Archive for May, 2014

Five ways to have an adventure

Hello again. Any violin players out there? A little piece of sad music if you please, because May is almost over so this is my final blog post. Okay, one, two, three and off you go … oh this is too much, pass the tissues.

For my final post I’d like to ask you a question: have you ever had an adventure? What do I mean by “adventure”? My dictionary says: “an usual or exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.” Well let’s just skip past the “typically hazardous” part, shall we? It is perfectly possible to have an adventure without falling off something or getting lost. (I quite appreciate that you Christchurch children might be thinking, “Actually, Sue, we’ve had enough of adventures thank you very much!” Point taken. We can all do without shaky-rumbly adventures. But please do read on – my suggestions are hazard-free!) (Okay, you can stop playing the violin now. Very nice thank you.)

When I was your age I read a lot of adventure stories and could never understand why the houses I stayed in on holidays didn’t have secret passages; why, when we went for walks on moors, we didn’t see mysterious lights; why, when I dug a hole in the sand, my spade didn’t chink against something that turned out to be a box with, at the very least, a message to be decoded inside. Do you sometimes feel that way?


Well it is possible to make your own adventures, if you use a bit of imagination. My basic adventure recipe is:

1 x activity, preferably outside

1 x active imagination

A friend or two

And here are five ways to use your adventure mix:

1.  Build a den. In a forest is best, but in a garden will do (or even under the table if it’s pouring with rain). When it’s finished, decide where you would like it to be, e.g. on a desert island (do you need rescuing? are there poisonous fruit? do you need to catch fish to survive?), or halfway up a Himalayan peak (is there a yeti? are you lost?), or in the jungle (poisonous snakes? a rampaging rogue elephant?). Now have an imaginary adventure.

2.  Go for a bike ride (for older children only – and ask your parents first!). Get a map of your area and identify something that looks interesting, then work out a route. Check it out with your parents first. When I was a child in England, my friends and I spent many days searching for what was marked as ‘Old mill’ on a map. We never found it, but we had some great adventures searching.

3.  Go for a bush walk – this one you should do with your parents or a caregiver, but that doesn’t have to spoil your fun. Ask them to let you navigate – if you really want to impress them and every single person you meet coming the other way, then learn how to tell which direction you’re going in using a watch. It’s quite simple (click here for a simple guide) – this will dazzle the socks off everyone.

4.  Turn unusual situations into adventures – be on the lookout for adventure opportunities. A power cut? Don’t moan that you can’t use your computer or watch the TV. Instead, gather everyone round and have a ghost story telling session by candlelight. I guarantee that after an hour of that, going to the loo by yourself by candlelight will be a proper adventure!

5.  Get to know nature. No, I’m not trying to turn you into a tree-hugger – think about this, though. If you were out in the bush and you saw a bird that was really rare, as in maybe only 100 left in the world, would you know? Or would you think, ‘Oh look, a bird’. Being outdoors is much more of an adventure if you know what you’re looking at, and New Zealand’s natural world is awesome. Learn the difference between a town pigeon, which does nothing much other than poop all over nice buildings, and the beautiful kereru, New Zealand’s native wood pigeon. Is that really a stick, or could it be a stick insect? Have you ever seen a lizard in the wild? An adventure playground doesn’t have to be a jumble of steel at your local park, it can be your local forest reserve.

Well guys, my time is up, but if just one of you goes out and learns their NZ birds and how to tell where north is just by looking at your watch, then I am a happy bunny. The children in my stories have adventures, and I’d love you to get to know them sometime. And I’d absolutely love to hear from any of you – tell me about your pets, your favourite books, your latest adventures. Click here to visit me! It’s been a blogging blast, Christchurch kids – thanks for having me!

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Paddington and Me

When you grow up (don’t be in too much of a hurry – kids get better books!), you will probably find that “favourite book” means something different to you. I’ll try and explain. When I read an adult book, let’s say a cool murder mystery, I’m lost in its pages for a few days, then *poof*, it’s done … on to the next one. I can probably read it again a year later because I’ll forget the ending, however clever-surprise-plot-twisty it may have been.

But children’s books – well they’re a whole different, ahem, story. Your favourite children’s books will stay with you for life, and their characters will be your best friends forever. Mine still have pride of place on my bookshelves, along with their old-book smell, tatty pages and battered covers. They are my special friends and I won’t part with them – ever! I’m not the only one. Try asking your mum or dad what their favourite adult book is, and they’ll think for a bit and then tell you, perhaps with a smile. But ask them what their favourite book was as a child, and you’ll see them really light up as they tell you all about it.

