Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What I have been reading...

My favourite find in 2011/2012 would have to be the Flavia du Luce series written by Alan Bradley. An 11 year old sluce solves mysteries in a tumble-down mansion in a by-gone era. The sophisticated language and humour begs to be read aloud to whoever is in ear-shot (it is so funny you just want to share it). This series has surprisingly been marketed to adult readers. Marketing people forget there are thousands of girl readers with advanced reading ages who don't want to read about teenage angst, first sexual experiences, or language loaded with swear words. Lovers of this series (high reading age teen girls), would also like ... the Ruby Redfort series.

Recently, I read the latest Ruby Redfort 'Take your last breath' book by Lauren Child.  Lauren Child actually had Ruby Redfort as a fictional story book protagonist in one of her other books, and like all imaginative authors decided to explore that character in her own series.  The character Ruby Redfort is 13 years old; an only child of very rich parents.  In the first book she becomes a secret agent for Spectrum and prevents a heist. In this book she tries to solve a riddle from one of her ancestors - what happened to the family rubies that were captured by pirates and what is the cause of strange happenings in their harbour; seagulls flocking inland, ships going to wrong ports, fish disappearing, strange noises being reported and a Spectrum agent body washing up on the beach.

Readers will find a delicious mix of wit, secret codes, Ruby's rules on life,  truly terrible baddies that you love to hate and fear, and a strong female character.  Some adult readers might say that it is a totally unbelievable story and a 13 year old could not possibly solve such a crime and why is she left to her own devices all the time ... But get real adult readers - the story is written for10-14 year olds and it is FICTIONAL; and in made-up stories anything can happen...

See more about Ruby Redfort on her own website:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tongariro Erupts Again!

Photo of Tongariro area but not the site of recent explosion.

Tongariro erupted again on Wednesday 21st November around 1.20pm. A large plume of ash 6000m high can be seen very close to where it erupted last time on August 7th.

To find out more about it go to NZ Herald.

Last week, GNS scientists indicated that Ruapehu might erupt within the next couple of weeks or months too.  They're watching all the volcanic signs very closely.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Volcanic Visit

Albany Library Visit

Over the school holidays, I visited six Rodney libraries and talked about volcanoes with over 150 children and 50 adults. I read two picture books to children including my Rangitoto book. Children held my predator and native bird puppets while I talked about the great big clean-up of predators on Rangitoto and Motutapu Island so all the native birds can come back.

The children went off on a volcano hunt to find the different types of volcanoes (on card) hidden around the library.  They were rewarded with volcano lollies when their scavenger hunt card was complete.  I introduced the audience to my 'Eruption! Discovering New Zealand Volcanoes' book and talked about what sets non-fiction books apart from others: the fact you can start at the back, middle or anywhere you like; you can read one small text box on a page then skim and scan other pages; the illustrations tell you information too; you can find stuff easily with the contents and index pages; and there are loads of interesting things such as activities, photographs and characters. I then introduced them to a character in the book called Volcanica and asked if someone would like to be my Volcanica for the day. Once they had their sassy black wig on they were ready to help pour in the red vinegar and spoon in the baking soda to create a volcanic eruption.  Finally, it was time for the kids to make something of their own; they made a paper volcano model to take home.

If you want me to visit your school or library during a volcano study - please email me - and I'll dust off the volcanoes, puppets, and explosive equipment to come to your class.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Storylines Festival

I had a fabulous time at the Storylines Family Day in Auckland on Sunday (27th August).  We set up four volcanoes in a row.  I poured in vinegar and baking soda into two of them to give frothy demonstrations of volcanic eruptions.  Quite a few kids were going to go home and try it (good luck, parents!). My hands were covered in red dye by the time I went home.

