Note from Paula: I love this book so what a treat to hear Melinda read it.
You can hear other New Zealand children’s authors reading poems in my audio spots: look in the side bar under audio spot or for David Hill, Kyle Mewburn, Apirana Taylor, Fifi Colston, Elena de Roo, Janice Marriot, Bill Nagelkirke, Stephanie Mayne, Renee Liang and James Brown. You can also find Barbara Else reading her piece on Selina Tusitala Marsh, our Poet Laureate.
Born in Auckland, Melinda Szymanik still lives there with her family, writing picture books, short stories and novels for children and young adults. A science graduate, Melinda initially worked in hospital administration, then went back to university to study literature and began writing seriously when her children were small. Several of her books have been shortlisted or won awards in New Zealand and overseas, and her short stories have appeared in trade and educational publications in New Zealand and Australia.
She is a regular ‘writers in schools’ visitor, was the 2014 University of Otago College of Education Creative New Zealand Children’s Writer in Residence, and has appeared at writers festivals across New Zealand. She teaches creative writing workshops for adults and children, blogs on writing and is one of ten New Zealand writers who run an innovative online writing experiment for children called FABO Story.
A complete list is available on her blog
The Were-Nana, illus. Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson, Scholastic NZ, 2008, (Out of Print).
The House That Went to Sea, illus. Gabriella Klepatski, Duck Creek Press, 2011.
While You Are Sleeping, illus. Greg Straight, Duck Creek Press, 2013.
The Song of Kauri, illus. Dominique Ford, Scholastic NZ, 2014.
This piece from Emma Neale is a joy, a delight, to read.
It took me back to reading to my girls and how much I still love children’s books.
What does ‘story time’ look like at your house?
Story time happens wherever you can fit a boy, a parent and a book. Although our youngest reads to himself often, he still likes to be read to while he’s in the bath; or in bed; or in the living-room on the couch; or in the shared adult bed; or lying under the trampoline with the pet rabbit, as the rabbit trains for the Guinness Book of World Records’ Fastest Grass Nibbler 2018. Occasionally, if our eldest, Abe (16), has had a particularly rough day, he’ll quietly sidle up and listen momentarily, too.’
The Mapmakers’ Race, Eirlys Hunter, Gecko Press, 2018
The Mapmakers’ Race is a glorious read.
If you are looking for a story that ripples with imagination and sings in the ear because it is so beautifully written, this your perfect holiday read. I adore it.
The Santander family is an adventurous family and they are hoping to go on The Great Map Race to win lots of money. But the father is mysteriously not back from exploring and the mother got left behind in a train mishap.
So it is up to the four children to get to the finishing line first (it takes a month) and chart the best train route through treacherous terrain.
Most of the other teams are so greedy to win they will do anything to get there. Villainous!
Once I started reading this book, I didn’t want to stop. I loved the characters and their special skills, especially the way Francie draws the maps for the train routes by seeing everything from above. She doesn’t talk but she has a special sight skill that drains her rather perilously at times.
I also grew very fond of young Beckett who drove them in a horse and trap to the race meeting. He ended up travelling with them because he wanted the train route to go through his neglected village. He turned out to be a godsend because he made their food supplies stretch further in the most delicious ways.
Plus there are the bonus little stories that get told to Humphrey, the youngest sibling, to soothe him. Oh and the mechanical horses that belong to another team!
This book, like Barbara Else’s magnificent Travelling Restaurant series, is set to become a classic because it has all the ingredients that make a story shine: suspense, tricky situations, learning curves, real things shifted a little by an agile imagination, fascinating places and equally fascinating characters.
I was sorry when the book ended but I spotted a launch point for a sequel. Fingers crossed!
Congratulations Eirlys Hunter on this must-read book.
A pop-up challenge: if you read this book and love it, I am happy to post some letters or reviews by children on my blog. email@example.com
This is the perfect audio to go with our July butterfly challenge. Listen out for the butterfly song in te reo.
Note from Renee
Here’s a recording of me reading the poem to Ferndale Kindergarten followed by the kids singing ‘Purerehua‘, a song they love.
The ‘Caterpillar‘ poem is inspired by a Cantonese children’s rhyme we also practised (but I did not record):
點蟲蟲, 蟲蟲飛。飛去邊﹖飛去荔枝畿。荔枝熟, 摘滿一包袱。
dim chung chung, chung chung fei. fei hoey bin? fei hoey lai ji gei. lai ji suk, jaak muun yat bao fuk. (Not proper Cantonese romanisation)
Almost word for word translation:
point insect insect, insect insect fly. fly to where? fly to lichee area. lichee ripe, pick (and fill up) full a haversack (bag).
Here are some pictures of their hands being butterflies and also a shot of my son Luka G (4) who attends the kindy.
You can find Renee’s poem in A Treasury of NZ poems for Children.
Renee Liang has always loved telling stories and making worlds in her head. Like the caterpillar, when she spins a house around her stories and snuggles with them for a while they often turn into something unexpected. Sometimes they are poems, sometimes plays, once even an opera. She loves showing other people how to write down the worlds in their heads. Renee has two children aged 4 and 5 who are also world-makers.
This was the first time I have posted a video poem challenge. for a month. I was a bit worried it might mean some children who love writing poems but didn’t have access to ways to film things would miss out. But I did want too stretch the life of poems.
What a winter banquet of words and images! I loved the different approaches from ultra easy to trickier. I especially loved hearing the joy in your voices as you read your poetry. That love of words just made me want to write my own wintry poem.
Some schools got so enthused! Special congratulations to Russley School and Royal Oak School for all your gorgeous poems.
I am so sorry I couldn’t get it to work for some of you. Next year I will give tips to help avoid this.
This is not a competition but a challenge where I share the book love by giving away a few copies of my A Treasury of NZ Poetry for Children.
I am sending a copy to Rebecca Boye’s class at Royal Oak PrimarySchool and a copy to Annette Ward’s class at Russley Primary School.
If you put winter video poem in the search sidebar you will see the whole magnificent festival but here are a few tasty links.
Marat’s poem is full of gorgeous rhythms and word sounds. Age 9, Y5, Royal Oak School
Ooooh I listened to Yaashi’s poem three times in a row it is so good! Listen out for ‘the shiny silver droplets pelleting down like a swarming storm’. Age: 9 Year: 5 Royal Oak Primary School
Daniel is aged 9, in Year 5 and goes to Adventure School in Porirua. This terrific winter poem involves a cat and a dragon!
What a magnificent ode to ice! Tom N Age 9 Year 5 Hoon Hay School
Asher’s poem pops with bright winter detail – and has a little story running through. Love it! 9 years old , year 5, Royal Oak Primary School
Leah F, age 10 yrs, goes to Russley School. The poem dances with delicious wintry words and a warm cosy ending.
Kyla H (age 10 yrs), a Russley School year 5/6 student. So many wonderful things make this poem – purple boot, elephants, a giraffe!
Zoe goes to St Andrew’s School – I really like the movement in her poem.
Annette Ward’s Room 17 wrote this poem about their first winter at school. They are a Year 0-1 class at Russley School, who have only started school this year. I love the way you have gathered wintry words and made them sound so good!
St Francis’s School’s Room 3 used puppets! They are Year 3/4 aged 7 and 8. Some lively wintry lines in a lively wintry poem. I adored this.
Once I started adding links I realised what a treasure trove this is for you to go hunting in. I loved the challenge so much because it is full of the joy of words and poetry.