Why is this? Is it because children’s books are better? Yes! Well, maybe. Well actually no, they’re just different, but more importantly, when you’re a child you respond to books in a different way. Your favourite reads have the power to spirit you away to worlds that become as real to you as the ordinary everyday world. My favourite other worlds included Moominland, the Hundred Acre Wood, Narnia, and Kirrin Island. And the characters in those worlds will be as real to you as your friends, family and pets.



One of my favourite childhood companions was Paddington Bear. I hope you have made Paddington’s acquaintance (that’s how Paddington would say it – making his acquaintance, not just “meeting” him. He’s quite formal like that.) He wears a duffle coat and felt hat, under which he keeps his emergency marmalade sandwiches. He’s very kind and thoughtful, but often his good turns go horribly wrong. However, nobody can be cross with Paddington for long, no matter how much of the family house he destroys in his DIY projects, because he’s such a sweet bear.

Now then, imagine how excited you’d be if you got the chance to meet Paddington, or your own storytime best-friend. Well, I didn’t meet Paddington himself, but I did the next best thing – actually the two next best things. Firstly, I got to spend a day with Paddington’s creator, Michael Bond, at London Zoo. And secondly, I got to BE Paddington for a day!


Michael Bond, the creator of Paddington Bear

I used to work at London Zoo, and part of my job was to organise special events. A new gift shop called The Teddy Bear Shop was opening, and in pride of place in the window was, of course, Paddington. So I wrote to Michael Bond and asked if he’d like to come and open it for us. I wondered what Paddington’s creator would be like, and it turned out he was exactly what you’d expect: twinkly eyed with a gentle smile, just like everyone’s favourite grandad. I’d always wanted to write for children, so as I showed him around the zoo I bombarded him with questions about how he came up with his ideas. He was kind and patient, just like Paddington. He told me that once you get to know your character (he spoke of him as a real bear, not a made-up one), you just drop him into a situation and the story writes itself. We kept in touch after his visit – he lived not far from the zoo – and he sent me a special copy of Paddington at the Zoo, which has pride of place on my bookshelf.


The inscription reads: “For Sue, On a sunny day at the Zoo …”

Not long after this, we held a party with the publishers of the Winnie-the-Pooh books to celebrate Pooh’s 60th birthday. Every famous bear you can think of was invited, and we needed volunteers to wear some of the costumes. Of course I decided I would be Paddington for the day. I have never been so popular in my life! I was hugged almost to death by hoards of children who believed I actually WAS Paddington. Eventually I decided I needed a break – it was a hot day and I was wearing a fur head, a duffle coat, and big red wellington boots. I headed back through the zoo towards my office, and was nearly there when I heard a voice behind me: “Paddington, stop!” I turned to see a breathless little boy with tears running down his cheeks. “You didn’t say goodbye!” he said. I gave the boy a hug and took him by the hand back to his parents. I bet he still thinks I was the real Paddington. Thinking about this experience reminds me how real the worlds and characters created by children’s authors are to their readers. So my message to you here is, in your world of fabulous apps and cool video games and YouTubers and all the rest of it, don’t forget the world of books where friends for life are waiting for you. Go read one – now! (Oh yes, and did you know … there’s a Paddington movie coming soon – can’t wait!)



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Join the Festival to celebrate the NZ Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

Have you ever wanted to come to the library in your pyjamas?  Next week you’ll get the chance to do just that when Christchurch City Libraries celebrates the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults Festival.  The Festival, which runs from 17-25 May, gives children, young adults and their families the chance to celebrate the finalist books, authors and illustrators at various events around the country.

Here in Christchurch we are running Books Before Bedtime Pyjama Parties at Papanui, Shirley and South Libraries, where children and their families can come to the library after dark and enjoy stories, craft activities and have fun with iPads.  For teens and adults we also have The Great NZ Children’s Book Quiz, a fun night where you and your friends can test your knowledge of the book awards and this year’s finalists.

One of my favourite events during Festival week is visiting local primary schools to read and promote the finalist books.  As well as encouraging children to read the wonderful finalist books, we also give away heaps of books and other goodies, including holographic bookmarks.  It’s tonnes of fun and the children always enjoy it.

We hope to see you at one of our events next week.  Check out the library events calendar for details of the Pyjama Parties and the Festival events calendar for details of the Book Quiz.

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Early World of Learning: online fun for little ‘uns !

