Posts tagged Books

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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Champion reads – the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

Are you looking for a great read? Try the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults – what a bunch of brilliant books.

Vasanti Unka’s The Boring Book wins the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year is all about the award-winners.

The full list of winners of the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is:

Cover of The Boring Book Cover of The Beginner's guide to hunting and fishing Dunger Joy Cowley (Winner) Cover of Mortal fire Cover of A necklace of souls Cover of The Three Bears Cover of Bugs

New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and winner of Best Picture Book category: Prizes: $7,500 for the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and $7,500 for Best Picture Book The Boring Book by Vasanti Unka (Penguin Group (NZ), Puffin)

Best Non-Fiction: Prize $7,500: The Beginner’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing in New Zealand by Paul Adamson (Random House New Zealand)

Junior Fiction: Prize $7,500: Dunger by Joy Cowley (Gecko Press)

Best Young Adult Fiction: Prize $7,500: Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox (Gecko Press)

Best First Book: Prize $2,000: A Necklace of Souls by R L Stedman (Harper Collins Publishers (NZ), HarperVoyager)

Children’s Choice: Prize $2,000: The Three Bears…Sort Of by Yvonne Morrison and Donovan Bixley (Scholastic New Zealand)

Honour award: Prize $500: Bugs by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Publishers)

Māori Language award: Prize $1,000 (announced on 8 April) Taka Ki Ro Wai by Keri Kaa and Martin D Page (Tania&Martin)


Our own wonderful librarian Zac Harding – you might know him from this very blog – was a judge, along with Ant Sang and Barbara Else.

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The lure of mystery

Hi everyone – I’ve been looking forward to being your March author.

Do you like mystery?

I do. Growing up, my favourite book series was The Three Investigators. I longed to discover this gang was real and join them as investigator number four –  I mean, they really did need a girl.

I also loved those mysteries you have to solve yourself, like the Encyclopedia Brown stories – except I got impatient and looked up the answers. Then I’d feel angry at myself and try to brainwash myself into believing I’d worked them out on my own.

ImageThe stories I love writing are also mysterious ones. The Fly Papers is full of mystery.

Another series I’m working on is The Owl Kids. It’s for a magazine called Wild Things and has wonderful illustrations by Adele Jackson. (Like the one on the left right!ahem, 45 years old and I still get my left and right mixed up sometimes.)

I’ll talk more about it soon, but you can read the first episode here – and solve the first of its mysteries.

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Tell us what you’re reading and WIN

The Summertime Reading Club is on now and throughout the Summer holidays you have lots of chances to win on the Christchurch Kids Blog.  Each week we’ll have a competition that you can enter to win book vouchers from PaperPlus, one of our fantastic sponsors.  Did you know that you get a $5 PaperPlus voucher when you’ve completed your reading log?

Our first competition is super easy to enter.  Just leave a comment on this post telling us about a book that you’re reading for the Summertime Reading Club.  Make sure you put your name and your email address or phone number so that we can contact you if you win.  We’ll draw one lucky kid who will win a $40 PaperPlus voucher.   So get commenting and you’ll be in to win.  Competition closes Thursday 2 January 2014.

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

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Author of the Week – Neil Gaiman

Author of the Week is a new feature on the Christchurch Kids Blog.  It’s where we’ll introduce you to some great authors whose books you’ll find in our libraries.  If you love the featured author and have read some of the books, we’d love to hear what you think.

Each of the author profiles comes from one of our really cool databases, called Novelist.  If you’re looking for some new books or authors you should really check it out.  This week’s author is Neil Gaiman.

Neil Gaiman has written in a wide range of genres and formats.  His characters are memorable and complex, and find themselves in surreal, often supernatural, settings. Gaiman evokes a creepy, sometimes horrifying, atmosphere, but balances this with whimsical interludes and comic relief.

