Book Review: A Bears Journey, by Sally Louise Hill

cv_a_Bears_journeyWhen I first opened this book, I was blown away by the stunning photos and illustrations throughout. The Marlborough Sounds is also an area I know reasonably well having visited a number of times on adventure type activities. Memories came flooding back.

Sally’s grandson, Mishca the real inspiration behind this book is now 28 years old. He travelled extensively to various places around the world with his grandparents until he was 16 years old. He is one lucky grandson having such adventurous grandparents. She plans to continue with a series of books on Teddy Bearson and his adventures.

Mishca is helping his grandparents, Nan and Pop pack up to go on holiday to the Marlborough Sounds. Teddy Bearson, Mishca’s much loved teddy bear feels neglected and is convinced he is going to be left behind. That is until he spots his very best kerchief sitting folded on top of a pack. Teddy is overjoyed he isn’t going to miss out on an adventure.

They set off the next morning early, Teddy and Mishca sitting looking out the car window soon doze off. Waking much later Teddy smells something strange and nudges Mishca awake. It was the sea – the Kaikoura coast no less. Of course never having seen it before or seals, Teddy is amazed at the sights.

The story continues on with the journey finishing at Picton and then onto a water taxi to reach the holiday home in the Marlborough Sounds. The birds and animals that Teddy meets once there make a lovely story. I read this book to 4-year-old Abby. She had lots of question around what Teddy was doing and where he was going. Having not been to the Marlborough Sounds and only seeing some of the animals and birds in the zoo, Abby was fascinated by the antics – especially of Willy Weka.

This is a stunning book – the photos are wonderful. Sally must have spent a lot of hours sorting out which photos would be suitable for this book. She also has included beautiful drawings of birds and sea life. It’s not often you come across a book that has this amount of detail. I am totally blown away. Even my husband, who picked it up and read through it, commented what a beautiful book it is. At the back of the book is a glossary explaining in more detail the animals and sea life mentioned throughout this incredible book.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

A Bear’s Journey to The Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand
by Sally Louise Hill
The Copy Press
ISBN 9780473268152

Book Review: Taka Ki Ro Wai – He Kōrero Pūrākau mo Tētāhi Hoiho, by Keri Kaa, illustrated by Martin D Page

web_TAKA-KI-RO-WAI_Cover_Tania&Martin_2013_PROMOAvailable in bookstores nationwide, this is the winner of the inaugural Maori Language Award in the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. 

This Māori language, 59 page picture book is an amazing compilation of story, artwork and photography, decorated and enhanced with examples of Māori weaving and carving patterns.

Publisher Tania was kind enough to relate the story to me in English (I am not bilingual) which I can summarise for you. As a Māori reader, you will get more out of the book than I can, so bear with me.

It is the true story of a rural home, surrounded by farmland, in the area of Ngati Porou, on which after an extremely rainy stormy night, the woman of the house looking out her window realises her mare is in difficulties. On closer investigation, she sees the mare has foaled overnight. The foal is still trapped in the birth sac, and in such deep water the mare cannot assist it to break free.

Friends come to help; they drag the foal onto higher ground, wrap it in a blanket with the hopes of saving the exhausted foal, who is very cold after being submerged in water. The mare is incapable of anything, so exhausted is she after birthing in the night and struggling in the flooded paddock.

The mare has shared her paddock with a pig, and is used to its smell. The pig comes to the foal, and tears open the birth sac. It licks then rubs against the foal, for so long it tires and drops to rest in exhaustion. It returns to the foal and now starts treading with its forelegs on its back, until finally the foal comes alive. The mare returns, and coaxes the foal to stand and feed.

This book is a strong mixture of the expertise of the story teller and of the illustrator. Every page has its own significance to te tikanga Māori, to rural communities, and to – especially – spell-bound children.

The publishers have assured me there is a solid intention to produce an English language version in the future. I will happily announce that here when it happens.

Translations of the front cover (thanks to publisher Tania)…
Main Title – Taka Kiro Wai = Fell in the water
Sub-title – He Kōrero Pūrākau mo Tētāhi Hoiho = A story about a horse
(Yellow circle sub-subtitle – He Kōrero Pūrākau Tūturu Tēnei = This is a true story

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street, published originally on her review blog here. 

