Archive for March, 2014

As my blog turns into a pumpkin …

It’s two minutes to midnight on March 31! My time as March author is about to run out.

I’m sad to say goodbye, but on the bright side, this happened today:

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Nothing makes a fan of carnivorous plants (or any plants!) happier than a box like that on their doorstep.

When I opened it, one sarracenia pitcher plant was desperate to get out.

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Now the whole boxload are making themselves at home where they’ll catch plenty of flies for us.

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These magnificent plants, by the way, are all from a marvellous and very experienced Christchurch carnivorous plant grower by the name of Ross Taylor. (Maybe you’ve visited his nursery?)

Okay, the computer’s squawking midnight … My finery is about to turn to turn to rags. (Oh wait, I was wearing rags anyway.)

I’m hanging out to see who the April author is …

All the best!

Johanna xoxox

 

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Drawing mutant carnivorous plants: a chat with Sabrina Malcolm

How do you turn ordinary looking plants into walking, talking mutants? That’s what the wonderful illustrator Sabrina Malcolm has to do in The Fly Papers books. I asked her a bit more about how …

sabrinaWhen you start coming up with ideas for turning particular carnivorous plants into sentient mutants – what are some of the things you think about?

Sabrina: I always need to think about how the creature will move around, and how it will perform whatever actions are required by the story. Dion’s roots, for example, became his way of getting around; and his traps came in handy for things like opening louvre windows.

The eyes have always been particularly important, because they’re one of the most important ways of showing the creature’s thoughts and emotions. Other parts of the creature can be helpful with that, too — for example, Dross’s leaves can look bedraggled, or lively and excited; and similarly with his eye stalks.

Of course, these things are always decided in consultation with the author and designer!

dionDo you use real plants or photos for reference (or both)?

Sabrina: I use real plants when I can, but photos can be useful too, especially if I’m drawing while a plant has died down for the winter. Venus flytraps, for example, can look very poorly during the winter months.

How do you make the plants’ eyeballs express emotion?

 Sabrina: Eyelids are the crucial thing: without them, it’s much harder to show emotion. They can take on some of the job of eyebrows — pulling down for a frown, narrowing together to show suspicion, or rolling right back in fear.

The eye stalks can be helpful, too — if they’re rearing back, it can convey fear, and lunging forward can show aggression.

Okay, if you were Bette Noire – and you could create a mutant plant or animal in your lab – what might it be?

 Sabrina: A cow with cheesecake-flavoured milk. Oh, and edible brussels sprouts.

 

Sabrina is the illustrator of all The Fly Papers books, and also an author. Last year she wrote and illustrated a beautiful picture book: Blue Moon Bird.

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Competition: Guess the book name!

When all eight books of The Fly Papers are released, the names, listed, will form a sort of poem. Books 1 and 2 are out already, and we’re working on Book 3:  The Aldrovanda Turns. 

Dion-EB2(An aldrovanda is an amazing carnivorous waterweed – like a floaty Venus flytrap. Sadly we can’t get them in NZ.)

So. Here’s the poem so far:

The flytrap snaps

The sundew stalks

The aldrovanda turns ….

 

What do you think the next line in the poem might be? In other words – what do you think book 4 will be called? 

Here are some other carnivorous plant names to give you ideas:

Pitcher plant

Bladderwort

Butterwort

Cobra lily

Byblis

Pinguicula

Heliamphora

Sarracenia

Cephalotus

Nepenthes

 

Have a guess what Book 4 will be called in the comments, and you’ll go in the draw to win the first two books in The Fly Papers – as well as go on our list to receive a free copy of Book 3 as soon as it’s out.

You don’t have to be right! It’s going to be a random draw. Have fun!

 

 (Illustration by Sabrina Malcolm.)

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Solving The Fly Papers mysteries

character1 If you’ve been following the adventures of Spencer, Tora, and their friends in the first two books of The Fly Papers, you know that the kids still have a lot of mysteries to figure out. Luckily they’ve got six more books to do it in!

