Archive for April, 2013

Andy Griffiths Writing Challenge #2

Andy Griffiths, the author of Just Crazy, Just Tricking, Zombie Bums from Uranus and The 13-storey Treehouse, has just released his book about writing, called Once Upon a Slime.  In this very cool book he gives lots of tips about writing and some activities to help you become a better writer.  You’re probably looking for something to do in the holidays so why not try an Andy Griffiths writing challenge.

In the box below there is a writing challenge from Andy’s book, Once Upon a Slime.  Why not try it out and post your writing here on the blog.  Just post your piece of writing as a comment at the end of this post, along with your name and email address.  At the end of the week we’ll choose our favourite piece of writing and the author will win a prize pack of goodies from Typo.

Twelve Doors

Imagine that you are standing in front of twelve doors.  Behind one there is a fabulous treasure.  Behind the others are eleven of the most dangerous things in the world. Describe what lies behind each one.

For more great writing ideas check out Andy Griffiths’ new book, Once Upon a Slime.

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Andy Griffiths Writing Challenge #1

Want something to do these holidays? Enter the Andy Griffiths writing challenge and you could win a Typo prize pack.

Andy Griffiths, the author of Just Crazy, Just Tricking, Zombie Bums from Uranus and The 13-storey Treehouse, has just released his book about writing, called Once Upon a Slime.  In this very cool book he gives lots of tips about writing and some activities to help you become a better writer.  You’re probably looking for something to do in the holidays so why not try an Andy Griffiths writing challenge.

In the box below there is a writing challenge from Andy’s book, Once Upon a Slime.  Why not try it out and post your writing here on the blog.  Just post your piece of writing as a comment at the end of this post, along with your name and email address.  At the end of the week we’ll choose our favourite piece of writing and the author will win a prize pack of goodies from Typo.

Write a story starring YOU!

You don’t have to be able to make up imaginary characters or exotic settings to tell a good story.  A fast way to create fun, believable-sounding stories is to start with the character you know best in the whole world (YOU!).  Choose one of the following scenarios and describe what you would do and what happens next.

  • You wake to discover that you can no longer speak – you can only bark like a dog.
  • You are in class.  It’s a hot day.  Your friend starts taking off their clothes…their shirt…their shoes…their socks…their pants!
  • You have a strong suspicion that your teacher is a vampire and, worse still, you suspect that they know you have discovered their secret.

So get writing and see what you can come up with!


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Who should be in the NZ Sports Hall of Fame?

New Zealand author, Maria Gill, has written some fantastic non-fiction books for kids.  One of her most recent books is the New Zealand Hall of Fame: 50 Remarkable Kiwis, which was recently named a 2013 Storylines Notable Book.

Maria needs your help.  She wants to know which sports person would you want to see in her new book, the New Zealand Hall of Fame: Sports Edition.  All you need to do is vote for your favourite option in the poll below and this will help Maria decide who to put in the book. Get voting!

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David Hill – Author Blog 4

I’ve spent quite a lot of time this week working on TWO novels. Does that sound impressive??

First, I’ve been going over the page proofs of a novel that’s coming out in June, called Brave Company. It’s about a teenage NZ seaman, who is on a NZ frigate during battles in the Korean War of the 1950s. Page Proofs are the final stage before the novel is actually published. Everything is set out exactly as it will be on the pages of the book, numbers and illustrations and all, and the author has to go – very carefully – through them, seeing if any mistakes have been made. There hardly ever are any; editors are a very efficient lot. But a final check is always a good idea.

The page proofs come after a series of stages in the making of a book. First, the author writes it. (Easy! Simple!) Then, if the publisher likes it and agrees to publish – and this often doesn’t happen; please don’t think that everything I write gets published – the editor will make suggestions on how to improve the book (add details here; cut bits out there; stop describing so much; stop the feeble jokes, etc) and author/editor work on these till they agree. This part can take weeks. After that, the designers make suggestions about cover, set-out, illsutrations / maps / diagrams, etc. And then come the page proofs.

