Book Review: Women of the Catlins: Life in the Deep South, by Diana Noonan

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_women_of_the_catlinsThis wonderful collection of stories from the women who live in New Zealand’s deep South are treats for the soul. Each woman bestows on the reader a sense of peace as they share the day-to-day stories of their lives. It’s fascinating to read of the way they have built their lives in the Catlins – a wild and isolated natural, beautiful part of New Zealand.

The Catlins is known to some of us as a place you drive through on your way from Dunedin to Invercargill, others may not be entirely sure where it is. You may wonder what the fuss was about as you drove past on the main highway, but the secret of the Catlins lies beyond this highway. You need to make the time to turn off and head down those back country roads to see the rolling green farmland interspersed with native bush, and cold, windswept wild beaches abundant with penguins, seals and seabirds. With no-one in sight.

Catlins resident Diana Noonan shares some of the best, the worst and the most fascinating things about the lives of these 26 women, none of whom would think they were remarkable in any way, but for the magical place they’ve chosen to build their lives. Through Women of the Catlins, we sneak a peek into their lives. Their stories are the kind that you might get if you were lucky enough to run into them at the local store, share a pint at the pub, and get into conversation with them about the history of their place.

Rona Williamson may tell you how seafood was abundant back in the ‘30s, the water was clear and clean, and flounders lay flat and plentiful in the beds. She’d walk all the way out to the mouth of the river spearing them as she went – some were so large they wouldn’t fit in the pan.

Christine Mitchell grew up farming, shearing and horse trekking, far away from anything and anyone – an hour this way, an hour that, sometimes the travel can be annoying. She notes that it can be a lonely sometimes, but on the flip side, she wouldn’t trade the amazing bush and ocean views out of their living room window, plus the kids love it down on the farm. Christine says they don’t need things, she knows and feels they have all they need, with a warm house and a loving family.

What is particularly notable about these women is the reflections that make up their lives, as they live among the woodland, flowers, native bush, animals farmed and wild, coast, sea and hillsides, in weather warm, cold and windblown. Each of the women has a rich knowledge of local people, community, neighbours – concerts and dances in halls, farms, views and peace and quiet. It’s a kind of charmed life for those of us that live in the hustle and bustle of the city, and its not for nothing that many of us crave a simpler life more connected to the earth and the elements.

I wish to thank these women for sharing a piece of their lives with us, and Diana Noonan and Photographer Cris Antona for bringing it to life. This is a wonderful book for anyone who relishes the dream of a slower, more connected life – taking the time to smell the roses, and the fresh baking.

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

Women of the Catlins: Life in the Deep South
Edited by Diana Noonan, Photography by Cris Antona
Published by Otago University Press
ISBN 9781877578977

Book Review: Quaky Cat Helps Out, by Diana Noonan, illustrated by Gavin Bishop

Available in bookshops nationwide.cv_quaky_cat_helps_out

Quaky Cat has appeared in an earlier picture book by Diana Noonan. This book was written in response to the Christchurch earthquake and has raised more than $150,000 for Christchurch charities. All author royalties from this book Quaky Cat Helps Out will go to supporting the work of Orphans Aid International.

Diana is an award-winning author of more than 200 publications including young adult novels, picture books, non-fiction, poetry, stories for radio, material for television and short film scripts. Gavin Bishop is an award-winning New Zealand children’s author and illustrator. He has published more than 40 books.

The dedication at the back of this book –

“In memory of the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, Quaky Cat Helps Out is a tribute to the brave children and families who have opened their hearts and homes to help a broken city”.

Tiger the ginger cat can’t sleep. He feels uneasy but doesn’t know why.
It’s six in the morning, and Tiger can’t sleep.
He tosses and turns at his friend Emma’s feet.
It isn’t the cold that keeps him awake,
Or the shudder and rumble and bump or a quake.

Even though his house and surrounds are mended after the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011 he just can’t settle. Things are not what they seem. A number of cats have lost their homes. Tiger goes around issuing invitations to his displaced friends to come and settle at his and Emma’s house.

This is a fabulous story with lovely illustrations. I had to be very careful reading this story to 4-year-old Abby as she has a rather overactive imagination. We have to be very mindful when the television news is on that she doesn’t hear about a house fire or about any sort of crime. She has a lot of questions about things and broods on them. This isn’t unusual for this age group, but sometimes you have to be careful when broaching different subjects i.e. earthquakes.

Abby did respond very well to this story and was totally engrossed with Tiger and his friends and how they all came to his and Emma’s house. We also talked about sharing and how it’s really good to be nice to people when something bad has happened to them. It’s hard to explain an earthquake to a child that has no concept of what an earthquake involves – it’s hard enough for an adult who hasn’t experienced them first hand either. Abby has two cats of her own, so came up with some good suggestions about what you could do to make sure the cats were safe.

