- Why did I want to be an illustrator?
- What is the best thing about being an illustrator?
- What is your favourite New Zealand Book?
- What do you love most about New Zealand?
- What do you love most about libraries?
I think I wanted to be a writer because I was a reader, and I wanted to be able to write a book as well as read one. It frustrated and puzzled me for a long time that writing a book seemed as if it should be so easy – but it actually it takes a lot of work on the writer’s part to make it look that easy.
There are lots of good things – can I have two? One is getting to do the best job of all, which is making stuff up and inventing places that you’d like to spend time in and characters whom you’d love to meet. The other is when someone writes or emails or comes up to tell you in person that they really liked one of your books.
Too hard! I could say any book of poetry by Jenny Bornholdt, especially The rocky shore. Also any books by wonderful NZ authors for children and young adults – too many to single out, but Fleur Beale, Mandy Hager and Jack Lasenby for starters (just to mention a few whom we are lucky to have living in and around Wellington.)
I love that we are a beautiful, free country where we can think what we like, say what we like, read what we write and write what we like. I love that we have beautiful beaches that aren’t all built up with skyscrapers and hotels. I love that we have wonderful books and great bookstores, cinemas and theatres and fabulous writers. I love that my family and friends live here, and my husband and three gorgeous daughters.
I used to be a librarian myself, and I spent hours in them as a child, so I feel very at home in libraries. Not just the libraries I use most, but any library anywhere can make you feel welcomed and belonging as soon as you walk in. I’m also grateful that I can use them to find out all sorts of information that I need for writing non fiction, and for the background to fiction as well.
Philippa Werry is a children’s writer whose non-fiction, poetry, stories and plays have been widely published, and also broadcast on National Radio. Philipp’s work has appeared in various anthologies and she has written over 100 pieces for the School Journal and other educational publishers. Her latest book is Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story (published by New Holland Publishers NZ) is a nonfiction book about Anzac Day, what it is and why it matters.
I was lucky to grow up in a family who loved books and valued reading. Although I wrote my first book when I was nine (it wasn’t very good – I’m sure many of you could do better today!) I didn’t really start writing until I had children of my own. Sharing books with them was such a delight that I decided to make my own books. I wrote and illustrated them on the kitchen table, and later mustered up the courage to send some to a publisher. It took a few years of persistence before the first one was accepted and published. Although I didn’t set out to write lots of books, once started I haven’t been able to stop. Well, not yet.
For me, it’s the pleasure of creativity. I really enjoy the process of developing an idea, or combining several, into a story that is new and original. Working with the illustrator and seeing the pages come to life with skilful artwork is also an enjoyable experience, followed by reading the finished book for the first time.
I have so many it’s hard to choose. I enjoy Joy Cowley’s warmth and surprise endings, and the delightful humour in John Parker’s Poppa McPhee Gets the Eggs. However my favourite is probably Robyn Belton’s Herbert : The Brave Seadog because it is a story with such heart and I know something of the special background to the book.
I admire the inventiveness, adaptability and creativity of New Zealanders, which I feel is a legacy of our pioneering past.
I must confess I’ve never been very good at finding my way around libraries, so what I love most is the generous response from librarians when asked “Please, can you help me…”
Jennifer Beck is the author of more than 45 children’s books. She has worked with many different illustrators, including Robyn Belton and Lindy Fisher. Her books have also won many awards, including the Elsie Locke Award and the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award. Jennifer’s latest book is Remember That November, illustrated by Lindy Fisher.
Like many kids I’m a fan of series. There’s nothing better than sinking your teeth into a great series and being able to read more than one book featuring your favourite characters. While there aren’t a heap of New Zealand series for kids and teens there are some that really stand out for me. Some of them make me laugh again and again, while others take me to different times and places. Here are my Top 5 NZ series for kids and teens.
If you have this series in your library, get it out on display and promote it to your Year 5+ kids, especially the boys.
Recommended for 9+
Once I got in to Juno of Taris I couldn’t put it down. Fleur Beale’s strength with this series is her characters, the strong bonds between them and also the conflict between them. Fleur really makes you feel for her characters and the strange situation that they are in. After reading the first book, I would have been satisfied to leave the characters as they were, then Fleur wrote two sequels. I really enjoyed following these characters as they settled into their new life, and it was great to find out more about the other characters in the series.
Recommended for 11+
Prehistoric toilet humour – what more can you ask for! These books are full of dinosaur farts, dinosaur poo, caveman vomit and partial caveman nudity. Not only are they disgusting and hilarious, you also learn heaps about dinosaurs and prehistoric life. The challenge is trying to figure out what is factually accurate or just a huge whopper. Kyle and Donovan are too of the wackiest people to ever be thrown together to create a series and it’s a truly winning combination. If your children haven’t discovered this series yet they are seriously missing out.