After the demonstrations, I encouraged children to make paper volcanoes with me. If you want to make one, go to the Eruption! book site on my website and you can download a Rangitoto activity.  Colour it in, cut it out then glue the tabs together. You will then have your genuine own Rangitoto volcano.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Volcanic Updates

Red Crater in Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the Te Mari crater is on the flank of Tongariro

If you're interested in volcanology then you would have been excited when three volcanoes erupted in New Zealand in the same week.  First, White Island erupted on August 5th. It last erupted in 2001; having erupted continuously from 1976. Scientists predict it is waking up again. Whakatane Police received several reports of lightning . GNS Scientist Michael Rosenberg said lightning is common during volcanic eruptions. It is a result of ash generating electricity.

The next night,Tongariro erupted (on Monday 6th  August). The eruption appeared to come from Te Mari crater (near the trampers' hut).  After spewing ash for a few days it has since quietened down. Heavy rains caused lahars on ash-coated slopes on the mountain. Civil Defense are warning motorists not to stop on State Highway 46 because debris flows have caused dams in a few streams and they fear more lahars.

On August 10th, a large pumice raft was seen floating north of New Zealand. Scientists predict it is a result of a submarine volcanic eruption from one of the many seamounts in the Kermadec arc.  One scientist, Erik Klemetti, predicts it comes from Havre Seamount. He says it most likely erupted on July 18th and had finished by July 20th.

Scientists say that the three eruptions are not connected because they are too far apart to share magma.  However, the tectonics are from the same subduction of the Pacific Plate slipping under the Australian Plate.

So why am I writing about this... Because my children's book 'Eruption! Discovering New Zealand Volcanoes' came out two weeks before the eruptions - talk about timing! I talked about the book on Radio New Zealand that following Sunday.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Nationwide Margaret Mahy Read Aloud and Memorial

Saturday 11th August 11am authors, illustrators and librarians are dressing up as pirates, witches, and other Margaret Mahy characters and reading her stories at their local libraries.  I'll be at Warkworth Library dressed as a witch and reading 'The Witch and the Cherry Tree' as well as other stories.

Afterwards, we're all going down to the Auckland Town Hall at 2.30pm to pay tribute to Margaret Mahy.  I hope we'll see you there too!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Margaret Mahy Tribute

On July 23rd, New Zealand's greatest children's author passed away.  Margaret Mahy had written over 200 children's books, and hundreds of short stories and poems. She had won many awards over the years: Carnegie medal twice, New Zealand Post, Aim and LIANZA awards, Hans Christian Andersen award and the Order of Merit.

I had the pleasure of meeting Margaret several times over the years; at two workshops and a few Storyline events.  She was a real inspiration as a writer, presenter and as an intelligent woman.  My response - the same as many of my colleagues - when I heard she had passed away was to celebrate her work in some way. "Why don't we organise a nationwide read aloud of her books?" Once someone put that out there - we acted on it.  Within a week we had contacted librarians, authors and illustrators all over the country to see if they would like to join in too. Facebook and email has been a wonderful tool to communicate far and wide.

On the 11th August at 11am authors, illustrators, teachers and librarians will read their favourite Margaret Mahy book(s) at their local library.  Some of us will wear colourful wigs, crazy hats or an outrageous outfit.  We want to feel the Mahy magic as we read her stories.  If you would like to join in - see our blogsite: to find out which libraries are participating.  You'll find me at the Warkworth Library. Afterwards, we're going to her memorial service at the Auckland Town Hall 2.30pm on Saturday 11th August. RIP Margaret Mahy.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Eruption! book gets great reviews

My book has been out for three weeks - now I sit back and wait for the reviews.  So far - the book has had some great reviews.

John McIntyre from The Children's Bookshop in Wellington said on Radio Nz the book is a fine example of how to do it [write non-fiction] properly. It grabs the attention of the passing child, sucks them into reading the whole book ...

"It is a really comprehensive look at the whole world of NZ volcanoes."

He said that children (and adults) won't realise how much information is packed into it because of the way it is designed. Children will read the whole book and tell you they don't read.

John says that Maria has become an expert at writing quality non-fiction and he suspects she not only researches it she is heavily involved in the design and it shows.

I have to confess he is right - I either have a design concept I'd like the designer to start with (and of course they wave their magic wand over it and create something even better) or I have a lot to say during the process.  I'm very lucky that New Holland Publishers allows me to have this input.

