NB: You will need javascript enabled on your browser to use this

Flash Join_us_onFT.swf should show here.

Feature Author

Ted Dawe writes fiction for young adults. He has worked over the years as an insurance clerk, store man,...


Trish Bowles answers our questions about illustrating The Anzac Puppy


Trish Bowles’ book The Anzac Puppy was voted by hundreds of kids all over New Zealand as a finalist in the Children’s Choice Picture Book category in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Rachel Moore on the Booksellers NZ blog said, ‘This delightful picture book will engage children and adults alike; it is beautifully illustrated, with just the right amount of detail for a younger audience.’

Christchurch-based Trish has now illustrated over 20 books, and is always happiest when on the drawing board. We asked her a few questions about how she conceived the illustrations, and what her go-to doodle is.

1. What was your approach to illustrating this book?

The first thing I had to do, as with every book, was a lot of research. As Anzac Puppy was based on a true story I wanted to have all the details as correct as possible. I looked up old photos on the internet and also spent many hours at the library, because before putting scenes together I had to have the uniforms and everything else right.

2. Tell us a bit about the journey from storyboards to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in illustrating this book?

The pictures changed a lot over the course of 1 or 2 months. It was tricky getting the right balance so war scenes wouldn’t be too scary for very small children but would still convey how awful war is. I had to make sure that the dog Freda was gradually getting bigger, as she grew from a puppy to a very large dog. It must have been awful for dogs in the trenches. My favourite thing about the story is how Freda would have given so much love, companionship and hope to the soldiers. In the paintings I tried to make Freda stand out as something good against the sadness.

3. How closely were you able to collaborate with the writer? Do you prefer to work this way?

I didn’t get to talk to the writer, Peter Millett, until after my work was done. I really like working with writers though, and always hope that my paintings come close to what they had in mind while writing the story. I think Peter was very clever with Anzac Puppy. It’s just the right mix for small children – not too gloomy, but a gentle introduction of the concept of war and what soldiers experience. I particularly like the opening and closing paragraphs “In the middle of the night…” and the way they tie the story together. I liked doing those paintings too – of the puppy and then the baby.

4. What was your favourite thing to draw when you were at primary school – did you have a “party trick”?

When I was at school (a LONG time ago) I was always getting into trouble for drawing when I was supposed to be doing something else! I’ve always enjoyed drawing small detailed things – especially fairies, elves and mice. I love to draw animals and birds, so I really enjoyed illustrating Anzac Puppy.

5. Can you recommend any books for children/young adults who love this book?

If you like stories about dogs, you should read Dogs of the Vastness, that I illustrated just after Anzac Puppy. It’s written by Ben Brown, and is about the ice dogs of Lyttelton, who made Antarctic exploration possible. The book also has lots of photos mixed in with the story and paintings, so it’s very interesting.

6. What is your favourite thing to do when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?

When I’m not working I like to just look through pictures in books, or to wander around the garden. My crazy imagination keeps me busy. I see little creatures hiding behind the bushes, or birds talking to each other – one might be wearing a hat and the other a scarf. One day I was looking at my Dad’s empty shoe and imagined three little mice playing in it. I wrote a story about those mice – maybe one day it will become a book.

The Anzac Puppy
by Peter Millett & Trish Bowles
Scholastic NZ
PB RRP $19.00
Target Age 6+

If you want to know more about Trish, visit her website here

For reviews of The Anzac Puppy, check out the Booksellers NZ review

0 comments - Make a comment

Back to top

Mākaro Press answers our questions about The Red Suitcase by Jill Harris


The Red Suitcase
has been voted by teenagers all over New Zealand to be a finalist in the Children’s Choice Young Adult Fiction category. Jill Harris is the author of Sil (Longacre Press, 2005), which won an Honour Award in the 2006 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards and was listed as a 2006 Storylines NZ Notable Book, Missing Toby (Longacre Press, 2007), and At the Lake (HarperCollins, 2011), a 2012 Storylines NZ Notable Book. Jill grew up in Takapuna, North Shore, New Zealand, spending a lot of her childhood swimming, boating, fishing and reading. Jill died in December last year. Mary McCallum from Mākaro Press answered these questions about the publication of The Red Suitcase.

