Monday, 30 April 2012

Words & art combine to melt my heart

I'm a sucker for poetry. My inner wordsmith wishes I could be succinct and eloquent enough to write good poetry. Listening to poets read their work aloud is a real treat. I'll hazard a guess that my heart will indeed be won over by someone who finds (or writes) me a poem, reads it aloud & melts my heart.

In the meantime, I will indulge myself with this delicious new anthology, Dear Heart : 150 New Zealand Love Poems, edited by Paula Green.

150 poems. I went searching for some of my favourite poets (Hinemoana Baker, Robert Sullivan, Apirana Taylor, Jenny Bornholdt) and was delighted to find them included. I've also discovered several new poets who I want to read more of, after their poems in this book touched me.

9 artworks. My favourite is John Pule's on page 109. It was the first page that I opened the book at, and it still makes me smile every time I turn to it.

I challenge you to find a poem in this collection & read it to someone you love. Guarantee it'll make your day and their day so much brighter.

Friday, 27 April 2012

5 film guides to make me feel deficient as a the best way possible

"There are only three ages for women in Hollywood - Babe, District Attorney, and Driving Miss Daisy."
- Goldie Hawn

Title:A horrible experience of unbearable length : more movies that suck
Author: Roger Ebert
Year: c2012
Summary: Ebert's I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie and Your Movie Sucks, which gathered some of his most scathing reviews, were bestsellers. This new collection continues the tradition, reviewing not only movies that were at the bottom of the barrel, but also movies that he found underneath the barrel.

I am kinda bad at choosing movies. Well, no, I'm *really* bad at choosing movies to watch. This is no secret. While it's not something I would say I wear as a point of pride, it isn't something I'm embarrassed about. I figure there are worse things that could populate that particular list. When we have a bad movie night my nephews cringe AND rejoice when it's my turn to pick something. I could, I suppose, get huffy about it and be all hurt. But there's no fun in that. How can I torture my nephews with terrible-to-them films that are wonderful-to-me? THIS IS HOW! I feel like I need to increase the likelihood of my finding stuff that only I will like, which is where these film guides come in handy. Ordinarily, these things brass me off. They all feature films that are deep and meaningful and full of great dialogue and Oscar nominated films. You know the kind of thing I mean: worthy :/ Guides like that make me feel like I'm lacking and yes, I know, that says more about ME than it does about the BOOK *blows raspberry* I was playing in the catalogue looking for something-or-other and came across Ebert's book A horrible experience of unbearable length : more movies that suck, which sounded like MY KIND OF THING *places request* It also made me wonder what else we had sitting undiscovered in our libraries that offered something a bit different, something alone the lines of what I'm after - a little bit of quirk factor, a dash of off-kilter, and a sprinkling of what-the-heck. And came up with THIS: 5 film guides to make me feel deficient as a the best way possible. My nephews won't know what hit them. Roll on bad/strange/mad/crazy movie nights!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Picture books aren't just for under fives

If you think picture books are just for kids, think again. At one of my book groups last year (made up over folks over 30), we discussed Duck, Death and the Tulip. It provoked a lot of discussion, who was it "aimed" at? After much discussion, we couldn't come to a concensus.

I've found another title that also got me thinking - who is it written for? I immediately wished I was a high school teacher of Art or English (that happens to me occasionally!) so I could use this book to provoke the students. Instead, I'll share it with you, fellow blog reader(s).

I am Thomas written by Libby Gleeson and illustrated by Armin Greder is 32 pages long. Typical picture length, but the audience is definitely not for the under five brigade.

The opening lines two lines are "I am Thomas." and "I am not the child I once was.".

The scene is set for a short (but powerful) tale of standing strong and being yourself, against a back drop of family expectations, peer pressure, societal group-think.

