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Harvey McQueen published several collections of poetry and two memoirs, and edited or co-edited eight...


The New Zealand Festival Schoolfest Team have taken all the effort out of preparing your students for their big day out on 10 March.
Download the awesome teaching resources for each event.

A World Where Music Reigns with Anna Smaill - 9.45am


Life Online: Jamie Curry and Mallory Ortberg - 11.00am


WW1 Stories: Marrying Truth and Fiction - 12.30pm


Slam Poetry with Anis Mojgani - 1.45pm


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Phone 0064 4 801 5546
Level 4, Stephenson & Turner House, 156 Victoria St, Te Aro,
Wellington 6011, New Zealand

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Dianne Haworth was an editor, journalist and writer. Haworth initially worked as a journalist and editor,...


School trips. Great for the kids, extra work for you. That's why any superstar teacher or school librarian who books their students into an event for the SchoolFest Writers Day deserves to have some fun too. Register your class and for every Writers Day session you book, get two free adult tickets to any $19.00 session during New Zealand Festival Writers Week for yourself. It's our little way of saying 'thanks'!

Follow three simple steps to your well-deserved R&R:

Step 1: Check that your school is subscribed to the NZ Book Council for 2016. You can join anytime.
Step 2: Book your students into one or more of the amazing SchoolFest Writers Day events.
Step 3: Reward time! Let the SchoolFest team know at the time of making your booking that you're a NZ Book Council member and they'll ensure you're sent the full New Zealand Festival Writers Week programme and information on how to redeem your reward when it's announced on 28 January.

Some Writers Week events have already been announced. So spread the word! Bring your school to one SchoolFest Writers Day session, or come to all four. Treat your girlfriend, husband, Mum or mate. Share the organising with colleagues and club your free tickets together for an out of school party. We'll see you there! Find out more.

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Phone 0064 4 801 5546
Level 4, Stephenson & Turner House, 156 Victoria St, Te Aro,
Wellington 6011, New Zealand

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Hone Kouka, of Ngati Porou, Ngati Raukawa, and Ngati Kahungunu descent, achieved early recognition for...


Kick Start Your New Entrants


New year, new children, new parents, new teachers and new library staff. Get everyone off on a good footing with some picture book titles recommended by Lisa Allcott and Rosemary Tisdall at the National Library, designed to help get children reading at school and at home. This is a resource that can easily be reused or developed with your own library collections. Download the original resource or discover more advice at the National Library website.

Using Picture Books in the Classroom

Illustrations can fill in the words:
1. The Boy who was Followed Home by Margaret Mahy, ill. Stephen Kellogg, pub. Puffin Books, 2010
2. Tad-cu’s Bobble Hat by Malachy Doyle, ill. Dorry Spikes, pub. Llandysul : Gomer, 2014
3. Whatever by William Bee, pub. Candlewick Press, 2005
4. Tea with Grandpa by Barney Saltzburg, pub. Roaring Brook Press, 2014

Illustrations that add to the story:
1. The Little Yellow Digger by Betty Gilderdale, ill. Alan Gilderdale, pub. Scholastic, 2009

Illustrations that give a different perspective:
1. This is not my Hat by Jon Klassen, pub. Candlewick Press, 2012

1. The Teddy Bear’s Promise by Diana Noonan, ill. Robyn Belton, pub. Craig Potton, 2013
2. Johnny the Clockmaker by Edward Ardizzone, pub. Frances Lincoln Children’s, 2008
3. Grandfather’s Wrinkles by Kathryn England, ill. Richard McFarland, pub. Flashlight Press, 2007
4. The Mermaid and the Shoe by K.G. Campbell, pub. Kids Can Press, 2014

Topic starters:
1. No English by Jacqueline Jules, ill. Amy Huntington, pub. Mitten Press, 2007 (migrants; differences)
2. Dairy of a Wombat by Jackie French, ill. Bruce Whatley, pub. Angus & Roberston, 2012 (diary writing)
3. Thank you, Miss Doover by Robin Pulver, ill. Stephanie Roth Sisson, pub. Holiday House 2010 (letter writing)
4. Flashlight by Lizi Boyd, pub. Chronicle Books, 2014 (shadows; outdoor education/school camp)

Creative Writing:
1. Journeys (Think About It series) by Harry Cory-Wright, pub. Franklin Watts, 2009
2. Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg, pub.Andersen Press, 2011
3. Willy’s Stories by Anthony Browne, pub. Walker Books, 2014

Picture books to support your writing programme:

1. Alligator in an Anorak by Daron Parton. Random House, 2014 – Alphabet, alliteration, imagination
2. Bye bye Grumpy Fly by Ruth Paul, Scholastic, 2015 – Rhyme, rhythm, descriptive language, exclamation marks, imperative voice, and conveying a lot of meaning with just a few words. Lots of Ruth Paul’s picture books are great for looking at different features of writing as well as being terrific stories.
3. I am Not a Worm by Scott Tulloch, Scholastic, 2014 – character, conversation, questions, exclamation marks, camouflage in nature, metamorphosis, bullying, surprise endings
4. My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall, HarperCollins Childrens’ Books, 2010 – rhyme, simile, animals

Non-fiction resources to support writing:
You can find some great resources on surface features of writing in the 420 - 429 section of the library.
Words are Categorical (series) by Brian P. Cleary, ill. By Jenya Prosmitsky / Brian Gable. Millbrook Press - includes nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, synonyms, homonyms and homophones
Getting to Grips with Grammar by Anita Ganeri. Heinemann, 2012 - includes sentences, conjunctions, punctuation, verbs, nouns and pronouns


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Mansfield Questionnaire: Tessa Duder


Tessa Duder responds to our slightly irreverent literary questionnaire, inspired by New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield.

