Archive for May, 2011

Book Character Naming Competition

Hello again everyone

I have finally decided on the names for the four main characters in my next book. The characters are four children aged 10-12.

The names will be Tierney, Rhys, Rozyczka and Fabian.

The other people who entered their names in the competition will also appear in my book. They will be friends of the four main characters.

Their names are Amy, Holly, Hana, David and Saoirse.

I would like to have an adult character named Mr or Mrs Ozich – if Lucy agrees!

And there will definitely be a dog named Biggles!

Thanks to everyone for your wonderful names. I will let you know how I am going with progress on the book.

Happy June!


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Last day of the Month – sob… sob…


It’s the last day of May and that means it’s my last day as the Star Author. It feels a bit sad to be saying goodbye to all my new Christchurch library friends, but Zac says I can come back and visit with a blog post now and then so that’s wonderful. I’ve really enjoyed blogging this month and your feedback has been excellent. My last job is to choose the names for the characters in my next book. I have about 10 to choose from, which means I will have four main characters and I will definitely use the other names in the book as well. I can’t make a final decision yet, but I plan to do that later today and create a new post then. Thanks again everyone.

Talk again soon


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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 trailer

The final Harry Potter movie, Part 2 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is released in cinemas on 14 July.  While you wait, you can borrow all the books in the series and the movies on DVD from your library.

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Star Guest – Tina Matthews talks about illustrating

Hi, my name is Tina Matthews and I’m an author and an illustrator.  This is International Year of the Forests so I’m pretty pleased that my two books, which are both about trees , have been published in 2011. Not only are they about trees, wood was an essential part of making the pictures for both books.

The top of a tree always seemed a very safe place to me when I was small. Even at school we were allowed to climb the huge trees  and I can remember how smooth and shiny the bark was in the places where shoes and feet had found their footing as kids of all ages climbed to the top. In the weekends and after school, from way up in the big trees at home, I could see places I knew, tiny in the distance.  I could hear people I  loved near by. And I could feel the world turning as the sun and the sickle moon went down. Those pleasurable recollections led me to write Waiting For Later. I think kids still love climbing trees, but adults are more nervous about children hurting themselves than they used to be. So I’m very pleased with the cover Walker Books chose for Waiting for Later.

My first book Out of the Egg has just come out in paperback. It’s about a hen, a seed, a little red chick and a great green whispery tree.  It’s about not giving up on a good idea, and children not accepting the silly things their parents sometimes say. It’s a bit like the old story of The Little Red Hen but I’ve given Out of the Egg a new generation and a new ending.

I did all the pictures for Out of the Egg using woodblock prints. It’s a long process which involves drawing the picture on paper then transfering it to a woodblock, carving the picture out of the wood, inking it, then printing it. This is an old way of making pictures and it seemed just right for Out of the Egg. With Waiting for Later I did simpler wood block prints then stencilled over the top of them. I even drew in a few of the tiny details by hand.


People sometimes ask why I go to all the trouble and effort of doing pictures this way. But however you do pictures they can take time and I love the way wood makes its mark on mine. It gives me a hand to get the pictures right.

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Finders Keepers by Emily Rodda.

Finders Keepers is about a boy called Patrick, who takes part in a bizarre game show that’s out of this world. He travels across the Barrier, an invisible force separating Patrick’s world from another, where he meets bubbly Boopie Cupid, grumpy Max, and presenter Lucky Lamont. Patrick has no intention to win this game show, he just wants to get home… until one of the prizes turns out to be his dream computer. Patrick accepts, and the game is explained. The Barrier often breaks, sucking random items through to the other world. The aim of the game is to retrieve these items, and return them to their owners. Three people step forth, and give Patrick tricky riddles that he’ll have to solve to be able to start looking for the items. Will Patrick suceed?
I loved Finders Keepers, as well as it’s sequel, The Time Keeper, because the characters seem real, but different. My favourite character is Boopie Cupid, because she’s very talkative,which I can relate to. Both boys and girls would like these books, or maybe boys would like them more. I’m not too sure.
Having a Barrier that leaks things is a really good idea, I thought. Now I know where all of my odd socks went! Emily Rodda has also written other books, such as the Deltora series, the Rondo series, and the Fairy Realm for younger children. I give this book a 10 out of 10.

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Poetry by Kezia

Hi everyone

At my school lately, we’ve been writing poetry about sadness.

I’m putting mine on the blog because it goes in deep and you really feel it.

It’s a sad sad day, when you feel deaths ice-cold fingers.

It’s a sad sad day, when your curiosity turns on you.

It’s a sad sad day, when anxiety presses on your mind.

It’s a sad sad day, when your hopes are crushed.

