Reading Festival: A new children’s area at University of Otago Bookshop & in snapshot manager Phillippa Duffy’s dad balanced a circus troupe of readers on his knees


University of Otago Bookshop have a new area devoted to children’s books because they understand the importance of children’s literature and reading within their shop. I can’t wait to see it.

They launched the space with a book launch (Robyn Belton and Diana Noonan’s The Teddy Bear’s Promise) and the space filled with bears, children and adults.

To celebrate the new space I invited the shop manager, Phillippa Duffy, to join in our Festival of Reading and answer some questions:


Where did you like to read? Everywhere! But particularly in the bottom of the large upstairs linen cupboard. I grew up with 5 siblings so it was a great place where no-one could find me and I could imagine I was an only child.


What were you favourite books? At primary school Jill Barklem’s Brambly Hedge series, especially Winter Story, which I bought with money from my Grandma when I was five. I still have the book and the grandmother!

What kind of books did you like to read? Trixie Belden was a hit for a long time and pick-a-path mystery books. I also loved reading dictionaries to see the etymology of words.

Did you have a favourite illustrator? EH Shephard of Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows fame.


What did the library mean to you? I grew up in rural Southland so couldn’t join a public library until I went to University. They now have the book bus for Southland and a library in Wyndham, near where I grew up, which is great. Even though it took me a long time to discover them, public libraries are one of my favourite inventions. We were fortunate though, at home, to have an entire cupboard with floor to ceiling draws filled with books; many of which my brothers and sisters now have and read to their children.

Do you remember being read to? Yes, with my Dad making room for all of us on his lap and balanced on the arms of his chair like a circus troupe. He would do great voices for the characters and I particularly remember a book about a dog called Paws.

Was there a book that stood out that a teacher read to you? Mr Neilson reading Watership Down.


Who hooked you on reading? My first teacher at Edendale Primary School, Miss McElhinney. She is in her eighties now and we are still in touch.

What did books mean to you? Everything. How did they add to your life? I went on to do an English degree and have had the most amazing and rewarding career in publishing and bookselling.

Any anecdotes? I would even read to my pet calves waiting on the next judging at the Wyndham and Invercargill A&P shows.

Do you still read children’s books? Every day to my children, Mary (4) and James (18 months). Do you have a favourite this week? This week I still love Herbert: The Brave Sea Dog by Robyn Belton, who has just launched, along with Diana Noonan, The Teddy Bear’s Promise.

7804953 cv_the_teddy_bears_promise

Otago Daily Times article

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