The second book I’ve been working on is one I wrote over the winter / spring / summer. It’s about a NZ teenager in the 1970s who somehow gets involved in French nuclear tests in the Pacific. How? You’ll have to read the book – if it ever gets published. If that does happen, it won’t be till next year. I researched it, I wrote the first draft. I wrote the second draft. I wrote the third…..   And now I’m going over and over it, taking out a sentence on Monday, putting half of it back on Tuesday, getting the book as good as I can before I submit it.

So that’s what the author’s life can be like. It can also be full of pleasure. When you write anything – a book, a story, a poem, a letter – you make something that never existed in the world before. It’s special. It’s unique. And that’s something that nobody can ever take away from you. So the very best of luck with your own writing and reading.

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Kids’ Books: picks from our latest newsletter

Here are some great picks from our April Kids’ Books newsletter:

Cover: Twelve Dancing PrincessesCover: Where's the Meerkat?Cover: If the Shoe FitsCover: JinxCover: Inside the TitanicCover: TitanicCover: Story of the TitanicCover: All Stations! Distress!Cover: It's Our Garden

Did you know that you can subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight to your inbox? It’s easy and you get to be first to see our new goodies!

For more great reads, check out our Fun to Read page – it links you to reading lists, if you likes, interactive quizzes and lots more.

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David Hill – Author Blog 3

I took a day off during the week. Yes, authors are allowed to take time off, especially when they’re as lazy as I am. My wife Beth and I (I write about my dear wife a lot in my short stories for adults; I also write about my kids and grandkids in my children’s stories – but I always change details so they don’t recognise themselves and beat me up.)

I’ve lost track of where that paragraph was going……Yes, my wife and I rode a golf-cart along a railway line for 120 km. You know those funny little motorised carts that you sometimes see golfers trundling around golf courses in? A tourism business in Taranaki where I live has converted some so they run – very slowly – on railway lines, clattering along past farms and through tunnels. We rode in one from Stratford to Whangamomona and back. Isn’t “Whangamomona” a brilliant name? It’s right in the middle of inland Taranaki; it has no shops; one hotel, a population of about 20 people, 200 dogs and 2000 sheep. I may write a travel article about it.

I’ve also been trying to write a story about when I was learning to ride a bike for the first time, years and years (and more years) ago.

I’m a great fan of writing about your embarrassments and disasters and mistakes. Other people always enjoy reading about them, and you always feel much better after you’ve turned them into a story or poem or play. So I’m writing about how I could never stay upright on the bike; how I’d manage to pedal for a few metres only, then I’d start wobbling or leaning over to one side till I fell off. I just couldn’t seem to learn how to keep moving and stay on the seat. To make it worse, there was a guy who lived along the road from us, who was really good at sports and anything that involved being fit and confident. He could ride a bike and do no-hands tricks on it, and stuff like that. Every time he saw me trying to ride, he’d sneer and yell sarcastic comments.

Then one day I could ride. Just like that. My Dad had taken me down to a rugby field where nobody was playing, and he’d walked along beside me, holding the bike while I tried to pedal. Suddenly his voice sounded distant, and I realised he WASN’T holding the bike any longer. I was riding by myself.

I still fell off a few times, but I’d learned the trick. And a couple of days later I was riding (very carefully) along our street and met that other guy. I’ll never forget the amazed look he gave me. So that’s what I’m trying to write a short story about, and I think that in the story, I’ll make him so amazed that he falls off his bike into a hedge. That’s another thing I sometimes enjoy writing about: getting revenge on people…..

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The Daring Book for Girls by Miriam Peskowitz


The Daring Book for Girls is a manual for anyone with a sense of adventure! It has 280 pages packed with facts, activities, ideas and tricks. You can learn how to make a ring out of a peach pit, make a scooter, pull diabolical pranks and much, much more.

