Beyond the Page – Children and Youth Literary Festival 8–23 July 2017

Beyond the Page website

Upper Hutt City Library in conjunction with Hutt City Libraries, Wellington City Libraries, and Expressions Whirinaki are facilitating a two-week literary festival from 8-23 July, 2017. Our aim is to take children and youth on a journey through different aspects of storytelling, by creating experiences for them to immerse themselves in the literary world while giving them the opportunity to express their creativity.

beyond the pageThis has proven to be a huge undertaking, as there are 22 library sites involved as well as collaboration events held at Expressions Whirinaki, Orongomai Marae and Staglands Wildlife Reserve. A normal school holiday programme at Upper Hutt City Library would see about 5 events delivered during this time but for the festival we will be delivering 23 with a total of approximately 113 events happening during the duration!

We will be running a variety of events drawing from a pool of local artists as well as national figures. Some of our key events include: Royal New Zealand Ballet expressive story times; Writing workshops by the 2017 Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal award winner Des Hunt; Fifi Colston wearable arts demonstrations, and Te Reo Wainene o Tua who will deliver a te Reo Māori storytelling kaupapa, which revitalises purakau, revives oral traditions, and normalises te Reo.

We have also been very lucky to work with Wellington business Escape Mate. For the festival they will be presenting a live-action, detective experience to test team work and problem solving skills! We have also partnered with Wheelers books, whose support has proven invaluable to the success of the festival.

For more information please visit our website which is being updated regularly with content and events or like our Facebook page

Written by Stephnie Burton
Senior Librarian – Children and Youth

Neal Stephenson: Futurist, keynote speaker at Animfx15

When I found out that Neal Stephenson was coming to Wellington as part of the Animfx15 conference, I could not buy a ticket fast enough (thanks, Kathryn Carmody, for letting me know!) While my enthusiasm on Twitter was echoed by only one other person, I figured I was in good company with novelist, short story writer and playwright Pip Adam.

anmimfx030_neal_stephensonThe session was expertly chaired by David Gouge, Weta Digital’s Marketing Manager, who managed to span all of Stephenson’s work perfectly, while giving him plenty of time to talk on subjects he wished to say more about. Because I found everything interesting, and I don’t need to flavour this with my own opinions too much: here is how it went down.

Stephenson began writing at school, but was disheartened because he couldn’t write short fiction. He spent his spare time as a kid reading old sci-fi paperbacks, and watching the original Star Trek on a black & white TV that his dad had soldered together. In his second year at college, he was stuck in Boston – so he surprised himself by sitting down and writing a 200-page novel. Which was “terrible” – and which one of his closest friends has a copy of, which he keeps in trust, and threatens to release occasionally.

02-Baroque_CycleStephenson has often wondered why fans of science-fiction also love fantasy – futuristic fiction doesn’t exactly match up with magic and elves – but he thinks he has the answer: Maps. He spoke of the maps of Tolkien, and how they were so immersive because they included places not used in the plot: making you think that there was more to a world – that it encompassed as much as your imagination wished. He drew this theme out later in the discussion, adding that often these science-fiction and fantasy lovers also enjoy historical fiction, and for the same reason. When I think about the books that I have read from his output: actually, that works. I began reading him with the Baroque Cycle, before seeking out his earlier work, and becoming obsessed with The Diamond Age in particular, then Cryptonomicon, of course. Since then, I have become much less of a historical fiction fan, but not before a quick obsessive dogleg into Diana Gabaldon at about age 19. (Portals have always been a source of fascination: Playing Beattie Bow is to blame.)

Stephenson believes that the grown of nerd culture / success of Comicon etc / fan fiction is accounted for by this space where the imagination is left to grow. And gaming is a natural extension of Science Fiction. Storytelling, for Stephenson, can be in any format, including augmented reality (he is Chief Futurist at Magic Leap. The biggest challenge for him as author to become a futurist was to let go of the design of the world he created, and allow the world-building to be completed by those playing within the world. For him, Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR, the field he is in now) is all about detail. Every detail affects the play of a game – if you are doing it right, the reader and the characters connect. The most significant reason that a reader, or a gamer, will stop going along with the world, will be if they don’t believe the character is either internally consistent or fits within the world, says Stephenson.