Fortunately, the Milk

You know what it’s like when your mum goes away on a business trip and Dad’s in charge. She leaves a really, really long list of what he’s got to do. And the most important thing is Don’t forget the milk. Unfortunately, Dad forgets. So the next morning, before breakfast, he has to go to the corner shop, and this is the story of why it takes him a very, very long time to get back. Featuring: Professor Steg (a time-travelling dinosaur), some green globby things, the Queen of the Pirates, the famed jewel that is the Eye of Splod, some wumpires, and a perfectly normal but very important carton of milk.


Just as the mice did not get Coraline’s name wrong their warning message was also not wrong. She finds a secret corridor behind a locked door, a corridor that takes her into a house very similar to her own, but with counterfeit parents and a terrible quest on which her survival, and more, depends.

The Graveyard Book

When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him – after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod’s life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?

Odd and the Frost Giants

An unlucky twelve-year-old Norwegian boy named Odd leads the Norse gods Loki, Thor, and Odin in an attempt to outwit evil Frost Giants who have taken over Asgard.

For more books by Neil Gaiman or to find books and authors similar to her, check out Novelist.

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Some wonderful Waikato authors and an equally wonderful bear

I promised I would tell you a bit more about some of the fabulous children’s writers who appeared at Word Café with me. But before I do that, I have to put right a terrible oversight…

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and realised I had forgotten to mention something, or rather someone very important in my last post. Can you guess who?

Winnie the Pooh of course! Now the Winnie the Pooh story’s not about poo at all, but Pooh Bear himself has got to be the all-time most famous poo of all, and terribly lovable and funny to boot, so I was sorry that I had forgotten him.

But now that I’ve remembered him, I might just reread his story, and his second story The House at Pooh Corner, and also some of his poems, my favourite of which goes:

Wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
There’s always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
“Where are you going today?” says Pooh:
“Well, that’s very odd ‘cos I was too.
Let’s go together,” says Pooh, says he.
“Let’s go together,” says Pooh.

Do you know it? It’s called ‘Us Two’ and it’s from A.A. Milne’s book Now We Are Six. A.A. Milne is the author of all of the Winnie the Pooh books, but the stories will always belong to Pooh.

Speaking of authors, I had the good luck at the Word café festival to present a workshop with a very talented author called Andre Ngapo who also lives in Raglan, like me. Andre won the Sunday Star Short Story Competition in 2008 for his story ‘Te Pou’. The story isn’t a children’s story as such, but it is about a child. After that, Learning Media contacted Andre and he has been writing stories for the School Journal ever since. Keep an eye out for him. He has a story out this month, and several more in the pipeline.


I also did a reading with another clever Raglan local, Margery Fern. Although she was reading her books, Margery is the illustrator, rather than the author. The author is her sister Jennifer Somervell who lives in Oxford in Canterbury (they’re the ladies in the picture: Margery is on the left). Together they produce a series of picture books, called Tales From the Farm about their amazing childhood growing up on a farm in the Hawkes Bay.


There’s a funny one about their father blowing up the cowshed with gelignite (a true story) and another about an old truck that they had in shed, which is now the only working truck of its kind in the world. Their next one, Josephine, is about an amorous pig (I hate to think) and then they have a book planned about an eel hunt. Now I happen to love eeling (I don’t kill them; I just haul them up on a piece of string to get a closer look at them), so I’m really looking forward to that.

The last children’s author who was there was Tui Allen. Tui doesn’t live in Raglan, but she lives in Te Pahu at the foot of Mount Pirongia, which is close by. Tui’s written lots of books for children, but her best known is probably Captain Clancy and the Flying Clothesline, about a city clothesline that escapes its city existence to live on a tropical island. Although Tui published it nearly 20 years ago, the story is still a favourite on National Radio’s story time.

For Word Café we asked all three of these wonderful storytellers what their advice was for aspiring writers and illustrators (that may be you). Here’s what they said:


Write from your experience, from what you know, where you’ve been — not necessarily physically — cover the emotional landscapes you’ve traversed. Write from the heart.


Practise, practise, practise! Team up with a writer, trial create a book together and just give it a go!