The imagery and language references are provactive, and evoked an uncomfortable reaction for me on the first read through. There are many layers and ideas that need to be re-read, un-picked, pondered on and debated about. I could imagine talking about this book alongside George Orwell's 1984, or WWII propaganda posters, or even Pink Floyd's The Wall album.

For me, it is another key example of picture books definitely not always being for under fives!

Friday, 20 April 2012

5 crazy, mad, beautiful, strange book related crafts I found in Etsy...on purpose

I've been a member of Etsy for about a year now, but I have never bought anything from there. Not for lack of choice, certainly. If anything, there's probably too much choice. First world problems? I haz them :P As an oft failed craftsperson, I covet Etsy crafters' skills, and products. Yes, even the strange and usual. I love to admire the beautiful steampunk gadgets, rings (I'm a sucker for big, ugly, gaudy rings - seriously check out these ones I picked up in New Orleans: ladybug, huge beads, and cameo style), blue jars with feathers (for some reason unknown to me), hand painted canvas shoes and, believe it or not, book related crafts. Seriously, I cannot get enough of them. And not just any kind of book related craft, no, because that would be normal of me, wouldn't it? I'm talking the kind of stuff that makes me go, "YES, BUT WHY?!?" Sometimes I'll email links of book related crafts to friends and family. Mostly they reply with, "WTF? Get away with those!" They don't understand why I enjoy them so much. Sure, some of them are a big dose of WTH, right? Who can fault their passion, though? Not to mention that they're book related crafts! Earlier this week on our @Auckland_Libs tweetstream I flicked out a link to the Etsy image that accompanies today's post. It had popped up in my RSS feeds earlier that morning and, truly, defied logic. Or my kind of logic, anyway. Sure, I don't get it, especially not being a Twilight fan, however I admire their sense of humour. (I'm assuming it's humorous?). And if isn't, then I admire their dedication to their fandom. Even though I don't understand it. Which made me wonder...What other Twilight-related Etsy items could I turn into a post? And here is your answer :)

Note: I chose the Twilight book to focus on for this particular post and, maybe in a week or two, I'll choose another book. I'm sure you're thinking, "YAY ME!" Right...? Clicking on the links will take you to the actual pages where these items are being sold, and where you can view 5 crazy, mad, beautiful, strange book related crafts in all their Twilight-ness! AND make sure to check out this link of a Twilight-inspired Edward/Jacob prom dress, the link of which was sent to our @Auckland_Libs tweetstream.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Running the Rift

A marriage of sport and politics in the year of the Olympics seemed a good enough reason for me to pick up Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron which delves into life in Rwanda in the lead up to the tragic genocide that will forever be part of their history.

Jean Patrick moves through this book growing from a young boy who loses his father, to become an athlete striving to get to the Olympics, but who cannot avoid being thrust into the political world of Hutu and Tutsi and the struggle for power. The author captures the growing tension of day to day life and the different structure that governs the world of the Tutsi, unable to chose their own course of study at school or even attend school unless they are first in their class.

For me this was a revealing look into the world before the genocide and life after as people sought to put their lives back together, find loved ones and fight for the future of a country that was theirs. In awarding it the Bellwether prize for fiction, Barbara Kingsolver called it "culturally rich and completely engrossing". High praise, well deserved.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Pulitzer Suprises

The 96th annual Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism, Letters, Drama and Music, awarded on the recommendation of the Pulitzer Prize Board, were announced today by Columbia University. And the biggest surprise was that for the first time since 1977 no award was made in the Fiction category (it was, however, not the only category in 2012 in which no award was made). It certainly maintains the integrity and prestige of the Awards, but must have been disappointing to those that were nominated as finalists. Have a look at them and see what you think:

Train Dreams - Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
Robert Grainer is a day laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century-an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime. Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West-its otherworldly flora and fauna, its rugged loggers and bridge builders-the new novella by the National Book Award-winning author of Tree of Smoke captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life."--Publisher description.

Swamplandia! - Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopf).
The Bigtree alligator-wrestling dynasty is in decline, and Swamplandia!, their island home and gator-wrestling theme park, formerly #1 in the region, is swiftly being encroached upon by a fearsome and sophisticated competitor called the World of Darkness. Ava’s mother, the park’s indomitable headliner, has just died; her sister, Ossie, has fallen in love with a spooky character known as the Dredgeman, who may or may not be an actual ghost; and her brilliant big brother, Kiwi, who dreams of becoming a scholar, has just defected to the World of Darkness in a last-ditch effort to keep their family business from going under. Ava’s father, affectionately known as Chief Bigtree, is AWOL; and that leaves Ava, a resourceful but terrified thirteen, to manage ninety-eight gators and the vast, inscrutable landscape of her own grief.-- Publisher description.

The Pale King - David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown and Company).
The character David Foster Wallace is introduced to the banal world of the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, and the host of strange people who work there, in a novel that was unfinished at the time of the author's death.

Awards were made in several other categories though which you can check out at the libraries.

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by the late Manning Marable (Viking) won the American History category, after being moved from the Biography nominations.

George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis (The Penguin Press), won the Biography category.

Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith (Graywolf Press), won the Poetry category

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt (W.W. Norton and Company) won the General Non-fiction category.

For more information and details of finalists in all the categories go to the Pulitzer Prizes website

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Ban the Hunger Games! (and everything else)

Welcome to my first post, ladies and gentlemen - let's hope it's not my last.

You see, I'm weighing in on what seems to be a controversial topic at the moment. Basically, that books such as The Hunger Games (and their films), which depict graphic violence by and against children, are at best desensitising our tender young ones to carnage, and at worst, probably causing school shootings, the current bullying epidemic, and everything short of Srebrenica. Child psychotherapists have called for violent teen fiction to be banned. Even New Zealand children's author Sherryl Jordan has vowed not to watch the movie, saying "Young people today are being desensitised to human pain and desperation, and adults are allowing it, if not actively encouraging it."

Stop reading now if you're over the whole thing already. But I know where I stand: and that's with the authors. (Well, Suzanne Collins, of course. Not Sherryl Jordan.)

To me, it's as silly as blaming Harry Potter for encouraging children to practise witchcraft, or - true story - banning James and the Giant Peach for encouraging drug and alcohol abuse, because of references to snuff, tobacco, whisky and magical crocodiles' tongues. Let's not go into the extraordinary level of violence you find in the average Roald Dahl book. You might as well ban Alice in Wonderland  because Alice drinks a mysterious potion she happens to find down a rabbit hole. Let alone following a rabbit she hasn't been introduced to. Stranger danger anyone? And these books were aimed at a younger audience than The Hunger Games or Tomorrow When the War Began or Alex Rider or Cherub or so many fantastic teen series featuring children in violent situations.

At Auckland Libraries, our policy is never to censor. That's up to the Office of Film and Literature Classification. It's also up to parents to decide what they will and won't allow their children to read. That's partly why parents or guardians are responsible for their children's library memberships. We believe that no one should be forbidden access to whatever they want to read, be it right-wing, left-wing, or just a bit dodgy. Let's take the idea of banning violence in children's books to its logical extreme. That would mean teens could not study The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, because it involves death and gangs (with children fighting children). That's from my third-form English class. Fourth form was that gentle comedy, Lord of the Flies. In fifth-form, it was a book featuring a preteen child discovering violent racism, rape and extreme social ostracism. That was, of course, To Kill a Mockingbird. Romeo and Juliet kill themselves - after Romeo kills another teen. (Sixth-form English). The form system might have disappeared, but the classics remain. What they show are universal truths. And unfortunately, violence against and by children is one of those.

I was bullied dreadfully as a teenager. But I believe children should be able to read about bullying, not protected from it, so that they understand they're not alone. How can we understand something that is never discussed? Maybe bullies themselves will learn from being able to put themselves in someone else's shoes. (Maybe.) I don't believe that because the bullying and repression are by the state in The Hunger Games, or by an invading army in Tomorrow When the War Began, that it makes any difference. Or is bloodless violence easier to tolerate? Personally, I found The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which got so much praise, rather difficult to swallow. Surely no boy over the age of three would ever think of Auschwitz as a holiday camp - but that version of Nazi history was highly sanitised, right up until the nasty end.

The accusation has been levelled at Katniss Everdeen that she is helping to glorify violence as entertainment, because she appears in a reality show, and because the book is itself entertainment and we are made to "participate". One might make the same accusation about those who watch the news, or read the newspapers. In today's world, violence is inextricably linked with ratings, sales and entertainment, whether you like it or not. The new programmes never merely "inform", but consider very carefully the best pictures and the best soundbites because they are what get your attention. I believe it is courageous and extremely timely of Suzanne Collins to have made that point. I don't expect a book that highlights the horrors of war and repression - which The Hunger Games certainly does - to be dull and uninspiring simply because of its content. Or what would be the point? We learn best when we are entertained.

Finally, the comment one columnist made that Katniss Everdeen would have only been a true "heroine" if she had simply allowed herself, her mother and sister to be killed instead of participating in a war game is frankly ridiculous. Who would make such a choice? If it meant your own child being killed, or killing someone else, I don't know many who would not at least do what they could. And those people are missing the point. Throughout the Hunger Games series, the violence is never glorified. Katniss is continually disgusted and horrified at the things happening to her and those around her, and feels every death as a burden on her shoulders, even those she did not cause. She participates with great reluctance and self-sacrifice, wanting nothing more than to escape. Indeed, she is traumatised by it. It is a deeply human response, and does not at all encourage others to indulge in violent behaviour. Instead of being desensitised to it, the reader is made to feel everything keenly, and analyse what they themselves would do.

Forgive this long posting, but I am angry. I am angry that others are telling me what I can and cannot write, and for whom. I am angry that the darker side of reality should, according to some, have no place in literature. I never read Watership Down - but that was my choice. I am sad for those children who never get to choose some of the best, most touching, most human writing available. And I am sad for those who will never understand that.
If you are a Hunger Games fan, and want more fantastic stories or films with tough choices and strong characters, I recommend:

V for Vendetta
The Dark is Rising
Twilight Robbery
The False Prince

Happy reading!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Library Events this week

Family History Lunchtime Series: Wednesday 18 April at noon in Central Library
Researching Your ANZACs with Michael Wynd
Michael Wynd, Military Historian & Researcher at the Navy Museum will talk about searching for family members who have served with the Royal New Zealand Navy and what resources there are for the NZ Army and RNZAF.
To book your place, phone (09) 307 7771 or book online.

Water Tanks for Uganda with Barbara Cuthbert
Thursday 19 April at 7.30pm in Devonport Library
Barbara Cuthbert and Mike Ashmore spent a month in Uganda in October working for Waiheke’s Village Project to build four water tanks at Watoto’s Subii Village. They will show slides and talk about their adventure.
For further details, phone Sue Parr (09) 486 8529

School holiday activities continue this week at all our Libraries so check out our Library website events page to see what our cheeky dragon is up to.

And there are already heaps of events listed on our website for you to put in your diary for May. Book ahead now.

Twenty six writers. One mystery. One book.

Instead of an anthology of crime writers, this writing project involved 26 writers, one storyline, one book.

From Faye Kellerman to Alexander McCall Smith, from R L Stine to Jeffery Deaver, all twenty six well-known crime writers all wrote at least one chapter of "No rest for the dead". My highlight was the forensic reports, as written by Kathy Reichs.

It's a cohesive storyline, the voices are real, the dialogue flows well, the characters and descriptions are all consistent with a well written mystery.

I'd recommend this to friends wanting to read a fast-paced crime novel, and who read a variety of authors and who would enjoy seeing how their favourite authors write alongside others.

Friday, 13 April 2012

5 of my (not-so-secret if you follow me on Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter) dirty little reading secrets

"Three can keep a secret if two are dead."
- Benjamin Franklin

The other day I read a post over at BookRiot by Rebecca Joines. This one, in fact: 7 of my dirty little reading secrets. It was a quick and simple post, and I very much liked the idea of it. (As you can tell by the title of this post). My secrets are never so horrid that anybody would need to be dead for me to keep them. I don't know anybody whose life is that topsy turvy. Truth be told, I don't have much that's absolutely secret. Thanks to social media and my inability to keep my mouth shut/fingers still, all of my embarrassments are out there for everybody to see. In all of its somewhat dubious colour and detail. So here's a quick writeup for today. (I know! A short post from me! Has hell frozen over?) 5 of my (not-so-secret if you follow me on Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter) dirty little reading secrets.

What are YOUR dirty little reading secrets?

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Dragons, ghosts, golems and selkies: A selection of fantasy books for the school holidays
I love fantasy, and I especially love it when authors do interesting things with the subjects and themes we’ve all seen before. Inspired by the school holiday theme, here is a list of some of my favourite fantasy books that feature mythical creatures. It’s somewhat eclectic, but hopefully there’s something here for everyone. In no particular order:

As Napoleon's tenacious infantry rampages across Europe and his armada lies in wait for Nelson's smaller fleet, the war does not rage on land and water alone. Squadrons of aviators swarm the skies - a deadly shield for the cumbersome canon-firing vessels. Raining fire and acid upon their enemies, they engage in a swift, violent combat with flying tooth and claw... for these aviators ride dragons.

A ghost, uncertain of her identity, watches the four Melford sisters hatch a plan to get their parents' attention and slowly becomes aware of the danger from a supernatural power unleashed by the girls and their friends from the boys’ boarding school run by the Melfords.

Sally: Does a ghost count as a mythical creature? I don’t really care about the answer to that question, to be honest, because I will take any opportunity to promote one of my favourite authors. Also, the ghost’s name is Sally. So there.

Elizabeth, a beautiful princess, is all set to marry Ronald, her prince, when a dragon comes along and forces her to rethink her plans.

Rollrock Island is a lonely rock of gulls and waves, blunt fishermen and their homely wives. Life is hard for the families who must wring a poor living from the stormy seas. But Rollrock is also a place of magic - the scary, salty-real sort of magic that changes lives forever. Down on the windswept beach, where the seals lie in herds, the outcast sea witch Misskaella casts her spells - and brings forth girls from the sea - girls with long, pale limbs and faces of haunting innocence and loveliness - the most enchantingly lovely girls the fishermen of Rollrock have ever seen. But magic always has its price. A fisherman may have and hold a sea bride, and tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she is. He will be equally ensnared. And in the end the witch will always have her payment. A tale of unspeakable cruelty - and deep unspoken love.

Sally: I may be cheating a little by putting this on here because I haven’t actually finished it, but even half-way through I can tell it’s going to be one of my favourites.

Fifteen-year-old cousins Laura and Rose are about to find out whether they are part of the prestigious Dreamhunters group. But nothing in their darkest nightmares can prepare them for what they discover. For within the Place lies a horrific secret. A secret kept buried for years, a secret crying out to be heard.

Sally: Two for the price of one here, because you can’t really read one without the other.

ANZAC DAY Blog Challenge

Auckland Libraries ANZAC Day blog challenge is on again for 2012. Do you have a story to share about an ANZAC? We'd like to hear about not only their sacrifice, but the way it shaped their family history. Maybe you want to blog from the perspective of those that were left behind? Last year this challenge was very successful. As Seonaid said in her recent Kintalk blog post, "Not all the stories were of people who died. Sacrifice comes in all forms. Not all of the stories were of family members." so the field is wide open for you to share your stories.

