Archive for Cultures and People

National Geographic just for you

There are a few things that you can not avoid in life and homework is one of them! Here at Christchurch City Libraries we want to make homework as painless as possible. To help beat the due date blues, we welcome National Geographic Kids online.

National Geographic Kids can be searched by itself or  through the National Geographic Digital Archive. This resource is geared toward 6-14 year olds and it includes:

  • National Geographic Kids magazine 2009-present (3 month embargo);
  • National Geographic Kids books which include award-winning photos and maps;
  • Kid-friendly, downloadable images perfect for assignments.

Have a play and see what you think! You can find this electronic resource 24/7 through the catalogue or at the Source, all you need is your library card number, PIN and a sense of adventure and wonder!
Who doesn’t want to know that two unmanned spacecraft have been travelling through outer space for 33 years?

Comments off

Making a Noise

If I came to your school for an author visit, one of the first things you would notice is I like to make a noise. When I visit schools I take along the gong I used for research when I was writing Samurai Kids 1:White Crane. Most of my presentations are in libraries. There’s something a bit radical about being able to make a big noise in the library!

I love to make a noise when I write too. My favourite words are onamotapoeias. An onamatopoeia is word that imitates the sound or noise it is describing. In the Samurai Kids series Sensei Ki-Yaga regularly bangs his gong to get the Kids’ attention so I needed lots of sound words for that. But the most fun I had with onamatopoeias was when I was writing Polar Boy. I knew one of the things that happened on the first page was that Iluak tripped over a pile of pots and pans and attracted the attention of a polar bear. It was a long way away… until it heard the noise.

The best way to find onamatopoeias is to listen to the sound you need. So I took some pots and pans from my kitchen and dropped them off the balcony. They made wonderful sounds. Crash. Bash. Clang. I thought that would make a great start to my novel. But then when I continued researching life above the Arctic Circle, I realised there was no metal there. My story is set 800 years ago, when pots and pans were made out of soapstone, a soft rock. So I took rocks from my garden and dropped them off the balcony. They made a very different sound.

Here is what I heard and how I used it in the first few lines of Polar Boy:


Klunk-tunk. Konk. Tunk.

There are no words in my language to escribe tripping over a fully laden sled and landing with a cooking pot on your head. But that’s the sound it makes. The noise skids across the night to touch the arctic sky.

The onamatopoeias I ultimately used are much more interesting than the first ones I found – because I made them up. Not only can you make up onamatopoeias but you can give them an unusual spelling. Recently I wrote a short story about a boy who lived with dingos. I called the boy Rlph becuase it sounds like a dingo yip and because it looks like the human name Ralph.

But perhaps the best thing about noise words is they are a great way to start a story. They are a real attention grabber. So if you ever get stuck trying to begin a story in class… use words to make a noise

Comments (1) »

The Un-forgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Do you have kids from different countries in your class or at your school?  When you speak a different language from everyone else or come from a different culture it can be hard to fit in and make new friends.  In his new book, The Un-forgotten Coat, Frank Cottrell Boyce tells us the story of two brothers from Mongolia who just want to fit in.

The Un-forgotten Coat is told from the point of view of Julie, who is chosen by Chingis and his brother Nergui to be their ‘Good Guide.’  As their ‘Good Guide’ Julie looks after them and helps them to fit into their school and life in England.  Julie and her classmates learn all about Mongolia and that Chingis and Nergui had to leave their home because they were being chased by a demon.  Julie wants to be invited around to their house like her other friends but she can’t even figure out where they live.  When she discovers where they live Julie and her mother are not welcomed and Julie doesn’t understand why.  One day Chingis and Nergui disappear and Julie’s teacher tells her class that they weren’t supposed to be in England and were sent back to their own country.  Julie never sees or hears from them again until she makes a discovery on the internet many years later.

The Un-forgotten Coat is a story about friendship that leaves you with a smile on your face.  It shows you how hard it can be for people of other cultures to fit in, but how they just need friends to help them along the way.  There are some really funny parts in the book, especially when Chingis and Nergui are learning how to play football.  I really liked how Frank Cottrell Boyce has used Polaroid photos to help tell the story and I think it would be interesting to write your own story just using the photos.   Frank Cottrell Boyce is a great storyteller, and if you like his other stories including Millions, Framed and Cosmic, you’ll love The Un-forgotten Coat.