Find a great critique group. Either in the flesh or online. Make full use of it. Do your share of critiquing and develop trust within the group. Listen to them, especially their criticisms. The most important thing you want to hear is what’s wrong with your work – not what’s right with it.

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The Dreaded Book Review…


If you’re like me then you love to read, to get lost in a new world where you feel so close to the characters that they feel like old friends. Those are the sort of books that you want to tell your friends about, send them a link, show them where they are in the library, perhaps even lend out your own precious copy. “You should read this,” you’ll say. “It’s a great book. I really liked it. I couldn’t put it down.”  But when your teacher asks you to keep a reading log and write reviews about books, even your favourite books, do you groan inwardly? Does analysing a book – summarising its good and bad points – make you shudder? I know for a lot of people, this is the case.  Some say it spoils the reading experience for them, but not Paula Phillips. By day, my friend Paula is a softly-spoken bespectacled city librarian, but by night Paula turns into the Phantom Paragrapher, writing hundreds of book reviews every year and posting them to her blog, one of the most trusted book review blogs in the world. Good heavens! Does she even sleep? What makes her want to do this? Let’s ask her some questions about being a super hero.

Hi Paula. How many books have you reviewed this year? To the middle of March – 93 books reviewed this year.

Yikes! That is a lot. What sort of books do you review? A wide mixture of different genres from mysteries to romance, as well as children’s, tween’s and teen fiction, and the odd non-fiction book for all ages.

Why are book reviews even important? Book reviews are important as they not only help you, the reader, with your writing skills, but they give you the ability to read between the lines. Who reads them? Anyone who has a computer and loves to discover the titles of new books out there to read and buy.

What do you look for when analysing a book? What makes a 5-star review? The first thing is to decide whether I can read it or not as I hate books that are BORING, and this is decided if I can make it through the first couple of pages/chapters. If it succeeds, then it is all down to holding my attention. If a book manages to not only hold my attention but it turns out to be a book that I cannot wait to finish reading and finding out what happens – then more often than not that is my 5 star review. When reviewing books I look at:

  •  the story – is it fast reading or are you finding yourself falling asleep?
  •  the language – is it something that you can understand, free from all technical jargon?
  •  the cover – is it an amazing cover and totally to die for?
  • then, I rate the story on how it makes me feel when I am reading it.

If I am I tempted to skip parts but don’t, then the book might get a 3-star rating.  A “I finished the novel but I’m not jumping up and down” gets a 4-star. Five-stars is a really amazing read but it’s still missing something important, and then a 5-star plus a silver star means the book is like totes amaze-balls and I cannot stop raving to the world about it.

What’s your favourite thing about being a reviewer? My favourite thing is getting to read the new books that are being published before everyone else and meeting an awesome lot of friends through Facebook.

Some of our readers have book reviews to complete for their homework and we were just wondering, can you be bribed? Actually, yes! Sometimes people donate money to have me review their books, but it doesn’t change the rating I give the book, which depends on how much I enjoy the story.

Thanks Paula! 

You can check out Paula’s blog at


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Judging a book by its cover…

When choosing a book at the library, does the cover art influence your selection?

BOBFrontCoverPalmerston North artist Vonnie Sterritt’s artwork features on the cover of my fantasy adventure Battle of the Birds. Already well-known for her stunning atmospheric landscape paintings, Vonnie jumped at the chance to create the cover art for Battle of the Birds. “I like fantasy and the fantastic, and that’s what appealed to me about Lee’s book. When I read the story, I wanted to find a particular part that entertained all the bird characters. I symbolised those characters, looking at each bird’s feathers and stylising them. And I thought the feathers should be bright, especially for children.” When using a story for inspiration Vonnie says she takes a particular approach: “I put everything else away so I can focus on it and just live it. With a story, it’s important to reflect the right feel, personality, and atmosphere.”