It’s a sad sad day, when your struggle was for nothing.

On happier terms,

we also did lots of poetry on Autumn surrounding the senses.

For example,

Autumn is the bliss of warm water, as it runs through your fingers.

Autumn is the taste of smoke, as you sit by the fire.

Autumn is silence, nothing at all.

And lots of others.

We’ve also done Quinquan.


By Kezia.

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At the Lake by Jill Harris

The lake is almost like a second home to brothers Simon and Jem.  They’ve gone there every summer holiday for years to stay with their granddad, Barney.  They’ve explored the bush, the bays and coves, and swum and fished in the lake.  They feel safe here and it makes them happy.  But this year, things have changed.  Their dad has gone to Australia to look for work, Simon has been getting more and more annoyed with his little brother Jem, and the old farm is now a holding yard for old houses, guarded by a fierce dog and surrounded by barbed-wire fences.  What’s going on behind the fences and why is there so much security?

When Simon breaks into the yard and tries to find out what’s happening, he has a run-in with the owner, Squint Lewis who warns him never to come near the yard again.  Simon stays as far away from Squint as he can, but when he and Jem meet Squint’s children, Rosie and Tommy, they decide they have to figure out what’s going on in the yard before someone gets badly hurt.

At the Lake is a mysterious, adventure story set in New Zealand.  Jill Harris’ description of the ‘dark green’ lake, surrounded by ‘the bush, warmed by the sun, which was alive with insects and birds’  made me want to be there.  At first, I didn’t like the character of Simon, because he was always being mean to his brother, but he makes up for his behaviour throughout the story.  Squint Lewis matched his name perfectly and he was a very sinister character.  At the Lake is a great book that will keep you reading and is perfect for fans of Des Hunt.  

Recommended for 9+    8 out of 10

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Instant Poems

I assume we are all getting the rain this morning. (It just became heavier when I wrote that!) I feel inspired to give you one of my poetry secrets – and rain is a good thing to write about.

I call these “Instant Poems” – because they’re quick to write and they get your brain working fast.

Line 1: (Use one of these choices…or something similar for the opening)

The rain falls…

The rain pours…

The rain comes down…

Line 2: Hint – this is where we think of something similar to the rain

Choose one of these examples, or one of your own: tears, overflowing tap, waterfall, river…

So if we choose waterfall, our first two lines could be…

The rain comes down

Like a waterfall tumbling over an invisible cliff…

Lines 3 and 4: This is where we brainstorm a waterfall (or whichever other similar thing we chose)

Waterfall brainstorm: rushing, thick, thunderous, hidden air pockets, heavy, loud, white out, never ending, incessant, persistent, wet, vertical, soaking etc

We can do anything with these words for lines 3 and 4. Here is an example of how we might use those words together

It thunders head first to its destination below,

Soaking everything in its path instantly

Line 5: This line is about you, your feelings or your wishes.

Start with: I wish, I feel, I think, I wonder, I want

Here are some possibilities:

I wish we could return to the dry sunny silence of yesterday.

I feel scared that it will never end.

I think the ground is a magnet for the rain.

I wonder if Heaven is crying.

I want to run outside and drink every drop.

Finally: here’s how our rain poem might look…

The rain comes down

Like a waterfall tumbling over an invisible cliff.

It thunders head first to its destination below,

Soaking everything in its path instantly

I think the ground is a magnet for the rain.

So, there you are. An instant poem about the rain. You can use this technique to write about anything in five lines.  I would love to read your instant poems!

Bye for now


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Fun with books on Guardian Children’s Books

The Guardian newspaper in England has just launched a cool new website about children’s books where you can get some more reading ideas and have some fun with books.  There are lots of different areas of the website you can check out, like quizzes about your favourite characters and books, Top Ten lists, videos, competitions and reviews.  Have a look at these:

Have a look around and let us know what cool things you find.

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The True Story of Skipper the Dog

Not many people know this, but my Ready to Read books about Skipper the Dog were originally about a cat. Our cat called Moose (who’s still alive) is a big old white and ginger boy. He’s a bit slow and forgetful now, but in his younger days he was boisterous and funny – and he was definitely an ‘outside cat’. I wrote a true story about Moose the cat, called Outside Moose! and sent it to Learning Media. They loved the idea of an outside cat wanting to be an inside cat. It’s true that one rainy day we let Moose in and he created havoc in the house because he wasn’t used to being inside and was over excited. That was the background to my story.

The editor contacted me and said it was a great idea for a Ready to Read story, but they already had stories about a famous cat called Greedy Cat. She suggested we could change Moose into a dog. I was happy with that, and Moose didn’t mind at all. So the story was kept the same, but the cat called Moose was changed to a dog called Moose.  It was trialled in a black and white version in several schools, which is what happens to all Ready to Read books I believe.

