Meet our July Star Author – Catherine Mayo

Our fantastic July Star Author is Catherine Mayo.  Catherine’s first book, Murder at Mykenai, is a Young Adult book all about the early life of Odysseus, the hero of The Odyssey.  The sequel, The Bow, has just been released and is available at the library now.  Catherine is one extremely talented woman, not only is she an author, she is also a musician and a luthier (a violin maker and restorer), she loves gardening, horses and she’s been to Greece 3 times!

Thanks for joining us Catherine.  We look forward to hearing all about your books, your writing and your other interests.

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Especially for you: OverDrive Kids!

OverDrive for KidsLet me introduce OverDrive for Kids. You can download fiction and nonfiction eBooks and eAudiobooks. They are free, and new material is added all the time.

We have everything from beautiful picture books to chapter books that can be chosen for your reading level. If you love Geronimo Stilton, Harry Potter or Daisy Meadows then we have something for you. We cover everything from magical ponies to big trucks and everything in-between.

Have a play today and remind your parents that these sort of books don’t get lost, gather fines or break! They are also great for road trips, school holidays and rainy days!

Some of the cool titles are below…..

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Same but Different

Same but different

When I arrived in Greece at the end of May, I expected some things to be different but other things to be much the way they are back here.

Different:            Ruined temples
Everyone speaks Greek
The street signs look weird
They drive on the other side of the road

1. Athens street sign

The same:           Jeans and tee shirts
Motorbikes and cars (lots of motorbikes)
Coca cola
Cell phones

But then I got some real surprises. Like thunderstorms.

I love thunderstorms. When I was a kid, I’d stand on the dirt road outside our cottage on Waiheke, with the rain pelting down and the mud squishing up between my toes. After each flash, I’d count the seconds till the thunder came – BANG!-rumble-BOOM-BOOM-bump-thud-grumble-mumble. Then silence for ages, apart from the splish of the rain in the puddles.

In Greece last month, I was chased through the hills by a thunderstorm as I searched for an ancient road to Mykenai. I stopped the car and got out to watch. I soon realised this was different to any thunderstorm I’d ever experienced.

2. Thunderstorm over Limnes

For a start, I couldn’t see any lightning. But for the 15 minutes I stood there, the thunder never stopped. It groaned and muttered and growled away without a break, as if the sky god Zeus and his wife Hera were having an argument, with both of them insisting on having the last word.

And then there were the seagulls.

NZ seagulls drift through the air crying gkeee gkeee, when they’re not strutting about screaming Kaar Kaar Kaar at each other. That’s what all gulls do, right?

3.  NZ seagulls

Wrong. After I’d finished searching for my ancient road, I returned to the fishing village where I was staying. By now I was hungry, so I walked along the waterfront to a taverna. As I sat there, I heard a mewing sound. I looked about for the cat – Greek tavernas always have at least one cat and often about six.

5. Cat in a Greek taverna

But there was no cat to be seen.

After a while I realised the noise was coming from the seagulls sitting out on the water – you can see them as white dots out beyond the fishing boat. Close up they look just like NZ gulls.

4. Greek fishing boat and seagulls

Then I remembered reading some English story or poem, years and years ago, which talked about the “mewing of gulls”. The phrase had passed me by – it was so unlike anything I’d heard gulls do and I put it down to poetic fancy (ie: silliness).

This morning I decided to look up the Oxford Dictionary and there it was: “mew n. the characteristic cry of a cat, gull etc.” In fact, in England, another word for “seagull” is “sea mew” or just plain “mew”.  So European gulls are not the same as ours after all.

Sometimes it’s the big, obvious things that take you by surprise. But it’s just as much fun when some small unpredictable thing happens. It makes you look at everything in a fresh way, even the things that are the same.

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Stranger and Stranger

A few weeks ago I was wandering through a Greek olive grove, searching for a 3300 year old city (as you do). The first thing I came across was a herd of goats.  Soon after that I came across the goatherd, and when I asked him – in my very bad Greek – about the ancient city, he beckoned to me and set off through the trees.

Goatherd

I decided he must be leading me to some spectacular ruins, but instead we ended up at his camp, an untidy clearing with a rickety tin shed, some goatskins over a pole, a very friendly dog and her two young pups. By now I was starting to wonder what was going on.

Goatherd's camp

I soon found out. The goatherd produced a battered saucepan into which he poured some white liquid from a 20 litre plastic container. When he handed it to me, I knew I had no choice but to drink. It was fresh goats’ milk and it was absolutely delicious. This from a man who had almost nothing – by our standards. But because I was a stranger, he wanted to give me something.

