Archive for Reading Crusade Challenge

The BEST school holiday ideas

Summer readingYay – holidays! The only problem with the holidays is figuring out what to do, so we’re here to help fight boredom with the BIGGEST list of ideas.  You can help us add to the list as well by telling us what you’re doing.


  1. Go to the library.  You can get books to read when you’re wrapped up warm inside, DVDs to watch on a rainy day, audiobooks to listen to in the car, plus heaps more.  Find out about the libraries that are open.
  2. Enter our Make-a-monster, invent-a-demon Star Author Competition here on the blog.
  3. Walk around the Botanic Gardens and have fun in amongst the trees.  There are lots of great places to hide or you could have a leaf fight.
  4. Go to your local park and play on the playground or have a game with your friends.  Take a ball or a frisbee and use up all your energy.
  5. Go swimming at one of the Christchurch City Council pools –  Pioneer Leisure Centre and Jellie Park are still open.
  6. Go and see some of the cool movies on these holidays.  There’s the last Harry Potter movie, Deathly Hallows Part 2, Cars 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, or Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  7. Play some board games or card games with your friends and family.  You can even make your own and challenge your friends.
  8. Make your own book trailer for your favourite book.  All you need is PowerPoint, Movie Maker and a bit of creativity.  Here are some instructions to get you started.
  9. Write a story or a poem and send it through to us and we could publish it on the blog.
  10. Bake something yummy like a cake or some biscuits.  Check out our books on baking.
  11. Learn a new skill like  magic tricks, juggling, skateboarding or knitting.
  12. Go to a KidsFest activity.  There are heaps on around the city and we have some great FREE events in the library, including Pandemonium at the Library and The Adventures of Tintin story readings.

If you have any other cool ideas, especially ones that are free, add a comment and let us know.

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‘How to make a graphic novel’ with Garen Ewing

Hi again!  Yesterday I told you a little about my comic, The Rainbow Orchid, and why I love comics.  One question I get asked a lot is ‘how do you make a comic?’ You could ask almost any comic creator this question and you probably wouldn’t get the same answer twice, but here is a brief guide to how I make comics…

Once I have my plot worked out and written in note form, I start by breaking the story down into one-page chunks – detailing what has to happen on each page of the comic. The next thing to do is write the script, which is rather similar to what you might imagine a film script to be – I describe the scene in each panel and write out the dialogue said by the characters. At the same time as writing the script I’ll sketch some very rough page layouts which are called ‘thumbnails’, because they’re so small, just to give me an idea of how the panels will fit on the page, with perhaps some loose composition for the actual drawing in there too.

With the script written and the thumbnails as a guide, the next thing I do is draw larger rough versions of the page so I can work out how the drawings will look and where the characters need to be in each panel so they can talk in the correct order (speech balloons generally need to be read from left to right) and also to make sure their actions and the visual aspect of the storytelling is clear.

Those rough drawings help a lot when it comes time for the next stage – pencilling the actual artwork. I’ve already worked out, in rough form, the poses and composition, so now it’s just a case of spending a lot more time on the drawings to get them looking good. After pencilling (and lots of rubbing out along the way) I need to ink the drawings. This involves using a dip pen and a pot of Indian ink and drawing over the pencils to end up with a nice clean finished drawing.

This is the point I turn to modern technology and scan my black and white line art into the computer at high resolution. Using Adobe Photoshop I colour the artwork and also make up the speech balloons. Although I do the lettering in the balloons to make sure they’re the correct size, my publisher sets the actual final lettering onto the page so it is as crisp and clear as possible for the printer. The font used for the lettering is one I created myself based on my own hand-lettering.

When all this comes together you have a finished page! Depending on how detailed the page is, a single page can take me anywhere from two to four days of solid work. Making comics is a lot of hard work, but you get to play the part of writer, director, set designer, special effects wizard and actor, and it’s always rewarding when you see the finished book finally come together.

Tomorrow on the blog, you can see images of the process from start to finish.

Enjoy your comics!

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Graphic novels – just another way to tell a story

My name is Garen Ewing and I’m the author and artist for a graphic novel called The Rainbow Orchid.

Graphic novel? What’s that?

Put simply, a graphic novel is a term used for a comic (as in ‘comic strip’) that is published in longer book form. It may be a book that collects lots of shorter episodic comics together under one cover, or it may be a comic that is created and published as a book in its own right. Graphic novels and comics can be about anything – adventure, science-fiction, biography, superheroes, soap opera, comedy – it’s a medium that is able to accommodate any genre you you can think of! There are comics for boys, girls, children, teenagers and adults … everyone. It’s just another way to tell a story.

But what an excellent and compelling way to tell a story! Comics are a wonderful fusion of words and pictures that engage both halves of your brain and pull you right into the tale from the first panel. You can make anything you want happen in a comic and you don’t need a huge special effects budget to do it. Basically, comics are great!