Who doesn’t like bright pictures, games and great stories? World Book, with advice from early childhood development experts, has produced the Early World of Learning which is aimed at preschoolers and early primary school aged children. There are three fun and interactive learning environments:Early World of Learning

  • Trek’s Travels: learn alongside Trek, a scarecrow, and Taffy the cat, as they travel around learning about colours, numbers, size, shapes, places, taste and smell, opposites and time.  There are also narrated stories and interactive games;
  • Welcome to Reading: features 48 stories in four reading levels. It aims to help strengthen phonics, vocabulary and comprehension skills;
  • Know It: is a child’s first online encyclopedia. All text can be read-aloud by an online narrator and accompanied by word-by-word highlighting.

This fun resource is easy to use, bright and informative in all the right ways. Have a look today from home or in libraries using your library card number and password/PIN. While you are there check out all the other online products we have on the Source for kids!

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Tog Blog

Hello, me again. So … hands up those of you who still have at least one Easter egg left. What? No one? How about a bit of an Easter egg. No? Not even a tiny smidgeon of chocolate?

Me neither. My husband, Michael, hasn’t even started his yet, and has put it on display in the kitchen just to annoy the rest of us. He is the only one in our house who can resist chocolate – and I’m including our very own Easter bunny, Tog, in that list.


Now I know chocolate isn’t what your vet would recommend you should feed your rabbit. Pizza probably isn’t a good idea, either. Or cake. But before you start feeding Moro bars to your bunnies, we do only give him the occasional nibble. Most of the time he’s eating carrots and bunny food and – oh yes – my garden.



Tog is a free-range bunny. When he was a baby, he broke his leg. He looked kind of ridiculous and cute at the same time with his leg in a bright blue plaster cast. It was the middle of winter, so the vet told us to keep him inside while he was recovering.


It’s not just cats that enjoy a warm fire

During that time we house-trained him. Yes! You can train a bunny to poop politely. It wasn’t exactly as we’d have liked. We put a tray in a hidden corner of the living room, but he didn’t like it there. No, he wanted his tray in front of the TV. We had a mini-battle, which he won. His tray has been in front of the TV ever since.

By the time he was better we were so used to having him around the house we decided to see if the whole free-range thing would work. The first few times we let him into the garden we followed him around, waiting for him to try and tunnel his way out under the fence, or make a break for it when someone opened the garden gate. But it never happened. Eight years on and he has the run of the house and garden, only going in his hutch at night.

He’s the friendliest bunny in the world, I reckon. When someone comes through the gate he’ll run up to them, then escort them to the front door. I find it hard not to laugh when I answer the door to a stranger, like a courier, and see Tog sitting at their feet. Some visitors think it’s lovely; others just look confused. Oh yes, and he plays football. No really, he does!

Tog has become quite famous in our neighbourhood. My children took him to their primary school every Easter, where he would preside over dishing out eggs, and he was the main attraction at the school’s Business Day on the ‘Pet the Rabbit’ stall.


School Business Day – 50 cents a cuddle


Hare and make-up (geddit?)













Party animal

My children are now at high school, and Tog remains a firm favourite with their friends. At my son’s 16th birthday party (movie and pizza), Tog stared through the glass doors of the living room until someone let him in, then sat on the sofa watching the movie with them, nibbling pizza crusts.

One concern we had at letting him roam free in the garden was the local cats. Cats = predators; rabbits = prey, right? Apparently not. When new neighbours on one side brought with them a cat called Random, we went on high alert. When she first appeared in our garden I shot out to stand guard. However, Tog ran up to Random, somehow said, in his silent rabbity way, ‘Hi new neighbour, wanna be my friend?’ and so it was. They hang out together; favourite place is side by side on our front deck.


Tog and his BFF, Random

There was a cat on the other side too, Leo. Whereas Random is his garden friend, Leo would come into the house to say hi.

Leo sadly left, and we have a new neighbour cat now, but we have seen her in the garden only once. She took one look at Tog and shot back over the fence. We haven’t seen her since.


Tog and Leo

I’ve enjoyed telling you all about Tog. Do you have a funny story about your pet? Leave a comment if you do! See you next time!

PS Did I mention we have mice, too? Here are Pam and Maisy having fun in my daughter’s dolls house.


“Aw, do we really have to go back in our cage?”


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Hello from Sue

Hello there! What a treat to be invited to have a virtual chat with all you Christchurch booklovers. I hope we’re going to have plenty of fun together over the next month. Fun and … spine tingles. Do you believe in ghosts? Oh yes, and rabbit chat.