1. What was it about this story that grabbed you and made you want to publish it?

The opening chapter inside a Lancaster bomber had me riveted, and the war scenes (which are thoroughly researched) continued to astonish me throughout the book. I also loved the complexity of the main character, Ruth, and the way she copes with two terrifying events: a terrorist bombing in Indonesia, which has forced her back home to New Zealand, and strange ‘episodes’, which start catapulting her into the life of a Lancaster bomber navigator in World War. Ruth is a smart girl and she thinks deeply about things, and not just about herself and the life she’s leading, but about global issues like war. I also really like the relationship Ruth has with her grandmother, whom author Jill Harris told me is her, really. The Red Suitcase is that rare thing, a teenage book that deals warmly with different generations and with the past as well as the future. I couldn’t resist it.

2. What was the process behind publishing The Red Suitcase? Was the historical setting cause for extra research to ensure the integrity of the work?

As a small press, I also do the editing, so Jill and I worked together to edit the book over the summer of 2013/14. It was a faster process than usual because Jill knew she had leukemia and was dying. It was hard work, but Jill amazed me with her determination and stamina. At one point it became difficult for her to edit on the computer, so I went to her house with my assistant, Paul Stewart, and we worked together on the edits – Jill sitting in a comfortable chair with a hard copy and a red pen, me on my laptop explaining my tracked edits and negotiating them with Jill, and Paul putting them into the document. The rest of the week I went on my own to Jill’s to do the computer edits, and sent through finished text every few hours for Paul to typeset at the office. It was an amazing and unforgettable time in Jill’s cosy study with her husband, Ian, keeping us going with toasted sandwiches and cups of tea. On Friday when we finished at last, Jill said, ‘I could do with a whiskey, how about you?’ And so we celebrated!

As far as the history research goes, as editor I checked key facts including names and dates, and things such as the layout of a Lancaster when I had difficulties visualising things, but Jill was an assiduous and obsessive researcher whose interest in the subject had grown from having an uncle who flew Lancasters, so I trusted the finer detail of her research absolutely. The veracity of Jill’s war scenes is shown in the response we have had from people when she gave presentations on the book. At one talk, there were half a dozen people there who had either flown in Lancaster bombers or were related to people who were, and they loved hearing what she had to say. All her facts checked out, she hadn’t missed a beat.

3. How did you come to the conclusion that this was a YA read?

The story is about a 14-year-old girl who thinks deeply about big questions like war, terrorism and bullying, and who also starts to become interested in a boy called Thomas, so it seemed a natural fit for YA. Although we’re finding good readers in the 10-12-year-old bracket are wanting to read it too.

The-Red-STell us a little bit about Jill – did she do any promotional work for the novel, did she visit schools?

Jill was brought up in Takapuna, Auckland, lived in Indonesia for some years with her family, and worked in New Zealand as a librarian and teacher, retiring to write. Her fourth novel The Red Suitcase was published the day before ANZAC Day last year (a perfect date for a book discussing the issue of war), and Jill enjoyed speaking about it on radio, in newspaper interviews, and to groups, which included a number of library events, a retired person’s group and Raroa Intermediate. If she’d had her health, Jill would have happily done more talks about The Red Suitcase, and she would have been delighted by the interest in her book now – especially that librarians shortlisted it for the LIANZA Awards, and young readers nominated it for a Children’s Choice Award.

Jill’s talk included displaying photographs of items associated with the uncle she’d based the character of her World War Two airman on. Like her character, Jill’s uncle went missing during World War Two while flying as a navigator in a Lancaster bomber, and his letters home were kept in a real red suitcase. Jill died at the end of last year. Her other books were the award-winning Sil, as well as Missing Toby and At the Lake. She has also written a book of liturgies for adult worship, which we published after her death.

5. Can you recommend further reads for those who enjoyed The Red Suitcase?

Jill’s other three novels, for sure. And then I’d recommend Peace Warriors by Raymond Huber, which we published exactly one year after Jill’s. It is a collection of non-fiction stories about people in history who have chosen a non-violent way to oppose something they don’t like. It is almost like the companion volume to Jill’s book, and we’re proud that both these books, which are strong advocates for non-violence, were launched just before ANZAC Day. Ruth would have been interested in reading Peace Warriors, we’re sure, and so would Jill. Apart from that, I’d recommend My Brother’s War by David Hill, and his book The Deadly Sky.