Taka Ki Ro Wai – He Kōrero Pūrākau mo Tētāhi Hoiho
Author Keri Kaa
Artist Martin D Page
Publication 2013 by Tania&Martin, Rotorua NZ
ISBN 9780473184063

The illustration of An Extraordinary Land, with Rod Morris

If you have ever wondered how books are produced, this is your chance to find out.Rod Morris_sml

We have asked our fantastic finalists for the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults all about their work, and they have been very generous in their responses.

An Extraordinary Land, by Peter Hayden, illustrated by Rod Morris (HarperCollins NZ) is a finalist in the Non-fiction category of the awards. Please check out our review.

Thank you to illustrator Rod Morris for his generous responses:

1. What was your approach to illustrating this book?
We wanted to illustrate the book using photographs rather than paintings so that we could bring a sense of ‘realism’ to the stories, several of which, although factual, had a strong sense of story to them. We live amongst such unusual native creatures (giant flightless parrots, scary ‘horned’ crickets), that it would be easy to dismiss some of them as ‘mythical’ beasts of an ‘overly creative’ writer otherwise.

2. Tell us a bit about the journey from storyboards to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in illustrating this book?An Extraordinary Land
We were very keen to illustrate the book with native animals doing ‘interesting’ things, like living in a fridge, or looking cute or scary, or only coming out after dark…we also sought to bring the past ‘to life’ with pics of skulls and bones of the actual extinct creatures the stories were about, or to show their closest living relatives, so it didn’t become too ‘museumy’. We included historical family pics of the actual kids who have done interesting things in their day, like the young Doc Orbell – who later re-discovered the takahe.

I particularly wanted to show the author, Peter Hayden, doing some of the interesting things he was writing about (like falling over a wheelbarrow in the dark, or finding a lizard in the forest at night, or contemplating NZ’s tallest native tree after a hard slog into the forest to find it.

3. How closely were you able to collaborate with the writer? Do you prefer to work this way?
Each story was done in close collaboration from beginning to end- closer than many writers and illustrators in fact. Peter Hayden and I have always enjoyed working this way – brain-storming. We collaborated on many natural history TV shows together – the kid’s nature series Wildtrack in the 80’s and all the old Wild South documentaries. We wanted to do a book like we did the old shows, by once again ‘brain-storming’ a bunch of story ideas, to see what we could come up with. It was just like the old Wildtrack shows – but done with a little more ‘grey power’ now – we were so much younger once! But we proved to each other it was still possible to have a lot of fun, and we learned so much that was fresh, from some of the people Pete wrote about.

4. Can you recommend any illustrators whose work you find yourself particularly influenced by?
I am a boring wildlife photographer cv_how_tom_beat_captain_najorknow, but I have always loved the ‘whimsical’ depiction of animal characters – the work of Ernest .H. Shepard, Tove Jansson, and particularly Quentin Blake. Blake’s illustrations in How Tom beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen almost exceed Russell Hoban’s own incredible writing – who else could come up with such an engrossing ‘sneedball’, or so convincing an Aunt Fidget Wonkham Strong! In New Zealand I love David Elliot’s work, particularly his imaginative and delightful Redwall decorations.

5. What was your favourite thing to draw when you were at primary school – did you have a “party trick”?
I loved art as a kid. My favourite painting was of a black african child grasping a live chicken by the leg. The picture was of a cloud of feathers surrounding these two characters. It hung on my grandmother’s wall for a few years. I loved painting: I won a radio, an expensive book, and a Crown Lynn pottery design prize. Then I started illustrating my own early School Journal articles, like Watching Red-billed Gulls and, An Island Eaten by Rats, before I got lazy – and began to turned to photography for my stories. Maybe one untitledday I’ll come back to drawing. My party trick is a quick sketch of Donald Duck – usually for kids.

6. Tell us about a time you’ve enjoyed relaxing and reading a book – at the bach, on holiday, what was the book?
I went to the book launch of Mona Minum and the Smell of the Sun at the Hocken, and read the book that summer. I loved Janet Frame’s writing, and David Elliot’s illustrations, it proved to me yet again, just how talented we New Zealanders are – across several generations now.

Book Review: Project Huia, by Des Hunt

Project Huia is shortlisted in the Junior Fiction category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. 

