Posts tagged New Zealand

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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Star Author: Barbara Else – How cool are maps?

I feel very lucky to have an artist as clever as Sam Broad to do the cover and maps for the Tales of Fontania.

What are the best things about Sam? He has an amazing sense of fun and drama. I don’t think he could do a boring picture no matter how hard to tried. His illustrations almost zoom off the page with energy. The other thing I really like is how he adds in his own little details.

The Volume of Possible Endings is in five parts and each one is headed by an illustration. The one on page 158 is a fabulous raven soldier. See how his foot rests on the toadstool. See the feather dropping off his hunky arm. And take a look at the can of army rations on p 98. It’s pretty disgusting. I love it.

The inside covers of The Volume of Possible Endings have a map of Owl Town where most of the action takes place. While I’m drafting a novel, I have to do maps myself to make sure I’m sending the characters in the right directions. I’m very grateful that Sam can look at my scrappy scribbles and turn them into versions that are so much fun and – well, I’ve already said clever. But when it’s about Sam Broad, it is worth saying clever at least twice.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – How things happen to surprise you when you’re writing

At the back of The Volume of Possible Endings you’ll find the Anarchists’ Marching Song – words and music.  Anarchists are people who don’t believe in having rules, so the very idea of them marching in step is kind’a ridiculous. But these particular anarchists are rather ridiculous. They’re the guys on the motorbikes on the cover.

I didn’t set out to give them a song, but when I was rewriting the novel I thought – hmm, people camping out in the wild often sing around their camp fire in the evenings. So I could give the anarchists a guitar or a piano accordion just for some extra detail. I also find it very funny when people yawn so loudly that it sounds like shouting and gives you a fright. So I put those ideas together. Now, in the finished novel, the anarchists start yawning and it turns into their marching song.

By the time I’d written the words for the song, a tune had come into my head. I can’t write down music but I sang it into the recording programme on my laptop and emailed it to Jane Arthur, the very clever Assistant Publisher at Gecko Press.  She was able to write the tune down. She even, very nicely, said my singing was all right. But I know she was fibbing.

If you happen to be a musician you’ll be able to play the Anarchists’ Marching Song for yourself. If you want to try singing, it will help if you have a very deep gruff voice.

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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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Same but Different

Same but different

When I arrived in Greece at the end of May, I expected some things to be different but other things to be much the way they are back here.

Different:            Ruined temples
Everyone speaks Greek
The street signs look weird
They drive on the other side of the road

1. Athens street sign

The same:           Jeans and tee shirts
Motorbikes and cars (lots of motorbikes)
Coca cola
Cell phones

But then I got some real surprises. Like thunderstorms.

I love thunderstorms. When I was a kid, I’d stand on the dirt road outside our cottage on Waiheke, with the rain pelting down and the mud squishing up between my toes. After each flash, I’d count the seconds till the thunder came – BANG!-rumble-BOOM-BOOM-bump-thud-grumble-mumble. Then silence for ages, apart from the splish of the rain in the puddles.

In Greece last month, I was chased through the hills by a thunderstorm as I searched for an ancient road to Mykenai. I stopped the car and got out to watch. I soon realised this was different to any thunderstorm I’d ever experienced.

2. Thunderstorm over Limnes

For a start, I couldn’t see any lightning. But for the 15 minutes I stood there, the thunder never stopped. It groaned and muttered and growled away without a break, as if the sky god Zeus and his wife Hera were having an argument, with both of them insisting on having the last word.

And then there were the seagulls.

NZ seagulls drift through the air crying gkeee gkeee, when they’re not strutting about screaming Kaar Kaar Kaar at each other. That’s what all gulls do, right?

3.  NZ seagulls

Wrong. After I’d finished searching for my ancient road, I returned to the fishing village where I was staying. By now I was hungry, so I walked along the waterfront to a taverna. As I sat there, I heard a mewing sound. I looked about for the cat – Greek tavernas always have at least one cat and often about six.

5. Cat in a Greek taverna

But there was no cat to be seen.

After a while I realised the noise was coming from the seagulls sitting out on the water – you can see them as white dots out beyond the fishing boat. Close up they look just like NZ gulls.

4. Greek fishing boat and seagulls

Then I remembered reading some English story or poem, years and years ago, which talked about the “mewing of gulls”. The phrase had passed me by – it was so unlike anything I’d heard gulls do and I put it down to poetic fancy (ie: silliness).

This morning I decided to look up the Oxford Dictionary and there it was: “mew n. the characteristic cry of a cat, gull etc.” In fact, in England, another word for “seagull” is “sea mew” or just plain “mew”.  So European gulls are not the same as ours after all.