If you want to know more about Mākaro Press’ Submarine’ imprint, check out their website here.

Other Links: Philippa Werry discusses The Red Suitcase.

The Red Suitcase features on Bob’s books blog.

You can also listen to John McIntyre from The Children’s Bookshop reviewing the book here.

0 comments - Make a comment

Back to top

Peer Review: Young Adult Books June 2015


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

Letters to Gemma
Bryan Carter
Bryan Carter Publishing, RRP: PB $29.99
ISBN: 9780473314545
Ages: 12+

Reviewer: Maree Bublitz with Leah Bell, Librarian
Otorohanga College

Letters to Gemma is a compilation of letters that were written by the author to Gemma, a family friend who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at the age of 11, in 2009. Gemma spent the next year of her life receiving treatment for cancer which included chemotherapy. Bryan wrote these letters to entertain Gemma, and to help shift her attention from her disease to the world around her. Topics covered are varied and include both serious and amusing subjects, from terrorism to aliens.

I would recommend this book anyone who wants something different. I gave this to a Year 12 student to read and this was her response:

”From the very get-go, I found this book intriguing and relatable. It showed the power of love for friends, family and life. The beliefs in Letters to Gemma echo many artists’ beliefs that philosophy, art, deep-thinking and passion are the very essence of life, and if you can keep them dear to you, you can weather all storms.”

A Court of Thorns and Roses
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury, RRP: PB $21.99
ISBN: 9781408857861
Ages: 16+

Reviewer: Colleen Shipley, Librarian
Marlborough Girls’ College

Nineteen year-old Feyre is a huntress who is striving to keep her family fed. After killing a wolf, she is hunted down by a beast for revenge. Abducted, Feyre finds herself in an enchanted faerie kingdom. Imprisoned but free to roam the court, Feyre begins to develop feelings for Tamlin, the High Fae. Meanwhile, the Kingdom is cursed and danger is near, and Feyre may be the only one who can help.

The story has hints of Beauty and the Beast, and lovers of fantasy and romance will relish in the magical world that Maas creates. The book is the first of a trilogy, and readers will be keen to get their hands on part two, due out in May 2016. The book is a compelling read, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to try fantasy for the first time, right through to seasoned readers of the genre. The plot and cover seem to be aimed at the 13–14-year-old age group but some of the content is definitely older.

Stay With Me
Maureen McCarthy
Allen & Unwin, RRP: PB 28.99
ISBN: 9781743316887
Ages: 13+

Reviewer: Julie Knowles, Teacher Librarian
Napier Girls’ High School

Stay With Me deals with some weighty issues that are not for the fainthearted, including domestic abuse, suicide, mental illness and drugs, but delves much deeper. The book follows 21-year-old Tess Browne as she hurriedly leaves Byron Bay, with no plan other than to escape her abusive relationship. A long road trip with a kind stranger, Harry, helps both him and the reader understand Tess’s recent past and her childhood. Harry convinces Tess to contact the family she has not seen in four years. As luck would have it, her siblings are gathering together at their Grandfather’s property and Tess is summoned. Descriptions of the rural Australian town ring true for anyone who has experienced a similar setting. McCarthy’s strength lies in her depictions of realistic characters and their relationships. The book is tension-filled but also contains humour and beautifully reflects a mother’s love and determination to protect her child at all costs.


0 comments - Make a comment

Back to top

Peer Review: Junior Books June 2015


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

Grandma’s Brain
Ann Andrews, Illustration: Sally Hollis-McLeod
July Publishing, RRP: PB $20.00
ISBN: 9780473309992
Ages: 6– 10 years

Reviewer: Tina Donnell, Teacher
Kaipara Flats

Grandma’s Brain is a picture book written to help primary school aged children understand something about Parkinson’s as a brain disorder. It is particularly aimed at children who may have a parent or grandparent with Parkinson’s. It’s a gentle story with a ring of authenticity to it.