In Project Huia, Des Hunt has oncecv_project_huia again found a winning formula that appeals to both young readers and his own conservation interests. In this book, Logan, the young male protagonist, is thrust back in history as his grandfather Jim recalls a period of unusual excitement and shenanigans from his own young life.

Jim and Logan travel back to the origins of the story and Logan is transported back in time as his grandfather relates the story of what is presumed to be the slaying of the last known huia. Throughout the book there is an air of expectation that the remains of that bird may be found. This is spurred on by a conservation scientist named Ana, who has her own secret mission, which is only partly revealed to Jim and Logan. She needs Jim to lead her to the site where the huia was last seen. She needs Logan to convince Jim to share his story. Jim needs to revisit his past for reasons that slowly reveal themselves.

Thwarting their efforts are two local louts. It soon transpires these two troublemakers are descendants of the Carson family, a family as notorious as the Huia’s extinction is in these parts. Jim had quarrelled badly with them as a boy, and the ill feeling and heartache is still palpable today. Logan is fated to re-enact some of the tension himself.

This is the story of adventure, revenge, bullying, and pointless extinction (of the huia). It is a thoroughly New Zealand story and the modern day action is well woven into historical and conservation aspects. It’s no surprise to me that this book is a finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Within the pages of the book, the huia, one of our most loved but now extinct birds, is brought back to life but it is also a compelling adventure and whodunit story.

Reviewed by Gillian Torckler

Project Huia
by Des Hunt
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN  9781775431763

Finalist Interviews: the origin of A Necklace of Souls, by R L Stedman

If you have ever wondered where authors get their ideas, this is your chance to find out.rachel stedman

We have asked our fantastic finalists for the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children
and Young Adults all about their work, and they have been very generous in their responses.

A Necklace of Souls, by R L Stedman (HarperCollins NZ) is a finalist in the Young Adult Fiction category of the Book Awards

Thank you to Rachel Stedman for her generous responses:

1. As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this book?
You’re right, I have so many ideas that sometimes I can’t sleep – it’s kind of like hearing voices, all the time.

The idea for A Necklace of Souls developed from a dream of a girl fighting in a forest. She fought so beautifully that when I woke, I wanted to write her story. So the entire book is really leading up to that one scene.

2. Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?

Finding time! What people don’t realize – what I didn’t realize, anyway – is the manuscript accepted by the publisher is only the first step in the publishing process.

COV_Necklace.inddAfter acceptance, the manuscript goes to an editor for a style edit. The style edit looks at structure. I was really lucky, because I had a wonderful editor, Helen Chamberlain, who lives in Melbourne, and we emailed each other, usually late at night, about the changes that were needed. The first email I got from Helen said ‘I loved A Necklace of Souls but…’ and she went on to say that it needed another seven chapters. Which was a little overwhelming. But the extra chapters weren’t too hard, and Helen was right, they did improve the story.

It took about three drafts with Helen to get Necklace to the point where we were happy with it, and then the manuscript went back to HarperCollins. Anna, my editor at HarperCollins, did a copy edit, looking for things like spelling errors and consistency. I had to check this edit again.

And then it went to an external proof reader for a final check. And then, finally, it was ready to be printed.

And the whole time I was doing this, I was also writing the sequel and working and other things, too.

3. Did you tailor this book to a particular audience – or did you find it found its own audience as it was written?
I always thought it would appeal to older teenage readers, about sixteen to twenty-three years old. A Necklace of Souls is similar in some ways to books I read at that age, so maybe that’s why I had that age group in mind.

4. Can you recommend any books that you love, that inspired or informed your book in any way?
I am like a walking library. I read lots and lots of books so I really couldn’t name any particular one. But I enjoy fantasy fiction, so probably some fantasy novels crept into the story. If you enjoyed A Necklace of Souls, you may also enjoy The Belgariad by David Eddings, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, or any novel by Patricia McKilip or Robin McKinley.

I also read a lot of books about things like knife fighting and breadmaking when researching A Necklace of Souls. I have some of these (as well as short videos and other material I used) pinned to my research board on pinterest.

5. Tell us about a time you’ve enjoyed relaxing and reading a book – at the bach, on holiday, what was the book?
My dream bach would be stocked with Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer (I am a total Georgette Heyer nutcase) – preferably in the Pan editions because their covers are so bright they look like graphic novels.