You’ll never be bored again after reading this book. It is full of useful tips and fun games. It has information on bird-watching, first aid, pirates and spies. Despite it’s title, boys will love this book too (and there is another book in the series called the Dangerous Book for Boys that they will like as well).

It will appeal to children of all ages; there are games and crafts for everyone. Whether you love sport, are a bookworm or enjoy making crafts, it’s guaranteed that you will like this book. You will finish it with a head full of new facts and words, ready to play a game of basketball, make a tree swing or build a campfire.

The Daring Book for Girls is based on the ways that children had fun before the Internet, phones, XBoxes and CDs. However, this book is far from old-fashioned, and certainly not dull- it will bring you much more fun than any video game!

If you want a good game to play at a sleepover, to know the best way to fold a paper plane or a just plain bored, pick up The Daring Book for Girls by Miriam Peskowitz. Do you dare to learn something new? Do you dare to have an adventure?

Reviewed by Tierney.



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Enter the Skulduggery Pleasant Exquisite Corpse Competition

Are you a huge Skulduggery Pleasant fan? Well here’s the competition for you.

This is a new competition that HarperCollins and Derek Landy are running for all Skulduggery fans, to celebrate the release of The Maleficent Seven.  There are some awesome prizes up for grabs and it’s super easy to enter.  Read all about it below and enter your masterpiece.


“There are things, pieces of artwork, stories… creations. Objects that burn with an inner light. These things have power. They are fused with the magic imbued in them by their creators. They are fragments of their creators’ minds, of their very souls, fragments taken and cut free, wrenched loose, torn from them for all to see and then stitched together to form a patchwork world, a collage of dreams… an Exquisite Corpse.” Your Golden God, Derek Landy

Exquisite Corpse is our very first fan works competition!

We know you’re awesome. You know you’re awesome. We know that you know that you’re… you get the idea. But the thing is, sometimes it’s not enough to just know, sometimes you have to show everyone else. So, this is your chance. We’re looking for fan works, created by you, inspired by the Golden God himself. Derek, that is. And we’re going to have a theme. This month, unsurprisingly, the theme is Tanith Low. We love her. You love her. Get to it!

You can submit anything… well, anything you’ve created. It could be a poem, a drawing, a short story (under 1,000 words, please, we know how prolific you all get, and Derek needs a little time to, you know, finish Book 8), it could be a Haiku, a clay model, a photo montage. Anything you like, as long as it was inspired by Tanith.

Simply email it – or a picture of it – to us at

Derek will judge the entries, and then one lucky fan will WIN the chance to be featured in our newsletter and on the Skulduggery Pleasant website, as the creator of the Exquisite Corpse Work of the Month! Everyone who enters will get an exclusive The Maleficent Seven themed poster, plus we’ll also send the winner a signed copy of The Maleficent Seven.

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Author Blog 2 – David Hill

I’m one of those authors who likes to try different types of writing, and I’ve been spending part of this week writing a long (1750 word) book review of some YA novels. They’re all by New Zealanders, and the are all GOOD.

So do try David Hair’s Ghost’s of Parihaka, a funny and frightening story of modern kids who keep being pulled back into the past where scary things are happening. And Anna MacKenzie’s Cattra’s Legacy, her novel of a young girl in a lost kingdom who has to save her people from a dark, advancing enemy. And Des Hunt’s Phantom of Terawhiti, in which the paw prints of a strange beast are found on the coast near Wellington. And R L Stedman’s A Necklace of Souls, the first novel by this Christchurch writer, in which a girl of high birth and a boy from the humblest of backgrounds unite to face a frightening foe.

I’ve also been away for a day – flying up to Auckland to visit St Kentigern College, where I was teaching a writing workshop and talking to some of the classes who have read my books or stories (poor things). I had to get up at 5 am – not good – to catch the plane, but it was brilliant watching the west coast of the North island crawling along below us, with the low morning light making long, dark shadows across the land. The waves on the coastline looked as if someone was lifting up the edge of a duvet to show its white underside.