Write a prelude to your life in one sentence:

I think of my mother, husband of a year gone to war, having first baby at 26 not comforted by her own mother and friends in Palmy, but among strangers (including a mother-in-law she couldn’t stand) at a Karitane hospital in Auckland where she would get the ‘best’ medical help; no wonder this baby was the apple of her eye for all her 78 years.

Would your father have accepted your plea for musical training?
Father, back from war, was my first piano teacher. He grew up a bright lad who’d had to choose between music, mountains and medicine (chose the last), so would have been delighted if I’d enough talent for a career in music. But he and mother, an even better cellist, gave me a love of music, something equally valid.

Do you speak French?
Read some, yes; but speak, faced with impatient French shopkeepers, no.

If you were to, at any stage, become a ghost who would you haunt?
The enigma that is Joan of Arc, and my wise and handsome Italian grandmother to clear up some family mysteries.

Do you keep ‘great complaining notebooks’ a.k.a. journals?
Never have, but my mother kept many long letters from travels overseas, I suppose journals of a sort and certainly some complaining went on.

Garden parties. Yes or no?
Why not? Pretty hats, band playing G and S, gossip; pleasant enough for a couple of hours. But my perfect garden for a party is the sandy front lawn of a seaside bach, under a pohutukawa with old friends and a glass of rosé.

Where have you had the best time of your life?
When daughters were school age: two-family holidays at an island bach, a dozen or more to every meal, friends invited to bring kids and tents or visiting from yachts. Days of sun, laughter, making bread … my earth mother days. Oh, and on my OE seeing five operas in as many days at the Vienna Opera House – standing!

Where have you had the worst time of your life?
Just at home, one winter grappling with two close deaths (mother and daughter), and lonely apartments after further loss, of marriage. Six bad years, coping publicly at least.

If you were to use a nom de plume, what would it be?
My little Italian great-grandmother emigrated from Tuscany, had eleven children and led an entirely anonymous life (widow for 32 years) to die at 85 and lie in an unmarked grave. I’d use her name, Lenzini, to acknowledge her existence.

Virginia Woolf wrote ‘I was jealous of her writing — the only writing I have ever been jealous of.’ Who are you most jealous of?
I’m in awe and yes, admit to being mildly, wistfully envious of lots of favourite writers, but jealous of any one, no.

Where are you in the family birth order?
Eldest of two. I’m the pre-war, my brother the post war.

You left home and then:
The obligatory OE for two years, a brief spell back at home and then marriage at 23 and off to London and expatriate life.

What is your favourite short story?
I can’t drive past the cricket pavilion in the Auckland Domain without thinking of C.K. Stead’s ‘A Fitting Tribute’, the story of Julian Harp, first man to fly (but lying on his back). It still makes me laugh. Margaret Mahy’s profound and mystical ‘The Magician in the Tower’ and ‘The Bridge-builder’ run a close second. I have a soft spot for my own ‘Freddie Bone.’

What was the last real letter you wrote?
A carefully-worded letter to support a colleague and friend for a civil honour (along with others’, it worked – she got one). There are still certain letters which just seen more appropriate on nice paper arriving through the mail, rather than turning up among hundreds of others in an Inbox.

What brings you bliss?
Certain moments in an opera house or concert hall (Puccini, Stravinsky, Bach et al) or a magnificent human voice (Jonas Kaufmann, Renata Tebaldi). For me, literally spine-tingling, out-of-this-world experiences. Indescribable.

How would you like to die?
Holding a daughter’s hand, preferably in my own bed or alternatively, suddenly, while swimming.

‘There is no twilight in our New Zealand days, but a curious half-hour when everything appears grotesque—it frightens—as though the savage spirit of the country walked abroad and sneered at what it saw.’ What are your feelings on New Zealand twilight?
That’s a twilight of her own making and of her time. We’ve moved on from sneering savage spirits. I love our short twilight, the soft half-light after sundown when everything appears to be weightless, the trees becoming silhouettes. And twilights at sea are magical, fading light on the wave-tops; that wait for stars to appear, a moon to rise from the water.

Has anyone ever said of you that you’re ‘a dangerous woman’?
Possibly one or two Wellington arts bureaucrats when I was national president of the New Zealand Society of Authors. I’d have taken it as a compliment – and to one or two, returned it.

Have you ever had an X-ray?
What mother of four hasn’t? Also for a broken foot, many over the years to check on teeth, annual mammograms . . .

