Posts tagged Guest Author

Guest Author: Mara Shaughnessy on Lego Man in Space

Lego Man in Space was one of the top books of 2013 that we selected for our Holiday Reading Guide.  The creator, Mara Shaughnessy, has very kindly written a guest post for us about her book.  Check it out and grab a copy of Lego Man in Space from your library.

So far, more than 3 million people around the world have tuned into YouTube to watch the real-life voyage of LEGO® Man in space: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQwLmGR6bPA

But you can also read about this incredible feat by asking your librarian for a copy of LEGO® Man in Space: A True Story.  Inside, you’ll see how two teenagers, Mat and Asad built a spaceship, sent it into near space and brought it back to earth safely. The book is packed with facts and information and you’ll also find cool ideas for your own science and engineering projects, as well as LEGO®-themed games and crafts.

If you STILL can’t get enough LEGO® Man in Space, you can check out the colouring sheets, worksheets and activities at www.littlemonster.ca/legoman.

Ever wondered how to draw a LEGO® Man or Woman? Here is a fun activity to get you started!

draw-a-lego-man

Happy inventing, drawing, writing, building, creating and dreaming!

Remember that little kids + big ideas = big things!

Mara

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Guest Author: Melinda Szymanik on A Winter’s Day in 1939

Today we’re joined by the wonderful Melinda Szymanik, author of the powerful new book, A Winter’s Day in 1939.  Based on her father’s experiences during World War II, A Winter’s Day in 1939 is a story of family, the harsh realities of war, and the fight for survival against the odds. Melinda has written a really interesting post for us about why and how she wrote A Winter’s Day in 1939.

Why and How I wrote A Winter’s Day in 1939

When the Soviet soldiers come and order them out, Adam and his family have no idea where they are going or if they will ever come back.  The Germans have attacked Poland and the world is at war. Boarding a cattle train Adam and his family embark on a journey that will cover thousands of miles and several years, and change all their lives forever. And mine too. Because Adam’s story, the story told in my new novel A Winter’s Day in 1939, is very much my Dad’s story.

I often heard fragments of this story from my dad when I was growing up.  It was shocking, and sad, and amazing.  My Dad’s family was forced out of their home and taken to a labour camp in Russia. It was freezing cold, and many people died from disease or starvation. Even when the Soviets finally let them go, they spent weeks travelling around the USSR , were made to work on Soviet farms and were still hungry and often sick, with no idea of where they might end up next.  As a child growing up in a peaceful place like New Zealand it was hard to imagine the real dangers and terrible conditions my father experienced.

I didn’t get to know the full story until I was grown up with children of my own and was regularly writing stories for children.  I wrote a short story, also called A Winter’s Day in 1939, based on a single event I knew fairly well  from my Dad‘s childhood – when Soviet Soldiers first come to order them off their farm, the only home my father had known up till that point in his life. The story was published in The Australian School Magazine.  I showed the short story to the publishers Scholastic who liked it too. They wondered if I could turn it in to a novel.  This was a chance to tell my father’s story. By now I knew it was an important story that should be shared

Luckily my Dad had made notes about his life during World War Two; about twenty pages all typed up.  However I know people’s real lives don’t always fit into the framework of a novel and I knew I would have to emphasize some things and maybe leave other things out.

I read and researched to add the right details to the story. And asked my parents lots of questions. How cold was it in Poland in January 1940? Who or what were the NKVD? What were the trains like? What are the symptoms of typhoid? How do you make your own skis? Some information was hard to find. Some of the places that existed in the 1940s aren’t there anymore. And people didn’t keep records about how many people were taken to the USSR from Poland or what happened to particular individuals. But what I wanted to give readers most of all was a sense of how it felt to live that life.  So this then is the story of a twelve year old Polish boy in the USSR during World War 2 that all started on A Winter’s Day in 1939.

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Guest Author: Barbara Else on The Queen and the Nobody Boy

We’re very lucky today to be joined by New Zealand author Barbara Else.  As well as writing novels for adults and editing several short story collections for children, Barbara is the author of the magical adventure stories set in the land of Fontania, The Traveling Restaurant and The Queen and the Nobody Boy.  Barbara has written a wonderful post all about The Queen and the Nobody Boy and her wonderful new character, Hodie.

When you start work on a new story, usually you decide on the main character at once. But sometimes you might find your first choice isn’t the right one. It’s perfectly ok to change your mind.

This happened to me with my latest novel the second tale of Fontania, The Queen and the Nobody Boy. The obvious choice for main character was the Queen.  In the first tale, her brother has a series of adventures when he turns twelve. I thought that when she turned twelve, little Sibilla would have adventures of her own.  Because I didn’t want to simply repeat the same sort of story, I came up with the ‘nobody boy’ Hodie, who is the odd-job boy at the Grand Palace. I thought that I would use him as the main character for some sections and Sibilla in others.  The technical way to put this is, I would use two point of view characters.

Being a queen, Sibilla has some big problems – people gossip about her and keep expecting her to do great things. That can be very hard for a person to cope with. But when I wrote about her in her point of view she sometimes sounded too sugary (argh!). Sometimes she sounded like a spoiled brat (double argh!). I also worried that because she’s already a queen, readers might have thought, What does she have to complain about? Did I think she was sugary or a spoiled brat? Definitely not. But writing from her point of view didn’t show her in the right way.

