The blog to end our 20-day blog tour!

BookAwards_CC_900x320_v3_bannerWe have just finished a fabulous four-week tour around our authors inspirations, aims and achievements with their Children’s Choice finalist books. Now it is time for you to help your kids to vote their favourite book and author to win: they will be in to win a selection of finalists for themselves and their school if they do! Kids can select a winner in each category; the winning book of each category will win a prize at the Book Awards ceremony on Thursday 13 August. Thank you to all of the other blogs who have hosted these interviews!

Children's_choice_ya_fic_V2jpgDuring the first week of our tour, we heard from the Young Adult fiction finalists. We heard from Ella West (who, like any good super author, writes under a pseudonym) who dedicated Night Vision to Trish Brooking, because she still takes her out for lunch, after looking after her as Otago Education College Writer in Residence in 2010. We learned that Natalie King has not one but three pseudonyms, and was inspired by a dream of a lake to write the book Awakening, which begins with a mysterious necklace drawn from a lake. While Jill Harris sadly passed away in December, Makaro Press publisher Mary McCallum told us that she published her book The Red Suitcase because the opening chapter inside a Lancaster bomber had her riveted. I Am Rebecca was a return to a character that author Fleur Beale had written about before, in I am not Esther. She told us that the secret to her amazing characters is simply to “walk in the shoes of the character so that what happens to the character informs the story.” Our final YA author was Nelson-based Rachael Craw, who had two interviews in two different places! Spark was also inspired by a dream, which took 5 and a half years to come to fruition: she had to learn to write first! She was inspired by the power of DNA when she met her birth mother.

Children's_choice_picbook_v4Week two saw us jump back a few reading years to the Picture Book finalists. Scott Tulloch ran I am Not a Worm past fellow Children’s Choice finalist Juliette MacIver and her kids, and her oldest son Louis suggested what became the final line in the book: “I like butterflies.” Yvonne Morrison, author of Little Red Riding Hood…Not Quite, told us she was about to leave NZ for a new job in Vietnam, living on a jungle island and managing a centre for endangered primates! Donovan Bixley covered two finalist books in one interview, Little Red and Junior Fiction book Dragon Knight: Fire! and he said that working with the same authors again and again means he can just do a messy scribble at the early stage of illustrating, and they will trust him to flesh it out!  Jo van Dam wrote doggy rhymes for her own children when they were young, and this became Doggy Ditties from A to Z. This is illustrated by Myles Lawford, who had to do a lot of research to make sure he illustrated each breed accurately. Peter Millet answered his own question about pets in the army with The Anzac Puppy, illustrated by Trish Bowles, who used to get in trouble at school for drawing: she now gets rewarded for it! Juliette MacIver likes to feature things in her books that children see in their everyday lives – “monkeys, old wooden galleons, pirates, for example, things that children encounter most days on their way to kindy or school.” Marmaduke Duck and the Wide Blue Seas was the third in the series by her and Sarah Davis, who reckons Juliette sometimes writes things in just to annoy her: ”52 marmosets leaped on board”?!? Seriously!!? Do you know how long it takes to draw 52 marmosets? Much longer than it takes to write the words “52 marmosets”, that’s for sure.”

Children's_choice_JUNIOR_V4We began the Junior Fiction category with an interview with Kyle Mewburn, author of Dragon Knight: Fire!, the first in a new series for the younger Junior Fiction age-group, and a finalist in both the children’s choice and the judges’ lists. Kyle doesn’t let his ideas float around “in case they escape, or some sneaky author steals one.”  The lead character in 1914 – Riding into War, by Susan Brocker, was inspired by her grandfather, Thomas McGee, who served as a mounted rifleman in WW1. Desna Wallace lived through the Canterbury Quake, and the character of Maddy popped into her head on the way home from work as a school librarian one day. “It was a bit crowded in there, so I sat down and wrote it out,” she said. Stacy Gregg‘s story The Island of Lost Horses began when she fell in love, with a picture of an Abaco Barb horse, the breed featured in this story; which is inspired by real events. Suzanne Main won the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon award for the manuscript for How I Alienated My Grandma. This came with an offer of publication from Scholastic NZ, which enabled her to keep backing herself and her work to succeed.Children's_choice_NON_FIC_V3

