N.B. All views and opinions expressed in this post are my own. They in no way reflect those of the 2014 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards judging committee.
It’s now three weeks since I got my first lot of books that were submitted for next year’s New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. I’ve been mixing up my reading, switching between junior fiction and young adult fiction. So far, I’ve been really impressed with the quality of the writing and the range of genres represented. Deborah Burnside’s Rebecca and the Queen of Nations transported me back in time, Vince Ford’s Scrap: Tale of a Blond Puppy introduced me to the life of a sheep-dog, I spent a week in a hut with no power in Joy Cowley’s Dunger, and I met a young Odysseus in Catherine Mayo’s Murder at Mykenai. One of my favourites so far has been Bugs by Whiti Hereaka, a Young Adult book about the unfolding lives of three young people in their last year of school in small-town New Zealand.
At the weekend I read my way through the 49 submitted picture books, labeling them and sorting them into 4 piles. There are some truly brilliant picture books, some really bad ones, and quite a few in between. It’s been interesting looking at what picture books have been included in ‘Best of 2013′ lists. There have been a couple that others have highlighted at ‘bests’ which I consider fairly average, but I’m not going to name them. It’s easy to identify the brilliant picture books, by their high-quality production and design, stunning illustrations, and text that flows and bounces. Here are a couple of my picture book highlights:
I’m looking forward to meeting with my fellow judges and hearing their opinions of the books that they have read. I’m curious to find out whether we have similar opinions on our top books.
Imagine my surprise when I came back from a couple of days away to find 3 big boxes of books waiting for me. Ever since the announcement that I’m going to be a judge for the 2014 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards, I’ve been wondering which books will be chosen to be considered for the awards. There have been so many wonderful New Zealand books published in the last year and I’ve had quite a few favourites.
When I couldn’t wait any longer I opened the boxes to find 104 beauties (only the first lot of submissions) waiting for me to open their covers and discover the stories and information that await inside. I was glad to find my favourites, those stories that have stuck in my mind, as well as some I had really wanted to read but hadn’t got around to, and some books that I hadn’t even heard of. There are some whose covers and design jump right out at you and beg to be read, and others whose poor design and production will be barriers for some readers discovering the story within the pages.
I sorted the books into those that I have read and those that I haven’t, and as you can see by the photo there is quite a difference. My first goal is to go back through those I have read so far this year and remind myself what it was that I liked/didn’t like about them, then start some serious reading of my ‘to-be-read pile.’
My mountain of books awaits me so I must get started. I’ll report back soon on how the reading is going and what gems I have discovered.
Greg Heffley’s on a losing streak. His best friend, Rowley Jefferson, has ditched him, and finding new friends in middle school is proving to be a tough task. To change his fortunes, Greg decides to take a leap of faith and turn his decisions over to chance. Will a roll of the dice turn things around, or is Greg’s life destined to be just another hard-luck story?
Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 8: Hard Luck, is due out in November from Puffin Books.
What if your whole world was a lie? What if a single revelation – like a single choice – changed everything? What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected? The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered – fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature – and of herself – while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love. Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.
Allegiant, the final book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent Trilogy is out now. I’ve been hearing good things about it and I’m curious to find out how the series ends. I thought the second book, Insurgent, was a bit lacklustre, so hopefully Allegiant will be a satisfying conclusion to the series.
It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry – and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures is the latest book from award-winning Kate DiCamillo. I’m a huge fan of Kate’s (The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane are among my most favourite books) and this book sounds just as marvellous.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures is available now from your library or bookshop.
I’m thrilled to finally be able to announce that I’ll be joining Barbara Else and Ant Sang as a judge for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards next year. I’m incredibly honoured to be a part of the awards and it’s very exciting.
I’ve been a part of the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Festival for the last 3 years, as the coordinator for the Canterbury Festival. This is a role that I have loved as it has given me the chance to take the finalist books out to my region and share them with children of all ages. The roadshow that our Canterbury committee did this year for the Festival was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a librarian, as we got to talk about the finalist books and read them to so many children in our region. Having the opportunity to actually be one of the three people choosing which books are the best books in New Zealand over the past year feels absolutely incredible. We have so many talented authors and illustrators in New Zealand who create some magical, captivating, adventure-filled and even heart-breaking books, so it is going to be a huge task to choose the best.
I’m going to have lots of reading ahead of me – approximately 120 books! I’m certainly looking forward to receiving my first box of books and starting my reading. There will be books that I’ve already read and loved, but there are sure to be some treasures that I’m yet to discover. I hope to share some thoughts on my life as a judge here on the blog and talk about some of the books I’m reading.
How exciting is it to be a judge? Let Kermit show you:
To find out more about the 2014 judges check out the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards website.
I love a good ghost story, something that will scare me a bit. Children’s horror is one of my favourite genres and I’ll snap up anything new that comes along. When I first heard about Jonathan Stroud’s new series, Lockwood and Co., I knew that it would be exactly the sort of creepy ghost story I would love. The first book in the series, The Screaming Staircase takes you inside the world of the ghost-hunters of Lockwood and Co. and once you’ve entered you won’t want to leave.
When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.
The Screaming Staircase is one of the most exciting books I’ve read this year. Jonathan Stroud had me on the edge of my seat, anticipating a ghost to jump out at me around every twist and turn of the plot. Jonathan has created such a chilling atmosphere in the book that you hear the creaks and groans of the old houses and almost feel the temperature drop in the room as the characters get closer to the ghosts. You get caught up in the mystery of the lives of the living and the dead and Jonathan keeps you in suspense.
I love the world that Jonathan has created in the book; one much like ours but one plagued by ghosts of all sorts. There are different types of ghosts, from a Type One Shade to a Type Two Wraith. There are Physic Investigation Agencies (of which Lockwood and Co. is one) which specialise in the ‘containment and destruction of ghosts.’ These are run by adult supervisors but rely on the strong physic Talent of children. It is only children who can see and hear the ghosts so it is up to them to capture them. There is no mention of when the story is set (which I think just makes the story even better), but there is a mixture of both old-fashioned clothes and weapons, and modern technology. The ghost hunters’ kit includes an iron rapier, iron chains and magnesium flares, all of which prove extremely necessary when facing the spectral threats. Jonathan has even included a detailed glossary of terms and types of ghost, which I found really interesting to read after I had finished the book.
The three main characters, all members of Lockwood and Co., are all fantastic characters who really grew on me as the story progressed. They each have their quirks, especially Lockwood and George, but they make a brilliant team and have each others’ backs when it counts. There’s no love triangle here, just good old-fashioned camaraderie and getting the job done (if it doesn’t kill them first). Lockwood, George and Lucy are building their relationship in this book, so there are some tense moments between them (especially George and Lucy) but Jonathan’s dialogue is brilliant. I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationships develop in the further books.
I can’t wait for more Lockwood and Co.! If you want a book that you won’t want to put down, that you’ll want to read with the lights on, then Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase is perfect. I can’t recommend it highly enough.