Archive for Children

We are moving!

The Christchurch Kids Blog content will be moving to our new Christchurch City Libraries website.  We won’t be using this blog any more but you will still be able to read our posts about children’s books, authors and writing on our new website.  You will also still be able to have your say and let us know what you think.

If there is anything that you would really like to see on our new website for kids please post a comment and let us know.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – How is The Volume of Possible Endings different from the first two Tales?

This third Tale of Fontania is another stand-alone novel. Some of the characters from the first two come back into it. But the main character, Dorrity, is new. So is the other important character, Metalboy. I like to have new main characters each time because that means there is an interesting (I hope) new story to be told even though it is set in the same fantasy world.

This time, there is another difference too. In The Travelling Restaurant and The Queen and the Nobody Boy the characters left home and went on an adventure. With this third one, I wanted to explore the place the novel started. It’s set mostly in Owl Town on the edges of the Beastly Dark, a great forest in the south-west of Fontania. It seems a fairly ordinary place at first, where life always goes on in the same sort of way. But there is only one child in the whole town. That’s odd. And there is a lot more going on than the child, Dorrity, realises. I wanted to find out what lived in the Beastly Dark.

I also wanted to figure out what King Jasper might have invented next. In The Queen and the Nobody Boy, he has only recently invented message birds. But that is five years before the story of Dorrity and Metalboy. What would Jasper have invented by now?

Though I’d had great fun writing the travel adventure stories of the first two novels, this time it was a change to ‘stay put’ and make the story a different sort of adventure that happens exploring pretty much one place.

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The Best and Worst Children’s Books of 2014

Cover of the song of the kauriThe end of the year is approaching and that means it’s time to evaluate the best and worst of 2014’s crop of children’s books. Hosted by Christchurch City Libraries, in conjunction with the Canterbury Literacy Association, the Best and Worst Evening is a Christchurch literary tradition. 2013’s event was so popular the event has been moved to the larger venue of Upper Riccarton Library.

Speakers include Bob Docherty (children’s book guru and renowned promoter of reading and literacy for kids), Kirsten Smith (Kaitakawaenga – Ngā Ratonga Māori at Christchurch City Libraries) and a kids-eye-view from Briana.

Our annual Holiday Reading list will also be officially announced on the night. Holiday Reading is a recommended selection of new titles added to Christchurch City Libraries in 2014 and includes picture books, chapter books, young adult and non-fiction titles.

Come along this Wednesday night (19 November) to Upper Riccarton Library, 7pm. Bring a gold coin for refreshments and early Christmas raffles.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – Where do the ideas for stories come from?

Answer: ideas come from everywhere and anywhere. The first idea for The Volume of Possible Endings came from a fairy tale. It isn’t one of the best known ones, but I’d been interested by it since I was about ten or eleven. It’s a story of a girl who has either six, seven or twenty-one brothers depending on which version of the story it is. A wicked witch changes all the brothers into swans and the spell can only be broken if the girl sews shirts for them all. I remember thinking what a lot of work that would have been – especially if it was twenty-one brothers. She didn’t have a sewing machine, either. It all had to be done with a needle and thread. Yikes. What really grabbed my interest was how much she must have loved her brothers.

But of course, it would have been hard work for me as well to manage twenty-one brothers in a story. I decided that three brothers would be plenty for my story, thanks. And – this isn’t a spoiler – the brothers in this novel don’t get turned into swans. But there is magic involved, and magical wickedness.

Anyway, maybe there’s an idea here that you could use for writing one of your own stories. In fairy stories you never get a lot of information about how the characters feel. They just do things, or things just happen to them. So why not start thinking about why the characters in a fairy story come to do whatever it might be. How do they actually feel? Choose a fairy tale you especially like, say, Red Riding Hood. Why would a mother could send her precious child into a forest all by herself? Does Red Riding Hood really want to go into the forest? Or, think about how the wolf feels. For instance, how long is it since he had a good dinner? Or is he just a greedy-guts? Or a bully and a show-off? Could you tell the story from his point of view? That might be fun.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – Titles

Titles are important, aren’t they? A book need one that makes a reader intrigued as to what the story will be about. But if you’re writing a story, you don’t have to have the title right away. Sometimes the right title will just pop into your head at some stage while you’re working on the piece.

When I was writing the first Tale of Fontania, the title was pretty obvious as soon as I decided to have a sailing ship as a restaurant a sailing ship. ‘The Sailing Restaurant’ wouldn’t have sounded quite right, but The Travelling Restaurant sounded good to me. It’s at least a bit intriguing, to think of how a restaurant would travel about. (And apologies to American readers who spell travelling with only one l – traveling.)

