tale is an incredibly interesting and detailed documentary about Margaret Mahy that’s aimed at adults.

Thanks to Production Shed.TV I have a copy of both DVDs to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address in the form below.  The competition closes on Wednesday 19 December (NZ only).

Thanks to everyone who entered.  This competition is now closed.

Margaret Mahy’s stories come to life on the screen

Two absolutely wonderful DVDs are released today that celebrate legendary New Zealand author Margaret Mahy and her magical tales.  Margaret may no longer be with us but her stories live on and these new DVDs give an insight into her writing and present her stories and poems as they were intended.

Margaret Mahy’s Rumbustifications takes us inside Margaret’s home in Governor’s Bay as she reads 5 of her stories and 11 of her favourite poems to her grandchildren and pets.  It’s quite intimate and you feel like you are actually sitting right in front of her as she reads.  The stories and poems that Margaret reads are ones that children and adults alike will be familiar with and you might even discover a new favourite story.  Margaret performs her stories and poems as she imagined them and they sound spectacular rolling off her tongue.  I especially love her performances of Down the Back of the Chair and Bubble Trouble and The Boy Who Was Followed Home is now one of my favourite stories of hers (I hadn’t read this before and I can’t believe I missed this).  What I loved most about this wonderful production are the magical additions to her stories.  Many of them have had animation and sound effects added after the reading has been recorded, so each of the things ‘down the back of the chair’ actually pop out of Margaret’s chair and end up crowding the screen.  In ‘Summery Saturday Morning’ animated geese actually chase Margaret’s dog.  None of the animations get in the way of your enjoyment of the story, but make it even more special.  It is thanks to Margaret’s long-time friend, Yvonne Mackay, that we can now enjoy Margaret’s enchanting readings on DVD for the very first time.

Margaret Mahy’s Rumbustifications is the perfect gift for the whole family this Christmas.  I can imagine everyone crowding around the TV and being held captivated by Margaret’s reading.  It’s available in NZ wherever DVDs are sold at $19.99.

A Tall Long Faced Tale is an incredibly interesting and detailed documentary about Margaret Mahy that’s aimed at adults.  It was recorded for TVNZ’s Artsville programme several years ago and is now available on DVD for the first time.  In this 70 minute documentary Margaret is interviewed by her most iconic and exciting animated characters, the Lion in the Meadow, David from The Witch in the Cherry Tree, Mother Pirate, and author Elizabeth Knox.  I loved these appearances by her characters as it was a quirky interview technique and I wondered who would pop up next. A wide range of subjects are covered, including memory, identity, motherhood, magic and the universal appeal of her stories.  As well as the characters from her picture books, some of the characters from her young adult novels make an appearance and ask her about the stories they feature in.  Some of the illustrators that Margaret worked with throughout the years talk about Margaret and her magical stories, including American illustrator Steven Kellog (The Boy Who Was Followed Home),  English Jenny Williams (The Lion in the Meadow, The Witch in the Cherry Tree), and Quentin Blake (Nonstop Nonsense).  I loved the way that the interview ends with Margaret walking down the wharf with her characters by her side, and Elizabeth Knox’s final question is one of the most fantastic interview questions ever – ‘If you were given 3 wishes, either selfish or unselfish, what would they be?’ I’m sure you will be as surprised as I was with her answers.

A Tall Long Faced Tale is a must-watch DVD for all teachers, librarians, and anyone who loves children’s literature.  It’s available in NZ wherever DVDs are sold at $24.99.

Thanks to Chris from Production Shed.TV for sending me copies of these wonderful productions.

Check out these videos from Margaret Mahy’s Rumbustifications and A Tall Long Faced Tale and keep an eye out on the blog for a chance to win your own copy of the DVDs.

Win Mister Whistler by Margaret Mahy and Gavin Bishop

Mister Whistler is the wonderful new picture book by Margaret Mahy, with stunning illustrations by Gavin Bishop.  I absolutely love Mister Whistler and it’s my favourite New Zealand picture book of the year (you can read my review here).  Everyone should have this book on their bookshelf!

Thanks to everyone who entered.  This competition is now closed.

Picture Book Nook: The Man from the Land of Fandango by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Polly Dunbar

Come to the magical land of Fandango!  There’s dancing and music, with bears, bisons, baboons, kangaroos and even dinosaurs.  Most amazing of all is the Man from the Land of Fandango himself.  He bingles and bangles and bounces, and he’s coming to give you a call.  Are you ready for the party?