For me, the passion and grip of story come from the troubled heart of the character. In his sections of the story Hodie was working well as a character in this way. So I rewrote the whole story in his point of view, in his thoughts, in the way he sees everything (even though it is 3rd person). Through his eyes, Sibilla began to shine. She became more interesting and much braver.  She became more vulnerable and charming in her own often very funny way. The whole story raced on much more smoothly.  That’s part of the fun of writing – gradually figuring the best way to tell your stories.

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Guest Author: Joseph Delaney’s Top 5 Scariest Creatures in the Spook’s Stories

Joseph Delaney is the author of one of my favourite series, The Spook’s Apprentice.  It’s seriously creepy and full of all sorts of horrible creatures.  As the Spook’s Apprentice, Thomas has to keep the County safe from the evil that lurks in the dark.  The latest book in the series, Spook’s: Slither’s Tale, has just been released, and to celebrate Joseph has joined us today to talk about his Top 5 scariest creatures in the Spook’s stories.

The Haggenbrood

This creature is used in ritual combat to determine the outcome of disputes between citizens of Valkarky (See ‘Slither’).  It has three selves which share a common mind and they are, for all intents and purposes, one creature. It is fast and ferocious with fearsome teeth and claws.

Grimalkin

This is the witch assassin of the Malkin Clan (See ‘The Spook’s Battle’ and also ‘I am Grimalkin’). She is deadly with blades and stores powerful dark magic in the thumb-bones that she cuts from her dead enemies with her snippy scissors in order to wear around her neck.

The Bane

This creature from ‘The Spook’s Curse’ is trapped behind a silver gate in a labyrinth of dark tunnels under Priestown Cathedral. It is a shape-shifter with a terrible power; the Bane is able to press a victim so hard that his blood and bones are smeared into the cobbles.

Golgoth

This ‘Lord of Winter’ from ‘The Spook’s Secret’ has the power to plunge the world into another Ice Age. If summoned from the dark he can freeze you solid and shatter you into pieces like an ice stalactite falling on to a slab of rock.

Morwena

She is the most powerful of the water witches (See The Spook’s Mistake). Fathered by the Fiend, she has a blood-filled eye which is usually closed, the lids fixed together with a sharp thin bone. But anyone she gazes upon with that eye is immediately paralyzed and she is able to drink that victim’s blood at her leisure.

Best wishes,
Joseph Delaney

Reserve your copy of the latest book in the Spook’s Apprentice series, Slither’s Tale, from your library now.

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Guest Author: Johanna Knox, author of The Flytrap Snaps

Today we’re lucky to be joined by New Zealand author, Johanna Knox.  Johanna is the author of The Flytrap Snaps, one of my favourite New Zealand books of 2011.  It’s a quirky story with action, mystery and plenty of laughs.  Here’s Johanna to tell us all about carnivorous plants and the part they play in her story.

 

You know you’re a carnivorous plant fan when …

I’m normally a gentle, peace-loving sort of person – really I am! – but I get ghoulish shivers of, yes, almost delight, when I watch my own potted carnivorous plants eat bugs. I know I’m not the only one.

I admit it: It satisfies me to see house flies meeting their demise, while at the same time becoming food for a beautiful plant.

Carnivorous plants come in many shapes, sizes, colours, and species. I like to keep mine in pots along windowsills and in sheltered corners of the garden, and I try to water them most days. Sometimes they seem almost like pets, with their own personalities.

In fact, that’s why I started writing The Fly Papers series … to have fun imagining what each different carnivorous plant might be like if it grew a mind of its own, and could walk and talk.

If you’ve read the first book, The Flytrap Snaps, you’ll know it’s about a mutant Venus flytrap called Dion who wants to be a horror movie star.

The second book, which I’m busy with now, is called The Sundew Stalks. The name of the mutant sundew who stars in it is Dross.

Other species of carnivorous plant that you’ll meet in The Fly Papers include:

  • Bladderworts, which suck in their prey through underground trapdoors
  • Butterworts, which glue insects to their buttery leaves, and
  • Nepenthes, which have enormous pitchers, like cups, in which to catch their prey. (Real-life Nepenthes grow so big they sometimes trap frogs, lizards, birds, and small rodents.)

You can buy Venus flytraps, sundews, and pitcher plants in garden centres, or online, including on TradeMe.

When my family and I started collecting these plants, we lived in Wellington, but we made purchases from an amazing carnivorous plant nursery in Christchurch, run by Ross Taylor.  Since the earthquakes, Ross has downsized his nursery – for now. But he still sells plants at shows and privately.

And if you want to find out more about all sorts of carnivorous plants, you could start here, at The Fly Papers blog.

COMPETITION – Win a copy of The Flytrap Snaps

Answer this question: Why do you think the sundew character in The Fly Papers series is called Dross? (Hint: do an internet search on sundews.)

Email your answer with your name, address and phone number to christchurchkidsblog@ccc.govt.nz

All correct answers go in the draw to win a copy of The Flytrap Snaps.  Entries close Monday 30 January.  See below for terms and conditions  Read the rest of this entry »

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