The kids liked the idea for the story and they loved the dog character, but some kids were bothered that a dog would be called Moose. That doesn’t sound like a dog’s name, they said. So the editor contacted me again and said, “you know how we changed Moose the cat to Moose the dog? Now we want to change it to Skipper the dog. Is that okay with you?” I was just so pleased to have a book published that of course I said yes. The title was changed to No, Skipper! and published. I then wrote the next story about Skipper’s Happy Tail, which was also published.

I love finding out the story behind the story. I hope you do too.

Bye for now,


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Caroline Lawrence introduces The Western Mysteries

Did you love The Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence?  The exciting news is that she has now started writing The Western Mysteries set in the Wild West, with cowboys, indians and outlaws.  Check out this video of Caroline Lawrence talking about her new series:

Look out for The Case of the Deadly Desperados in the library soon.  To find out more about the series check out Caroline Lawrence’s website for The Western Mysteries.

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Dog stories

Many of you will remember my Ready to Read stories about Skipper the Border Collie dog. I had two stories published and four rejected. The published ones were “No, Skipper” and “Skipper’s Happy Tail”. The rejected ones were about Skipper digging holes, licking people to say hello, dressing up for a competition and nearly going through the carwash on the back of the ute. Sometimes it can be hard for an author to tell why a story has been rejected. I would like to submit another Skipper story and, now that we have a dog, perhaps I will use an example of that in one of my stories.

For example, today our dog Kelsey came to our son’s soccer game. There were other dogs there who were all adult dogs and very well behaved. But our dog is a 9 month old puppy who is very excitable. So a game of soccer is quite something to her! I might write something about her funny (and annoying) antics during the game and see if it can become a new Skipper book. I wonder if any of the readers of this blog have some funny dog stories that might be good for a Skipper story. If you do, make a comment on the blog and tell us all about them.

Bye for now.


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The Adventures of Tintin movie trailer

I’m so excited about this movie!  I’ve loved Tintin since I started reading about his adventures when I was 8 and the movie looks amazing.  We have all of Tintin’s adventures for you to read in the library and you could read The Secret of the Unicorn before you see the movie.

Want to win some Tintin books?  Make sure you tell us about your favourite graphic novel for your chance to win this week’s Reading Crusade Challenge prize.

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Winners of the 2011 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards

I was lucky enough to be able to go along to the awards ceremony for the 2011 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards last night.  It’s a very sparkly, special night with New Zealand’s best authors and illustrators and I got to meet lots of them.  The winners of each of the categories were announced including the Children’s Choice awards and the Book of the Year award.

The winners are:

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Rainbow Orchid – from start to finish

Step 1: script notes

Step 2: full script

Step 3: thumbnails

Step 4: rough sketches with lettering

Step 5: pencil images

Step 6: ink images

Step 7: add colour

Step 8: Add lettering

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Meet Grace by Sofie Laguna

This all started in 1808.  There is this lovely girl called Grace.  Grace is 11 years old and is living with her uncle in London. They have no money, and Grace is always lonely and often hungry.

Grace is a mudlark, that is someone who has to sift through all the mud in the river. One time she rifles through the river mud and finds an almost new hammer, it is the best thing she has ever found. A gang of mudlarks, with a leader named Joe Bean tries to steal the hammer but with Grace’s very brave heart she didn’t let those boys take such a valuable treasure.

One afternoon Grace couldn’t resist taking a shiny red apple from the grocer’s cart, and another and another!  But back then, you could get hanged for stealing, even if you’ were just a kid.  And Grace gets caught!  What will happen to poor Grace?

I really liked  Meet Grace.  If you like stories about real people, then you’ll like it too.  There are four books about Grace.

Amy, aged 9

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‘How to make a graphic novel’ with Garen Ewing

Hi again!  Yesterday I told you a little about my comic, The Rainbow Orchid, and why I love comics.  One question I get asked a lot is ‘how do you make a comic?’ You could ask almost any comic creator this question and you probably wouldn’t get the same answer twice, but here is a brief guide to how I make comics…

Once I have my plot worked out and written in note form, I start by breaking the story down into one-page chunks – detailing what has to happen on each page of the comic. The next thing to do is write the script, which is rather similar to what you might imagine a film script to be – I describe the scene in each panel and write out the dialogue said by the characters. At the same time as writing the script I’ll sketch some very rough page layouts which are called ‘thumbnails’, because they’re so small, just to give me an idea of how the panels will fit on the page, with perhaps some loose composition for the actual drawing in there too.