By now you’re probably wondering, who is this slightly mad-sounding person who’s invaded our blog? Well, your lovely library is calling me a “star” author. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. I’ve written a few books, but I’m not exactly J.K. Rowling or Margaret Mahy. On the star scale they’d be red giants, whereas I’m more of a white dwarf, visible only through a powerful telescope.

Like most authors (apart from the red giants), I have another job as well as writing. Mine isn’t quite as exciting and cool as last month’s star author, Tania Hutley, who makes computer games. No, mine is, ahem, book editing. You know how your teacher goes through your wonderful stories and covers them with annoying red scribbles, correcting your spelling and telling you when you should have started a new paragraph? Something like that. Sound boring? Well it isn’t really, because think of it this way – my job is READING BOOKS!

But back to the writer bit of me. I’ve written a few educational books (no yawning please), and several (cue spooky music) ghost stories. Do you like ghost stories? I’ve always loved them, though I’m a complete chicken when it comes to things spooky. I’m the one who jumps the most in scary movies, and I need to hug at least two cushions to get me through the creepiest parts (you know, where someone goes into a haunted house and you’re shouting “Don’t go in there!” at the telly.)

My most recent spine chiller is called The Ghosts of Young Nick’s Head. If you know what/where Young Nick’s Head is, award yourself some chocolate for general knowledge smartipantsness. If you don’t … well, you’ll have to visit me again over the next week or two, when all will be revealed. If you fancy a read of the book in the meantime, you can of course request it from your library, or head on over to to be in to win a copy.


My other recent book you may have seen is Our Children Aotearoa. Writing this was a dream project, as I got to travel all over New Zealand interviewing and photographing children from all walks of life. It made me realise what a fantastic place New Zealand is for kids to grow up in – I hope you realise how lucky you are! (Actually, when I say “all over New Zealand”, there was a certain city I didn’t manage to visit. You can guess which one. I’m sorry, Christchurch, all right?! I’ll make it up to you I promise!)

What else can I tell you about myself? I live in Auckland, and have two teenage children. We also have a dwarf lop-eared rabbit called Tog, who likes to sit at my feet while I’m writing. I will tell you more about him in my next blog. Here’s a photo of Tog to be going on with.


I’ve lived in New Zealand for some years now. I came here from England, where my home town is Rugby. Yes folks, that’s where your favourite game began. There’s a big posh school, Rugby School, in the centre of town, and nearly 200 years ago a group of schoolboys were playing football when one of them, William Webb Ellis, caught the ball in his hands and ran towards the goal. Or so legend has it. (I always wonder why the other boys didn’t just yell “Foul!” and send him off!)

In between leaving Rugby and arriving in New Zealand, I worked at London Zoo (yes, it was as much fun as it sounds), travelled the world for a year, and then worked at Dorling Kindersley Children’s Books – you know, they produce those really cool non-fiction books, like Incredible Cross-Sections. Because of my background at the Zoo, and general obsession with animals, Dorling Kindersley gave me natural history books to work on. The first series involved photographing lots of creepy crawlies, and so it was that I found myself encouraging a tarantula out of its hidey-hole, and being asked to hold a giant prickly stick insect while the photographer sorted out his camera. See – “editing” can be exciting!

So there you are, a potted history of me. I will be back soon with more on ghosts, rabbits, books, and anything else that springs to mind in May. Catch you later!


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Enter our Autumn Reading Competition

Win books and Subway vouchers!

At Christchurch City Libraries we’re combining our Autumn Reading Competition with the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.  The finalists in this year’s book awards are announced on Tuesday 8 April and this is also when our Autumn Reading Competition opens.

During the Autumn Reading Promotion you’ll have the chance to vote for your favourite finalist book in the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and you’ll have the chance to win a trip to Orana Park for your class or your family.

Here on the Christchurch Kids Blog we have extra chances for you to win.  You could win a set of the Junior Fiction finalist books and Subway vouchers, just for sending us your response to one of the finalist books.  You could write a review, write a poem, create something and send us a photo, or you could write a story based on one of the books.  Email your response to or enter it as a comment on this post.

Competition closes Friday 21 May.  See below for terms and conditions

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Meet our May Star Author – Sue Copsey

Our fantastic May Star Author is New Zealand author, Sue Copsey.  She is an editor and an author who writes for both children and adults.  Sue’s books include Children Just Like Me, Our Children Aotearoa and The Ghosts of Young Nick’s Head.

Thanks for joining us Sue!  We look forward to hearing all about your writing and other roles.

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