Write a brief history of your eyesight:
After two weeks as a teenage cub reporter condemned to the proof-reading room of the Auckland Star I needed my first reading glasses. Then it was driving glasses until my sixties, when I had both cataracts done. No more driving glasses! I give thanks daily.

Is there ‘the taint of the pioneer’ in your blood?
Au contraire, a century after K.M. let’s say the pride of the pioneer. As it should be in the blood of every fourth or fifth generation Kiwi (and the generations following whose 19th century ancestors braved that hideous four-to-six month sea journey from the northern hemisphere to be here, and the Maori who came in waka six hundred years before that.

‘I want to be REAL.’ True or false?
Begs too many questions. But REAL meaning honest, authentic, true to yourself, kind? Then, true.

Tessa Duder has published over 40 books since the early 1980s: YA and children’s novels, including the multi-award-winning Alex Quartet, short stories for both adults and children, picture books, plays, school readers, anthologies and non-fiction including three biographies.

She has appeared at writers’ festivals in Australia, US and New Zealand, and visited many schools under the Book Council’s Writers in Schools scheme.

Her commitment to children’s and YA literature also includes creative writing workshops, mentoring young writers and judging short story competitions. She is a Trustee of the Storylines Children’s Literature Trust of New Zealand.

Find out more about Tessa Duder in her own website or her Book Council Writer's File.

Sarah Mathew: Explorer, Journalist and Auckland’s ‘First Lady’ (David Ling Publishing, 2015) is Tessa Duder’s latest book and her third biography. Researched with a grant from the Auckland Council, it reveals the untold and poignant story of one of New Zealand’s key founding figures. Sarah Mathew not only travelled extensively with her husband, Hobson’s surveyor Felton Mathew, on sea and land journeys of exploration, but kept journals of inestimable value to the historical record of New Zealand’s early years, principally Auckland from 1840 to 1847, and again from 1858 to 1862. Tessa’s portrait of an indomitable 19th century woman who made three round voyages from UK to NZ and back, and whose colonial experiences turned out to be bitter-sweet, was drawn from her journals, scrapbook and letters held in Auckland Libraries’ Sir George Grey Special Collections.

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The Life Behind Conrad Cooper: A Chat with Leonie Agnew


Leonie Agnew stopped in for a cuppa at our office, the day of the LIANZA Children's Book Awards. She was excited that her latest junior fiction book, Conrad Cooper's Last Stand was among the finalists, but clearly didn't expect to win. Her stories are written between juggling her family life and her busy teaching role, and Conrad Cooper's Last Stand tackles some tough subjects through the eyes of a young boy. We decided to dig a little deeper into the writer who brought young Conrad to life.

What was your experience of reading as you were growing up?

I remember a terrible moment when I’d read everything in the library…a dark day! My mum took us every week to the library, and bought second hand books from galas. My first chapter book was The Three Investigators by Alfred Hitchcock. I also loved the Fudge books by Judy Blume, the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary, Peter Pan, The Water Babies, the unabridged Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, all of L.M. Montgomery’s books especially the Emily of New Moon series, Little House on the Prarie, The Moomin Trolls, Secret Seven, numerous comics and so much more.

But I didn’t read these books, I lived inside them. I wish I could read as a child, nobody reads like that again. I also have a distinct link between these books and the child I was – like a small portal. That’s hard to explain, but it’s very real.

What got you into writing junior fiction?

Nothing got me into junior fiction writing, not really. It was simple the style that grabbed me. I enjoy the pace of junior fiction and the sense of possibility. Perhaps it’s because my favourite books as a child were chapter books, rather than picture books. But I did love picture books too, just not in the same way. Perhaps because adults tend to read them to you, whereas junior fiction represents independence – the adventure exists solely between you and the book.

How has the influence of other writing shaped the world you build around Conrad Cooper?

My writing style has a dramatic turn around after reading Castlecliff and the Fossil Princess by NZ author Elizabeth Pulford. The first person, present tense style inspired me to experiment and it’s my preferred choice. Also Millions by Frank Cotterell Boyce, the voice had a huge impact on my writing.

Is Conrad’s Cooper’s world crafted with the hope of shaping the readers feelings, perceptions and understanding?

A good question! There are many issues in that book, and I wanted to present them in a way kids could understand – racism and domestic violence in a Pakeha family, that’s stuff people don’t usually talk about with children. So to some extent I had to be very careful. I had to present Conrad under a level of stress even he didn’t understand and not frighten my readers. I had to imply danger without taking my readers into territory they weren’t ready to face. But I think I managed it because he has a unique, positive way of looking at the world.

I should also say that I write for the idea first – if it interests me, I’m in. Morals are more subtle. I don’t set out to tell one. But I was very aware of wanting to show kids they can have a voice. If something bad is happening to you, tell someone. In fact, tell everyone until someone is willing to help you.

What compelled you to approach some of the more difficult issues in New Zealand culture? Did you ever have any reservations or concerns about portraying them through Conrad’s eyes?