Because I’m a very fast reader, I like to take lots and lots of books on holiday. So in my dream bach I’d also like to see James Herriott, Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, Lee Child, Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, William Gibson, Isaac Asimov, Asterix, Tintin, Ben Aaronovitch, Neal Stephenson… anything, really. I’m not too fussy, as long as it’s funny and well written.

6. What is your favourite thing to do, when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?
Baking (and eating) chocolate brownies. I have a special recipe for a microwave brownie, it’s super easy, takes about ten minutes. Here’s the link.

And I love taking photos. I’m totally addicted to instagram. You can find me on @rlstedman

You can find RL Stedman’s social media networks below:

 

Finalist Interview: The illustration of The Three Bears…Sort of, by Donovan Bixley

If you have ever wondered where authors get their ideas, this is your chance to find out.

We have asked our fantastic finalists for the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand Young Adults all about their work, and they have been very generous in their responses.

The Three Bears…Sort of, by Yvonne Morrison and illustrated by Donovan Bixley (Scholastic NZ) is a finalist in the Junior Fiction category of the awards.

Thank you to illustrator Donovan Bixley for his generous responses:

1. What was your approach to illustrating this book?
Actually I didn’t know what to make of it at first. A very daunting proposition, as usually I have at least a few clear visions in my head and start working out from those. This led to a rather different approach than I usually take.

2. Tell us a bit about the journey from storyboards to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in illustrating this book?
Three Bears was a particularly interesting project. Scholastic had a very funny manuscript but they didn’t know how on earth it could be illustrated, or who could illustrate it. When they offered it to me, I fell about laughing and immediately ran inside to read to my family. But I could see that it was going to be very difficult to illustrate.

cv_the_three_bears_sort_ofThis book was most unusual for me in the fact that I didn’t do any roughs or storyboards. Instead I did some very vague stick figure drawings and sent Scholastic a long letter about what I was THINKING I might do with this very funny post-modern text. The challenge was, interpreting the ever-changing voices in the text – which I envisaged as many different styles of illustration.

As often happens with good ideas, turning them into reality is often much harder than the vague foggy picture in your head. Normally I work out a whole book in advance, get those roughs approved, then the final illustrations are just a matter of knuckling down and making it happen – which can be a mainly technical process. For Three Bears, I had a tremendous amount of fun the whole way through the process, because each page was trying to figure out a new style, technique, composition and way of making it fit the text AND make it fit together with the previous pages. All that problem solving is the most fun part of my work. I had plenty of moments of self doubt – wondering if the whole thing was just going to be a huge mish-mash of styles and disparate ideas as I tried to visualise this journey from traditional storybook bears to realistic non-fiction bears and everything in-between.

3. How closely were you able to collaborate with the writer? Do you prefer to work this way?
In all of the picture books I’ve illustrated, I’ve never had much correspondence with the author. In some cases none at all. Funnily enough, I really love working this way. I like not being influenced by any preconceived ideas that the author (or publisher) might have. It requires a lot of sensitivity and understanding on part of the illustrator – and it could all go horribly wrong. But it also requires a lot of trust – that the publisher has chosen the right person to bring this particular text to life. I like that both creators are entrusted to contribute our artistic speciality – and maybe, just maybe, it might just have that strange alchemy that no one can predict (thank goodness, otherwise we’d all be replaced by robots!) and then the finished book becomes something magical and not some middling design-by-committee production.

4. Can you recommend any illustrators whose work you find yourself particularly influenced by?
As a kid of my generation it was hard not to be a fan of Dr Seuss. cv_the_weather_machingThe Lorax is one of my all-time favourite books – it was responsible for my desire to become an illustrator and an inspiration for my 2013 book The Weather Machine (right). I was also a big fan of Guillermo Mordillo and later discovered Graham Oakley’s Churchmice series – the influence of both can be seen in my work like The Looky Book and Dashing Dog, with all the background hidden images and in-jokes and layers that are there to be discovered or understood on subsequent readings. When I went to art school I discovered comics and became a big fan of this new young comic writer called Neil Gaiman and his long time illustration collaborator Dave McKean (the Picasso of comics). As well as those above, my favourite artists include Norman Rockwell, Edgar Degas, John Howe, Edmund Dulac, Bill Peet, Shawn Tan, Gennady Spirin and Chris Riddell.