David Gouge then moved Stephenson on to a discussion of the trend for dystopic Science Fiction. Stephenson has a theory that dystopia is an economic choice made by movie and game-makers. To make a new world costs a lot of money: it’s much easier to take a familiar icon and “throw some dirt on it”, as the Planet of Apes did with the fall of the Statue of Liberty. He added that it is also easier from a creative POV not to need to create new rules for a world: dystopia is the scrubbing clean of everything except a shared history – so the back story exists, regardless of where the story is coming in.

cv_sevenevesSo, asked Gouge, is a futurist somebody who is willing to see something new? Kind of, Stephenson says, and he adds that this is much easier in books: they are a cheap medium. I can see where he is coming from in Seveneves with this in mind: Seveneves is dystopic, yes, but that is not all: it is also a wildly predictive book about a future that hasn’t really previously been imagined. A mind-leap into what earth might look like after thousands of years with nothing growing on it, using nanotechnology and synthetic biology theories to justify it. This wasn’t beloved by reviewers, but his reasons for it are clearer now.

Stephenson is excited about the technology that is currently being developed, because it doesn’t have expectations already there for it. He figures there may be about five years that all our best minds have to work in the field of AR and VR, to create a new paradigm – without the ‘attractor lock’ that we are stuck in with movies and games at the moment (super-heroes for movies; first-person shooters for games). He hopes to see people experiment wildly in the area, before anything becomes ‘a safe bet.’

Talking about immersive technology, Gouge asks about our current habit of studying our devices to the exclusion of all else. Stephenson says that he sees this as something that will look old when we look back on it from a future perspective: the tech of the future will not need a device to work, it will instead be all around us. It will be social: or at least he hopes that it will be more satisfactory than what we have now.

In talking about controlling our future, Stephenson says there are always unintended consequences of new ways of communicating. People are beginning to realise there is something broken and wrong about how people behave on social media, especially Twitter. People believed at the beginning of the Internet that it would have a utopian effect on our world; this hasn’t entirely been true. Mob mentality has taken over in some forums, twitter included.

So how does Neal Stephenson deal with the pressure of being a Futurist? “I sit alone in a little room and I make stuff up. It would kill my productivity if I was worried about the predictability of the future.”

A fantastic morning, well-spent. It was a bit surreal to leave the Embassy with all these thoughts of the future, only to be thrust relentlessly into our current time, with hordes of All Black supporters filling Wellington’s streets. It seemed only fitting that the boss should pop in with champagne at lunchtime.

Event attended and reviewed by Sarah Forster

Read Neal Stephenson – here is his website to help you figure out where to start.

Book Review: The Marvels, by Brian Selznick

Available in bookshops nationwide.

I pp_Marvels_StandingShothave been an avid fan of Selznick since first getting my hands on The Invention of Hugo
. His combination of beautiful pencil crosshatch drawings and the written word is spellbinding. The Marvels tells a tale of a dragon and an angel, a shipwreck, a fire, and a family of actors who become entwined with the history of the Royal Theatre in London. The production levels on the book are extremely high – the gold edges are flawless, and the cover is incredible.

The first two-thirds of the book is told entirely in illustration, beginning in 1766 with the story of Billy Marvel, who with his brother Marcus and their dog Tar, survives the shipwreck of The Kraken during a fierce storm. Marcus dies and Billy buries him on the island at which they come ashore. After the fire Billy built for warmth catches the islands’ trees alight, he is rescued and taken to London. There he finds himself drawn to the Royal Theatre, working back-of-stage with the ropes and pullies, very similar to those used on a ship.

One evening, he hears a noise in the alley behind the theatre, and finds a baby with a note “Please someone raise my baby to be a good man in a bad world.” He names him Marcus, for his brother, and Marcus goes on to found four more generations of actors. The movement of time is handled via newspaper clippings, theatre signs and notations on official documents. The illustration is fluid and done from various perspectives – eye of god and first-person – which makes for an entrancing story.

As we near the end of the illustrated story, there is a great fire, from which we are uncertain of the characters’ survival, then we jump forward to 1990. Joseph has just run away from his exclusive boys’ school, and is lost in London, looking for his Uncle Nightingale’s house. He has never met his Uncle, and he has no idea of the reception he is in for when he finally, with the help of Frankie, who is out chasing her dog – or she wants it to be her dog.

Albert Nightingale turns out to be less than encouraging when Joseph asks to be allowed to stay. His house is set out in a very precise manner, and he wishes for it to stay that way – he doesn’t think that Joseph could understand why, and red-haired Joseph begins to piece together clues to figure out what Albert is hiding: based on some of the old portraits, he thinks this may be the history of his own family.

