Book Review: We Found a Hat, by Jon Klassen

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_we_found_a_hatTo me, the maxim “less is best” applies to picture books and Jon Klassen has got it so right. On the surface this is a simple tale of two turtles who find a hat in the desert. Both try it on, both want it, but what can they do?

Klassen has already entranced us with two previous books on the topic: I Want my Hat Back and This is Not My Hat. Here the story continues with minimal text and simple illustrations.

The book is in three parts. The hat is found and tried on in Part One. Both agree the hat looks great, while we the reader can see it looks silly having a huge white hat on a tiny turtle head. They decide to leave the hat in the desert.

In Part Two, we see sneaky turtle deciding he needs to go back. The sideways eyeballs say it all. In Part Three ,the decision is made.

The conclusion is not what you might expect but it underpins the message of justice. The importance of a decision and the moment when we decide what is right and just, is clearly illustrated in this tale. It can be enjoyed on many levels. While a child will love the simple text and delightful illustrations, older children and adults can appreciate the subversive illustrations and the underlying message. My class of 14-year-olds had a lively discussion after part Two. They had all sorts of suggestions, but none came up with Klassen’s ending.

This is a book-lovers book. My copy will not be in anyone’s Christmas stocking.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

We Found a Hat
by Jon Klassen
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406347517

Book Review: The Blackbird Sings at Dusk, by Linda Olsson

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_blackbird_sings_at_duskThe cover of The Blackbird Sings at Dusk is soft and gentle, inviting the book to be opened for the reader to be enveloped into the lives of three lonely people. The blackbird drawings at the beginning of each chapter help in making the book inviting.

Elisabeth moves into an apartment block, and shuts herself from the world outside, with her only companion The Woman in Green who appears in her dreams during the night.

Across the hallway, Elias believes a package wrongly delivered to him may belong to the new tenant and tries to make contact with her, only to discover she has blocked up her doorbell. However he leaves the parcel at the door, which Elisabeth finds, and as a way of saying thanks, leaves a book outside Elias’ door. He reads the book with help from his friend Otto who lives upstairs, and after he reciprocates with a book of his, the nightly exchange continues between the pair.

Elias also shares some of his drawings with Elisabeth, and an image of a blackbird had a profound and lasting impression on her: ‘The bird was so delicately painted, just a few brush strokes, yet so alive it might fly off the paper at any moment’.

When Elias is badly beaten up outside the apartment, Elisabeth seeks the help of Otto after going to his aid, and this leads to a gentle friendship, their love of books slowly leading all three back out into the real world. The reader gradually discovers what has led the characters to the apartment building and as they unpeel their backgrounds they help each other to heal and move forward.

I enjoyed devouring this book slowly, it is a beautiful piece of writing and author Linda Olsson includes fascinating glimpses of her homeland Sweden. The ending was a surprise and leaves the reader wondering.

Linda Olsson moved to New Zealand from Sweden in 1990 and has written three other novels. The Blackbird Sings at Dusk will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys a bit of intrigue, and romance.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

The Blackbird Sings at Dusk
by Linda Olsson
Published by Penguin Books (NZ)
ISBN  9780143573661

The post where I decide to let a complete stranger run our Facebook page…

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to attend Webstock and hear Kathy Sierra speak; she talked about online users and making things that were conversation worthy.

She spoke about the most powerful online content being that which lets people talk about themselves and that what you really want is for people to keep talking – to their friends, family, whoever, after they’ve encountered your content. In other words, make it less about you and more about them.

I’ve started this approach by developing a pool of book reviewers that have their own blogs. If I can become a matchmaker between publishers and book bloggers then maybe a wider group of readers will hear about books and potentially buy from their local bookshop, thereby helping our Booksellers members.

Next week I’m going to implement the “it’s all about you” idea on our Facebook page.

It drives me crazy when people use the number of followers/fans they have on a particular platform to indicate their success and I have to work REALLY hard when I see the “we’re on 800 fans – let’s see if we can get to 1000 fans by Thursday” notices not to immediately de-friend those pages. (How to get more likes on Facebook – contains swearing).

At Booksellers NZ we have a great online group of readers/book lovers/people working in the book trade/those who just like winning free books. Many of those people are on our Facebook page and I wondered what could I do to help make our content more relevant to them?

The obvious thing that sprang to mind would be that I could let them run the page.

So next week, (starting early Monday morning and ending Thursday evening) we’re welcoming our first guest editor to Facebook. She’ll have full access rights to our organisation’s page and will post her own content and use her own voice to represent Booksellers NZ.  I’ll still be there in the background (I’m not treating it as a holiday) and it should be a fun experiment in what our fans are really interested in.

You can meet our first guest editor below and let me know what you think of this plan in the comments section.

Introducing our first Facebook Guest Editor: Melanie Wittwer

I chose Melanie Wittwer as our first guest editor because she’s a long-time Facebook fan, a member of the NZ Listener Book Club and seemed to genuinely enjoy books.  Until she sent me her brief bio we were complete strangers:

Melanie Wittwer is a freelance translator (English and German) working from home who has an MA in English literature from a German university. She has been involved with Storylines and is a member of the NZ IBBY committee.

Her main interest is children’s and YA literature. Although she feels she should be reading the current NZ Listener Book Club book what she’s really hankering for is the second installment of The Hunger Games.

Melanie will be our guest editor from Mon 14 May – Thurs 17 May.

by Emma McCleary, Web Editor at Booksellers NZ