Category Archives: NZ children’s book

Cook’s Cook: Poetry Box talks to Gavin Bishop

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Gavin Bishop, Cook’s Cook: the cook who cooked for Captain Cook, Gecko Press, 2018

 

 

Gavin Bishop’s latest book Cook’s Cook: the cook who cooked for Captain Cook is a reading treasure trove.

Enter the book and you will go on a long sea-voyage of discovery – not from the view of the famous people on board but from the one-handed cook, John Thompson.

Cook’s Cook is a a bit like a cook book crossed with a history book crossed with a story book crossed with the most delightful picture book. There are fascinating facts, gorgeous drawings, little imaginings. Every page holds your interest. I definitely learnt new things.

Because the book was so sumptuous and filled me with such curiosity, I invited Gavin to join me in an slow-paced email conversation.

If I lived in the Wairarapa I would have gone to a Cook’s Cook event in August: you got to dine on a three-course meal inspired by the one-handed cook who fed Captain James Cook and crew aboard the HMS Endeavour. Wow!

Gavin, Tainui, Ngāti Awa, has published over 70 books and has been translated into 12 languages.

 

 

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Our conversation

 

Paula: I have lingered over Cook’s Cook for days because every page is full of little fascinations. What kind of research did you do for a book with such splendid detail?

Gavin: I read a lot of books about the voyage of the HMS Endeavour and Lieutenant James Cook. There are lot written about this expedition. Besides modern histories there are the logs and journals written by various people who travelled on the ship. And there are books written for adults as well as for children. The people at Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby, England were very helpful when I emailed them with questions and so were the librarians at the Australian Maritime Museum.

It was while I was reading some material on a particularly useful web-site that I came across the name of John Thompson. He had only one hand and was the cook on the Endeavour, much to James Cook’s initial disgust when Thompson was appointed by the Admiralty. There is little known about him and he was barely mentioned in any of the ship’s records, even when he died of dysentery in Batavia. Joseph Banks, in his journal, complimented him on his cuttlefish soup but that is about it. From my point of view, this was a good thing. I could give him any sort of personality I wanted to.

 

Paula: I get goosebumps reading the old journals! Did anyone draw or paint food? In logs or journals or in their role as artist? Tupaia for example? I loved his watercolour and pencil drawings.

Gavin: I didn’t find any drawings specifically of food. I found a few scenes of life below deck in the galley or on the mess deck where, if food was included, it was incidental. I did read though, that the ships belonging to the British navy were stocked before each voyage with provisions supplied by the Victualling Board. The admiralty had its own farms, gardens, butchers and bakers that provided meat, bread (biscuits), grain and vegetables and fruit for their ships that were setting out from England in large numbers to explore the world during the 18th century.

The only drawing by Tupaia of food that I know of, is the famous one where he is offering a lobster to Joseph Banks. Tupaia wasn’t a great artist in the European naturalistic style, but his drawings give us some very interesting and important information. A lot of people on the board the Endeavour, but probably not the crew, produced drawings. It was the only way of making a visual record of the things and places they saw. James Cook, the captain, drew a lot too and when all the official artists died after their time in Batavia the scientific men in Bank’s team and some of the officers all had to their bit with pen and paper.

 

Paula: I spent a few months this year cooking with one hand and it is tricky! It is hard to imagine how John Thompson did this for a ship’s crew, but your book has brought life on board alive through both drawings and words. What was the most surprising thing you discovered (apart from a cook with one hand)?

Gavin: Well, as John Thompson said himself. “It only takes one hand to stir the porridge!” To be fair, he had help. A member of the crew from each table on the mess deck was rostered for a week to help with the mixing of the puddings and the serving of the food.

I came across many strange bits of information, things I had never heard of. A ‘fother’, the name of the patch made from a sail stuck down with a mixture of teased rope and animal dung was something new to me.

I also found it intriguing to read that George Dorlton, one of the two Jamaican servants and an ex-slave, part of the Joseph Banks party, was a qualified plant collector. He had previously worked for a botanist. It was suddenly obvious why Banks, the naturalist, had taken him along on the Endeavour.

 

Paula: Were you tempted by any of the recipes? The albatross recipe seemed gourmet with the prune sauce and ginger but so many things made my stomach curl. Like eating albatross or dog!

Gavin: If the texture and flavour was right I think I could eat most of things mentioned in ‘Cook’s Cook’. I’m sure a vegetarian dog would make a delicious stew, but I think albatross might be a bit salty and strong, rather like muttonbird. It would be an acquired taste.