5. What was your favourite thing to draw when you were at primary school – did you have a “party trick”?
Mum read me The Lord of the Rings when I was seven. I spent years obsessed with bringing Tolkien’s world to life, until about 16 when I discovered John Howe’s illustrations (which are just perfect) and I’ve never done a Middle Earth picture since.

don martinMy best friend (also one of the top drawers at school) and I were into recreating the big nosed Mordillo cartoons and Don Martin’s characters from MAD Magazine (pictured left, copyright Don Martin and MAD Magazine). Our projects were always dotted with colourful characters and elaborate hand-lettered fonts. We could get away with anything at primary school with work like that. Unfortunately in those days everyone used to get beaten up at least a few times a week by one bully or other. Luckily for me, I discovered that drawing trucks was a good way to keep the school bully on side. Funnily enough (just writing this now), I realise that I’ve always hated drawing cars and trucks. I’m much more into people and animals.

6. Tell us about a time you’ve enjoyed relaxing and reading a book – at the bach, on holiday, what was the book?
This past summer at my parent’s bach at Ohiwa,cv_cloud_atlas just south of Ohope, I spent a few days sitting under the trees, with a soundtrack of native birds as I FINALLY got round to reading David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. It really moved me, and I was glad that I could just sit there for hours afterwards in the cooling late afternoon and absorb it all (going through and reading passages entire again) – then spending hours talking about it all with all my family over dinner. My daughters went on to watch the movie and my eldest read the book (her first foray into serious literary fiction – and she loved it). It’s got a 5 star rating in my Book Book, along with Mitchell’s Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.

Straight after that I read another long term ‘must read’ – William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. This was given to me by my eldest daughter, who is always bringing books for me to read. She’s great at predicting what I might like and both of us are big fans of Charlie Higgson’s The Enemy zombie apocalypse series.

 

Finalist Interview: The origins of Dunger, by Joy Cowley

If you have ever wondered where Joy Cowley - Author Photo_smlauthors get their ideas, this is your chance to find out.
We have asked our fantastic finalists for the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults all about their work, and they have been very generous in their responses.

Dunger (Gecko Press) is a finalist in the Junior Fiction category of the awards. Read Tierney Reardon’s review on our blog.

Thank you to author Joy Cowley for her generous responses:

1. As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this book?
A common theme in children’s books is the city kid having a holiday on a farm. When we lived in the Sounds, we lived this experience many times with children coming from an urban environment to a place where you caught or grew your food and piped water from a stream. But there had to be more to make a book, so I included something about the 1960s and the ‘flower power” hippie culture, something about sibling tension, plus some good old country DIY experiences.

2. Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?
cv_dungerThe process of creating a novel, can take several years. The initial idea takes root but also needs time to grow, and most writers tend to be strong with plot or strong with character. As a plot-driven person who enjoys creating “page-turners” I tend to have characters that are mere furnishings for the plot. This means I always have to spend a lot of time working on my characters until they are fully-formed and real. If they are not real to me then they won’t be real to the reader. Once the book is “whole” and is in my mind like a film I have seen, then I write it. Getting it down on the computer happens quickly – a couple of weeks. But the editing process is slow, at least three months of continual cutting and polishing.

3. Did you tailor this book to a particular audience – or did you find it found its own audience as it was written?
I always tailor a children’s book to a particular audience or age group. Sometimes, though, I am surprised by the way that changes in effect. It seems that all ages are reading Dunger − a woman told me her husband kept her awake with laughter while he read it in bed.

4. Can you recommend any books that you love, that inspired or informed your book in any way?
I can’t think of any children’s book that inspired this, but when I created the grandparents in the story, I had just reread Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums, a delicious book about the hippie era.

5. Tell us about a time you’ve enjoyed relaxing and reading a book – at the bach, on holiday, what was the book?
Summer holidays were always “serial” time, the reading of a substantial book night after night. One summer when my children were young, it was Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. A generation later, I read the latest Harry Potter books each summer, to the grandsons.

6. What are your favourite things to do, when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?
Favourite things plural: wood-turning, gardening, spinning and knitting, painting, cooking and eating, listening to music.