Recommended for 7+
The My New Zealand Story series from Scholastic New Zealand introduces children to different events and periods of New Zealand’s history. I love this series because it gives a snapshot of the life of a fictional character (based on real people) and how they cope with life in the goldfields, or in colonial New Zealand, or how they react to a disaster like the Napier Earthquake. These books also highlight how different the lives of the characters is to the lives of children today. They really bring history alive for young readers and connect them with the history of their country. The latest in the series is Cyclone Bola by Kath Beattie and my school librarian friend, Desna, has a book in the series coming out next year.
Recommended for 9+
Barbara Else’s Tales of Fontania series is a fantasy series that stands out from the crowd. Barbara has an incredible imagination and her world and characters jump off the page. Her tales are full of adventure, danger, royalty, spies, flying trains, a floating restaurant, stinky trolls, poisonous toads and much, much more. You never know what who or what you’re going to meet next. Thanks to the stunning covers by Sam Broad the books jump off the shelf and grab your attention. I have it on good authority that there are more Tales of Fontania to come too.
Because I have always had a vivid imagination, and when I was small I was a real chatterbox with lots of ideas to share. Writing is sort of like talking a lot on paper.
I can put my ideas into a story and they will reach heaps and heaps of people I may never even meet! My words might make someone laugh or cry, they might even teach them something or change the way they look at the world. That’s pretty amazing.
Under the Mountain.
Oh I can’t just love one thing, I need at least two, so I’m going to cheat here. I love our beaches, and being able to swim or walk by the sea every day. I also love our own unique culture, and how much more Te Reo Maori and Maori expressions have become part of everyone’s culture.
I love being able to read lots and lots and lots of books. Is it weird to say I also love the bookish smell of libraries, yum, all those words wiggling around in their books and making their own special smell.
Melanie Drewery is an author, illustrator and artist who writes primarily for children. Koro’s Medicine was a finalist in the Picture Book Category of the 2005 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children & Young Adults, and the Maori translation of this title, by Kararaina Uatuku, won the 2005 Te Kura Pounamu Award. Melanie won the Picture Book section of the 2008 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults for her book Tahi: One Lucky Kiwi.
I have always loved writing. I wrote my first book when I was seven – I have it still; it’s called ‘Stories of the Little Elf’ – but it still took me quite a long time to get around to writing fiction as a job. Instead I had a range of jobs that involved editing or non-fiction writing. It wasn’t until I left full-time work to raise my kids that I really found the right space and time for writing fiction. From that moment, there was no looking back!
The very best thing is being able to spend not just hours but weeks and months following your characters through the twists and turns of their lives. It’s almost like living lots of different lives yourself.
‘The Changeover’ by Margaret Mahy. This is a perfect book: it captures the challenge and discovery of negotiating adolescence; it was one of the first novels I read set in my own country, which is highly affirming of your place in the world; and the writing is absolutely flawless.
I’ve lived in various places around the world but always knew I’d come back to New Zealand. We have beautiful and varied landscapes, we have clear air and a great climate, but we also have our own way of being. I fit in here! For better or worse, New Zealanders are outspoken, hard working, down to earth, determined. We believe anything is possible – and so we make the world that way.
The limitless possibility that lies on the shelves! I remember a moment of sorrowful realisation when I was about ten and it struck me that I would never have time to read every book in the library. I love that libraries make so much available to anyone who walks through the doors.
Anna Mackenzie is a full-time writer who writes young adult fiction. Her first novel, High Tide, was published in 2003 and her third novel, Sea-wreck Stranger, won the Young Adult Fiction Honour Award at the 2008 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Anna’s latest book, Cattra’s Legacy, is published in April by Random House New Zealand.
It’s the last week of NZ Book Month for 2013. I always enjoy NZ Book Month because I love reading books by our wonderful New Zealand authors and illustrators. I hope you’ve read some great NZ books this month and enjoyed my Fast Five Questions with NZ authors and illustrators.
To finish NZ Book Month I’m giving away a New Zealand Kids Book Pack, thanks to Scholastic New Zealand. The pack includes:
To get in the draw just leave a comment (with your name and email address) telling me about a New Zealand book you’ve read and loved this NZ Book Month. Competition closes Sunday 31 March (NZ only).
Thanks to everyone who entered. The winner is the Rodgers-Foran family. I hope you enjoy your books!
Today I’m joined by the wonderful Melinda Szymanik, author of the powerful new book, A Winter’s Day in 1939. Based on her father’s experiences during World War II, A Winter’s Day in 1939 is a story of family, the harsh realities of war, and the fight for survival against the odds. Melinda has written a really interesting post for My Best Friends Are Books about why and how she wrote A Winter’s Day in 1939.