The Non-fiction category tour began with the double-nominee (in judge’s and children’s choice lists) Māori Art for Kids, written and illustrated by the husband and wife team, Julie Noanoa & Norm Heke. Their aim was “to create something for families to connect with and appreciate Maori art.” Poet Sarah Jane Barnett featured poetry title The Letterbox Cat & other poems by Paula Green and Myles Lawford on her blog The Red Room. Paula says, “When I saw the way the zesty illustrations of Myles Lawford danced on the page, I cried!” Maria Gill followed up her New Zealand Hall of Fame of 2011 with New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame: 25 Kiwi Champions – she says the toughest task was to decide who to leave out. Gorgeous illustration guide book A New Zealand Nature Journal, by Sandra Morris, was featured next on NZ Green Buttons. Sandra’s favourite thing to do when not drawing or managing her illustration agency, is tramping, unsurprisingly!  Philippa Werry was in last year’s awards with her great Anzac Day book, and this year she was a children’s choice finalist for Waitangi Day: The New Zealand Story, featured on Barbara Murison’s blog. Philippa focused this book on the day itself, as opposed to the treaty, and she enjoys doing cryptic crosswords while contemplating writing.

While this tour is ending, we will be carrying on our celebration of the book awards, promoting the judges’ list in the Book Awards for Children and Young Adults in the run-up to the awards announcement at Government House on 13 August 2015. There will be giveaways and reviews, and fun besides, so watch this space!


For the full links list for the Book Awards, please head here.

Other blogs involved were: NZ Booklovers blog, Booknotes Unbound, Around the BookshopsThrifty Gifty, My Best Friends are Books, NZ Green Buttons Blog and The Red Room.

Book Review: The Umbrella, by Ingrid & Dieter Schubert

Available in bookstores nationwide.

cv_the_umbrellaA black terrier and a cat venture out on a windy autumn evening and find a bright red umbrella at the end of the garden. When the terrier opens the umbrella he is immediately swept above his house in a flurry of leaves. With that begins the great wordless adventure book by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert. The Schuberts were born in Germany and together have created dozens of books for children. They are among the most famous illustrators in The Netherlands.

Originally published in The Netherlands in 2010, The Umbrella takes its reader on a whirlwind journey. We see the terrier dancing along the clouds before the umbrella sails him across continents and oceans. The little dog’s journey is moved along in a series of inventive ways: an elephant shoots him into the air; he sails the umbrella on a raging sea; he rises from the ocean on a sperm whale’s spout. After entering a rainforest that is alive with spider monkeys he is attacked by a group of spear-wielding villagers. Lucky for the dog, he’s escapes into the air with a pelican, although one spear does lodge itself in the umbrella. The pelican flies him to the Arctic, and finally, the tired dog sails home on a cloud of bats. Arriving back in the garden the cat folds away the umbrella and the terrier looks proud and pleased.

As with the best wordless books, the illustrations contain many details for children to discover over multiple readings. The illustrations in The Umbrella are beautiful – each page is a large format, double spread watercolour. The expressions of the animal characters are delightful, and I defy any reader not to smile at the sight of a particular baby polar bear. Such detailed illustrations allow both parents and children to flex their imaginations. For example, when the dog skips across the sky the background clouds form animal shapes. On another page a child will be surprised by the large snake hiding among a group of alligators! How did the snake get there? What’s her story? Some pages also give hints of what will come next. As the dog swims with an octopus and tropical fish we see the whale rising up beneath him. The illustrations often take different perspectives: sometimes the dog is a speck in sky, whereas in others he’s grinning in the foreground.

The Umbrella will delight animal lovers as the pages contain pink flamingoes, giraffes, hippos, flying fish, seals, arctic rabbits, polar bears and much more. After bringing the book home, my animal obsessed pre-schooler has read it every day, and often by himself. The only off-key moment is when the villagers throw their spears at the dog. This old fashioned depiction of tribal culture – a flashback to Indiana Jones – doesn’t belong in what is essentially a sweet tale of travel and serendipity.

As with other Book Island wordless books such as Follow the Firefly / Run Rabbit Run by Bernardo Carvalho, The Umbrella allows children to create their own story. In this way, the book encourages imagination and independent engagement by children who are still tentative about reading. It’s a genuine gem.

Reviewed by Sarah Jane Barnett

The Umbrella
by Ingrid & Dieter Schubert
Published by Book Island, 2015
ISBN 9780994109859