Recommended for 9+     9 out of 10

Comments off

5 Japanese demons you may know from books and movies – Cristy Burne

cristy burne and headsHi!  Cristy Burne here, author of the Takeshita Demons books and Star Author for July.

I hope you like scary stories, because that’s exactly what I like to write. And believe it or not, the Takeshita Demons books are based on truth.

That’s right! All the Japanese monsters I write about are real…I didn’t make them up! In fact, I was only inspired to write Takeshita Demons after I started studying the history and mythology of Japanese monsters (or yokai in Japanese).

The Filth Licker and more…

Monsters in Takeshita Demons (like the Filth Licker (aka-name), the Snow Woman (yuki-onna) and the  Cut-throat Demon (nuke-kubi)) have been part of Japanese mythology and stories for hundreds of years.  They’re much the same as vampires, werewolves and fairies in Western culture.

Many of Japan’s demons are very unusual, but here are some you may recognise…How many do you know?
Don’t forget to enter our Make-a-monster Competition: invent a demon and win a prize!

5 Japanese demons you may know from books and movies

Hanako of the toilet1) Toire no Hanako-san

‘Toire no Hanako-san’ means Hanako-of-the-toilet. Hanako is the ghost of a young girl and she haunts particular toilet cubicles, usually at school. Remind you of anyone you might remember from a certain school for wizards?

In Japanese legend, Hanako is usually shy…

BUT…if someone is mean to her or teases her, then…watch out!

If you want to meet Hanako, you need to knock three times on the door of her haunted toilet and call out: “Are you there, Hanako?”.

Why don’t you give it a try next time you’re in the school toilets?

2) BentenThe goddess benten

Aha! I bet you thought Benten was a boy with a really cool wrist watch! You did, didn’t you?

Well, think again. Benten is actually a woman with eight arms and a whole bunch of dragons as friends. In Japanese mythology, Benten is one of the 7 lucky gods, and she’s around 1500 years older than the Benten you might know.

Still, the goddess Benten is a good person to befriend: she can help make you rich and give you good grades at school (she’s also the goddess of wisdom and prosperity).

yagyo-san3)  The headless horse

You’ve heard of the headless horseman, right? He’s a famous legend that grew from a character in a story published in America nearly 100 years ago.

But…have you heard of the headless horse?

The headless horse is the favourite method of transport for a Japanese ogre called Mr Yagyo, or Yagyo-san.

Yagyo-san has been around for hundreds of years, coming out only once a year to wreak havoc on the human population. On this one day — the day before Japan celebrates Setsubun, the beginning of spring — Yagyo-san roams the streets tossing spiked soybeans at people.

According to Japanese stories, the only way to escape is to lie face-down on the ground with a pair of sandals on your head.

ningyo_japanese_mermaid4) Mermaids

When I say ‘mermaids’, do you think of beautiful half-fish, half-woman creatures with long golden hair and perfect skin?

Well…that’s not the only kind of mermaid in the sea!

Japanese mermaids are called ningyo and although they are half-fish, half-woman, they’re not exactly what I would call beautiful.

I’m researching ningyo now as part of the next Takeshita Demons book… Apparently, eating the flesh of a Japanese mermaid can make you immortal, and even just seeing one can add three years to your life. Pretty cool, huh.

(Japanese mermaids also have some unfriendly friends, like the sazae-oni, a poisonous demon formed when a very old sea snail mutates into an ogre.)

tengu5) Tengu (or the tengu’s invisibility cloak, at least)

Tengu are a half-bird, half-humanoid Japanese demon that live in the mountains. You often see tengu masks in Japan and they feature in traditional Japanese stories and theatre.

But, you probably know the tengu’s cloak more than the tengu.

Tengu have many special powers and own many magical objects, not least of which is the invisibility cloak.  This is a cloak that makes you totally invisible when you wear it. Ring any bells?

There is another story of a tengu who owns a magical fan that can make your nose grow. In the story, the tengu accidentally fans himself… Maybe that’s why he looks how he looks!

So what’s my point?

My point is that you don’t always have to invent everything when you’re writing a fantasy or horror story.