All the details of what's involved and how to get started are on the Kintalk blog including links to some of the resources in Auckland Libraries.

And to help you along, here are the links to some of the stories told last year.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

It's amazing what you find in library books.

Auckland Libraries staff have made a remarkable discovery: a manuscript that is more than 1,200 years old.

Fragments of the centuries-old manuscript were found sewn into some of Auckland Libraries' oldest books, a late-15th Century bible held in the Sir George Grey Special Collection.The discovery, which has already been covered by the NZ Herald, was made while cataloguing incunabula (books printed before 1501), as library staff examined a large and striking four-volume Latin bible presented to the library in 1913. Further investigations by Emeritus Professor Alexandra Barratt (Waikato University) uncovered more fragments in three of the four volumes.

This is certainly one of the better things that has been found between the pages of the books in the library collections (which is a subject for a whole other blog post and makes even the children at schools we visit cringe). But to read the rest of the story about the manuscript, go to the news page on our website.

School Holidays at the Libraries

What's better than somewhere fun, free, friendly and safe to go during the school holidays? How about somewhere with activities and storytimes to keep everyone occupied, just in case the summer that arrived over Easter decides not to stick around.

Join our friendly dragon mascot and the librarians across Auckland from 6th to 22nd April for a fun-filled mythical creature adventure at Auckland Libraries these school holidays. We have lots of exciting stories and activities for the kids to enjoy across the Auckland region.

Activities on offer include:
* Storytimes with taniwhas, dragons, fairies and more.
* Crafty kids - let your imagination run wild and make your own mythical creature.
* Quizzes - challenge your friends and see who can answer the most questions.
* Scavenger hunts - get your friends together and find all the hidden creatures lurking in the library.

For more information on what's happening at a Library near you (or near where you are visiting on holiday) check out our School holidays event page on the website. I like the look of Epsom's 'Great Dewey Challenge' where you have to master mythical creatures and wind your way to winning their beastly board game (throughout the holidays). Meanwhile out west Massey has a packed schedule including return visits from Molly the Pirate and Stu Duval (if you missed them during Dare to Explore, don't do it a second time) plus on Thursday 19th April at 10.30 am, the YMCA and Auckland Libraries present The Polka Dots LIVE in the YMCA stadium. I might also have to visit Mangere East to see the results of their Puppet Theatre week running from 17th to 20th April. Phew - so much to do during the holidays, and all of it FREE.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Learning to make cheese

I am happy to admit that I *love* cheese. It is one of my all-time favourite foods, and one of the foods I would find the hardest to give if I chose to become a vegan.

Stinky cheese, hard cheese, soft cheese, waxed cheese, aged cheese, goat's cheese - I'll try it all.

But I have never been brave enough to ever attempt to make my own cheese. Two friends recently did a cheese-making course, and are trying to convince me that it is not that hard to do. I'm reluctant to admit that maybe cheese would lose its allure if I actually knew how to make it.

To help me decide whether or not to give cheese-making a go, I've borrowed two New Zealand books : Cutting the curd : cheesemaking at home : with a collection of delicious recipes byKatherine Mowbray and How to make cheese : & other dairy products : your guide to easy cheesemaking by Jean Mansfield.

So have you ever made your own cheese? What's your verdict - is it easy peasy or far too hard?

Monday, 2 April 2012

Keeping up-to-date with Auckland Libraries

Want to know what's been added to our collections recently?

Make sure that you bookmark our New Titles page, which gives you a full rundown on all the new material (books, DVDs, CDs, audiobooks) that has been added to the collection.

There's also lists of titles which have been added to our community language collections - from Dutch to Punjabi, from Tamil to Korean.

You can sign up to our NextReads newsletters for a selection of reading suggestions on a variety of topics - from Nature & Science books to Romance Fiction, from Tween reads to Popular Culture.

Happy browsing.