In the writing workshop, I suggested that the best way to become a writer is to STEAL: to watch and listen, to get ideas from what people say and do; from what you read. We talked about topics, and the very nice kids tried a piece of writing about “A Moment You’d Like To Go Back To” – a moment in sport or performance, or with an animal, or at a special place, that was so brilliant, you’d like to relive it. OR that was so embarrassing or disastrous, you’d like to go back and change it, or stop it from happening. They came up with some terrific ideas.

I’ve finished the story that I mentioned in my last blog, about the kid who likes making terrible jokes, though I’ll probably go back and add some more jokes later. And I’m waiting for the page proofs of my newest novel to arrive from the publisher, so I can check them one last time. It’s called BRAVE COMPANY, about a teenage NZ sailor in the Korean War of the 1950s. It’ll be in the shops about…..May or June. I hope.

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Cyclone Bola by Kath Beattie

It is 1988, and twelve-year-old Amy’s boat-mad parents are going on a sailing trip from Vanuatu back to New Zealand. Amy is most unimpressed, especially when her mother and father decide to send her to stay at her great-aunt and uncle’s home in Gisborne. Reluctantly she leaves for Gisborne, anticipating a boring stay at a farm; she couldn’t be more wrong.

Uncle Jim and Aunty June are both kind, charming people. Amy has fun exploring the vineyard they own, and begins to enjoy country life, even liking the nearby school that she attends. However, her stay is ruined by the stressful news that a cyclone is coming dangerously close to Vanuatu. Amy is concerned for her parents’ safety, and desperately tries to contact them. It doesn’t hit her that the cyclone could reach New Zealand until it is upon them.

Amy can only watch as the quiet countryside is transformed. The cyclone is destroying the land and putting lives in danger as fierce wind and rain attack Gisborne. As Amy, her uncle and aunt try to survive the storm, she wonders; when will it end? Will she see her parents again? The answers are uncertain; everyone’s fates are in the hands of the merciless cyclone.

 Cyclone Bola is a fascinating read; one of the latest book in the My New Zealand Story series. It’s a wonderful book to read for a project, as it has plenty of useful information on the topic of Cyclone Bola, and keeps you turning pages as Amy’s exciting tale unfolds. At the back of the book there are photographs of damage, to give readers an idea of just how destructive the cyclone really was. If you want to learn about the devastating Cyclone Bola- part of New Zealand’s history, then this is the book for you!

Reviewed by Tierney.

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Author Blog 1 – David Hill

I guess the main event for me during the first week of April has been that I’ve been lucky enough to be short-listed for the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards. My novel My Brother’s War is in the Junior Fiction section, so you all have to rush straight out and vote for me!

Authors are always asked “Where do your ideas come from?” and the idea for My Brother’s War came from my Uncle Fred.

The book is a story of two NZ brothers in World War 1. William can’t wait to enlist in the Army, and experience the thrilling adventure of war. Edmund however is a Conscientious Objector: he believes that all war is wrong, and he refuses to enlist. So he’s arrested and sent to prison. In different ways, the two brothers are sent to the terrible battlefields in France. What happens to them? You’ll have to read the book to find out, heh, heh.

Anyway, my Uncle Fred was my father’s eldest brother, much older than my Dad. He was a gentle, white-haired farmer, always shy and quiet. I never took much notice of him. Then Dad began telling me about him – how he’d been in WW1; how he’d fought in France and been badly wounded by shell fragments; how he had nightmares for years afterwards, and ended up totally opposed to war. So the book really began because I wanted to honour someone who mattered to me. A lot of what I write starts that way.

I don’t expect to win in the Awards, by the way. There are wonderful books by other authors. Do read Kate de Goldi’s The ABC with Honora Lee, or Mandy Hager’s The Nature of Ash, or…or ANY of the other finalists.