Julie Harper also reviews Eruption! in the Magpie Magazine. She says, "In her latest publication, successful nonfiction author, Maria Gill, introduces young readers to the different types of volcanoes featured throughout the country. Adopting the persona of 'Volcanica', a reporter for the Magmatic Press she presents information in an accessible and varied manner."

Julie gives constructive feedback on two items she would have liked to have seen in the book (a diagram to accompany 'Living on Two Plates', and a more extensive glossary) then adds "Eruption! is highly informative and will be a valuable addition to any library collection."

Yesterday, I was interviewed for Plains FM radio 'Women on Air' programme. Rachel Steele said she and her two boys enjoyed the book.  She added that it was very timely with Mt Tongariro alert rating changing from O to 1. I hadn't realised that at the time. I've since read that Mt Tongariro has had a swarm of small earthquakes and this has Volcanologists keeping a closer eye on the volcano. Rachel said that her two boys liked looking up the website links I had recommended for the book under Factopia and Videotopia.

A Librarian from a Whangarei school emailed me to say that she was enjoying reading the book and what she loved about it was that there were other volcanoes in it and not just Ruapehu.

The adults seem to like it - hopefully, kids will feel the same!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

World Kid Lit kids at Book Launch

Eruption! book launch
World Kid Lit Team, Wayne Mills and myself

Eruption! book launch

Eruption! book launch

Eruption! book launch

Volcanic Book Launch

The volcanic cake and sammies

The finalists for the World Kid Lit competition came to the book launch of Eruption! Discovering New Zealand Volcanoes at the National Library on Tuesday July 3rd.  I had given the competitors a talk about my books focussing on the volcano books earlier that day, then they were supposed to leave for a boat trip to see some volcanoes up close but the weather made that impossible.  They came back for the book launch at 1pm.  We started off with a book trailer then an interview with Volcanica and myself.  We also had a little volcanic explosion ourselves. Afterwards, the Kid Lit kids enjoyed volcanic sandwiches, cake, lollies and magma juice.  We had lots of volcanic fun!

My books for sale - Eruption! book centre stage

Thursday, May 31, 2012

LIANZA Shortlist announced

New Zealand Hall of Fame and The Call of the Kokako have been shortlisted for the LIANZA awards! Both books were nominated for the Elsie Locke Medal (for Non-fiction).  Plus Heather's beautiful illustrations have been nominated in the Russell Clark Award.

I spoke to Heather Arnold just a while ago, and she was thrilled (as I am).  She thought it might be the first time that a book had been nominated for two awards.  Heather won the Elsie Locke Award for her Draw New Zealand Birds in 2008. She also illustrated Rangitoto, which was a finalist in the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards in 2010.

I am sure Bruce Potter will be excited too.  He has illustrated over 100 children's books but this was the first time he had drawn caricatures.  He drew caricatures for years for newspaper companies all over the world.

The award ceremony will be held on Monday August 6th at Caffe L'affare in Wellington.

Congratulations to all the other finalists.

The LIANZA Children’s Book Award 2012 Finalists:

LIANZA Junior Fiction Award – Esther Glen Medal

The Travelling Restaurant by Barbara Else, (GECKO Press)

The Peco Incident by Des Hunt, (HarperCollins Publishers (NZ) Ltd)

The Wolf in the Wardrobe by Susan Brocker, (HarperCollins Publishers (NZ) Ltd)

Super Finn by Leonie Agnew, (Scholastic) Leonie teaches at Sancta Maria Catholic Primary school in Manukau.

The Flytrap Snaps; Book One in The Fly Papers by Johanna Knox, (The Hinterland Press Ltd) Johanna published this book with her partner, designer Walter Moala.

LIANZA Young Adult Fiction Award

The Shattering by Karen Healey, (Allen & Unwin)

Pyre of Queens by David Hair, (Penguin NZ) David was inspired to write this fantasy novel by the time he spent living in India. He writes around his work in financial services.