Some of the craziest things you can imagine happen in real life (just read the newspaper sometime!). Some of the most unbelieveable things ever are actually true (700 million people around the world have blood-sucking hookworms in their guts). And some of the best writers and books use little bits of history and science and real-life-fact to inspire their incredible stories.

So, when you’re writing your own stories and books, take some time to research some real-life topics that might be relevant. The Christchurch library has a huge non-fiction section filled with heaps of fascinating facts and stories…. Check it out and you will be amazed!

How many of the demons did you know?
Any fascinating facts you’d like to share?
Drop us a comment!

And don’t forget to enter our Make-a-monster Competition: invent a demon and win a prize!

Happy writing and reading!


Cristy Burne
Author of the Takeshita Demons series

Follow me on Twitter
Check out my blog
Like The Filth Licker on Facebook!

Comments (1) »

Make-a-monster competition: invent a demon, win a prize!

cristy burne and headsHi! I’m Cristy Burne, author of the Takeshita Demons books and Star Author for July.

I love writing about spooky creatures from Japanese ghost stories and mythology , and all this month I’ll be sharing my favourite Japanese demons (called yokai) with you.

Here’s where the competition starts:
This month, all through July, I’m asking you to invent your own demon. Simply post your demon’s details as a comment and you could win your very own copy of Takeshita Demons.

The winner will be the person whose demon makes us laugh the most (or shiver with fear…)

What you have to do:

What YOU have to do is this: Invent your own favourite demon…then tell me about it!

You can go crazy… Make up any kind of demon you like, and then post about it in the comments.

I want to know:

your demon’s name and

– a couple of interesting things about it.

Just post these details as a comment below and you (and your demon) are in the running to win.

Demonic brain-starters

You don’t have to answer all these questions, but here are some ideas to get your imaginations going…

What does your demon like to eat? What does it look like?
Where does it live?

Is it an evil demon? A love-sick demon?
A demon who likes to eat cold toast and juggle glass eyeballs?

What secret powers does it have? What is its secret weakness?
Why does it always carry a dirty sock in its pocket?

…So…introduce us. I can’t wait to meet it!

Still stuck for ideas? Check out this memory game on my website: it features Japanese demons from 230 years ago and may inspire you to create your own wierd and wonderful demon inventions…

Happy writing and reading!


Cristy Burne
Author of the Takeshita Demons series

Follow me on Twitter
Check out my blog
Like The Filth Licker on Facebook!

Comments (28) »

Celebrate Matariki at your library

Not only does it start to get colder in June, but we also celebrate Matariki, the beginning of the Maori New Year.  Matariki (translated as tiny eyes) is a small cluster of stars that appears at this time of the year.

When we see Matariki appear in the night sky it means that it is time to prepare, to share ideas, to
remember the past and celebrate the future. Throughout Matariki we learn about those who came before us: our history, our family.

Some of the ways that you can celebrate Matariki are:

  • Make and fly a kite – kites were seen as the connectors between heaven and earth and were often flown during Matariki, especially on the first day of the New Year.
  • Cook a meal for friends and whanau.  Invite everyone around and enjoy lots of kai.
  • Celebrate your whakapapa (family history).  While you have all your whanau around for a feast, everyone could share a story.  Talk to your grandparents and find out what life was like when they were a kid.

There are lots of fun events happening throughout Matariki in your local library and you can even go to the Nga Hau e Wha National Marae to try some craft activities and watch Kapa Haka performances.  Check out our Matariki events brochure for more information.

Comments (2) »

Who are your favourite book heroes?

coverIn just about every book you read there are heroes and villains.  What makes someone a hero though?  Do they have a superpower and save the world or are they an ordinary kid who stands up for what they believe in?   The NZ Book Month team have created a list of the Top 5 Heroes and Heroines for boys and girls from books.  Some are muggles and others have magic running through their veins.

The Top 5 Heroes for boys are:

  1. Harry Potter from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  2. John and Roger from Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
  3. Adrian Mole from The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend
  4. Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  5. Greg Heffley from Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

The Top 5 Heroines for girls are:

  1. Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  2. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  3. Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil from Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
  4. Pippi Longstocking from Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  5. Jane Blonde from the Jane Blonde series by Jill Marshall

Who’s  your favourite book hero or heroine?  What makes them so special?

Comments (2) »

%d bloggers like this: