Posts tagged NZ Book Month 2013

Fast Five with Melanie Drewery

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

Because I have always had a vivid imagination, and when I was small I was a real chatterbox with lots of ideas to share. Writing is sort of like talking a lot on paper.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

I can put my ideas into a story and they will reach heaps and heaps of people I may never even meet! My words might make someone laugh or cry, they might even teach them something or change the way they look at the world. That’s pretty amazing.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Under the Mountain.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

Oh I can’t just love one thing, I need at least two, so I’m going to cheat here. I love our beaches, and being able to swim or walk by the sea every day. I also love our own unique culture, and how much more Te Reo Maori and Maori expressions have become part of everyone’s culture.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

I love being able to read lots and lots and lots of books. Is it weird to say I also love the bookish smell of libraries, yum, all those words wiggling around in their books and making their own special smell.

Melanie Drewery is an author, illustrator and artist who writes primarily for children. Koro’s Medicine was a finalist in the Picture Book Category of the 2005 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children & Young Adults, and the Maori translation of this title, by Kararaina Uatuku, won the 2005 Te Kura Pounamu Award. Melanie won the Picture Book section of the 2008 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults for her book Tahi: One Lucky Kiwi.

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Fast Five with Sarah Johnson

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

Stories are one of my favourite things in the whole world (as are books), so it made sense to me that I would enjoy writing them, and I do. I have carried the stories I read as a child with me into adulthood, and as I got older I read stories that I considered so incredibly beautiful (or moving, or sometimes funny) they were like sunsets or landscapes or other natural wonders. That’s a pretty amazing impact to have, and I wanted to give it a try. Imagine being able to create something that had that effect on another person! I haven’t managed it yet, but I’m still trying.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Writing stories. Entering, and dwelling in, the fabulous zone they come from. Playing with the words (endlessly) until they make patterns and poems on the page.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Oh, hard. For children, it’s probably Peter and the Pig by Simon Grant, because every single time I read it, I laugh. I wish I could write something that funny! For adults, anything by Patricia Grace, but then she writes wonderfully for children too.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

The colour and clarity of the light, the emptiness of the sky, the smell and the air of the bush. I lived in Scotland for a while and these were the things I missed. They were in my bones and they sung to me while I was away.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

How excited I feel every time I enter one. All that interest, all those stories, all that knowledge, sitting on a shelf waiting for me to find it. And knowing that I’m going to walk out the door with a book in my hand and a new possibility in my life. Libraries are portals. They should house them in a tardis.

Sarah Johnson is the author of Ella and Ob and the winner of the 2011 Joy Cowley Award, Wooden Arms.  Sarah has also written books and stories for grown-ups

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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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Fast Five with Kath Beattie

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I’ve been writing since I was a small girl. Telling stories is just something I do and want to do and as a small child had to do. We didn’t have many books…we were poor (as many were way back then) so we wrote our own stories (and illustrated them!). We loved writing to the children’s page of the NZ Herald…and later as I grew I wrote stories for the local newspapers and various magazines.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

I think the greatest fun is finding a way to tell a story in a new way or to find a new and different character. I still love the story I wrote where one of the characters in the story talks to me the writer! She gets mad because she doesn’t want to say what I want her to say! So I threaten to write her out of the story…sadly the story has never been published!

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

I always dislike this sort of question. I love many many books for many many different reasons. And there are SO many marvellous books written by New Zealanders.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

Again I have many reasons for loving NZ. I particularly love the outdoors…our beautiful wild coastline, the lush and glorious bush, rugged mountains and hills country and the growing interest in our ‘wildlife’. I also love that we have so so many opportunities for education, sport, the arts etc. and rejoice that we can have very full and interesting lives as well as helping the less advantaged.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

When I was much much younger I used to find libraries a little daunting…no longer.  Libraries these days are so welcoming. The staff are wonderfully helpful and almost any book we would like to read a librarian can find it or order it for us. Libraries don’t just have books…there are CDs and now electronic readers. I have written a couple of historical fiction books and the archivists at the libraries I have visited have been wizards at finding me information. Libraries are busy friendly places. Make sure you get to know yours. The books are free as well!!

Kath Beattie is the author of two books in the My New Zealand Story series, Gumdigger and Cyclone Bola (released this month).  Kath has also had her stories published in anthologies, including Dare and Double Dare and Mischief and Mayhem.

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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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Fast Five with Lindy Fisher

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I can’t seem to help making images. I’ve done it forever! I enjoy texture and colour and playing with it. Sometimes my images are used to illustrate children’s stories, sometimes to feature on NZ postage stamps and other times on peoples walls in their homes.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Being able to do what I love for my job and introducing other people to the fun I have so they can enjoy it too. Either using their imagination to interpret my pictures or using my techniques to make their own new ones.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Always the one I am working on or have just had published. At the moment it is “Remember that November” by Jennifer Beck.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

Living by the sea on its gorgeous coast line under some pohutakawa trees.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

That books are free! BUT I never want to take them back!!

Lindy Fisher is an illustrator who has created the illustrations for stories by Jennifer Beck and Dot Meharry, including Nobody’s Dog, A Present from the Past, and Remember That November.

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Fast Five with Donovan Bixley

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I wanted to illustrate things that I was really interested in, which doesn’t always happen when you illustrate other author’s stories. So I decided to write my own stories.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Coming up with ideas is very exciting. The hard part is the months and years it take to make those ideas good enough. Through a lot of hard work they get turned into a finished book.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book? 

“Sydney and the Sea Monster” by David Elliot. I also love “The Word Witch” by Margaret Mahy and David Elliot.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

I love that we’re a small country, with a population not much bigger than a city in most countries. New Zealanders are fairly humble and relaxed people on the whole, and not too stressed out. I love being able to enjoy our lakes and mountains and coasts with my family.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

I like browsing the shelves and finding books that I would not normally look at. I still like to get reference books from the library. The Internet is not quite the same.

Looky BookDonovan Bixley is an author and illustrator who has created the illustrations for his own books and for books by other authors.  He has created Kiwi versions of The Wheels on the Bus and Old MacDonald’s Farm, and his latest book is the wonderful Kiwi-themed puzzle book, The Looky Book.  Donovan has also illustrated Brian Falkner’s Northwood and Maddy West and the Tongue Taker, and created the Dinosaur Rescue series with Kyle Mewburn.

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Fast Five with Tania Hutley

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I think most writers start by being enthusiastic readers, and I’m no different.  Through reading I discovered how much I loved the feeling of falling into another world, of living another life, becoming someone completely different to myself.  Writing is just another way of visiting different worlds – ones that I can control!

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

The best thing about being a writer is when someone reads your book and tells you how much they enjoyed it.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

That’s a hard one – there are so many great New Zealand books!  One that stands out for me is Salt by Maurice Gee. I love the characters and the way he has made the world they live in come to life.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

I love our beautiful beaches!

  • What do you love most about libraries?

All the great memories of when Mum used to take me and my brother to our local library once a week all through my school years.  Being allowed to check out five books a week gave me the freedom to try lots of different authors and types of books, so I read a lot of wonderful books I would never have discovered otherwise.  Come to think of it, that hasn’t changed!  I still love going to the library and checking out books I wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to read.

Tania Hutley has published short stories for adults and children, which have been published in Pick n’ Mix and Great Mates. Tania has also published two novels, Tough Enough and 99 Flavours of Suck.  

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Fast Five with Nic Brockelbank

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

To fundraise for charities.  My first hand-written cookbook I sold to raise money for the Christchurch Earthquake Relief Fund, and then I hand-wrote two books to raise money for the True Colours Charitable Trust in Hamilton.  “Nic’s Cookbook”, which has been published by Scholastic is raising money for the NZ Muscular Dystrophy Association.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

The great experiences I have had, like meeting Simon Gault and Brett McGregor and going on “What Now” to do a cooking demonstration.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Taste of a Traveller, by Brett McGregor.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

The great people that live here.  And luging in Rotorua.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

They are quiet and full of books.

Nic wrote Nic’s Cookbook, which was published last year by Scholastic, when Nic was ten years old.  You can check out www.nicocool.com and www.facebook.com/nicscookbook for details about Nic and his cookbook.

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Fast Five with Roger Hall

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

So girls would like me. (It didn’t work.)

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

You can get to work in less than a minute.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

The Three Little Pigs by…..me.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

Serious now: the small population.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

They are a mark of a civilised society.

Roger Hall is one of New Zealand’s most well-known playwrights.  He has written for the stage, as well as scripts for radio, television and for children.  Roger’s retelling of The Three Little Pigs has recently been published by Scholastic New Zealand, which includes a play for five characters.

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Fast Five with Michael Oehley

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I wanted to write since I was a little boy. There has never been a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I think I was born to write.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Being able to make up a whole world in my imagination and put it to paper. It’s pretty cool.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Probably the stories of Barry Crump – he wrote really good yarns.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

It’s the best country in the world to live in – and I’m not just making that up! Lots of international lists have New Zealand in the top five places to live. We’ve got some of the best schools and hospitals. We’re safe and clean, and Kiwis are rated the friendliest people in the world.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

Libraries are a great place to escape and find another world to read about.

Michael Oehley is the author of The 4 Powers of Daren Saner and The Vitality Code. When he’s not writing Michael works as a doctor in remote Australian hospitals and loves to travel.

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Fast Five with Craig Smith

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

Watching kids laugh and have fun is my idea of a good time.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Watching kids enjoy the stories and songs.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Baa Baa Smart Sheep.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

The lifestyle, the people and the beauty.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

How they’re slowly becoming more like community centres, where not only can you learn/have fun from reading books but do all the other things that modern libraries have to offer.

Craig Smith is a musician and the creator of The Wonky Donkey, Willbee the Bumblebee and Kaha the Kea.  Craig has also produced his own children’s album, Not Just for Kids.

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Fast Five with Diana Noonan

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I wanted to be a painter but found I couldn’t paint well enough to please myself, so I decdied to be a writer and “paint with words” instead.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

I get to work in my own home with my beautiful garden, beach, forest, donkeys, and chooks just outside the window. And, every day, I get to be at home with my wonderful husband of 27 years. I am able to become excited about an idea and then bring that excitement to fruition by producing a piece of writing. Writing gives me an outlet for expressing the things that are most important to me.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Barbara Anderson’s short stories are a favourite, as are Owen Marshall’s. I also adore Ronald Hugh Morrison’s work.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

I love the political stability we have in New Zealand. I have visited many countries over the years, because I love to travel and learn about new places, and I feel grateful each time I work in the garden that I don’t have to be concerned about encountering a landmine. I am always mindful that I will still be in the same place to harvest the food I grow because war won’t have been forced to leave my home.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

I love the feeling that the whole world is there before me, in words and colour. Because I live in a very rural place, I’m often rushing when I’m visiting the city, with a thousand things to get done, so on the rare occasion that I do have time, it’s a real treat to have hours to just sit and look at books.

Diana Noonan is the author of many books, from educational readers to picture books and nonfiction.  Her books, which include The Best-loved Bear and The Best-dressed Bear, are family favourites.  Quaky Cat, which was illustrated by Gavin Bishop, raised thousands of dollars for Christchurch charities and helped Christchurch children through the recent earthquakes.

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Fast Five with Sharon Holt

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I was naturally good at it and I loved reading. I believe we are born with talents and gifts and that was one of mine. I am also very passionate about writing, reading and books.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

The best thing is getting feedback that your hard work has made other people happy.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Most things by Kate DeGoldi – at the moment, it’s The 10pm Question and The ACB with Honora Lee.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

Everything! The friendly people, green open spaces, positive can do attitudes and easy going lifestyle.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

Everything! I would live in one if I could! My happy place is sitting among piles of picture books. (Librarians are great people too!)

Sharon Holt is the author of novels, picture books and the wonderful Te Reo Singalong series.  Her books include two of the My New Zealand Story books, No Survivers and Sabotage.

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Fast Five with Nikki Slade-Robinson

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

Why not!  I think if the ideas are there, and the characters are demanding to be let out, you don’t get much choice really.  Writing and illustrating was always my dream.  And luckily my parents let me have plenty of paper so I didn’t have to draw and write on the walls.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Ooooh it’s soooo fun!  I put writing and illustrating together because I do both.  I can spend lots of my day playing with my imagination and not many jobs let you do that.  I love being self employed too, and having so much flexibility.   It’s also very cool when you see one of your books picked up and turned into something else like a show.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Oh that’s not fair – there are so many wonderful NZ books, how can I choose just one?  Is it ok to list a few?  I do love Jack Lasenby’s ‘The Lake’ and his Seddon St gang ones.  Nobody can go past Margaret Mahy of course, horracapotchkin! (Oh dear – did I spell that right?)  And I use Andrew Crowe’s ‘Which NZ Insect?’ a lot.  Des Hunt’s books because they are set in areas I know… Joanna Orwin – oh there’s so many good writers here – sigh!  In terms of picture books, that too is really hard to choose.  I just really enjoy being able to read NZ stories.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

The environment.  We do live in paradise really, you only need to travel away from here to realise how good we really have it.  And our society, really it’s great.  I just hope we can all look after it and really cherish what we have.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

We’ve got this really old picture book about a little boy who can hold an elephant and a lion and a rocket under one arm.  He can hold anything you can think of under his arm.  And at the end you find out it’s because he can go to the library and get a book about anything out.  Libraries are like that – you can find so much there… and it’s free so nobody has to miss out.

Nikki Slade-Robinson is an author and illustrator whose books include Munkle Arvur and the Bod, That’s Not Junk! and Hannah Bandanna’s Hair.  Nikki has also illustrated books for other authors, including Mind Your Gramma and The Seven Stars of Matariki.

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Fast Five with Sherryl Jordan

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I wanted to write books even before I could write. My first book, made when I was four years old, was a picture story about a little mermaid. I had to draw pictures to make the book, because I couldn’t write. The book doesn’t exist anymore (it probably went up the vacuum cleaner!) but my love of books and writing has never left me.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

I get paid to day-dream.

Also, it’s an awesome thing to live in the world inside my head, the world of the imagination. While I’m writing a book, that imagined world is much more real to me than this world.  Another wonderful thing about being a writer is receiving letters from readers who love my stories. It’s amazing to realise that my dreams have been shared by someone else.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Ah… a hard question. I have several favourite NZ writers – Margaret Mahy and Joy Cowley at the top — but no single book I love the best.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

Freedom of speech. The freedom to write what we want to write, and not be imprisoned for it.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

A library is like a cave full of treasure — every book another world to be explored, another dream to be shared. What riches! I always feel overwhelmed in a library, hoping I choose the right world for me, and don’t miss out on another one that I’d also love.  Mind you, books can be dangerous, too … a book could change your life.  My life has been changed several times, by books I’ve read.

Sherryl Jordan is the author of many wonderful books in her long career, including Rocco, The Wednesday Wizard, The Raging Quiet, Finnigan and the Pirates, and her latest book Ransomwood.

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Fast Five with David Hill

Throughout NZ Book Month we’ll be posting lots of mini interviews with New Zealand authors and illustrators.  Our first Fast Five is with David Hill.

  • Why did you want to be a writer?
Became an author partly because i wasn’t much good at anything else. Also because I liked telling jokes and stories to people and making them laugh and listen. Also (No 2) because when our kids were born, I thought they were so special that I wanted the whole world to know about them – so i started writing stories about them for adults.
  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?
When you write a story / poem/ review, you’ve made something that never existed in the world before. It’s an amazing feeling, and it’s one of the special pleasures of being an author.
  •  What’s your favourite New Zealand book?
I’m a great fan of any of Maurice Gee’s books. I love the ways he mixes reality and fantasy. He turns our world into something strange and fascinating.
  • What do you love most about New Zealand?
I like the light of NZ. It’s bright and clear and very special. I also like the fact that so many of our museums, libraries, art galleries, places like that are FREE! It doesn’t happen in many other countries.
  • What do you love most about libraries?
Libraries are gyms for the mind and the imagination. You read books; your mind becomes fitter and more active. You go on trips that people who don’t read will never experience. Books provide you with this. Libraries provide you with those books!
 
My Brother's WarDavid Hill is the author of See Ya Simon, Aim High, Journey to Tangiwai, and My Brother’s War.

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Celebrate our best authors and illustrators in New Zealand Book Month

NZBM green logo rgb smNew Zealand Book Month starts today and runs for the whole month of March.  It’s the month where we celebrate all the wonderful authors and illustrators that we have in New Zealand.  Here on the Christchurch Kids Blog there will be lots of cool things happening, including:

  • Fast Five Questions with NZ children’s and young adult authors and illustrators, including David Hill, Sherryl Jordan, Diana Noonan and Donovan Bixley.
  • Guest blog posts from Melinda Szymanik and Barbara Else.
  • Lots of NZ book reviews and promotions.
  • NZ book giveaways.

Make sure you check back in March to help celebrate New Zealand books, authors and illustrators.  You can also check the NZ Book Month page on the library website to see what’s happening in Christchurch throughout the month.

Don’t forget to pick up or download your $5-off voucher that you can put towards any book you buy in March.  For more info see the NZ Book Month website.

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