With the second Tale, at first I thought the title would be ‘The Queen and the Elephant Boy.’ That idea soon got tossed aside when I realised it was going to be tricky having an actual elephant in the story. How could my characters have the wild adventures I wanted if they had to take an elephant along? So I made the elephant one that had died and been buried years ago. ‘The Queen and the …something … Boy’. Hmm. I had to choose a good opposite word to queen. Well the boy in the story had been ignored by everyone, treated like a nobody. So there it was: The Queen and the Nobody Boy. Opposite ideas in a title that can catch a reader’s interest.

I had no idea what I would call the third Tale. The novel opens with a boy as the main character in the first chapter. Then chapter two moves to a girl, Dorrity, who is the only child in Owl Town on the edge of the Beastly Dark. The citizens boast that their town is magic-free. But Dorrity discovers a book on her teacher’s table. When she opens it, the title page is blank at first. Then words appear on it – ‘The Volume of Possible Endings.’ Pages continue to turn on their own and stop at a list of five endings headed ‘Dorrity’s Tale.’ Magic most certainly exists in the town! She’s scared and offended at being lied to by grown-ups.

I was still wondering what to call the novel when I thought – ‘Du-uh! There’s a perfectly good title already there in the story – the title of the book in my book!’ Just as the title of the magical book revealed itself to Dorrity, the title revealed itself to me.

If you happen to be struggling to find the right title, have a look at what you’ve already written for your tale. Maybe it is lurking in a paragraph just waiting to be found.

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BARCALONA 2

Today is Monday and we realise that back in New Zealand  this is the last week of school before the holidays.

Today we went to Park Guell which was designed by Gaudi, who designed the Sagria Familia. This park construction began in 1900.  It was originally constructed as an estate for well-off families in a large property.  It was not until 1922 that it was gifted to the Barcelona city Council and four years later turned into this public park.  It was evident by the number of people visiting today that it is an attraction for visitors from all around the world.

While there four visitors, from South Korea, said Amelia was cute.  I think they asked why she was not in school and where we came from.  We said “Christchurch, New Zealand” and they said “Aahhh, Christchurch, New Zealand”.

Did you realise everywhere in the world attractions have a gift shop that you must exit through – Amelia is very good at saying “You don’t need that”.

Taxi to the older part of Barcelona where we saw momuments to the battle that took place back on 11 September 1714.

For the first time we have had rain today – on and off.  Its not been a problem and the street sellers have had a chance to sell the supply of umbrellas as they quickly got them out for the passing walkers today.

Amelia must have internal radar for ice cream shops.  Chocolate and white chocolate ice cream – seems to cover her face but she is happy!  Very happy as we let her go to a shop called “Happy Pills”.  Can you guess what kind of shop that is for children and adults?  Mainly for children.

After shared Tapas and Paella we went to the Sagrada Familia.  A very famous building In Barcalona.  The brochure actually says “The Church of La Sagrade Familia – a Barcelona landmark and an artistic and spirutal symbol of Catalonia.”  It was good advice to book the tickets on-line before the day and ask the hotel to print them out.

We sat in the Church in silence and reflection and also watched the thousands of people taking photos and some not showing any respect at all.  Who would enter a church with an umbrella up.  Yes it was raining but getting well inside and continuing to walk around with it seemed strange.

We will go out tonight for our final meal here in Barcelona as we fly to Greece in the morning.

Exciting another place to visit.

Note:  Yesterday was walking and visiting the sites closer to our hotel.  So many people, so much history and a lesson for Amelia on cost benefit analysis. She understands now the concept.

Julie, David and Amelia

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LONDON catch up blog

We were lucky to spend 4 nights in London and during the day we took the tube to get

around places in London.

The London Eye was a great place to be able to see all the significant landmarks

in London.  We also had an introduction to the art of queuing.  Interesting to see that

some people from other countries didn’t think that they needed to stand in line like everyone

else.

David worked a number of years ago in Convent Garden area so we went back

to see where he worked,.and found it was all boarded up.

Before we left we were happy to help a busker, the Mighty Gareth, form a crowd and to

entertain us with his routine.  A few coins for his hat were well earned.

Seeing Buckingham Palace and the Beefeater Guards was very special.

Thousands of people waited with us, then we walked up The Mall.

The guards and the horses that came around the square were very regal.

A visit to the tower of London and seeing the Crown Jewels another highlight.

Amelia will always remember her 11th birthday.

Where do you think we went with a writer in the family?

Yes Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.  Matt our guide was a character, and gave

Amelia a few jibes in good fun.  We learnt some interesting information.

Enjoying our travels.

Julie, David and Amelia

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