For the new book I am co-editing with Piper Mejia, Beyond This Age (to be released on March 22), the cover art is by 19-year-old Samara Kirkham. Beyond this age 300 resI feel Samara’s design beautifully captures the content of the book, a collection of fantasy and science fiction writing by intermediate school students. She has chosen an undeveloped style, using images of a mermaid, spaceship and apple to hint at the stories inside. And the dark colours, the blues and greys, indicate that the stories are not all handsome princes and happily ever after.

These days publishers choose covers, which they believe will entice you to read the book. The following image shows 8 different covers for JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel. Inside the text is the same, only the covers are different. Which one do you prefer and why?

Harry potter covers

PS: It’s the end of the week I’m nearly finished reading my first book by a New Zealand writer, which means I’m on target for my goal of reading four books by New Zealand writers this month. How are you doing? Can’t think of any New Zealand titles? Ask your friendly librarian.

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Join the Summertime Reading Club

Join the Summertime Reading Club in 2012. This very popular summer activity starts again on 21 December and runs to 18 January 2013. Complete the Summertime Reading Club challenge and you’ll be in to win some awesome prizes including Paper Plus vouchers, an iPod, a digital camera and an iPad!

Simply take a challenge card, complete four of the challenges and then return the card to the library to be in to win.
There are two levels to choose from:

  • Easy (for 5 – 8 year olds)
  • Hard (for 9 – 12 year olds)

Each week on the Christchurch Kids Blog we’ll also have a Sumertime Reading Club Challenge.  You can enter each week for your chance to win Paper Plus vouchers and Hoyts movie vouchers.

Keep your eyes peeled next week for the Summertime Reading Club challenge card that you can download from the Kids page of the library website.

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What is your favourite Winter activity?

Winter is one of my favourite seasons.  It’s cold, wet and windy outside while it’s warm and snuggly inside.  It’s the perfect weather for curling up with a good book (or piles of books if you’re like me) and forgetting how wild it is outside.  You can hide under a pile of blankets and escape to another world and make some new friends .   Another perfect activity for a wintery weekend or a wet holiday is getting comfy on the couch and watching a DVD.  I like all sorts of movies from Shrek to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Transformers and we have heaps of great DVDs that you can borrow from the library.

What is your favourite Winter activity?  Is it something you can do inside or outside?

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Black Out by Sam Mills

I finished reading Black Out and it was amazing because it kept me on the edge of my seat in suspense.

Sam Mills is an amazing writer and I can’t wait to read more of his books, absolutely fabulous.

In Black Out London all books have been re-written and re-published so no bad ideas are inspired.  Books put bad ideas into your head, we have made them safer and better for our well-being, says the government in this book.

Life is tough without good books to read and one boy is suffering.  Stefan’s father helps a ‘terrorist writer’ and is found out after dark. Stefan is moved away while his father is imprisoned and is adopted by foster parents. Stefan’s foster-sister just happens to be the cutest girl in his class! They are playing scrabble when something weird happens. What is it and why does it happen? Read Black Out and find out!

What would the world be like if all books were all happy ending and made so that there were no bad words? What would we do?

It may have had a bit of mild bad language but was still good.

10 out of 10 in my opinion, rate it yourself and please tell me what you think of it.

This is a great book and I recommend it to ages 11+.

Happy reading everyone.


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Best Books of 2010 – vote and win

What are your favourite books you’ve read this year?

We’re putting together a list of the best books of 2010 and we need your help.  We’ve picked the Top 5 Books for Older Readers and the Top 5 Books for Young Adults and we want you to vote for your favourite book in each group.

All you have to do is choose your favourite book and go to our Kids website (for Older Fiction) or Pulse (for Young Adult) to send your vote  (see the website for Terms and Conditions).

Two lucky voters will win a selection of the Top 5 books, so get voting!

This competition has now finished.

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Starting from scratch

This week I thought I’d share a new short story with you. Let me what you think of it.

It’s called Starting from scratch. I’ll post it in four parts, starting tomorrow.

Here’s the reason I wrote it.