Reading The Man from the Land of Fandango is like stepping into Margaret Mahy’s imagination.  You can imagine that all these wonderful things would have been flying inside her head.  When she describes the man from the Land of Fandango it’s like she is describing herself.  Someone who brings joy and excitement to children and ‘is given to dancing and dreams’ sounds exactly like Margaret.  Her wonderful poem is full of her characteristic wordplay, and the rhythm and rhyme bounces you along.  I especially love the alliteration, like ‘jingles and jongles and jangles’ and ‘he juggles with junkets and jam in a jar.’  This is the third book of Margaret’s that Polly Dunbar has illustrated and her style is just perfect for Margaret’s wacky poems.  Polly’s illustrations are magical and full of joy and laughter.  I love that the children never stop smiling from beginning to end.  Her illustrations make you want to jump right into the book and join in the fun with the bears, baboons, dinosaurs and The Man from the Land of Fandango.  Even the words on the page look like they’re having fun in this book, as they dance all over the place.

You won’t be able to stop yourself from reading The Man from the Land of Fandango out loud, because the words just roll off your tongue.  Just like Margaret and Polly’s other collaborations, Bubble Trouble and Down the Back of the Chair, this will certainly become a favourite that children will beg to be read again and again.

5 out of 5 stars

Picture Book Nook: Mister Whistler by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Gavin Bishop

Earlier this year we lost one of our national treasures, Margaret Mahy.  Margaret wrote many wonderful stories in her time, from picture books to novels, that are treasured by children all over the world.  October sees the publication of two of Margaret’s last stories, including the wonderful Mister Whistler, featuring gorgeous illustrations by Gavin Bishop.

Absentminded Mister Whistler always has a song in his head and a dance in his feet.  In a rush to catch the train, he is so distracted he loses his ticket.

Is it in the bottom pockets of his big coat or the top pockets of his jacket?  Perhaps he slipped it into his waistcoat…

Where is Mister Whistler’s ticket?

Mister Whistler is an absolute treasure.  It’s Margaret and Gavin’s first collaboration and I couldn’t imagine a more perfect pairing for this story.  Margaret’s story is delightfully old-fashioned and Gavin matches this with the styles and fashions of another era.  Mister Whistler is a rather distracted fellow, one of those people who would forget his head if it wasn’t screwed on.  He gets carried away by the music in his head, that makes his twitching feet long to dance.  While he is looking for his ticket he’s dancing out of his coat and tap dancing impatiently.  Children will love that they know something that Mister Whistler doesn’t – where his ticket is – and they’ll want to yell it out and tell him.

Gavin Bishop’s illustrations for Mister Whistler are my favourite of all of his work.  There’s so much joy and energy in the illustrations and you can see it bursting out of Mister Whistler, who is always smiling.  I love the way that Gavin has made the story flow from one page to the next, both my Mister Whistler’s dancing body and the musical notes which follow him.  Mister Whistler himself is quite gangly and I love the way that Gavin has him throwing his long limbs all over the place as he dances.  Gavin’s use of colour is spectacular, from Mister Whistler’s blue, checked trousers and very loud wall-paper, to the flaming sunrise in the background.  Gavin has added a real spark to Mister Whistler’s character too by giving him a crazy dress sense.

Once again, Gecko Press have produced an absolutely beautiful book that will be treasured by children and adults alike.  Mister Whistler is my favourite New Zealand picture book of the year and my pick for the winner of next year’s New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.

5 out of 5 stars

Newly updated Margaret Mahy books from HarperCollins NZ

HarperCollins New Zealand have just released two newly updated Margaret Mahy books to celebrate her life and work.

Margaret Mahy: A Writer’s Life by Tessa Duder

This was first published in 2005 and it has now been fully updated and republished.  The updates include:

  • Updated introduction
  • New Epilogue which covers Margaret’s life between 2005 and 2012.
  • Updated notes
  • Updated Chronological Bibliography with Margaret’s books published from 2005 onwards.
  • Updated Awards and Honours (including the Hans Christian Anderson Award which Margaret won in 2006).
  • New photos.

The Word Witch by Margaret Mahy, illustrations by David Elliot, edited by Tessa Duder

This was originally published in hardback in 2009 (I have my copy in pride of place on my bookshelf) and is the ultimate collection of Margaret Mahy’s much-loved poems and stories in rhyme.  Each of the 66 pieces is accompanied by a poignant illustration by one of New Zealand’s best, David Elliot.

This new paperback edition includes a CD with recordings of Margaret reciting 12 poems, including favourites such as Down the Back of the Chair and Ghosts.  The CD is a delight to listen to and it’s wonderful to hear these poems read as Margaret heard them in her head.  If you already own a copy of The Word Witch it’s definitely worth buying a copy of this edition as well, just so you can listen to Margaret perform the poems over and over again.