Sometimes it’s the big, obvious things that take you by surprise. But it’s just as much fun when some small unpredictable thing happens. It makes you look at everything in a fresh way, even the things that are the same.

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Pick Your Winner and Win Books

The winners of the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are announced in just one week, at the awards ceremony in Auckland on Monday 23 June.  There are some fantastic finalist books this year that we highly recommend.  Some of them will take you to new, exciting places, and some of them are set in our own backyard.  You can learn how to create a piece of wearable art or how to hunt and stew up a possum.

We want to know who you think will win.  We’ve got some copies of the junior fiction finalists to give away and a couple of Subway vouchers.  Just enter your winning book in the form below, along with your name and we’ll draw 5 winners next week.  Competition closes Friday 20 June (Canterbury residents only).

This competition has now closed.  Thanks to those who entered.

 

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Meet our May Star Author – Sue Copsey

Our fantastic May Star Author is New Zealand author, Sue Copsey.  She is an editor and an author who writes for both children and adults.  Sue’s books include Children Just Like Me, Our Children Aotearoa and The Ghosts of Young Nick’s Head.

Thanks for joining us Sue!  We look forward to hearing all about your writing and other roles.

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Win a Wild Things magazine pack

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur March Star Author, Johanna Knox, has been blogging about editing the Wild Things magazine for the Kiwi Conservation Club.  The KCC has very kindly sent us some copies of last year’s magazine to give away to some lucky Christchurch Kids Blog readers.  Wild Things is packed full of information about local wildlife, stories and activities.

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winners of the magazine packs are – Ewen, Tegan, Asta and Logan.

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Guest Post: Juliet Jacka on Night of the Perigee Moon

Think up your best insult, and be in to win a copy of Juliet Jacka’s award-winning Night of the Perigee Moon.

Do you like magical talents, talking cats, dogs and bats? Or how about fantastical feasts, yo-yo masters and entomologists in the making?

Then my book’s for you. Here’s the blurb.

All Tilly Angelica wants for her thirteenth birthday is to be normal! But with her changeover party looming and her mad, magical family gathering from near and far, Tilly is set to inherit a terrifying or tantalising talent of her own. But what if she inherits Hortense’s talent of super-smelling, with an oversize nose to match?

As the enchanted Angelicas gather and Arial Manor becomes a madhouse, Tilly’s troubles are tripled by her creepy cousin Prosper, and his sinister plot to bewitch the family by harnessing the powers of the Perigee Moon.

Halfway through the book, my heroine Tilly has to come up with a hit list of inventive insults. Here are three of her favourite ones.

“You’re an ox, an ass, a slubberdegullion!”

“You belligerent fleck of llama spit.”

“Earth vexing hedge pig.”

Can you come up with something similar? Send me your best one-liners (no rude words, thanks!), and the winner gets a free, signed copy of my book.

Have fun! Get inventive. Then email me at nightofperigeemoon@gmail.com

Juliet
Night of the Perigee Moon, winner of the 2013 Tom Fitzgibbon Award.

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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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The Sundew Stalks by Johanna Knox.

Danger, wrestling, mutant plants and epic adventure; welcome back to Filmington. The Sundew Stalks is the sequel to The Flytrap Snaps, continuing popular NZ author Johanna Knox’s The Fly Papers series.

Tora de Ronde has been a BodySlam wrestler all her life; she trains every day after school under the proud gaze of her father. Little does her father know that Tora lives another secret life only she knows about. When Tora’s secret leads her to a laboratory full of carnivorous plants, she stumbles upon a complex mystery that will show her who the bad guys are in Filmington…

I was very pleased that The Sundew Stalks was written from the perspective of Tora de Ronde, as she is clever, brave and a strong heroine. Having the second book written from a different point of view is also quite refreshing. Johanna Knox has very cleverly made The Sundew Stalks match up with The Flytrap Snaps- the second perspective makes everything start to fit together; questions are answered and mysteries are solved.

The book also introduces one new character in particular; Dross, the mutant sundew. Dross is just as moody and hilarious as his relative Dion in The Flytrap Snaps- you will instantly fall in love with this charming carnivorous plant.

The Sundew Stalks is even funnier and more addictive than the first novel. Readers won’t be able to put it down as they begin to unravel the mystery of Filmington, Jimmy Jangle and the Fly Papers.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon.

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Enter the 400 Words Writing Competition

The Breeze radio station is running its very own writing competition for Kiwi kids aged 13 years and under.  There are two categories: 9 & under and 10 to 13. Entrants have to write a short fictional story of no more than 400 Words.  Your entry will go in the draw for $400 cash and books for your school library (1 x prize for each category). Selected stories will be read by well-known Kiwi’s, and the two winning stories by TV3’s Hilary Barry.

Two of our previous Star Authors are judges – Melinda Szymanik and Maria Gill.  Check out their Star Author posts for writing tips to help you with your story.

Entries close on 27th September so head on over to the 400 Words Competition page now and submit your entry.

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Meet our July Star Author – Heather McQuillan

Our fantastic July Star Author is New Zealand author, Heather McQuillan.  Heather is the author of Mind Over Matter (the winner of the 2005 Tom Fitzgibbon Award) and Nest of Lies.  Heather is a local Christchurch author and when she’s not writing Heather is a primary school teacher.

Thanks for joining us Heather.  We’re looking forward to hearing all about your writing and your books.

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Star Author Lied. Again

I said I wouldn’t give you any writing tips.  I didn’t need the competition. I swore black and blue not to aid you on the path to glory, knowing I’d be the one sweeping up leaves and weeding the cracks.

But I lied.

Tomorrow is my last day on the blog, (and lo, the internet was filled with the sound of weeping) so I thought – hey, I should go out with a bang. But being shot from a cannon while writing a blog seemed extreme, and my insurance won’t cover it.

So, I decided to give REAL tips, instead.

EIGHT TIPS THAT MAY OR MAY NOT BE COMPLETELY USELESS

1. It’s easy to give up. So go on, give up. Please?

Like I said, I don’t need the competition.  If you have even a dash of talent, the ability to take criticism and a ton of determination you WILL get published.  There’s nothing I can do to stop you. Sigh.

By the way, I used to do workshops. There was always someone more talented than me. But I doubt many were more stubborn. Mt writing gets better and better with practise.

(For any kids reading this, yes, I’m joking about not wanting competition.  I had one kid ask me why I made stuff about myself in bios. They said, ‘Do you like telling lies or just disappointing kids!’ Oh dear … as I explained, I prefer writing fiction, even about myself. But I digress.)

2. If you have not heard the term ‘show don’t tell’, google it. You’ll thank me one day.

3. Adverbs are very, very bad;  sort of like viruses that might infect your entire story and cause it to suffer heart failure. You can use a few, but when in doubt – vaccinate.

4. Also beware of words like ‘is’ and ‘was’, sometimes even ‘a’. Can’t really explain why, but it sounds flat. Look at this –

A mouse was looking at a piece of cheese.

OR-

The mouse eyed the piece of cheese.

5. If everyone writes vampire novels you should write one too.

Nothing wrong with a good vampire novel. Of course it won’t sell because there’s a million others out there. Oh, unless you’ve found a unique angle, in which case you’ll be a millionaire.

6. If everyone writes vampire novels you should NOT write one.

So, you read number two, huh? Are you insane? Why would you listen to me? I’ve only written two books, for crying out loud. I don’t know ANYTHING.

Look, if you are genuinely passionate about vampire novels, write one. Sure it will be a hard sell, but stranger things have happened and if you follow tip number one, anything is possible. Especially if you’ve found a new angle. After all, there were stories about wizards before Harry Potter, you know …

7. Have you ever considered, I don’t know … reading?

Um, here’s something I haven’t told anyone.  I read a book that I loved called Millions and then I read and re-read that book. It taught me about voice and I read until the voice slipped inside my head. I literally carried it with me to the library when I was writing.

I didn’t copy, that’s pointless and well, downright illegal. I can’t afford to be sued, unless the plaintive is willing to be paid out in marshmallows. Anyway, the tone of the book helped me a lot.

(I would like to point out l also got my big ‘aha’ moment after reading a book in first person, present tense called Castlecliff and the Pea Princess by Elizabeth Pulford.  The tone stayed with me and I experimented with the voice. It worked! My first piece was accepted shortly after that. Of course this might not be YOUR style, it would be boring if everyone wrote the same way.)

8. A real writer always …

Anyone who uses this phrase in ANY shape or form deserves to be shot out of a cannon, which I just happen to have in the back yard … ‘if you don’t do X, you’re not a real writer.’ You will hear it, in one form or another. I promise. I did, sweeping statements on how real writers thought, plotted and acted, which struck me down with fear. Only one thing is true – there are no absolute rules.

Not even these tips.

Wait – what does that mean? Are these even real tips? Perhaps I’ve gone back to my old tricks. Am I trying to convince you NOT to write books?