Dirt Bomb by Fleur Beale, (Random House New Zealand)

The Bridge by Jane Higgins, (The Text Publishing Co Australia)

Recon Team Angel: Assault by Brian Falkner, (Walker Books Australia)

LIANZA Illustration Award - Russell Clark Award

Rāhui (Māori  ed) by Chris Szekely and Malcolm Ross, (Huia) Chris is Chief Librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library. He worked with Malcolm Ross (now deceased) 20 years ago in the School Services department of the National Library. The book is based on their memories of holidays at the beach with whānau.

The Call of the Kokako by Maria Gill and Heather Arnold, (New Holland Publishers (NZ) Ltd)

Fantails Quilt by Gay Hay and Margaret Tolland, (Page Break Ltd)

Bruiser by Gavin Bishop, (Random House New Zealand)

Marmaduke Duck and Bernadette Bear by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis, (Scholastic)

Waiting for Later by Tina Matthews, (Walker Books Australia)

LIANZA Non Fiction Award – Elsie Locke Medal

Digging up the Past: Archaeology for the Young & Curious by David Veart, (Auckland University Press)

Nice Day for a War by Chris Slane and Matt Elliott, (HarperCollins Publishers (NZ) Ltd) Chris Slane is a cartoonist. Matt Elliott is a comedian, historian and biographer.

The Call of the Kokako by Maria Gill and Heather Arnold, (New Holland Publishers (NZ) Ltd)

New Zealand Hall of Fame: 50 Remarkable Kiwis by Maria Gill and Bruce Potter, (New Holland Publishers (NZ) Ltd)

Te Kura Pounamu (te reo Māori)

Rāhui (Māori ed) by Chris Szekely and Malcolm Ross, translated by Brian Morris (Huia)

Te Poiwhana by Te Kauhoe Wano and Andrew Burdan, (Huia)

Ihenga by Aunty Bea – Piatarihi Tui Yates and Katherine Quin Merewether, (Ihenga Charitable Trust)

Kei Wareware Tātou by Feana Tu’akoi and Elspeth Alix Batt, translated by Katerina Mataira, (Scholastic) Katerina was a writer, artist and academic. She was created Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2011 for her services to Māori language. She died later that year. Katerina has been a finalist nearly every year since this award began.

Nga Taniwha i Te-Whanga-nui-a-Tara by Moira Wairama and Bruce Potter, (Penguin NZ) Moira is a storyteller who loves to bring Māori legends to life. This myth was first told to her by Tipene O’Regan over 30 years ago. She was inspired to get it published after her audiences kept asking where they could read it for themselves.

The LIANZA Children’s Book Awards 2012 are supported by, Caffe L’affare and The Children’s Bookshop, Kilbirnie, Wellington.

For further information, images, or to arrange an interview with the judges or shortlisted authors and illustrators, please contact:

Wendy  Walker, LIANZA Children’s Book Awards ph 04 801 5542  04 801 5542

Read more about the LIANZA Children's Book Awards

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Children's Choice Non-Fiction Award, New Zealand Post Children's BookAwards


Photography by Mark Tantrum,

Illustrator Bruce Potter and myself receive our award for New Zealand Hall of Fame the Children's Choice Non-Fiction book category winner on May 16th at the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ideas on the Go

My latest book - due out 3rd July 2012

Now that I am back from all my travels I'm settling into writing the creative non-fiction chapter book I had started.  Plus I've been visiting schools in the Auckland (Orakei Primary, St Johns School), and Northland (Mangawhai School) area.  Yesterday, my first copy of Eruption! Discovering New Zealand Volcanoes arrived so I'll be able to give sneak previews to schools of that book.

My head is brimming with all the ideas that have creeped into my thoughts while I've been on the road.  I find that when I'm travelling the creative juices are at their highest. I think it is because my head isn't full of: What am I going to cook tonight? Has Rhiannon/Tristan remembered their gym gear? etc. I just have my 'Author' hat on while I am away.  (Not that I don't think of my kids.)  Also, the scenery was so beautiful - and beauty is inspiring.