At the back of this book there are comments from children that lived in Christchurch during the quakes.
“Just like Quaky Cat’s friends, my house got cracks and we had to get a new floor. We had to live in a caravan…..our house is still getting fixed from the earthquake.”
– Regan, age 9

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Quaky Cat Helps Out
by Diana Noonan, illustrated by Gavin Bishop
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775432975

Book Review: The best-behaved bear, by Diana Noonan

I recall reading The Best-Loved Bearcv_the_best-behaved_bear to many, many groups of delighted pre-schoolers in my public library days.

I am delighted to see that Toby the Bear has survived – remarkably agelessly – at least 20 years, maybe more!

Diana Noonan’s new story stands on its own as a lovely, family-oriented, celebratory tale about Tim and his indispensable bear. The illustrations by Elizabeth Fuller are simple and effective.

Tim’s family – even Gran ( I find this more than a little disconcerting, as Gran is later depicted as a snorkelling grandma, so a flight to the islands clearly would not be a problem for her!) are off to a family wedding. Offshore. Tim’s big challenge is how to take Toby. Various methods of transporting Toby are presented and discarded, Toby all the while becoming more and more dishevelled. Suffice to say that, once the problem is solved, all the dishevellment miraculously disappears and Tim (and of course Toby) reign triumphant.

It’s a great little story and my quibbles are minor, and from a grandma-aged perspective. I enjoyed it and I think kids will too.

I am about to test my theory on a young friend. I believe my opinion will be upheld. If you have not yet discovered Diana Noonan and the bear, it’s time you did.

by Susan Esterman

The Best-Behaved Bear
by Diana Noonan
Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775431879

University Book Shop Otago Celebrates the Opening of The Children’s Room with local book launch

Catlins-based award-winning writer, cv_the_teddy_bears_promiseDiana Noonan, and New Zealand’s best-loved illustrator, and sometime Dunedinite Robyn Belton, have collaborated on a just-released children’s book, launched Friday 15 November 2013 by New Zealand Society of Authors President, and Miller’s Flat resident, Kyle Mewburn. This coincided with the opening of the new Children’s Room & Bookshop at the University Book Shop.

“Children’s books can’t exist without good bookshops to stock them; and of course good bookshops can’t exist without wonderful books to stock,” says UBS Otago manager, Phillippa Duffy. “Neither can exist without children and parents who understand both the magic and importance of reading.”

The Teddy Bear’s Promise, an endearing picture book published by Craig Potton Publishing, encapsulates the essence of growing up, and the warmth of enduring love. Children, parents and grandparents alike will all appreciate the rich and timeless themes in this poignant story of a little boy, a teddy bear and the love which binds families together.

The Children’s Room is an extension of the University Book Shop, increasing their retail area to create a specialised children’s bookshop within their Great King Street shop. It aims to help children grow a love of reading, or to extend the passion for books they already have; and for grown-ups to rediscover the magic of their favourite childhood bookstore. They will be hosting a free story-time every Friday and Saturday in-store at 10.30am on the magic carpet.

“Diana and Robyn are extremely well-respected in New Zealand bookselling and publishing for children and have both been so supportive of The Children’s Room concept,” says Duffy.  “I’m thrilled the launch and the opening will occur in tandem as it symbolises the importance of writers, illustrators, publishers, schools and bookstores all working together to create life-long readers.”


Book Review: The Teddy Bear’s Promise, by Diana Noonan, illustrated by Robyn Belton

Diana Noonan is a children’s writer –over 100 bcv_the_teddy_bears_promiseooks from young adult to children’s picture books. She has won numerous awards over the years, and lives in the remote Catlins, south of Dunedin.

I have read many books to small children over a number of years and am familiar with earlier books she has written – The Best-loved Bear and The Best-dressed Bear. This book – The Teddy Bear’s Promise is written and illustrated in the same endearing style.

The same day that Max’s Dad helped his Gran shift, he bought a dusty box home. The story that unfolds is of a very remarkable bear that was there for another little boy many years before. The journey this bear has been on and how he came to end up in a box neglected for many years is a story than most small children will adore.  It’s a simple and uncluttered story with beautiful illustrations. I found the story very touching and am looking forward to reading this book in the near future, to some of my younger grandchildren.

This book would appeal to children from as young as 8 – 9 months old upwards. With Christmas not too far away, this would make a lovely gift.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

The Teddy Bear’s Promise
by Diana Noonan, illustrated by Robyn Belton
Published by Craig Potton Publishing
ISBN 9781877517808