Several answers to one question…first this book was inspired by a tutorial with Albert Wendt at Uni, years ago. He asked an offhand question, ‘Do you have to belong to a culture in order to be part of it? For example, if a Chinese person was adopted by an Australian Aboriginal family, would they see themselves as Aboriginal?’ This question fascinated me and I wanted to write about a Pakeha boy who identified with Maori culture, perhaps more so than his own. Today that wouldn’t be so unusual, so I set it during the Bastion Point land dispute in Mission Bay.

I still had a few reservations, but not about portraying the events through Conrad’s eyes. A child narrator can be more honest and, at the same time, take a unique spin. Through Conrad I could address issues like racism – saying to kids, it comes in many forms. Here is what it looks like, keep an eye out.

What does winning the Esther Glen Junior Fiction Award mean to you?

A great deal. What really made it thrilling was holding the medal and knowing people like Margaret Mahy and Maurice Gee have identical ones. It felt like joining a club. Also the library award is so important because no one knows kids’ books better than librarians. Their opinions matter a great deal to me!

In what ways do you think writers could connect better with their target audience of schools, libraries and families. What support do writers need to be able to achieve this?

I think writers do the best they can. Most of us are very willing to do any events we’re asked and YA authors in particular know the importance of social media. However, I think there’s very little awareness in the wider community about recent NZ children’s books. Yesterday a guy I know asked me to recommend a NZ children’s book to turn into theatre. He basically said - nothing after the early 1990s, as no one’s heard of anything after that. I don’t know what to make of that – I have no answers. I only know there’s a problem. How can some of my favourite books be ignored? The Loblolly Boy by James Norcliffe is one of the best NZ books I’ve read and many kids haven’t heard of it, despite sweeping the NZ awards.

I think this is very serious – I’m not here to promote myself, but I do care about great NZ books which no one is reading. If we’re not careful, NZ publishers won’t be supported and our industry will be damaged. Then who will publish stories with NZ children, in a local setting? Don’t our kids deserve to see their world in print?

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Peer Review: Picture Books December 2015


Reviews by School Librarians, Teachers and Principals of the latest New Zealand picture books

T is for TANIWHA
Ann K Addley

Self published. RRP: PB $9.50, eBook $4.99
Ages: 4-9

Reviewer: Jenny Chapman, Teacher with Library Responsibility
Otumoetai Primary

T is for Taniwha is an alphabet colouring in book. There are 26 pages, one page for each letter of the alphabet in both upper and lower case. The font is compatible with what is taught in our New Zealand schools avoiding confusion for beginning learners. On each new page and with each letter, there is an interesting range of New Zealand images to colour, each with a brief explanation. There is opportunity for discussion around the explanations and about New Zealand.

SHHH! I’m Sleeping
Dorothee de Monfreid
, Illustration: Dorothee de Monfreid
Translation: Linda Burgess
Publisher: Gecko Press, RRP: BB $19.99
Ages: 2-5 years

Reviewer: Gayle Henderson, Teacher Aide and School Library Manager
Kimbolton School

Originally titled Dodo, this book was published in France in 2014. The setting is a dormitory where eight dogs are in two four-high bunk beds. One dog is bothering his neighbour with loud snoring and so begins a resettling of the room’s occupants. Apart from the snoring sounds all the text is in dialogue.

The ink and watercolour illustrations tell the story clearly as bed lamps are switched on and the characters climb up and down ladders. The dialogue adds individuality to each distinctly drawn character. The story illustrates belonging. Each bunk has its own lamp that glows warmly. Some have soft toys and books. The night illustrations are perhaps painted a little too dark to see clearly. The character illustrations show real personality although their names may sound a bit unfamiliar at times.

The book’s tall narrow shape and board construction initially put me off, but the story dictates the shape and its sturdiness would be ideal in the hands of a toddler or shared by older children. This is a feel-good, well planned book. I would recommend it to anyone who still enjoys snuggling up with a teddy.

The Lion and the Bird
Marianne Dubue

Translation: Sarah Ardizzare
Book Island, RRP: HB $25.00
Ages: 4+

Reviewer: Janine Holcroft, Library Manager
Trentham School

I am so glad that this book has been translated into English. It is delightful, imaginative and charming. It provides great opportunity for the reader to use his/her imagination and language skills. Even though there are very few words, the story and its meaning come across well. It will be a lovely addition to our library.

Jill Eggleton
, Illustration: Richard Hoit
South Pacific Books RRP: PB with CD, $25.00
Ages: 3+

Reviewer: Janine Holcroft, Library Manager
Trentham School

This book is well written, and has colourful illustrations that go with the story. The words are all cleverly illustrated, and help to encourage expression whenever you read the story out loud. The Bonus CD is great, with a helpful chime to tell you when to turn the page. I read this book to our 7 and 8 year olds, and they thought the story showed kindness and reflected our school values. They loved the music, noises, colours and the descriptions used for the dinosaurs.