In fact, while on a trip along Farewell Spit I had two ideas for Learning Media and no notebook to record them on. I had to key them into my phone. At the first opportunity I bought a new notebook for my handbag. (What was I thinking, going away without a notebook on the ready.)
I'm looking forward to writing those ideas into stories but I'm a person who likes to finish something before I start something new - so it might be awhile. One of the ideas was a fiction chapter book.  When driving to Collingwood (1 1/2 hours) I worked out who the characters would be, what their goal was, and the problem they were going to solve (in my head).  I'm loving mystery books at the moment (Alan Bradley's 'Flavia de Luce' series, and the Mary Quinn series) and they've inspired me to write one. I'll let it brew for several months and by then I should have finished the book I'm currently writing plus the one New Holland wants me to write.

This is one of the reasons I love to write - so many ideas that I cannot wait to turn into stories ...


Friday, May 18, 2012

New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards and Tour

What an exciting week it has been.  First, I flew to Nelson and visited eight schools overthree days.  The kids loved the puppets and were great at guessing who the famous people were (from the baby photographs).  Then came awards night at the Amora Hotel in Wellington and what a splendid looking event it was.

Thankfully, the non-fiction category was announced straight away.  Nice Day for a War won and Digging Up the Past  came second but we won the Children's Choice Award for Non-fiction.  Illustrator Bruce Potter and I were delighted.

I was thrilled that author Leonie Agnew won the Junior Fiction award with her book Super Finn and also won Best First Book.  She's a Kiwi Write4Kidz member! Barbara Else came second with her book 'The Travelling Restaurant'.

Rahui won the picture book award and the graphic novel won second place.  No surprises that Jack Lazenby won the young adult award with his book. I was thrilled that Jane Higgens came second with her book 'The Bridge' (thoroughly enjoyed that book).

The night went so quickly and was such a privilege to be there.  Now we've got the

LIANZA finalist announcements to look forward to on the 1st June...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

New Zealand Post Children's Book Award Tour

This Saturday I leave for Nelson.  I arrive a couple of days before the tour so that I can visit the beautiful Nelson/Marlborough area first.  On the Sunday, I'm going on a four wheel drive trip to Farewell Spit.  Ever since writing my children's book 'Save Our Seas' - where I had to research every bit of coastline around New Zealand - I have wanted to visit Farewell Spit.  I hope to see lots of sea birds and perhaps some seals.

After the Farewell Spit trip I travel slowly to Blenheim in time for the tour.  I'll be at these schools and libraries for the next couple of days:

Tuesday 8th May - Witherlea School, Marlborough District Library, Raupara School
Wednesday 9th May- Motueka South School, Motueka Public Library, Hampden St School
Thursday 10th May- Waimea Intermediate School, Nayland Primary School.

Students with puppets at one of my talks

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

E-book Workshop

This Saturday (28th April) Kiwi Write4Kidz is holding an e-book workshop at Massey University.  It's a workshop for authors and illustrators thinking about writing an e-book in the future.

I've been thinking about venturing into this arena for a year now; but fear has stalled me from doing so.  I wouldn't be surprised if there are a lot of other writers who have put off doing the same.  To help authors navigate this new technology we have the following speakers:

Our guest speaker is well known Australian author Hazel Edwards.  Hazel will talk about her experience of selling e-books from her website, working with publishers to sell e-books and turning some of out-of-print books into e-books.  Hazel will also talk about 'authorpreneurship' a term she has coined herself.  I'm really looking forward to Hazel's live skype session with us.

Jill Marshall talks next about her experience of being a publisher and organising her authors' books to be published as e-books.  Afterwards, we have two panels. Panel 1 includes Maggie Tarver (NZSA), Rhonda Kite (Kiwa Media) and Paul du Temple (Wheelers).  They'll talk about the industry; its pitfalls, how to safeguard your copyright and how they think the book industry will look in the future.  Panel 2 includes Chair Melinda Szymanik, and authors Maureen Crisp and Phillip Simpson.  They'll talk about their experiences of publishing e-books and how they market them.