As Adam and Jack sit with Grandma reading a bedtime story, her hands start to shake. This leads to a conversation about Parkinson’s. The book the boys are sharing with Grandma is woven into the storyline and incorporated into the illustrations. The boys’ questions and comments drive the story forward and the illustrations support the text well. For example, when Adam ponders that pirates have stolen some of Grandma’s brain cells, we see the boys dressed as pirates, pushing a trolley that includes Grandma’s brain as part of their treasure. The symptoms of Parkinson’s are neatly woven into the storyline. At one point the boys break off into a demonstration of funny walks, as they remember that Grandma sometimes takes small, shuffling steps.

I think the story is very accessible for children, and explores the subject in a sympathetic and believable way.

Tā Daniel Hākari Matariki
Rebecca Beyer and Linley Wellington, Illustration: Christine Ross
Translation: Te Ingo Ngaia
David Ling Publishing, RRP: PB $19.95
ISBN: 9781927305027
Ages: 4+

Reviewer: Samantha Crossman, Bi-lingual Teacher
Tauranga Intermediate

This story is a beautiful te reo Māori translation of Daniel’s Matariki Feast which was first released in May 2014. The author describes a child’s first experience with both school and Matariki, entwining a mix of emotions, first time moments and new learning into a realistic tale that children will be drawn to.

This story provides the audience with a cultural understanding of the significance of the Māori New Year and how Matariki celebrations are undertaken, in particular highlighting the importance of planting, tending, harvesting, cooking, sharing and coming together. Colourful illustrations provide a telling backdrop which will assist new language learners to interpret the text. This book is a good introduction to new learners of Matariki at lower primary school age.

Rustle Up a Rhythm
Rosalind Malam, Illustrations: Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson
Scholastic, RRP: PB $19.00
ISBN: 9781775431480
Age: 3–7

Reviewer: Lareen Bonnington, Librarian
Tapawera Area School

What a delightful book! The story combines the sounds of everyday with the adventure of a journey with Dad. The rhyming is catchy and easy to memorise, and is designed to teach children to hear sounds we take for granted. I can imagine teachers reading this aloud and young children being able to chant along. It could even be sung. The illustrations are beautifully compatible with the story, with great colour and activity on every page.

This book is lightweight and a good size for holding. I see it as more of a read-aloud book than a book for a new reader - words like “gurgle”, “chatter” and “bibble-bubble” are easy to say, but aren’t the first words young children learn. Altogether a good addition to our library and a book I’d happily read to my grandchildren.

Detective Gordon: The First Case
Ulf Nilsson
, Illustration: Gitte Spee
Translation: Julia Marshall
Gecko Press, RRP: PB$19.99
ISBN: 9781927271506
Ages: 6– 9 years

Reviewer: Tina Donnell, Teacher
Kaipara Flats

This book is the first in a series, which has been translated from Swedish. Having read this one, I am definitely planning to keep watch for the next book.

The story has a preoccupation with tea and cakes, not to mention Detective Gordon’s girth. Aided by his new recruit, Buffy the mouse, Detective Gordon deals with the case of the squirrel’s missing nuts with great wisdom and attention to detail. The humour in the story is subtle and whimsical both in the text and the illustrations. It can be appreciated on different levels by children and adults alike. The colourful illustrations support the story and give the reader a richer sense of the characters.

I intend to try this out as a read aloud with my class of 6–8 year olds and I predict that it will be well received, with many of them keen to tackle both this book and any others in the series that we can lay our hands on.

When Dad Showed Me the Universe
Ulf Stark
, Illustration: Eva Eriksson
Translation: Julia Mashall
Gecko Press, RRP: PB $19.99
ISBN: 9781927271810
Ages: 5+

Reviewer: Alison Baucke, Librarian
Te Rapa Primary School

This is a beautifully written picture book, originally published in Sweden and now translated into English. This story is written from the viewpoint of a child who is being taken on a journey by his father. They wrap up warm, head off for a long walk on a cold night and stop for provisions along the way. The anticipation of the child grows with every step and they both learn that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. The ending has a humorous twist and you can’t help but feel sympathetic towards the father. Ulf Stark is one of the most popular children’s authors in Sweden and Eva Eriksson is a well-loved Swedish illustrator. The illustrations are amazing and help tell the story fabulously. This is a story that most Dads and Granddads would love to read with their children, but it could be read and enjoyed by everyone. It is definitely a book for sharing.