You decide. In the meantime, take up needlework. The world needs more embroidered cushions.

No, honest. It really does.

Cheers

Leonie Agnew

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Star Author Won’t Stop Complaining

I’m exhausted.

It’s been a big week.

First we had the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. I bit my nails all night. I cheered at the laptop screen. I booed when my internet connection went down and I was forced to throw marshmallows in frustration. Then I had to clean them up, including the one I stood on. I had to scrape that puppy.

See? Exhausting. No one knows how I’ve suffered.

Anyway, it was so DIFFICULT trying to decide who was best. I completely wore myself out thinking about it. Everyone was genuinely fantastic, although I’d like to give a Star Author’s shiny Gold Star to Red Rocks. I will never look at New Zealand seals in quite the same way … please read it! Unless you already have, in which case … read it again!

So where was I? Oh yes. Tired. Doom with a hint of gloom. Darkness with lashings of despair, faintly offset by maniacal laughter from a ruined castle.

You get the idea, right?

And then the Carnegie winner was announced. I really must read Maggot Moon. So I added that to my list, right next to Wonder which is clearly an amazing read. The effort of picking up that pen, finding my list, using valuable calories to scribble down letters … you can see my life is difficult. Of course now I’m forced to buy more books, knowing that nothing I write will compare … oh, woe.

Sick of me yet?

I am.

So let’s change the tone.

I saw the light on Wednesday and became ESCTATIC. Yes, skyping those home school kids put me in a good mood. And then I went to George Street Normal School and they did another fabulous job at lifting my spirits. They were friendly, asked good questions and they even remembered my name. Life was peace, love and jellybeans.

However the biggest boost came from Wednesday night. I got to chat with librarians about BOOKS at UBS in Dunedin! (I’m not joking, that really is my idea of a good time. It’s not swinging from the chandeliers, but it makes for great conversation and no one gets cuts on their fingers.) I also got to chat with fabulous illustrators David Elliot and Robyn Belton. They talked about their work, Robyn showed us her art, I explained that I couldn’t draw stick figures and everyone laughed  – well, no. They were very kind. But I suspect they were smiling on the inside.

Anyway, it’s been a great week. And I’ve been blogging you, fabulous people! So life is good.

There, I’ve stopped complaining. You’ve cured me.

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The 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards winners

The finalists in the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards gathered in Christchurch on Monday night for the awards ceremony. The awards night is always themed and this year the organisers went for a ‘Witch in the Cherry Tree’ theme in honour of Margaret Mahy.  The book of the year was also renamed the ‘New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year’ this year.  I was  nervous myself, hoping that my favourites would take out the award, so I’m sure the authors and illustrators themselves were incredibly nervous.  Overall, I was pleased to see a couple of my favourites win awards, but I was disappointed that others missed out.  I think that Red Rocks and The Nature of Ash are amazing books and if I could give Rachael King and Mandy Hager an award I would.

Read below to find out who won each category, as well as the Honour Book and Children’s Choice Award.

Best Young Adult Fiction and New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year

Into the River by Ted Dawe

Best Non-Fiction

100 Amazing Tales from Aotearoa by Simon Morton & Riria Hotere

Best Junior Fiction

My Brother’s War by David Hill

Honour award, Junior Fiction

The Queen and the Nobody Boy: A Tale of Fontania series by Barbara Else

Best Picture Book

Mister Whistler by Margaret Mahy & Gavin Bishop

Best First Book

Reach by Hugh Brown

Children’s Choice

Melu by Kyle Mewburn, Ali Teo & John O’Reilly

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My Brother’s War by David Hill

My Brother’s War by David Hill is a finalist in the Junior Fiction category of the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  This was one of the books that I hadn’t read at the time it was released, but I read it recently as part of my challenge to read all of the 2013 finalists. 

My Dear Mother,

Well, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve joined the Army!

Don’t be angry at me, Mother dear. I know you were glad when I wasn’t chosen in the ballot. But some of my friends were, and since they will be fighting for King and Country, I want to do the same.

It’s New Zealand, 1914, and the biggest war the world has known has just broken out in Europe.

William eagerly enlists for the army but his younger brother, Edmund, is a conscientious objector and refuses to fight. While William trains to be a soldier, Edmund is arrested.

Both brothers will end up on the bloody battlefields of France, but their journeys there are very different. And what they experience at the front line will challenge the beliefs that led them there.

