Archive for August, 2011

My Last Post as Star Author

It’s the last day of August, so it’s also my last post as Star Author.

Thanks to:

1. Zac, for the chance to be Star Author.

2. Everyone who has posted a comment.

3. The team at Harper Collins who published my book.

4. Everyone who gave me such good reviews.

5. Friends, family, and the Twizel community for your support.

To the kids in Christchurch and elsewhere: Keep reading, keep writing good stories, keep looking out for each other.

In the words of Walt Disney (who invented Disneyland)

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”

E noho ra


From your August Star Author

Sandy Nelson

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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Team talk

‘Listen up now,’ said our coach, Mr Marlow.

We stopped exercising and listened up.

Mr Marlow had been a top player in his day. We knew this was true because of his cauliflower ears. The left one especially was flattened and lumpy from having been in too many scrums and rucks.

Mr Marlow’s ears had given the Green’s our other name. We didn’t often use it as a name ourselves. It was the rival teams, especially the Reds, who did. Whenever they called us the Cauliflower Ears, which was each time we played them, they used it as an insult. But we took it as a compliment, just as Mr Marlow had suggested. We’d even put it into our team slogan to show how proud we were of it. Grubber had written the slogan. He was good at writing poems.

‘This is a noteworthy day,’ Mr Marlow continued.

We all nodded. It couldn’t get any more noteworthy than this. The Greens were in the Grand Final for the first time ever.

‘Repeat after me,’ said Mr Marlow.

‘This is a noteworthy day,’ we repeated.

‘It’s the Grand Final of the Junior Home World Cup.’

‘It’s the Grand Final of the Junior Home World Cup.’

‘And futhermore . . . ’

Mr Marlow paused for a second or two, then went on.

‘. . . it’s Wings’ last match with the Greens.’

I felt really weird when Mr Marlow said that. It made it seem more real than ever.

When mum and dad had first announced that we were going to live in Wellington I felt:

  1. like a stunned mullet
  2. angry
  3. sad
  4. more angry
  5. a little bit excited

But I knew we didn’t really have much choice. My parents were both from Wellington originally and they’d always said they’d go back there when they got the chance. Now the chance had come. Besides, boths sets of grandies and most of my aunts, uncles and cousins lived there, too.

‘You’ll find another team to play in,’ said Mum.

‘Maybe.’ I said. ‘But they’ll be nothing nearly as good as the Greens.’

Wings’ last match with the Greens.’

Everyone turned to look at me as they repeated Mr Marlow’s words. I turned away and gazed at the muddy ground. We’d played together for so long, it was going to be tough to quit. That’s why we had to win today. Mr Marlow had called this game my swansong, my final appearance.

‘We can do it,’ Mr Marlow said.

‘We can do it,’ we repeated as one.

‘We can win.’

‘We can win.’

‘All it takes . . .’

‘All it takes . . .’

‘Is applying the skills we’ve learnt and practised . . .’

‘The skills we’ve learnt and practised . . .’

‘Our determination . . .’

‘Our determination . . .’

‘And consideration . . .’

‘And consideration . . .’

‘For each other . . .’

‘For each other . . .’

‘And . . .’

‘And . . .’

‘The opposition.’


‘I’m waiting guys.’

‘The opposition,’ we said, knowing that consideration was the last thing the Reds would show us.

‘Great stuff,’ said Mr Marlow.

Then we chanted the Green Team’s slogan. It was short but sweet.

Three cheers

For the Cauliflower Ears!

‘Remember,’ said Mr Marlow, ‘you’ve come this far by fair play and by following the rules, so don’t let yourselves down.’

Then Grubber said the thing we’d all be thinking. ‘But the Reds give me the jitters Mr Marlow. They’re thuggish. That’s why everyone calls them the Devils.’

‘And that’s why you’re proud if they call you the Cauliflower Ears,’ said Mr Marlow.

‘Why?’ asked Sprigs.

‘Because you know how to play the game,’ said Mr Marlow. ‘And a good game played by Cauliflower Ears will always beat a bad game played by Devils.’

‘They foul all the time,’ I said,‘and they always try to make sure the ref doesn’t see what they’re up to.’

‘Then they’ll be the losers, whether they win or not,’ said Mr Marlow, which sounded strange but true at the same time. Not that we wanted the Reds to win, of course.