I was interested to see that quite a lot of spices, pepper and ginger were used in the cooking on ships at the time of the Endeavour voyage. Of course as the food onboard aged, it would become very undesirable. Joseph Banks mentioned that the taste of weevils in the ship’s biscuits was very spicy. Others knocked their biscuits on the table to shake the weevils out. Some crew held the biscuit over a flame to encourage the weevils to leave.

The salted beef and pork would have been a culinary challenge though, especially after it had been in barrels for a couple of years. There is mention of it being towed behind the ship in a net in an attempt to soften it up and reduce the salt content.

 

Paula: What was the hardest thing doing this book and what was the most rewarding?

Gavin: The most difficult thing about this book was dealing with the huge amount of information that exists about the voyage of the Endeavour and the people on board. Deciding what to include and what to leave out was a constant challenge. It was rewarding though, when I realised I could deal with this problem by concentrating on the cook’s story and trying to see the historical events that took place, through his eyes.

In my book the voyage unfolds more or less as it did according to James Cook’s journals, all the dates and places are historically correct but the emphasis on certain details is skewed by what I thought might have been interesting or important to the cook, John Thompson. Of course that had a lot to do with food, and later, when the ship was sailing around Aotearoa, it was his hope for a little bit of glory. He wanted a river or a mountain named after him. And like his captain he failed to see the country was already named by the tangata whenua, the Maori. I have shown this in the illustrations where the faces of Ranginui and Papatuanuku are seen in the sky and in the land. Their presence was there for anyone who looked with a perceptive and intelligent eye.

 

Thanks Gavin!

Gecko Press page

Video of Gavin talking about his new book

 

 

 

In the hammock: Gentle Giant Wētāpunga by Annemarie Florian and Terry Fitzgibbon

 

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Wētāpunga is a gorgeous book – you get facts, you get haiku-sized poems and you get extraordinary illustrations that are a cross between photos and paintings. The writing sings in your ear.

A wētāpunga is a giant wētā – the largest of all. I find this ancient insect absolutely fascinating. The Wētā Recovery Group (created by DOC) are doing everything they can to safeguard its survival. The future was grim for this creature but now they are cautiously positive.

Pick up this book – and go on a voyage of wētā discovery. It is like you are entering the forest at night to explore the life and history of these tree dwellers. It feels so real and illuminating.

 

Some of my favourite facts:

If they get scared they hide then freeze

They can’t fly but they can hear really well

They like to keep their antennae super clean

 

Annemarie writes for younger readers. She also wrote Kiwi: the real story, the first book in this series on threatened species. It won the children’s choice Non-fiction Award. in 2013.

Terry is an award-winning illustrator/ photographer who cares about nature.

Bravo New Holland – this book should be in every school library and on every child’s shelf. Book page here.

 

 

 

 

 

A poem from Peter Bland’s fabulous new collection for children

 

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Peter Bland is one of my favourite local poets who writes for children. He has new book

The Happy Garden: New & Selected Poems for Children

Steele Roberts 2018

which I think should be in every school library and on every children’s bookshelf.

Peter writes with exactly the right ingredients: a trampoline imagination, a whizzing ear for rhyme, eye for things that surprise, sparkling humour. Peter’s poems are like little chemical reactions where things fizz and change and react and connect. Or little surprise parcels for us to open.

The Happy Garden does all these things and more! Peter has kindly given me permission to post a poem on my blog. Steele Roberts page.

 

 

The tiny tiny spider

A tiny tiny spider

is crossing the bathroom floor.

I leave him tiny tiny crumbs

he chooses to ignore.

The bathroom floor’s a desert.

I think the spider’s lost.

I think he thinks he’s a camel

and a desert has to be crossed.

Keep going, tiny spider

until you find a cave

in a crack in the tiles

or a hole in the wall

that’s cosy, warm and safe.

 

©Peter Bland

 

 

 

 

You might  like to check out my popUP

holiday poem challenge (deadline from Friday!!)

and my October poetry tree challenge

 

Librarian’s choice: Bee Trudgeon picks Baxter Basics

 

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Baxter Basics, Poems for Children by James K Baxter (Steele Roberts Publishers)

 

How wonderful it is, to have the line that will lead children along the road toward poetic Jerusalem inscribed by the master wordsmith latterly known as Hemi. The poems in this collection date from the early 50s, and were published as The Tree House in 1974. In 1979, Price Milburn produced the poems in separate Baxter Basics booklets in the PM Readalongs series. Steele Roberts brought them together in this modern compendium version in 2008.

What a wonderful way to preserve them, when one’s original school readers become the stuff of half-remembered dreaming. And what a gift to me, as a new librarian at Cannons Creek Library, looking for solid ways to turn kids on to reading and poetry. In a modern world, sometimes vintage turns out to be the most amazing flavour to taste. My familiarity with the poems and affection for the illustrations made it easy to pick up and enthusiastically share.
What do you love about it?