When the Soviet soldiers come and order them out, Adam and his family have no idea where they are going or if they will ever come back. The Germans have attacked Poland and the world is at war. Boarding a cattle train Adam and his family embark on a journey that will cover thousands of miles and several years, and change all their lives forever. And mine too. Because Adam’s story, the story told in my new novel A Winter’s Day in 1939, is very much my Dad’s story.
I often heard fragments of this story from my dad when I was growing up. It was shocking, and sad, and amazing. My Dad’s family was forced out of their home and taken to a labour camp in Russia. It was freezing cold, and many people died from disease or starvation. Even when the Soviets finally let them go, they spent weeks travelling around the USSR , were made to work on Soviet farms and were still hungry and often sick, with no idea of where they might end up next. As a child growing up in a peaceful place like New Zealand it was hard to imagine the real dangers and terrible conditions my father experienced.
I didn’t get to know the full story until I was grown up with children of my own and was regularly writing stories for children. I wrote a short story, also called A Winter’s Day in 1939, based on a single event I knew fairly well from my Dad‘s childhood – when Soviet Soldiers first come to order them off their farm, the only home my father had known up till that point in his life. The story was published in The Australian School Magazine. I showed the short story to the publishers Scholastic who liked it too. They wondered if I could turn it in to a novel. This was a chance to tell my father’s story. By now I knew it was an important story that should be shared
Luckily my Dad had made notes about his life during World War Two; about twenty pages all typed up. However I know people’s real lives don’t always fit into the framework of a novel and I knew I would have to emphasize some things and maybe leave other things out.
I read and researched to add the right details to the story. And asked my parents lots of questions. How cold was it in Poland in January 1940? Who or what were the NKVD? What were the trains like? What are the symptoms of typhoid? How do you make your own skis? Some information was hard to find. Some of the places that existed in the 1940s aren’t there anymore. And people didn’t keep records about how many people were taken to the USSR from Poland or what happened to particular individuals. But what I wanted to give readers most of all was a sense of how it felt to live that life. So this then is the story of a twelve year old Polish boy in the USSR during World War 2 that all started on A Winter’s Day in 1939.
I’ve been writing since I was a small girl. Telling stories is just something I do and want to do and as a small child had to do. We didn’t have many books…we were poor (as many were way back then) so we wrote our own stories (and illustrated them!). We loved writing to the children’s page of the NZ Herald…and later as I grew I wrote stories for the local newspapers and various magazines.
I think the greatest fun is finding a way to tell a story in a new way or to find a new and different character. I still love the story I wrote where one of the characters in the story talks to me the writer! She gets mad because she doesn’t want to say what I want her to say! So I threaten to write her out of the story…sadly the story has never been published!
I always dislike this sort of question. I love many many books for many many different reasons. And there are SO many marvellous books written by New Zealanders.
Again I have many reasons for loving NZ. I particularly love the outdoors…our beautiful wild coastline, the lush and glorious bush, rugged mountains and hills country and the growing interest in our ‘wildlife’. I also love that we have so so many opportunities for education, sport, the arts etc. and rejoice that we can have very full and interesting lives as well as helping the less advantaged.
When I was much much younger I used to find libraries a little daunting…no longer. Libraries these days are so welcoming. The staff are wonderfully helpful and almost any book we would like to read a librarian can find it or order it for us. Libraries don’t just have books…there are CDs and now electronic readers. I have written a couple of historical fiction books and the archivists at the libraries I have visited have been wizards at finding me information. Libraries are busy friendly places. Make sure you get to know yours. The books are free as well!!
Kath Beattie is the author of two books in the My New Zealand Story series, Gumdigger and Cyclone Bola (released this month). Kath has also had her stories published in anthologies, including Dare and Double Dare and Mischief and Mayhem.
Stories are one of my favourite things in the whole world (as are books), so it made sense to me that I would enjoy writing them, and I do. I have carried the stories I read as a child with me into adulthood, and as I got older I read stories that I considered so incredibly beautiful (or moving, or sometimes funny) they were like sunsets or landscapes or other natural wonders. That’s a pretty amazing impact to have, and I wanted to give it a try. Imagine being able to create something that had that effect on another person! I haven’t managed it yet, but I’m still trying.
Writing stories. Entering, and dwelling in, the fabulous zone they come from. Playing with the words (endlessly) until they make patterns and poems on the page.
Oh, hard. For children, it’s probably Peter and the Pig by Simon Grant, because every single time I read it, I laugh. I wish I could write something that funny! For adults, anything by Patricia Grace, but then she writes wonderfully for children too.
The colour and clarity of the light, the emptiness of the sky, the smell and the air of the bush. I lived in Scotland for a while and these were the things I missed. They were in my bones and they sung to me while I was away.
How excited I feel every time I enter one. All that interest, all those stories, all that knowledge, sitting on a shelf waiting for me to find it. And knowing that I’m going to walk out the door with a book in my hand and a new possibility in my life. Libraries are portals. They should house them in a tardis.
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