My Brother’s War is a compelling story about two brothers who have very different opinions and experiences of the First World War.  William feels very strongly that he needs to play his part in the war and so he enlists in the army.  The people in his town commend him for being brave and doing his part.  He believes he is doing what is right to protect his country and the people he loves.  He can’t understand his brother and thinks that his refusal to enlist is ‘wrong and stupid.’  His brother, Edmund, is a conscientious objector who believes it is wrong to go to war and kill other people.  The story switches between their two points-of-view so you see the huge differences in their experience of war.  The story is mainly told in the third person, but each of the characters write letters to their mother which gives more of an insight into their thoughts and feelings.

You experience the build up to the fighting and the horrible conditions of the battlefield through William’s story, but it was Edmund’s story that shocked me.  I knew a little about conscientious objectors before reading this book but Edmund’s story really opened my eyes to how horribly they were treated.  Conscientious objectors like Edmund were labeled cowards and treated like second-class citizens.  Edmund constantly refuses to obey army orders, but in the end really has no choice.  He’s put on a boat and taken to France where he is forced on to the battlefields.  In the training camps he is locked away with little food and water, and he also faces excruciating punishment for not following orders.  Edmund is incredibly strong-willed though and stands by his principles.

A quote from Edmund towards the end of the book sums up war perfectly , ‘I never knew some men could do such dreadful things to one another, and I never knew some men could be so kind and brave.’

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Cyclone Bola by Kath Beattie

It is 1988, and twelve-year-old Amy’s boat-mad parents are going on a sailing trip from Vanuatu back to New Zealand. Amy is most unimpressed, especially when her mother and father decide to send her to stay at her great-aunt and uncle’s home in Gisborne. Reluctantly she leaves for Gisborne, anticipating a boring stay at a farm; she couldn’t be more wrong.

Uncle Jim and Aunty June are both kind, charming people. Amy has fun exploring the vineyard they own, and begins to enjoy country life, even liking the nearby school that she attends. However, her stay is ruined by the stressful news that a cyclone is coming dangerously close to Vanuatu. Amy is concerned for her parents’ safety, and desperately tries to contact them. It doesn’t hit her that the cyclone could reach New Zealand until it is upon them.

Amy can only watch as the quiet countryside is transformed. The cyclone is destroying the land and putting lives in danger as fierce wind and rain attack Gisborne. As Amy, her uncle and aunt try to survive the storm, she wonders; when will it end? Will she see her parents again? The answers are uncertain; everyone’s fates are in the hands of the merciless cyclone.

 Cyclone Bola is a fascinating read; one of the latest book in the My New Zealand Story series. It’s a wonderful book to read for a project, as it has plenty of useful information on the topic of Cyclone Bola, and keeps you turning pages as Amy’s exciting tale unfolds. At the back of the book there are photographs of damage, to give readers an idea of just how destructive the cyclone really was. If you want to learn about the devastating Cyclone Bola- part of New Zealand’s history, then this is the book for you!

Reviewed by Tierney.

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The 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Finalists

The finalists in the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards were announced this morning.  There is a great selection of books this year, by some of our best authors and illustrators.  I think that the picture book and junior fiction categories are particularly strong and the judges have got a huge job ahead of them.  I’m aiming to read all of the finalists before the week of the Festival this year so I’ll be sharing my thoughts on each book here.

Have you read any that you really love?

Picture Book

  • A Great Cake, written and illustrated by Tina Matthews
  • Melu, written by Kyle Mewburn and illustrated by Ali Teo and John O’Reilly
  • Mister Whistler, written by Margaret Mahy and illustrated by Gavin Bishop
  • Mr Bear Branches and the Cloud Conundrum, written and illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton
  • Remember that November, written by Jennifer Beck and illustrated by Lindy Fisher

Junior Fiction

  • The ACB with Honora Lee, written by Kate De Goldi and illustrated by Gregory O’Brien
  • The Queen and the Nobody Boy by Barbara Else
  • My Brother’s War by David Hill
  • Red Rocks by Rachael King
  • Uncle Trev and His Whistling Bull by Jack Lasenby

Young Adult Fiction

  • Earth Dragon, Fire Hare by Ken Catran
  • Into the River by Ted Dawe
  • The Nature of Ash by Mandy Hager
  • Reach by Hugh Brown
  • Snakes and Ladders by Mary-anne Scott

Non Fiction

  • 100 Amazing Tales from Aotearoa by Simon Morton and Riria Hotere
  • At the Beach: Explore and discover the New Zealand seashore by Ned Barraud and Gillian Chandler
  • Kiwi: the real story by Annemarie Florian and Heather Hunt
  • Taketakerau, The Millenium Tree by Marnie Anstis, Patricia Howitt and Kelly Spencer

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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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