One of the things I’m interested in is how stories survive. For example, how come so many of the stories, poems and play written by the Ancient Greeks are still around today, more than two thousand years after they were first written down? One reason is that in the days before printed books – and well before the days of the internet – scribes in places such as medieval monasteries copied and re-copied old stories. And I don’t meant photocopied. They copied them by hand, word by word. It must have been incredibly hard work but it meant that stories stayed alive for future generations.

How come some stories survived while others didn’t? Were they the best-written ones? Or the most popular?

I haven’t set my story in the past even though it’s about the survival of stories. I’ve set it in the future. Dark days. Cold days. No internet. No libraries. No books – except for the ones that are being copied in a place called the Monkery. In some ways it’s quite a serious story, but not entirely. . .

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What books are you reading in the holidays?

A fantastic book that I've been reading

The school holidays are the perfect time to lay around and read.  The warm, sunny weather we’ve had lately means that you can even go and sit out in the sun or under a tree and read.

What books are you reading in the holidays?  Are they really good stories with lots of interesting characters? Is it a book by one of your favourite authors?  Is it a non-fiction book or a graphic novel?  Add a comment and tell us all about the books you’re reading.

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First Post

Hi everyone,

It’s great to have the chance to join you on the Christchurch City Libraries Kids’ Blog. I used to work at the library so that makes it doubly nice to be back, even though it’s in a ‘virtual’ sort of way.

I’ve been writing stories for a long time now. I sometimes get asked why I write stories. One of the answers is that I’ve always loved reading and to be a writer I think you need to be a reader, too.

I borrowed books from the library and bought my own books, too. I seemed to have kept a lot of them. Here are some of the books (and one comic) I enjoyed reading when I was younger.

I’d be interested to know what books you’ve been buying and borrowing recently. A recent book I borrowed from the library, and then had to go and buy a copy of for myself, was Philip Reeve’s A web of air. This is the second volume in the prequel to his Mortal Engines series. Fabulously inventive!

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How do I sign an ebook?

E-Books will never take off, I thought. Until I bought an iPhone.

I love books. I love the feel of them, the smell of them. I love to curl up in bed on a cold dark night with a book. There’s no way, I thought, that I would ever want to read books on a glowing electronic screen. It just wouldn’t feel right. It wouldn’t have the same atmosphere. You can watch a sports game on the TV, but nothing beats being at the stadium.

And I definitely wouldn’t want to read an e-Book on an iPhone. Why would anyone want to read a novel on a screen the size of a playing card.

Then I bought an iPhone, and my world changed.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The Project finally arrives!

The first copy of The Project (previously titled “The Most Boring Book in the World”) arrived yesterday. It looks great. Fantastic work by everybody at Walker Books Australia. It goes on sale next month.



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Tell us what you think

We want to know what you think of our blog.  All you have to do is read the blog,  find something that interests you and add a comment.  Don’t forget to put your first name, your age, and your email address (if you have one).

If you’re not sure how to add a comment, check out the Information for Kids tab at the top of the page.


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The Project

Brian Falkner

Hi everyone!

Today I thought I’d tell you a little bit about The Project, my new book, which comes out in just a few weeks time.

I was living in Iowa City, USA in 2008 as part of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. A few months earlier there had been some devastating floods in Iowa City, and the cleanup was still on while I was there.

I had in the back of my mind an idea for a book that I wanted to write one day, called “The Most Boring Book in the World”. I thought that was a great title for a book. The book would be about a long lost, and very rare, book, that contained a terrible secret. But this long lost book was so boring that no-one would ever read it.

In Iowa I learned that the University Library had been in danger of flooding, and teams of volunteers had gone in and emptied the lower shelves in the basement of the library, where all their old, rare books were kept.

That’s how I got the idea. What if that long lost, boring book turned up when they were moving all the books from the basement!

And the rest of the story took off from there.

Walker Books are publishing “The Project” very soon. Look out for it.

Here’s the front cover:



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This book is written by Christopher Paolini

I love this book because it is full of magic, so if you like harry potter then you might like this book.

My favourite character is Saphira because she is a dragon and I love dragons!

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