Then participants get the opportunity to talk with industry experts such as designers, editors, proof readers, e-book publishers etc to ask their own questions and network.

If you're interested in the workshop go to: (events page) - there are still some places available.

I believe learning how to publish and or market e-books is the way of the future - whether we like it or not.  I intend to be ready - will you be?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Reviews

I review New Zealand authored books on but sometimes I'm sent books from overseas.  I've just finished two that I'd like to share with you.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio published by Random House

When Augie finds out his mother wants him to attend school he is frightened.  He likes being home schooled - at least there, he doesn't have to deal with kids making fun of him.  Augie has a facial abnormality. His eyes are like diagonal slits and hang halfway down his face. His ears - also lower than they should be - resemble little cauliflours. He doesn't have cheekbones and there are deep creases running down both sides of his nose to his mouth. And that is after the surgery.

After a tour of the school 10-year-old Augie decides to be brave and risk going. For the first couple of months, he endures the stares, and people avoiding touching him but when he overhears his best friend saying he had to befriend him; it all comes crashing down around him.  With the support of Summer, his sister Olivia , loving parents, and Jack who realises he is missing out on a real friend; Augie manages to navigate his first year of school.  This is a heartwarming story of a boy coming of age. It's also about kindness, not judging a
book by its coverboy by his face, and recognising true friends.  The author has written the story from five point of views, which children under 14 years might find difficult to follow. It helps that the designer symbolises those changes by calling them Part 1-8 with a different symbolised face for each person. I think the quotes on those pages, though interesting for sophisticated readers could be confusing for younger readers. However, I'm glad the author gave us the different perspectives, as I thought hearing why Jack had put-down Augie and how he felt bad about it and redressed it, gave an interesting perspective. Also, we heard what it felt like being Augie's sister; a character that would often be largely ignored in a story. The changing perspectives also helped the story not be over-sentimentalised. Though, the last chapter did veer too much into this territory but not so you stop reading it; more like you have to wipe the tears away so you can continue reading it. Highly recommended for 14+ readers but most probably read by adult females. Teachers, it would be a great book to study for Health or English at Intermediate/Highschool level, or read aloud to the class because of the issues it covers, and the warm feeling the book leaves you with. Plenty to talk about afterwards.

Six Days by Philip Webb, Scholastic, UK

Six Days is part dystopian, part fantasy.

Cass and her brother Wilbur make a living with their father ransacking a devastated London.  For hundreds of years the scavengers have been searching for a lost artefact. Wilbur believes he knows where it is.  It is up to Cass to help him find it, help two strangers, and then save the Earth.

This first time author narrates the story through the main character's cockney voice. He skilfully introduces back story - the fight between father and grandfather, the death of their mother, into the story. There's a little bit of romance but not too much because Cass is a tough nut. But ultimately this is a quest story - finding the lost flinder before the Russians use it for evil purposes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story but my 12 year old daughter became confused when it changed style (dystopian to fantasy). For some people this transition is unexpected. You couldn't call it unoriginal though. The characters are three dimensional and likeable (or not likeable as in the case of the bad guys).  However, I'm not sure if I liked one of the main characters changing sides, and some of the characters were given a lot of introduction then they disappeared from the story. I thought it a bit old fashioned to have the bad buys as the Russians. The Cold War has long gone. Worth reading though.

School Holidays

My Office

I work from home, which is great because I don't have to waste time travelling to and from my office. It is also quiet so I can concentrate. And it means I am around for my kids during the school holidays.  Today in point:  I made 26 pancakes for my 13 year old daughter's birthday party with her five friends. Then I travelled over to Algies Bay Sailing Club and helped make 100 ham salad French bread rolls for the sailing team.  My 15 year old son is a reserve in the National 420 school team for Mahurangi College.  Then I came home made lunch for the six 13 year old girls, and after checking my emails made two dinners; one to go to the sailing team. I'll be glad when the kids go back to school because I'll be exhausted by the end of the week but I feel I am not missing out on important events in their life.