‘I’ve got to go to the toilet,’ said Grubber, suddenly all jittery.

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Test Your Book Knowledge

Hi again Christchurch and other kids (and adult and teen readers too!)

It’s almost the end of August. My second-last chance to blog as Star Author.

Tonight I have some book questions for you. They are the questions I wrote for Twizel Area School students last week for our ‘Win a Book Competition’ that I organised as part of Book Week. We also had some awesome quotes about reading, shared storytime, bedtime stories in the library, a book character dress-up day, quiz questions about books for our general knowledge quiz, a parent reading display … and every kid was given a fun bookmark.

Here’s the questions. Test yourselves, or test someone younger or older than you! I’m not going to post the answers. I reckon you can find out the ones you don’t know all by yourself, or else blog the wonderful Zac! Or you could ask your teacher!


What is the name of Kanga’s baby?

Is Schnitzel von Krumm a dog or a cat?

What colour is Thomas the Tank Engine?

Finish the name of this book by Kyle Mewburn: Hill and ___ 

What sea mammal did the Little Yellow Digger help to save?

 Who tried to catch the sun using ropes?


 What does Finnigan want to be?

 How many books are in the Narnia series?

 Who wrote George’s Marvellous Medicine?

 Who is God of the Sea in Maori legends?

 What country does the writer Micheal Morpurgo live in?

What does fantasy mean?


Who wrote ‘The Mummy with No Name’?

Are these writers New Zealanders?

Micheal Morpurgo

Enid Blyton

Robert Louis Stevenson

Fleur Beale

Craig Smith

David Hill

Sherryl Jordan

Roald Dahl

Margaret Mahy

Joy Cowley

 Is ‘Bow Down Shadrach’ about a horse or a dog or a lion?

Who wrote ‘The Runaway Settlers’

Who wrote ‘Under the Mountain’

Finish this book title by Patricia Grace: ‘The Kuia and the ___’



Who wrote and illustrated the picture book ‘Hill and Hole?’

Finish this book title by Maurice Gee: ‘Under the ___’

Which New Zealand writer won two major writing awards this year for her book for teenagers ‘Fierce September?’

Ken Catran has written a book with the name ‘Smiling ___’

Which new New Zealand author from Napier wrote ‘Too Many Secrets’ and ‘Just Jack’?

Which wizard in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ lives in the Black Tower in Isengard?

Are (or were) these writers New Zealanders?

C.S. Lewis

Jackie French

Jackie Rutherford

William Taylor

Which mythical creature is half lion / half eagle?

 In Greek mythology, who was the God of War?

 Which is the shortest of Shakespeare’s plays?

 In Maori legend, who is the Sky Father?

 Which dwarf could turn straw into gold?

 Mmm, did I get you thinking? Do you need to go to the library to do some research, or go online?

Hey – today we looked in our dog’s vet book and found out that we missed her birthday. It was last Sunday. Kim is one year old and cuter than ever! If you missed it, there’s a photo of her on one of my posts earlier this month.

Here’s a link to my class blog. We’re just learning how to blog. Blogging for the wonderful Christchurch Children’s Library blog has helped me improve my skills.

Here’s another photo of the landscape near where I live – a land of big blue skies and feathery clouds (and maybe some more snow later this week!)Just one more thing for today: Have you heard the story of Mackenzie and his dog? Mackenzie was an early settler in New Zealand, a shepherd from Scotland. He was imprisoned for stealing sheep and taking them through the Mackenzie Country to sell them in Otago. Mackenzie had a dog named Friday. Well, the area where I live is the Mackenzie Country. I love it here!

Take care out there!

From your August Star Author, Sandy Nelson

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Across the Nightingale Floor.

I found that Across the Nightingale floor was one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Takeshi is one of the very few people who has the supernatural powers that help him cross the legendary nightingale floor.Cover image

Meanwhile in his dark fortress Lord Iida is surveying his masterful nightingale floor, named so because it sings like a nightingale whenever someone steps on it. Thinking no one could cross his special floor he slept soundly for once.

Takeshi is being used as the pawn between some of the greatest warlords in the middle country. Can he survive this part of his life or will he be killed!?

Amazing book, I recommend  ages 12+ 10 out of 10.


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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 4

Chapter Four: Jitters

Kick-off was at eleven. At ten-thirty both teams, the Greens and the Reds, the Cauliflower Ears and the Devils, were warming up at opposite ends of the playing field.