Anyway, I’ve also been writing during this week. I sit at my untidy desk, in a little room between the kitchen and the back porch, in a small side street in new Plymouth, and I mumble to myself and scribble and scratch on the paper. I’ve been writing some book reviews, plus a small story about a kid at a new school who wants to seem special, so makes up all sorts of stuff about herself, and gets into a real tangle. It’s full of terrible jokes. I like writing terrible jokes……

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The 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Finalists

The finalists in the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards were announced this morning.  There is a great selection of books this year, by some of our best authors and illustrators.  I think that the picture book and junior fiction categories are particularly strong and the judges have got a huge job ahead of them.  I’m aiming to read all of the finalists before the week of the Festival this year so I’ll be sharing my thoughts on each book here.

Have you read any that you really love?

Picture Book

  • A Great Cake, written and illustrated by Tina Matthews
  • Melu, written by Kyle Mewburn and illustrated by Ali Teo and John O’Reilly
  • Mister Whistler, written by Margaret Mahy and illustrated by Gavin Bishop
  • Mr Bear Branches and the Cloud Conundrum, written and illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton
  • Remember that November, written by Jennifer Beck and illustrated by Lindy Fisher

Junior Fiction

  • The ACB with Honora Lee, written by Kate De Goldi and illustrated by Gregory O’Brien
  • The Queen and the Nobody Boy by Barbara Else
  • My Brother’s War by David Hill
  • Red Rocks by Rachael King
  • Uncle Trev and His Whistling Bull by Jack Lasenby

Young Adult Fiction

  • Earth Dragon, Fire Hare by Ken Catran
  • Into the River by Ted Dawe
  • The Nature of Ash by Mandy Hager
  • Reach by Hugh Brown
  • Snakes and Ladders by Mary-anne Scott

Non Fiction

  • 100 Amazing Tales from Aotearoa by Simon Morton and Riria Hotere
  • At the Beach: Explore and discover the New Zealand seashore by Ned Barraud and Gillian Chandler
  • Kiwi: the real story by Annemarie Florian and Heather Hunt
  • Taketakerau, The Millenium Tree by Marnie Anstis, Patricia Howitt and Kelly Spencer

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Join the Reading Crusade

Do you want the chance to meet the Crusaders and win some awesome prizes?  You need to join the Reading Crusade.

The Reading Crusade starts on Monday 11 March and runs until 19 April (that’s 6 weeks).  It’s a reading competition that takes place every second year and is brought to you by Christchurch City Libraries in conjunction with the CRFU (Canterbury Rugby Football Union).

You can register to take part now by going to the Christchurch City Libraries’ Reading Crusade page.

All you have to do to enter is:

  • Download your reading log from the Christchurch City Libraries’ website or get a paper copy from their teacher or local library.
  • Read four books of your choice.
  • Complete a reading log. This reading log needs to be verified online by a teacher, parent or librarian.

You can enter as many times as you like, so if you read 20 books you’ll get 5 entries in the draw.  Everyone who completes a reading log (and gets it verified online) is entered into the draw to win tickets to the prizegiving ceremony on Monday 13 May, where you could meet the Crusaders.

Join the Reading Crusade now and get reading!

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Meet our April Star Author – David Hill

Our award-winning April Star Author is New Zealand author, David Hill.  David is the author of many novels for children and teens, including Journey to Tangiwai, Fat, Four-eyed and Useless, See Ya Simon, and his latest book, My Brother’s War.  David also wrote the wonderful Anzac story, The Red Poppy (illustrated by Fifi Colston).  As well as an author, David also teaches Creative Writing, and is a reviewer and columnist for several newspapers and magazines.  David has won many awards for his writing, including the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award and the Margaret Mahy Award.

Thanks for joining us David!  We look forward to hearing all about your writing and your stories.

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