Winiwini,Wiriwiri - He Kohinga Rotarota
Illustration: Andrew Burdan
Translation: Ngaere Roberts
Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga, Ministry of Education, RRP: Charts & CD ROM, $27.00
ISBN: 9780473317621
Ages: 4+

Reviewer: Samantha Crossman, Bi-lingual Teacher
Tauranga Intermediate

This is the second collection of 12 Māori rota rota to be published. Each poetic text is written to engage and entertain its reader. The poems are individually themed and highlighted with humour, and they deal with everyday experiences where a child may feel anxious or afraid. Through deliberate vocabulary patterns and sounds, children will easily grasp the rhythm and flow of sentences, building their ability to confidently speak te reo Māori. The teacher notes clearly outline the different levels of proficiency using Te Mātauranga ō Aotearoa. Also provided are explanations of phrases, colloquialisms, and key vocabulary to develop student understanding.

Every poem is eye-catchingly illustrated, filled with vivid images, and coloured to captivate the audience. This is a memorable shared reading experience that will provide laughter and fun for all.

0 comments - Make a comment

Back to top

Peer Review: Intermediate Books June 2015


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

Kyle Mewburn
, Illustration: Donavan Bixley
Scholastic, RRP: PB $12.00
ISBN: 9781775432609
Ages: 7–10

Reviewer: Alison Baucke, Librarian
Te Rapa Primary School

Dragon Knight
is a brand new series about Merek, a shape-shifter who is half-boy and half-dragon, created by duo Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley. Rats is the second in the series and begins with Merek being thrown into a cage with hundreds of ravenous cat-sized rats.

This is a humorous adventure book, filled with hilarious illustrations that complement the text, and will leave readers hunting for the third instalment. The book also includes information panels with diagrams, which children seem to love. It will also interest readers who enjoyed the Dinosaur Rescue series. Parts of the story may appeal more to boys, especially when the only way of escape from the rat-infested cage is through a hole where servants empty kitchen and toilet waste, but I am sure that some girls will be brave enough to attempt it. This chapter book is short, and perfect for the 7–10 age group.

Squishy Squashy Birds
Alicia Munday, Illustration: Carl Van Wijk
Potton and Burton, RRP: PB $19.99
ISBN: 9781927213421
Ages: 8–11

Reviewer: Lareen Bonnington, Librarian
Tapawera Area School

This book is interesting but slightly difficult to categorise. It’s unusual enough to engage the children’s interest, yet I’d be reluctant to put in with children’s fiction. I think I’d rather put it with our children’s non-fiction bird section. As well as being a delightful story, the end of the book has important information about New Zealand’s endangered birds. It approaches the subject in a way that is sure to appeal to schoolchildren everywhere. The thought of a book opening to reveal a host of beautiful and rare birds is an intriguing one.

This is quite a large book and a good addition to a library I believe. The illustrations probably belong in the sophisticated section, so the solution to categorising this book may be to keep it out on display. I see it as suitable for 8 years and upwards.

The Monster Within: A Jack Mason Adventure
Darrell Pitt

Text Publishing Company, RRP: PB $21.00
ISBN: 9781922182876
Ages: 10–14

Reviewer: Nick Vincent, Library Manager
Hamilton Boys’ High School

This adventure, crossed with a detective story, is set in an alternative Sherlock Holmes-era London, where vehicles and other machinery use steam as their source of power. This novel combines mystery, intrigue, travel, and monsters, to keep the reader engaged and turning the page to find out what happens next. The main characters are Jack Mason, Scarlet and Mr Doyle and this is the fourth in the Jack Mason Adventure series. Fans of the previous titles will recognise the format and characters, but if this is your first encounter you will soon be swept up into the lives of the protagonists. The writing is humourous, with plenty of banter between the characters and will even entertain readers outside the recommended age bracket.

0 comments - Make a comment

Back to top

Back to... The School Library

0 comments - Make a comment

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

NB: You will need javascript enabled on your browser to use this

Flash Join_us_onFT.swf should show here.

Feature Author

Glenn Colquhoun is a doctor, poet and children's writer. His first poetry collection, The Art of Walking...


Writers in Schools: on Tour 2015

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


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: $25.00 per student
Non-Member Schools: $50 per student
Supervising adult: Free

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

Back to the Education home page.
Back to The School Library.

0 comments - Make a comment

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