We needed the warm up, and not just to get our muscles loose and supple. It was really chilly out on the field. Our breaths were puffs of steamy white.

‘Just listen to that,’ said Grubber.

‘What?’ asked Sprigs.

‘The roar of the crowd.’

Sprigs and I looked round. The single stand had several dozen people on it, their hands wrapped round thermos flasks. There were also about fifty supporters standing in little groups on the sidelines, marching on the spot to keep warm. The Red Brigade and the Greenies. But you’d hardly call it a crowd. And it certainly wasn’t roaring.

‘That’s not a crowd you’re hearing,’ I said. ‘It’s your heart drumming.’

‘That’s what it is,’ agreed Sprigs.

‘Is not,’ said Grubber, but he clutched his chest all the same.

‘It’ll be because your dad’s staying to watch the game,’ I said.

Wings was right, even though Grubber wasn’t going to admit it. He’d managed to drag his dad out of bed and make him solemnly swear to stay for the whole game. Now Grubber wasn’t sure it had been such a good idea. He always felt queasy before a game.

Today he felt worse than usual. His lips were dry and his stomach was doing flip-flops. His heart, now that he had his hand over it, was definitely banging away like a jack-hammer. Grubber wasn’t surprised Sprigs and Wings could hear it. The whole team probably could. Actually, he’d never felt this bad.

‘I thought I was going to be late,’ said Sprigs, as we stretched our legs and swung our arms. ‘Man, it was hard finding matching laces.’

This time Grubber and I looked at each other. ‘Can’t have been as hard as me having to wake my dad up,’ said Grubber.

‘You two can laugh,’ said Sprigs, ‘but no way was I playing without a matching bootlace.’

‘We’re not actually laughing,’ I pointed out.

‘Not yet you aren’t,’ said Sprigs.

‘What I don’t understand,’ Grubber said, ‘is why you only replaced one of the laces. They come in pairs. You could have put in two new ones.’

Sprigs shook his head. ‘I just had to leave one of the old laces in,’ he explained. ‘They’ve been my lucky laces all season.’

‘Don’t we know it,’ I said.

Sprigs was our top scoring fullback. He hadn’t missed a goal kick all season. We were all depending on him, and his lucky laces, in the Grand Final.

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Some of my Favourite War Stories

Tena koutou to anyone who is reading this.

It is a funny feeling writing to anybody and everybody, but I am getting used to it. I do love getting your comments, and I am sad that my month as Star Author is almost over.

Here’s a picture of the view of Aoraki Mount Cook from just up the road from where I live – aren’t I lucky! I took this photo from the Kettle Hole walking track at the southern end of Lake Pukaki. The Kettle Hole is a large hole in the ground that was created by a large hunk of melting ice leftover from when the Tasman Glacier was huge.

Here’s a link to some Department of Conservation information about the Kettle Hole track and other short walks in the amazing area where I live:

Today, in my home town of Twizel (a little town with a population of only about 1200 and no traffic lights), we have had the basketball finals. I watched 2 games, one in which my son Josh played for the Twizel Schoolboys team, and one in which my husband played. It was a very exciting afternoon!

Now they are at the prizegiving, and I am writing to you … about some of my favourite children’s war stories. Many, but not all, are about World War Two.

Here goes:

1. My favourite children’s war story still has to be The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier. That’s because that is the book that got me hooked on history. I posted about it earlier this month.

2. Micheal Morpurgo is one of my favourite authors, and one that is quickly becoming the favourite of many students at Twizel Area School where I teach. That’s partly because I keep recommending his books to them, and reading his stories aloud too. Michael is an English writer who has written lots of books. Two of his recurring themes are war and animals.  I especially love Kensuke’s Kingdom, An Elephant in the Garden, War Horse, private peaceful, Shadow, Toro! Toro! and The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips.

Cover: Shadow

A librarian once told me that I write like Michael Morpurgo! What highly valued praise but totally undeserved. Michael Murpurgo is a definetly a writer to try if you haven’t already. Here is a link to his website:

3. I equally love the writing of Australian writer Jackie French. Some of my favourite war stories by Jackie are Macbeth and Son ( a truly enjoyable and clever story), Hitler’s Daughter, Pharoah, and The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded. Here’s a link to Jackie’s website:

cover pic

4. I also love how Susan Brocker writes. Susan is a New Zealand writer, whom I have been lucky enough to meet at a couple of writer’s meetings. Susan and I share a love of animals, except that I am wary of horses and she loves them. Two of my favourite war stories are written by Susan and are about horses. They are Brave Bess and the ANZAC Horses and Dreams of Warriors(which is set in N.Z. during World War Two). Susan is published by HarperCollins NZ, just like me!  