Duck Feet and Other Ridiculous Rhymes
Jill Eggleton
, Illustration: Richard Hoit, Grant Snow, John Bennett
Publisher: Global Education Systems Ltd, RRP: PB $25.00
Ages: 4-6

Reviewer: Gayle Henderson, Teacher Aide and School Library Manager
Kimbolton School

This book is part of the JillE Poetry series. 10 rhymes, each 7 - 12 lines long are featured, with each rhyme based on the experiences and interests of young children. Every rhyme is laid out on one side of a double page facing its illustration. The illustrations clarify what each rhyme is saying, and add a visual dimension to enhance the reader’s experience. The dark block purple cover lets the content down.

Duck Feet is an A4 sized book, and is suitable as a read-aloud, and the length of lines, size, style and varied boldness of text effectively aid the reading of the rhymes. In the rhyme Growing, when the child looks in the mirror, he says, ‘I just see a teeny-weeny midget me.’ ‘Teeny-weeny’ is stretched out so it is said slowly but not louder.

A CD inside the back cover features the rhymes read out loud with musical sound effects, as well as visual squiggles that move with the rhythm of the reading, which make it useful for the listening post.

I enjoyed these funny rhymes, and recommend that this book belongs in the classroom, where teachers can give this book a permanent place in their annual class literacy programme for 5 to 6 year olds.

Oh Me, Oh My
Jill Eggleton
, Illustration: Richard Hoit
South Pacific Books, RRP PB: $25.00
Ages: 3-8

Reviewer: Rachel Gargan, Teacher with Library Responsibilities
Redwood School

It has been raining for days, and Parrot and Elephant go off in search of the sun, which wise old Owl tells them has fallen out of the sky. They come across a few colourful characters and choices in their quest, avoid getting themselves into trouble, and eventually, regardless of their efforts, the sun shines again. Jill Eggleton is a favourite of all junior school teachers. She writes with a rhyme and rhythm that naturally flows from the readers mouth. As with many of her shared books, it is a pleasure to read this book aloud, and equally enjoyable for the listener. The repetitive nature of the story, predictable story line, and rich language, make the story fun and familiar to younger readers while promoting good literacy learning. Enhanced with bold and colourful illustrations, and a CD read by Jill herself, this book would make a great addition to any family, school, or classroom library.

Wobbling Whiskers
Jill Eggleton
, Illustration: Ricky Rumsey
South Pacific Books, RRP: PB $25.00
Ages: 3-8

Reviewer: Natalie Marsh, Teacher
Kaipaki School

This is a humorous book with elements of guess and surprise, as well as a strong moral message. It comes with a CD that uses different voices for each character to great effect. The illustrations are bright and colourful with a cartoonish style. Students particularly enjoyed the mice and their differences i.e. the smaller mouse was braver than the bigger mouse - providing a nice twist to the tale.

The Little Yellow Digger Treasury (Limited Edition)
Betty Gilderdale, Illustration: Alan Gilderdale
Scholastic, RRP: HB $30.00
Ages: 2 – 8

Reviewer: Kathryn Jury, Senior Teacher
Hikuai Primary

The Little Yellow Digger Treasury gives you five Little Yellow Digger books in one hardcover edition. Bright, rich and intricately detailed illustrations on every page support the story line perfectly. An excellent literary feature of the book is a constant and unforced rhyme which progresses the story with grace and depth.

The stories in this Treasury would produce instant affinity and recognition for any New Zealand child who will be able to relate completely to the adventures undertaken by the Little Yellow Digger. Illustrations strongly support this cultural emphasis by portraying a mix of skin tones and New Zealand geographical scenes, such as farms, bush and beaches.

In this Treasury it is a child that is part of the solution, and small contributions are shown to bring big changes. Everyday children have big adventures doing everyday things. Any Little Yellow Digger fan of any age will relate to saving a baby whale and having a picnic on the beach, instead of being in the classroom, and the school principal getting his suit and tie soaked and covered in mud.

Korero Mai
Sharon Holt
, Illustration: Deborah Hinde
The Writing Bug Ltd, RRP: PB $24.99
Ages: 4-8

Reviewer: Jenny Chapman, Teacher with Library Responsibility
Otumoetai Primary

Korero Mai is a picture book that explains the Maori mihi (greeting), before demonstrating in an easy to follow, step-by-step format how we can create our own. The book firstly explains what each part of a mihi is about, in both Maori and English. A CD is included with the book, and guitar chords are also provided in the back. This book is most likely suitable for children from 4 to 8 years of age. Korero Mai is the book classroom teachers have all been waiting for! Not only a picture book but a great resource and teaching aid.

Counting in the South Pacific
Jill Jaques
, Illustration: Deborah Hinde
PictureBook Publishing, RRP: PB $20.00
Ages: 3-6

Reviewer: Emily Smith, Teacher with Library Responsibilities
Mangere Bridge School

Counting in the South Pacific is a learning to count book. Working with numbers one to ten, the reader is encouraged to scour the illustrations to locate the number of items indicated in the text. The illustrations are strong and rich, and focus on finding objects characteristic of the setting - geckos, coconuts, dolphins and squawking seagulls. The illustrations are beautiful, and invite discussion far beyond the locating and counting of objects. A translation of numbers is offered for the reader to count from one to ten in English, Maori, Fijian, Samoan and Tongan. This book could be used in a range of contexts, and beautifully promotes a South Pacific heritage.