With the script written and the thumbnails as a guide, the next thing I do is draw larger rough versions of the page so I can work out how the drawings will look and where the characters need to be in each panel so they can talk in the correct order (speech balloons generally need to be read from left to right) and also to make sure their actions and the visual aspect of the storytelling is clear.

Those rough drawings help a lot when it comes time for the next stage – pencilling the actual artwork. I’ve already worked out, in rough form, the poses and composition, so now it’s just a case of spending a lot more time on the drawings to get them looking good. After pencilling (and lots of rubbing out along the way) I need to ink the drawings. This involves using a dip pen and a pot of Indian ink and drawing over the pencils to end up with a nice clean finished drawing.

This is the point I turn to modern technology and scan my black and white line art into the computer at high resolution. Using Adobe Photoshop I colour the artwork and also make up the speech balloons. Although I do the lettering in the balloons to make sure they’re the correct size, my publisher sets the actual final lettering onto the page so it is as crisp and clear as possible for the printer. The font used for the lettering is one I created myself based on my own hand-lettering.

When all this comes together you have a finished page! Depending on how detailed the page is, a single page can take me anywhere from two to four days of solid work. Making comics is a lot of hard work, but you get to play the part of writer, director, set designer, special effects wizard and actor, and it’s always rewarding when you see the finished book finally come together.

Tomorrow on the blog, you can see images of the process from start to finish.

Enjoy your comics!

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Dead Man’s Cove by Lauren St John

Laura has spent most of her life as an orphan, living at the Sylvan Meadows Children’s Home, in between foster homes.  What Laura longs for “is to have a life packed with excitement” like some of the characters in the books she reads.  She has always been told to be careful what she wishes for, and one day she discovers that she has an uncle that will adopt her.  When she arrives in the seaside village where her uncle lives, little does she know that the life of mystery and adventure she has longed for is just around the corner.  Why does the quiet Indian boy have bruises and cuts on his arms?  Why is her uncle so secretive?  Is the bird watcher hanging around her house who he says he is?  Who is the mysterious ‘J’ in her uncle’s books?  Laura has to start thinking like the detective in her favourite books, Matt Walker, so that she can solve the mysteries around her.

Dead Man’s Cove is the fantastic first book in the Laura Marlin Mystery series by Lauren St. John.  Laura is a great character who reminded me of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, because she loves stories and is very inquisitive.  Like Laura, you’ll gather clues and put the pieces of the puzzle together to track down the villains.  Dead Man’s Cove is perfect for anyone who likes books full of adventure, mystery, heroes and villains.  I can’t wait to read more of the Laura Marlin Mysteries! 

Recommended for 9+    9 out of 10

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Graphic novels – just another way to tell a story

My name is Garen Ewing and I’m the author and artist for a graphic novel called The Rainbow Orchid.

Graphic novel? What’s that?

Put simply, a graphic novel is a term used for a comic (as in ‘comic strip’) that is published in longer book form. It may be a book that collects lots of shorter episodic comics together under one cover, or it may be a comic that is created and published as a book in its own right. Graphic novels and comics can be about anything – adventure, science-fiction, biography, superheroes, soap opera, comedy – it’s a medium that is able to accommodate any genre you you can think of! There are comics for boys, girls, children, teenagers and adults … everyone. It’s just another way to tell a story.

But what an excellent and compelling way to tell a story! Comics are a wonderful fusion of words and pictures that engage both halves of your brain and pull you right into the tale from the first panel. You can make anything you want happen in a comic and you don’t need a huge special effects budget to do it. Basically, comics are great!

So what is The Rainbow Orchid?  A few years ago I wanted to make a comic that would be the perfect story to suit my own tastes; a comic, basically, aimed at readers just like me. So it’s got everything in it that I love – a soaring adventure story featuring ancient mysteries, exploration and plenty of excitement and intrigue. Many of my favourite comics come from the ‘Franco-Belgian’ tradition, particularly those that are drawn in a ‘clear line’ style (such as Hergé’s Tintin, Jacobs’ Blake & Mortimer, or Chaland’s Freddy Lombard adventures), so that’s the style I decided to lean towards when I drew it.

The story itself concerns the search for a rare and possibly mythical orchid that takes the main character, Julius Chancer, and his friends from the south of England to France and then on to India and the hidden valleys of the Hindu Kush, with a bunch of nefarious villains in hot pursuit.

Read my next post to find out how I create a graphic novel.

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Who will win the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards?

The winners of the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards are announced on Wednesday night at a special awards ceremony in Auckland.  I’m very lucky because I get to fly up to Auckland to be there when they announce the winners, and I’ll get to meet all the authors and illustrators that are finalists this year.

Here’s who I think should win:

We want to know what are your favourite finalist books.  Who do you think will win?

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