People often ask if I’ve planned what’s going to happen all the way through to the eighth book.

When I first started writing book one, my answer was, ‘Mmmm … kind of.’ I had a vague resolution that I aimed get to at the end of book eight, but that was about all.

character2The wise and generous author Fleur Beale took me in hand and told me (nicely) that I needed to do better than that. She warned that if I didn’t have a very clear idea what was going to happen throughout the whole series, then writing it would be dangerous. I might get to a point later in the plot where I was stuck and would suddenly realise I should have written things differently earlier on.

So I came up with a few paragraphs of plot description for each book, but deep down, I knew it might not be enough to save me from a plot tangle.

Luckily – after the first book was published – something exciting happened. We got approached by a  producer working for quite a famous British film and TV company. This company was interested in maybe turning The Fly Papers into a TV series! (I didn’t believe it at first. I didn’t even reply to their email for about a month, because I thought it was someone scamming me. But nope, it was legit.)

Well. First they wanted to know more aboutcharacter3 every book’s storyline. So I began feverishly developing the plot in more detail than I’d ever tried to do before.

As it happened, no TV series eventuated. (Such is the uncertain nature of the film and TV industry.)

I was a bit disappointed, but not horribly, because I’d been trying not to get my hopes up. I was also grateful. I now had pages and pages of plot information to work from, all the way through to the end of The Fly Papers.

character5So now, when people ask me if I’ve planned what’s going to happen the answer is, ‘Yes – everything!’

(But no, I’m not telling.)

P.S. All these lovely character illustrations from The Fly Papers are by the marvellous illustrator Sabrina Malcolm.

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Our encyclopedias get a makeover!

Using computers to help with homework is pretty normal these days. Yet the information we find may not always be helpful or true. That is when you need us! Your local librarians consider themselves pretty good at providing quality information that will speed up your homework while getting you good results.

When I was younger all you had at the local library were heavy print encyclopedias to help with homework, but now from the comfort of your home you can get all that help online from the library with these two resources:

All you need is your library card number and PIN/Password and you will be guaranteed to find all the correct answers and enjoy yourself in the process! Learning fun? It can happen!

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Win a Wild Things magazine pack

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur March Star Author, Johanna Knox, has been blogging about editing the Wild Things magazine for the Kiwi Conservation Club.  The KCC has very kindly sent us some copies of last year’s magazine to give away to some lucky Christchurch Kids Blog readers.  Wild Things is packed full of information about local wildlife, stories and activities.

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winners of the magazine packs are – Ewen, Tegan, Asta and Logan.

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Marvellous Margaret Mahy

March 21 would have been Margaret Mahy’s 78th birthday and it’s a great excuse to check out some of the fantastic Margaret Mahy stuff on our catalogue and the internet.

If you are itching for some Margaret Mahy screen goodness, you can check out full episodes of her award-winning TV adaptions on NZ On Screen:

The Haunting of Barney PalmerBook Cover

Is Barney being haunted by his dead Uncle? One person in every generation of his family has a special gift; is it Barney? If you like the movie, borrow the book from our Library.

Kaitangata Twitch

What happens to a girl who has dangerous dreams? What if the land itself punishes those who would harm it? Kaitangata Twitch is a supernatural eco-thriller! Watch the first episode on NZ On Screen and then check out the book or DVD from the library.

The Great White Man-Eating SharkBook Cover

Norvin looks a little bit like a shark and is also a little bit sick of other swimmers at the beach. He thinks he’s got the perfect plan to have the beach to himself, but does he? Once you’ve watched the hilarious video, read the full story from our library.

If you’d like some more information about Margaret Mahy, you can check out our interview with her, or our special Margaret Mahy pages.

If you start reading now, you might be able to read all of our Margaret Mahy books before the Margaret Mahy Family Playground opens. It hasn’t been started yet, but when it’s finished it will be ‘the most amazing playground’ the city has ever seen, it will have different activity zones aimed at different ages, comfortable places for adults to supervise, and challenging play equipment, all inspired by the amazing stories of Margaret Mahy.

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