We’re Going on a Moa Hunt
Patrick McDonald

Penguin, Random House NZ, RRP: PB $19.99
Ages: 4 – 10

Reviewer: Liz Ward, Junior, Primary School Teacher
Tainui School

If you loved the classic rhyming story for children, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, then you will fall in love with this picture book with a unique NZ twist. The story is set in New Zealand following the elusive Moa. The reader is taken on an adventure through our spectacular landscapes, which are full of plants and wildlife that even the youngest reader can identify with. The author uses vibrant, descriptive language which has repeating rhyming verses. The story cleverly draws to a close by using the illustrations to surprise the reader at the end. Yes, there is a very good reason why the Moa has become the ‘hunter’ towards the end of the story. Patrick McDonald has used detailed pictures to compliment the story, and there is also an extra challenge for the reader by looking for the Moa and other New Zealand wildlife on each page. This story will appeal to a wide audience, young and old.

Jungle Bells
Sung by Anika Moa
, Illustration: Stephanie Thatcher
Scholastic, RRP: PB $21.00
Ages: 3-7

Reviewer: Natalie Marsh,Teacher
Kaipaki School

This book has an ideal quirk for Christmas. It is a story that is sung, and is an enjoyable read that captures the students’ interest and imagination. The children enjoyed looking for the dung beetle on each page, and they also loved the repetition and rhyming. The CD included had a very catchy song, that the students could also sing easily and remember. The strengths of this book lie in the rhyming and repetition. The weakness is in the content, as the simplicity is something that children may quickly tire of.

Lillibutts’s Australian Adventure
Maris O’Rourke
, Illustration: Claudia Pond Eyley
Duck Creek Press, RRP: HB $29.99
Ages: 4+

Reviewer: Kathryn Jury, Senior Teacher
Hikuai Primary School

This book is the third in a series of Lillibutt adventures. Lillibutt’s Australian Adventure is a story that gives us a detailed example of the culture, beliefs and way of life of Australia’s Traditional Owners. Specialist cultural terms such as 'corroboree', 'walkabout' and 'Jackaroo' are used in context and are supported by colourful and detailed illustrations that help to both explain and enhance the meaning of these terms.

As the adventure unfolds it introduces the reader to concepts such as the Flying Doctor service, and the School of the Air which are both everyday realities for many residents of the Outback of Australia.

What this book does well is deliver a basic knowledge of both living and traditional culture for the people of the Outback while weaving it into an adventure story. There are common sense decisions to be made by the adventurers, such as whether to trust a dingo, or the wisdom of going for a ride on a crocodile’s back.

What is questionable within this story is the illustrator’s depiction of the character Moana. A Maori child wearing an adult moko and ceremonial piupiu whilst on an Outback adventure does stretch the boundaries of artistic licence somewhat.

Princess Polly’s Rumbly Tum
Michelle Osment
, Illustration: Brittany Herd
Little Friends Publishing, RRP: PB $19.99
Ages: 4–8

Reviewer: Kathryn Jury, Senior Teacher
Hikuai Primary

Princess Polly’s Rumbly Tum is written in a very modern context. Teenage character, Samantha is a modern teen, busy listening to music on her phone, texting or taking selfies. Princess Polly is depicted as a typical cat that sleeps deeply in the sun and may climb the curtains if bored or wanting attention. She will also follow you meowing incessantly to get food. The use of rhyme enhances the reader’s level of enjoyment, and gives the book strength as a read-aloud for teachers and parents alike.

The illustrations are large, bright and support the text accurately page for page. The book characters’ eyes are all depicted in an Asian anime style that makes them appear to sparkle. This style of illustration would appeal to younger readers as it is often used in interactive games and many current children’s movies.

What’s the Time, Dinosaur?
Ruth Paul

Scholastic, RRP: PB $18.95
Ages: 3-7 years

Reviewer: Emily Smith, Teacher with Library Responsibilities
Mangere Bridge School

This is a delightful take on an old favourite, What’s the Time, Mr Wolf? The fun and brightly depicted dinosaurs were an automatic hook. The children eagerly identified their favourite dinosaurs and followed them as the story unfolded. The illustrations captured the cheeky nature of the characters and the changing phases of the game. With such accessible characters and a familiar context, the reader follows the predictable pattern of the traditional game, with an expectation of what will happen next. The rhyming gait of the book offered momentum to the story and is well supported in the formatting. I read this story with a group of 6 - 8 year olds. They loved the illustrations and followed the story with a sense of anticipation. Although engaging, I would target this book at a slightly younger audience, 3-5 year olds.

Toot The World’s Tiniest Whale
Joy Ramirez
, Illustration: Mike Chapman
Mercury Fox Media, RRP: PB $21.99
Ages: 4-9

Reviewer: Jenny Chapman, Teacher with Library Responsibility
Otumoetai Primary

Toot The World’s Tiniest Whale is a story about never giving up on something we really want. Toot has many attempts to reach the sea he has never seen, and through perseverance he finally makes it. The layout is colourful and interesting, with cartoon like illustrations to engage the reader. The text is a mix of rhyme and descriptive language, and would be most suitable as a read aloud picture book for children from around 4 to 9 years of age.