The written story is just as fascinating as the illustrated one, giving a sense of the immense history of London. One of Albert’s pastimes is mudlarking, and as he and Joseph draw closer he says while looking at fragments from the Thames, “I’ll guarantee you this, every fragment you see here, every scrap, once held a story.” This is apt, because this book is, more than anything, about how important stories are to humanity: how powerful they can be, if created carefully.

There is joy and sorrow in this book, pride and secrecy too. There are many life truths. It reminded me of From the Cutting Room of Barney Kettle a little in the way it lifted up story to its pinnacle. Near the end of the book, Joseph is thinking about Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, and he thinks about the mother being saved while the prince isn’t, and thinks “That’s what life is … miracles and sadness, side by side.”

I will be astounded if this book doesn’t garner awards – it deserves them. Buy it if you love uniquely brilliant storytelling.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

The Marvels
by Brian Selznick
Published by Scholastic
ISBN 9780545448680

Words of the Day: Monday, 11 November 2013



This is a digest of our Twitter feed that we email out most Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Sign up here for free if you’d like it emailed to you.

Book reviews
Booksellers NZ’s Preview of Reviews, Issue 2, Friday 8 November

Book Review: The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud

ODT on Wake. Very nice.

Our review of The Devouring Dragon (Awa Press) talks about trad chinese medicine…

New Releases
Tragedy at Pike River Mine by Rebecca Macfie on sale today at all good bookstores and (if you don’t live near one) on Awa’s website

Peter McLeavey: The life and times of a New Zealand Art Dealer – listing & great book trailer

Dr Laurence Fearnley and Arno Gasteiger talk about their book 45 South

Author Interviews
An interview with Pip Adam. Booknotes Unbound ask her about her new novel VUP Books and what she’ll build next

If you are in the mood for a bit of Kiwi gothic, Beryl Fletcher’s Juno & Hannah is for you. Win a copy.

(Sarah) Did you see our contibution to the Maia & What Matters blog tour? It has a giveaway..

Our competitions: you have two hours to enter for the 100 People giveaway  But wait, there’s more…

New Zealand’s Lost Heritage, reviewed here is launching tomo eve @Auckland_Libs central. @NewHollandNZ

Book News
An official notification for our member stores from Penguin NZ

Two great pieces of news from Friday

Bookstores – check out our indiebound promo materials for Christmas. Sign up now!

Meet Maia Blog Tour: Story Bridge, an inter-generational storytelling project inspired by Maia and What Matters

Mega-bumper issue of @4thFloorJournal is live now. Check it out – HEAPS of great writers

Another young writer to watch out for: Claire Vaye Watkins wins the Dylan Thomas Prize

From around the internet
10 famous mean book reviews, edited for Buzzfeed Books’ new positive-only policy

A worthwhile read about online advertising

Nice to know it’s not just us…

What 20 years of best sellers say about what we read via @usatoday

Enjoy folks, and don’t forget if you are enjoy this blog post, to share it with your friends so they can enjoy it too…

Book review: Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm

This book is in bookstores now.

If there is a child in your life aged between six and 10, you need to get them this beautifully published version of the classic Grimm Brothers fairy tales. Penguin has done a great job with this edition – a cloth cover with heavy gold and silver detailing, beautiful silver end papers, and a mix of original black and white illustrations and a small number of modern day colour plates by wonderful children’s illustrators such as Quentin Blake, Raymond Briggs and Helen Oxenbury.

This is the sort of book I think of as an heirloom, something to keep for the next generation and beyond.

The stories are in the original form (first published in 1823), so the language is slightly dated, but still very readable. The content is as good as ever, and it’s refreshing to reread the stories without the influence of Disney – The Lady and the Lion (aka Beauty and the Beast) is almost unrecognisable.

There is no sugary-sweetness in these stories, and not a lot of happily-ever-afters. The morals are still as relevant today as they would have been at the time the Brothers Grimm collected from their native Germany: work hard, don’t be greedy, be kind and generous, cleverness will usually be rewarded, listen to good advice, keep your promises.

Buy this for someone who loves being read aloud to, but doesn’t mind if there’s not a picture on every page, or who is a confident reader and likes reading to themselves. The stories are a perfect length for bedtime reading, and will be wonderfully familiar to many adult readers.

This is a book to keep and treasure for a long time. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore, a primary school teacher who loves sharing books with her students and revisiting the classics.

Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm
Iintroduced by Cornelia Funke
Published by Puffin Books
ISBN 9780141343075