Here’s a link for you:

Brave Bess

And of course …

5. Once, Then, and Now by Morris Glietzman. These stories, set during World War Two, will make you cry and make you hug those you love. Warning: To be read with an adult close by.

Once cover

6. Not to be missed from my list, the well-known war story Goodnight Mr Tom, by Michelle Magorian, the story of a child evacuated from the London Blitz in World War Two. It’s a beautiful story but not for younger readers.

7. And, I could keep going forever … Boy Soldier by Cola Bilkuei … mmm this is probably one for the teenagers among you too. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s one of my 15-year-old Josh’s favourites.

 Boy Soldier: The Journey of a Child Soldier

8. I also totally love Chocolate Cake with Hitler by English writer Emma Craigie. I haven’t read any other books by this author but I love this one. I can’t get the link to copy but it’s a book worth searching for yourself.

9. The Boy in Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. I need to re-read this book because the main thing I can remember is a really sad part, but I know its a highly rated war story for children. It made Zac’s Top 5 War Stories list.


I hope this list of some of favourite war stories is useful and that you are finding  some books you would like to read. These are all books I recommend to kids in my class and at my school, but often for the more mature / older readers. I have copies of most of the books I have recommended on my bookshelf. I collect children’s and teenagers books like other people collect shells or Weet-bix cards or fancy clothes. For me it’s books! (and the human impact of war is something I am especially interested in). 

Here are a couple more recommendations for teenagers (in fact all of the books I have recommended would be enjoyed by teens and adults with a love of good stories mixed with history).

1. The Book Thief – by Markus Zusak (simply stunning, completly heart-breaking).

2. tamar – by Mal Peet

As I write this this I keep thinking about how few books there seem to be that have been written for children and teens about the events of World War Two in the Pacific – the war that was closest to us here in New Zealand and Australia. That’s one thing I wanted to do, to write about the war near us. I’m proud that the story of H.M.A.S. Canberra was told for young people in The Ghosts of Iron Bottom Sound. Here she is – I love this image.

A few years ago I read two books by an Australian writer about an Australian boy finding out at his Grandad’s war in the Pacific. I think his Grandad was involved in building the Kodoko Trail when he was a Japanese prisoner of war. I really want to read the books again but I didn’t write down the name of the books or the author. Does anyone out there know the books I might be thinking of? I’d love to hear from you.

Hey Zac – I think your libraries in Christchurch would have all of these books and that you’d have read most or all of them. How right am I?  And I think that you and the other librarians in Christchurch love helping kids find books, just like librarians everywhere do.

Zac, thank you so much for choosing me to be one of your Star Authors!

Before the end of the month, I’ll tell you more about the amazing Book Week we just had at Twizel Area School.

Take care everyone.

Ka kite Ano and Kia Kaha (I’ll write again soon and be strong, especially Shaky Town kids).

From your August Star Author

Sandy Nelson

Proud author of only one book …


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Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Butterflies

Grubber felt sickish. He always did before a game. His stomach had gone swimmy, his head felt light and floaty like a helium-filled balloon.

‘Maybe you’d better stay home,’ said his mother.

‘No chance,’ said Grubber.

‘But if you’re feeling crook wouldn’t it be more sensible?’

‘It’s not that sort of crookedness,’ Grubber explained.

‘Crookness,’ his mum corrected.

‘Whatever. It’s butterflies I’ve got. I can feel them dancing around.’

‘Are you sure that’s all it is? If you’re not fit to go, then sit the game out. It’ll keep your dad happy. ’

Course I’m fit!’ said Grubber. ‘I wouldn’t miss the game even if I really was sick.’

‘In that case, go and try waking your dad again.’

Grubber went to the bedroom where his dad was fast asleep after doing his nine hours on night shift. Grubber shook his dad’s shoulder.

‘Come on Dad. The big game’s starting soon. I need you to run me over.’

His dad groaned.

‘Hurry Dad, please, we’ve got to be there in less than an hour.’

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