Craig Smith
, Illustration: Scott Tulloch
Craig Smith Publishing, RRP: PB $21.00
Ages: 6-8

Reviewer: Emily Smith, Teacher with Library Responsibilities
Mangere Bridge School

With a catchy tune that bounces through the story, Eating is another entertaining tale by Craig Smith of Wonky Donkey fame. The illustrations depict an array of brightly drawn animals at a birthday party, and follow the antics they get up to in eating various types of food. The musical rendition offered in the accompanying CD is the best way to enjoy this book. The song adds a strength that is lost when the book is read in isolation. The pictures complement the song, adding extra meaning and making it a more entertaining experience. For a class of 6 and 7 year olds who appreciate jokes about farts and boogers, it was a hit.

10 Goofy Geckos
Pio Terei
, Illustration: Deborah Hinde
Translation: Ngaere Roberts
Scholastic NZ, RRP: PB $19.99
Ages: 3 – 7

Reviewer: Liz Ward, Junior Primary School Teacher
Tainui School

10 Goofy Geckos are off for an adventure in the New Zealand landscape, but on the way one Gecko gets accidently side tracked from the group. The very colourful and happy Geckos slowly find their numbers diminishing until they get reunited at the end of a busy summer’s day. Young readers will enjoy the familiar rote of counting backwards from 10. The author, when writing this book has cleverly portrayed various outdoor activities that are unique to the ‘Kiwi’ outdoors, and in turn, the illustrator has managed to bring the story to life with the vibrant and colourful illustrations. This book also doubles as a useful resource for young learners of te Reo Māori. A CD is included with this book that has an English version, Māori version, and a musical accompaniment. This book would appeal to younger reader, perhaps more so for the preschool age group with an extra challenge of learning the song in Māori.

Leo Timmers

Translation: Bill Nagelkerke
Gecko Press, RRP: PB $20.00
Ages: 3 - 6

Reviewer: Janine Holcroft, Library Manager
Trentham School

I love this book, and how Sam comes to life on the pages through the illustrations. Children can easily relate to Sam and his wild imagination, and I loved the clever way he uses household items to make his robot and stays true to his beliefs. I am sure the children at Trentham School will love it!

Stripes! No, Spots
Vasanti Unka

Penguin Random House NZ, RRP: HB $25.00
Ages: 3-8 year olds

Reviewer: Rachel Gargan, Teacher with Library Responsiblities
Redwood School, Tawa, Wellington

Tiger and Leopard are having a disagreement in the jungle over who, and what, is better looking – stripes or spots. It moves to an all-out brawl and chaos reigns. The Jungle Council becomes involved and the story has a somewhat predictable ending. While not an original storyline it is fun all the same, and would be enjoyed by young readers. Beautifully illustrated with bright bold colours, fun patterns and designs, this book could inspire any number of art lessons. Books don’t have to be original to be enjoyable and this is a nice fun read.


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Peer Review: Junior Books December 2015


Reviews by Librarians, Teachers and Principals of the latest New Zealand books for junior readers.

In the Bush: Explore & Discover New Zealand’s Native Forests
Gillian Candler
, Illustration: Ned Barraud
Publisher: Potton & Burton, RRP: PB $19.99
Ages: 5-10

Reviewer: Gayle Henderson, Teacher Aide and School Library Manager
Kimbolton School

This is the fourth title in the Explore & Discover series. The introduction opens as a story. Different bush scenes depict night-time, daytime, and various levels from ground to canopy. Some pages zoom in and others give detailed drawings and facts about different species of flora and fauna. Both common and rare animals, as well as introduced mammals are included with Maori and common names given.

The illustrations are essential to the story, as the text describes the depicted scenes, and the drawings illustrate the pages with facts on individual species. The illustrations are detailed, realistic and accurate in style and colour.

A gentle story-telling voice guides the reader into the bush using present tense and personification. The tiny frog is ‘hoping the rat won’t find it’ while ‘tall trees reach up to the sun’, ‘vines scramble’ and ‘small ferns crouch in the shade’. This book is packed with interesting information although some pages appear a bit crowded with pictures and text boxes squeezed in together.

There are many clear reference features including a removable waterproof quick-reference card. This book would make an ideal electronic resource for the classroom data projector or smart board if the illustrations and text were layered so they could be added gradually, or enlarged and perhaps have bush sounds available. A good example of where this has been done is Maria Gill’s book, Rangitoto.

Beautifully illustrated with great read-aloud text, I would recommend this book for children 5 to 10 years old.

Whose Beak Is This?
Gillian Candler
, Illustration: Fraser Williamson
Publisher: Potton and Burton, RRP: PB $14.99
Ages: 3-6

Reviewer: Natalie Marsh, Teacher
Kaipaki School

In my opinion this book would be an ideal literature base for te Reo Maori, and any one learning about birds as a project or for inquiry based learning. The book builds excitement and anticipationt, as the reader tries to guess what comes next. The illustrations are simple with an emphasis on the bird rather than the background. An ideal added extra could be a map of where the birds can be found. This was a question all of the children had. This book is suitable for children from ages 3 -10.