So what is The Rainbow Orchid?  A few years ago I wanted to make a comic that would be the perfect story to suit my own tastes; a comic, basically, aimed at readers just like me. So it’s got everything in it that I love – a soaring adventure story featuring ancient mysteries, exploration and plenty of excitement and intrigue. Many of my favourite comics come from the ‘Franco-Belgian’ tradition, particularly those that are drawn in a ‘clear line’ style (such as Hergé’s Tintin, Jacobs’ Blake & Mortimer, or Chaland’s Freddy Lombard adventures), so that’s the style I decided to lean towards when I drew it.

The story itself concerns the search for a rare and possibly mythical orchid that takes the main character, Julius Chancer, and his friends from the south of England to France and then on to India and the hidden valleys of the Hindu Kush, with a bunch of nefarious villains in hot pursuit.

Read my next post to find out how I create a graphic novel.

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Reading Crusade Challenge – Week 6

Week 6 Challenge – Graphic Novels

Try a graphic novel, comic book or manga this week.  There are lots of different ones to choose from, whether you like Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Avatar: The Last Airbender, X-men or Spiderman.

Tell us about your favourite graphic novel and you’ll go into the draw to win Volume 1 of The Adventures of Tintin and a book about the author and characters behind the graphic novels.

See below for Terms and conditions  Read the rest of this entry »

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A Fiendish Guest Post – Part 2

The first few books in my Invisible Fiends series are pretty scary, but it’s not until the fourth book that the frights go into overdrive. Book four features Doc Mortis, a deranged imaginary friend who hides in an old abandoned hospital and likes to think he’s a surgeon. He kidnaps children and performs operations on them while they are still awake, turning them inside out, giving them the heads of dogs, and much, much worse.

And here is the exclusive, never-before-seen artwork for the Doc Mortis character. I haven’t even posted this on my own blog yet.

That’s him. Notice the tools in his pocket there? He does some very unpleasant things with those tools, so it’s probably best you steer well clear of them. Or at least wash your hands, afterwards.

Want to keep up with all the latest on me and my books? Then check out my blog at!

Thanks for listening. I now return you to your regular programming.

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A Fiendish Guest Post – Part 1

Where am I now? New Zealand? Excellent – I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand. People tell me it’s a lot like Scotland, but with nicer weather. That sounds very tempting, what with the rain battering against my window as I write this.

Still, that’s the type of weather we horror authors enjoy. You can’t beat a good thunderstorm, and if lightning happens to split the sky at a dramatic moment, then all the better.

I’ve forgotten to introduce myself, haven’t I? I’m always doing that. Sorry. I’m Barry Hutchison, author of the horror series, Invisible Fiends, a six-book horror series about a boy whose childhood imaginary friend comes back to life to try to kill him. All six stories are packed with scares, thrills, violence and – I hope – a few laughs, too.

The first book in the series, Mr Mumbles, just won the Royal Mail Award for Children’s Books here in Scotland, which was very nice. As part of the prize I got stamps with my big, balloon-like face on them. I’m going to stick them on letters to people I don’t like. Either that or wait a few years and sell them on eBay. I haven’t quite decided yet.

Since I’m here, I thought I’d tell you about where the idea for the Invisible Fiends series came from. It came from my sister. Well, more accurately, it came from my sister’s imaginary friend.

My sister is eight years older than me, and my mum told me once that my sis had an invisible friend when she was younger. Her friend was a little girl named Caddie (I stole the name for one of the villains in the second Fiends book). Caddie, my sister believed, lived in an air vent in our house. In order to fit her in there, though, every one of Caddie’s bones had been broken, and her face was pressed up against the metal bars. My sister believed that Caddie whispered to her from within the air vent, ordering her to do bad things. So, whenever my sister got in trouble, she’d say that Caddie, the invisible girl in the air vent had told her to do it.

She was mental, my sister.

My mum told me that story when I was twelve years old, but it stuck with me ever since. I thought the idea of this snapped and broken little girl lurking in the dark air vent, whispering instructions was nerve-janglingly creepy, and I knew that someday I’d write a story about it. Twenty years later, I did, and Invisible Fiends is the result.

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Reading Crusade Challenge – Week 5

Week 5 Challenge – Scary Stories

Try a scary story.  There are stories about ghosts, vampires, werewolves, witches and other monsters that lurk in the dark.  Some of my favourite scary stories are the Skulduggery Pleasant series, the Spook’s Apprentice series, the Invisible Fiends series and the brand new, Department 19.

Check out our If you like Ghost Stories and our Book Buzz page for lots of scary stories you could read.

Tell us about your favourite scary story and you’ll go into the draw to win a copy of the scarily good new book, Department 19 by Will Hill.

See below for Terms and conditions  Read the rest of this entry »

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