It reminds me of the excitement of learning to read in the days when I did – in the early 1970s. I love the way it introduces unmistakable rhyme schemes that have the kids punching the air to tell me they have noticed them. I love the way its economy of line has met the sort of playful typographic design that leads us to taking exactly the right size bites to best serve each line.
Which poems really hook you?

I like the balance and sway of “I’m A Tree” – ‘I’m a man out walking in the thick green bush; I can’t see the sun, So I push, push, push! / I’m a boy with a banjo, Clever as they come; I pick up my banjo and I strum, strum, strum!’ (And who wouldn’t want to be the boy with the banjo and the fans, as Lynley Dodd sees them.)
Speaking of the illustrations, Dodd’s fine work – along with that of Judith Trevelyan, Dawn Johnston, and Ernest Papps – hark nostalgia now, although only ‘The Firemen’ would have seemed vintage when first published. The renderings of home, town, bush/forest, beach/sea and sparse traffic in uncrowded cities combine with the words to make me feel like the world is my oyster, and that I can transport myself into any form of being from nature, to occupation, to location.
Have you seen children reading it?
This is probably my most-shared poetry book, and it is always well received. The offering of a first line or two is easily transformed by the invitation to turn Baxter’s observations into one’s own.
What three words sum up the book?
Vintage, transformative, classic. (I consider any book capable of turning us into poets via uncluttered example transformative!)
Can you think of a book it is similar to?
Margaret Mahy’s rhyme-alicious “My Wonderful Aunt” shared a similar publishing history, in that it was served up as a compendium of stories after years of being loved as individual readers. There is something quite special about honouring ‘the reader’ – seen so much as a tool by those doing the teaching, but with the capacity to lodge themselves very deeply into the psyches of those making reading revelations with them.

 

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Bee Trudgeon is the Porirua Children’s Librarian Kaitiaki Pukapuka Tamariki. She is a writer, strummer, storyteller, dancer in the dark, film buff, perpetual student, and the mother of a couple of big kids who still love bedtime stories. Often spotted urban long-distance walking wearing headphones and a ukulele, she lives in a haunted house in Cannons Creek, and works wherever there is an audience.

 

Check out the Poetry Box August challenge here

 

 

 

 

Poetry Box audio spot – Melinda Szymanik reading Fuzzy Doodle

 

 

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Fuzzy Doodle was published by Scholastic in 2016.

 

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.

 

 

Find Melinda’s blog

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.

 

Selected Bibliography

A complete list is available on her blog

 

Picture Books

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.

Fuzzy Doodle, illus. Donovan Bixley, Scholastic NZ, 2016, Scholastic Asia, 2017.

 

Junior Novels

Jack the Viking, Scholastic NZ, 2008.

A Winter’s Day in 1939, Scholastic NZ, March 2013.

Poetry Box audio spot: Renee Liang’s Caterpillar

This is the perfect audio to go with our July butterfly challenge. Listen out for the butterfly song in te reo.

 

 

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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. 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

Poetry Box July challenge – a bedazzle of butterflies

 

 

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‘Some butterflies are see-through

with wings like panes of glass’

 

from  Secret World of Butterflies by Courtney Sina Meredith and Giselle Clarkson

(Allen & Unwin 2018)

 

 

This month I am using the most beautiful butterfly book as the starting point for your challenge.

If you live in Auckland you might be able to go and see the butterfly exhibition at Auckland Museum. Or you might be able to track down this book that has just arrived in the world all sheeny and new.

Poet Courtney Sina Meredith has come up with the sweet flowing words, Giselle Clarkson has created the vibrant illustrations and the Museum has provided fascinating facts.

It is a treasure of a book that is a delight to read and a delight to look at it.

I love butterflies. Whenever a monarch butterfly turns up in our garden I get goosebumps.

 

So let’s brighten up the chilly bite of July with butterfly poems.

 

I will read them all near the end of the month, post some favourites on July 31st and have a book for at least one poet.

 

Some writing tips

collect a big bunch of butterfly words before you start writing (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs) and a bouquet of similes

try writing a poem using no more than 16 words or so

use your senses to bring the butterfly alive

strong detail can shine

use a fascinating fact as a starting point

tell a little poem butterfly story

use a real experience

imagine something

make a butterfly poem that looks or moves like a butterfly

read your poem to someone before you send it to me – what will make it even better?

 

deadline: July 30th

send to: paulajoygreen@gmail.com

include: your name, age, year, school

essential: put butterfly poem in subject line so I don’t miss it

 

have fun!!!!