Haka / Whiti Te Ra!
Patricia Grace
, Illustration: Andrew Burdan
Translation: Kawata Teepa
Huia Publishers, RRP: PB $25.00 each
Ages: 5-10

Reviewer: Ann Horn and Toi Toi Manawa, Librarian and Room 18
Fairhaven Te Puke

This book tells a very powerful, traditional story about the Haka, and is available in both English and te Reo Maori. The captivating plot follows the story of a fighting chief, a kumara pit, the woman’s role, and how the haka was created. Putting a traditional story into children's words, has given greater meaning to the use of Maori words, and truly reflects their values. The story is so expressive and continually builds up, leaving children with jaws dropped as they listen. We found that the content also created a lot of discussion about clarifying where the haka came from, and how to make the connection to kapa-haka and the stories behind them. The brilliant graphic illustrations compliment the story, creating the scene and emotions on each page. The English version has a link to an audio of the haka being performed, which is an added advantage. A true must-have in all libraries.

Tyranno-sort-of Rex
Christopher Llewelyn
, Illustration: Scott Tulloch
Scholastic NZ, RRP: PB $19.99
Ages: 6–10

Liz Ward, Junior Primary School Teacher
Tainui School

This is a story that will appeal to all budding palaeontologists! Right from the beginning, the author draws the reader in by going on a fossil hunt that leads to a museum. Once the bones arrive at the museum a quirky curator has the difficult job of putting all the bones together, trying to re-create the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex. The author makes good use of onomatopoeia to allow the reader to visualise and ‘hear’ the sounds of the curator constructing his version of a T-Rex. The story also thrives on repetition and rhyme, drawing the story out, and leaving the reader wondering when the story will end, and whether or not the Curator will ever get the dinosaur built. The illustrator does a fabulous job of making the fossil bones look as realistic as possible. This story will appeal to a specific audience (mainly boys) who have a love of anything to do with dinosaurs.

Bronze and Sunflower
Cao Wenxuan
, Translation: Helen Wang
Walker Books Ltd, RRP: PB $18.99
Ages: 9+

Reviewer: Kim Kelly, Teacher
Kenakena School

The Chinese story Bronze and Sunflower is a delicate tale of friendship and familial affection against the harsh backdrop of rural life during the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Sunflower is a lonely little girl until she meets the equally excluded and isolated Bronze, a mute boy who lives across the river from her. A powerful friendship is formed, and when Sunflower’s father dies she is taken in by Bronze’s family, even though it is already a daily struggle for the poverty stricken family to survive. Bronze and his family go to extraordinary lengths to make sure their treasured Sunflower does not go without. Rather than the characters having one big problem to solve in the book, it is their daily trials and tribulations that drive the plot. It has a folk-tale feel to it.

Readers are powerless to resist the charms of kind-hearted Sunflower and Bronze. Their struggles are far removed to what most Western children will experience, and many will feel very fortunate after reading this book. Young children will enjoy the book’s fragile simplicity, whereas older children will be able to connect with the character’s feelings of anger, hope, love and fear.

Cao Wenxuan’s images, translated into English by Helen Wang, are tantalising beautiful and I found myself re-reading chunks of prose, savouring the exquisiteness his word pictures invoked.

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Geoff Cush is a novelist, playwright and journalist. His first novel God Help the Queen appeared in 1987,...


Writers in Schools: on Tour 2016

Throughout the school year we tour a variety of writers and illustrators away from their home region, so that schools can benefit from hosting someone they couldn't otherwise afford. Member schools are alerted first so that they can secure a booking early, and are offered these visits at a discounted rate. Non-member school rates are indicated below. The fees contribute towards the additional costs of accommodation, and food and transport for the writer.

Touring Fees (excl. GST):

Member Schools
First visit: Half day visit: $130.00/ Full day visit $220.00
Second or Third visit: Half day visit: $265.00/ Full day visit: $330.00
Workshops: $55.00 each

Non-Member Schools
Half day visit: $500.00
Full day visit: $700.00
Workshops: $55.00 each

Watch this space for 2016 Tours

Speed Date an Author Events

Interactive workshops are a great way to learn, and Speed Date an Author workshops allow your school’s budding writers to experience five 25-minute writer sessions over the course of a morning. They usually take place in a local museum or public library, and are delivered by five fantastic writers and illustrators. We organise six Speed Date an Author events each year. Three take place in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and the other three rotate around the regions. Member schools are alerted first so that they can secure a booking early, and are offered these sessions at a discounted rate.

Entry Fees (incl. GST):

Member Schools: $20.00 per student
Supervising adult: Free

Find out more about Writers in Schools, tours and Speed Date an Author here.

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Phone 0064 4 801 5546
Level 4, Stephenson & Turner House, 156 Victoria St, Te Aro,
Wellington 6011, New Zealand