What I’d just experienced was a Greek tradition called xenia that goes back thousands of years. In Ancient Greece, kindness to strangers was a sacred duty. The sharing of food and shelter bound people together almost like family. In Homer’s Iliad, the Greek hero Diomedes and his enemy Glaucus, a Trojan ally, stop fighting and swap armour because they find out their ancestors were guest friends.

Diomedes and Glaucus

And early on in my new book The Bow, Odysseus and Diomedes know they can trust each other for the same reason.

My Family and Other Animals book coverIf you’ve read Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals – surely one of the greatest (and funniest) books ever written – you’ll remember how Durrell was plied with food and wine by the peasants he met .Tourism is eroding this deeply embedded tradition, but you can still find amazing generosity in Greece if you travel off the beaten track – as I did.

These days, we’re increasingly careful around strangers.  A famous Dame Edna Everage quote goes: “My mother used to say that there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet. She’s now in a maximum security twilight home.”

Dame Edna Everage

I think my goatherd would have agreed with Edna’s mum.

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Okay, it’s school holidays. Now what? Get crafty!

Cover of Paper Scissors GlueIt’s school holidays and the weather is doubtful. What should you do after you have done your homework and tidied your room? One possibility is to borrow a stack of DVDs from the library and spend the day curled up in front of the TV.

A better solution to the “what can I do?” question is to borrow some craft books from the library and get creative. Check out our arts and crafts for kids page.

Paper scissors glue has fun craft ideas for younger children aged 3-10. Great ideas for busy fingers and the best part is, most of the materials needed to complete a project can be found at home. I really enjoy papier mâché. Old newspapers could be recycled here. The Chinese dragon would be fun to take outside on a windy day. The origami whales could live on my blue tablecloth.

Cover of The Lonely Sock ClubMaybe you found odd socks in you sock drawer – why not make a sock monkey? Or if you have found my lost glove, you could make a glove monster. There are lots of cool things you can do with your odd socks and it is likely that everything you need will be at home somewhere.

For those of you who like sewing, we have an excellent selection of books that will help you make toys, gifts and fashion accessories.

Simple softies for the whole family has toys that older children (and adults) can make. Most of the toys are made from felt and all of them are hand sewn. I quite like the anti-spy Christmas tree and the cat-face cushion. If I were to make a dinosaur toy from floral material, would I end up with a flowersaur?

Cover of Simple SoftiesSo the weather is awful and you really don’t wan’t to visit the library. Go online with your library card and Password/PIN and check out World Book Online Craft Corner. Lots of crafts for all ages and abilities. Crafts that can be completed in a few minutes and crafts that take all day. Crafts that are free (or almost free) to make. Crafts that cost several dollars. Crafts for boys and crafts for girls.

So, are you game?
Are you game to turn your kitchen table into a craft space?
For a day?

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Hi from Catherine Mayo

Hi! I’m really pleased Christchurch Library has asked me to share some of my writing adventures with you this month.  Writing – and reading – can be an incredible adventure, even when most of it happens inside your head.

I should say, because most of it happens inside your head. How else can you go back in the past or forward into the future or sideways into another world? How else can you “become” someone else and experience all their fears and dramas and successes, and wake up safe and sound in your own bed the next morning?

Just occasionally we can actually travel to that other place and experience it face to face. I have just come back from a couple of weeks in Greece, where I visited some of the places I wrote about in Murder at Mykenai and The Bow – the fortresses of Mykenai and Tiryns, the site of the lake and the river in Argos, and the secret cave that occupies the middle of The Bow.

Mykenai, even in ruins, is huge and rather spooky. The fortress walls are made of enormous blocks of stone, some of them longer than me, and a good deal heavier. ImageHere I am standing in the entrance – it makes you wonder how people 3300 years ago ever put that huge capping stone over the gate without modern cranes and machinery. The Classical Greeks later thought it must have been built by giants – by  Cyclopses.

Even the doorways to the tombs are huge. Image

The lake my heroes hide in, in The Bow, has silted up, and people now live on it and grow their crops. But the river is still there, and the reeds. Image

The shingle spit is there too – it was pretty freaky to find something I thought I’d made up – though the weather was too calm to make lots of waves.

The big excitement of the trip was going down into the cave, which was explored in 1893 but forgotten about since. I met up with a bunch of Greek cavers and we had a fantastic time exploring it. Here’s a photos of me and Elissa at the far end, just before the crevice which … but I’d better not say any more, so I don’t spoil the story for you.Image

In the next blog, I’ll tell you what we found down there …

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Just got this photo from Saffron!

Image

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