When I'm being mum and author; I find it difficult to settle to writing tasks so I don't try.  I do my accounts. Some interviews.  Tweak picture books I have on hold. Gather research notes for my next two writing projects. Plus do all the things my kids want me to do (sometimes with a bit of negotiation). Next week, I'll be rearing to go and ready ...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Scaling volcanoes for new book

In the weekend just gone, I walked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It took 9 1/2 hours for my friends and I to walk it. I have to confess I wasn't sure if I had the stamina. But we did it; albeit a bit longer than most. The next day I had sore everything.

The Tongariro crossing is only one of the volcanoes in New Zealand I have visited over the last six months.  Last year, I visited all the thermal areas in Taupo and Rotorua. With a friend (Kathy White) we caught a boat over to White Island; an active volcano near Whakatane.  That was a real thrill! We had to wear hard hats and masks. Then when I went to Christchurch I took the opportunity to go on a boat trip around Akaroa Harbour, which is a large shield volcano in the South Island. I've visited Rangitoto and One Tree Hill before.

So, why all this volcano activity on my part?  I've written a children's non-fiction book called 'Eruption! Discovering New Zealand's Volcanoes' due out in the first week of July.  I'm going to launch it at the National Library in Parnell, Auckland.  Lucky viewers will get a taste of my volcano cake and sparkly magma juice. You could say - I've been scaling volcanoes for my new book!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Storylines Notable Book list 2012

 New Zealand Hall of  Fame

Call of the Kokako
Yeah! New Zealand Hall of Fame and The Call of the Kokako were included in the Storylines Notable Book List for 2012.  It's a big thanks to the illustrators: Heather Arnold and Bruce Potter for their gorgeous artwork. Plus big thanks to the team at New Holland Publishers for believing in the books and putting the extra expense into them so they are hardbacks.
You can see what other books are notable here.  Congrats to all the other authors, illustrators and publishers.  Especially the other New Holland published book 'Party Food for Girls' by Alessandra Zecchini and her daughter Arantxa Zecchini Dowling.  The book is a favourite of my daughters and her friends.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Speed-date-an-Author with New Zealand Book Council

Last Friday and the Monday just gone, I had the wonderful opportunity to be part of a 'speed-date-an-author' event.  Five authors:  Melinda Szymanik, Janice Marriott, Dylan Horrocks, Mark Somerset, myself and photographer Darryl Torckler presented a writing skill to a group of 12 students for 20 minutes.  At the sound of the bell, the students moved to the next author and learnt a new skill.  Students found out how to use pictures for inspiration, collaborate with other people on a book, structure their stories, liven up their language, create fascinating characters and take a spark of an idea and get started.  The 27 schools from around the Auckland region paid $20 per student to take part in the programme.  At the end they received a certificate and some lucky students won a book.

This is the second time I've participated in this type of workshop and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Students asked for autographs afterwards and judging by their faces and enthusiasm - I would say they found it a rewarding experience. I'll look forward to seeing the competition entries to see if they've used any of the tips I gave. Thanks to New Zealand Book Council and the National Library for sponsoring these events.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

South Island Tour - Zero to Hero

Reading from 'The Call of the Kokako'

I've just come back from touring the lower South Island schools and libraries with my talk 'Zero to Hero'.  I talked to Primary-aged, and Intermediate-aged students about how heroes began with a dream at their age and through hard work and determination they were successful. I also talked to them about the heroes in my books 'New Zealand Hall of Fame' and 'The Call of the Kokako'. I told them that I believe conservationists are heroes as well because they prevent our endangered wildlife from becoming zero populations (and aim to reduce predator populations to zero).  The puppets were a great way of engaging the students - and really show how vulnerable our wildlife are.  I also get students to guess who the remarkable kiwi is from my 'New Zealand Hall of Fame' book by showing them a baby photo of that person then giving them clues.  I try to make my talks engaging, interactive and fun.  Judging by the smiling faces - it looked like it was working.

Monday, March 19, 2012