Tag Archives: Gecko Press

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

 

 

 

Excellent holiday reading: Stories of the Night by Kitty Crowther

You might also like to check out my popUP

holiday poem challenge and my October

poetry tree challenge

 

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Stories of the Night by Kitty Crowther (Gecko Press, 2018) age 5+

 

Kitty lives in Belgium – her parents are English and Swedish. She has written and illustrated over 40 books. They have been translated into 20 languages and won many awards. In 2010 she won a major prize for children’s authors: The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Kitty dedicated the book to Sarah who came to stay one night and dreamed Kitty wrote a book called ‘Stories of the Night‘ with a pink cover and a handwritten title! Wonderful!

And now it is in the world!!

 

Kitty’s new book is an absolute honey of a book – a modern fairy tale – that I want to read and read and read again.

Little Bear wants Mother Bear to tell three bedtime stories to help them go to sleep.

The book is exquisite pink the perfect pink for a book that is dreamy and magical and soothes. A smallish hardback that I have held in my hand for two days before opening because I wanted to save and savour it!!!

The beautiful drawings take me back to all the bear books I have loved – so full of life and delight.

 

The number 3 is powerful in fairy stories – 3 stories are Little Bear’s way into sleep.

The first story is about the Night Guardian who says when it is time to go to sleep even when it doesn’t feel like time because there is one more thing to do!

 

Donnnnng Donnnnnnnng

“It’s time to go to bed, little ant.”

“I just need to get this one piece of petal,” called a tiny voice.

 

The second story is about a little girl with a sword who gets lost. She goes hunting for blackberries and ends up having the snuggliest sleep.

 

Zhora snuggled under a leaf and fell fast asleep. She felt safe.

At dawn, she heard her brothers and sisters calling her in the distance. She was so excited to tell them about her adventures, but her bed was snuggle and warm so she stayed just a little longer. Right now, being here was perfect.

 

The third story is about the man in a big coat who never sleeps. I especially love this story because his best friend Otto the otter writes poems on stones and throws them into the sea.

 

Bo was delighted to be back in his bed.

The moment his head touched the pillow, he sank into a deep sleep. He didn’t ask if this was because of his night swim or because he’d found one of Otto’s stone poems or because he had such a wonderful friend—or even if it was a mixture of everything.

 

Good books make us feel good but they also shine little lights on the world – on how we fit together in families and friendships. I love this book because it reminded me of my life as a mother, a daughter and a friend, of how stories are gold, and kindness and gentleness and braveness and perseverance are also gold. Sleep well young readers!

this book is a keep-me-forever dreamtime book

 

 

 

 

 

A popUP Poetry Box challenge for the HOLIDAYS with an EXCEPTIONALLY good Gecko Press book

 

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Sunday afternoon and I have just got lost in the most extraordinary picture book

Inside the Villains by Clotilde Perrin (Gecko Press)

aimed at 5 to 8 year olds but I am WAY older than that!

 

This is a BIG FORMAT book that will just BLOW your cotton socks off it is so GOOD!

Open the book and you get inside three fairy tales villains:

 

wolves

giants

witches

 

For each villain you get fascinating facts.

For the wolf: strengths, weaknesses, top food, fears, favourite games, distinguishing features, physical attributes, favourite books

 

For each villain you get a beautifully written story.

For the wolf: The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats

 

For each villain you get a giant illustration that is utterly gorgeous and utterly special because you open up layers and layers with flaps.

For the wolf: open the wolf and you see their underwear, underneath that you pull a string and see what is in the wolf’s gut, open the head and you discover several layers of awesome ideas, lift the mouth and discover what they are eating!

 

Pull the springs

Pull the levers

Open stomachs

Open mouths

Open heads

 

This felt like the perfect book to set a holiday poem challenge.

 

write a poem that gets inside a fairy tale villain

 

 

we all have secrets inside us!

 

 

Villains might be a little bit bad and a little bit good.

Inside the villain you might find things they

love

fear

surprised them

delighted them

love to do in spare time

their favourite place

their favourite adventure

their least favourite adventure

their favourite books

their best friend (do they have one?)

their strengthes

their weak spots

their horribleness

their secret dreams

 

Let your imaginations go roaming

Let your ears work hard listening to the words you pick

Let your eyes hunt for surprising things

Will your poem by short or long?

How many words will you play with on the line?

Read it aloud to someone before you send it to me

 

You might like to do a drawing or painting to go with your poem that you can scan and send to me too.

I LOVE this book so much I will buy a copy for one young poet and I will post some favourite poems.

 

Send to: paulajoygreen@gmail.com

Deadline: Thursday October 11th

Please include: your name, age, year and name of school

So I don’t miss it: Put VILLAIN poem in subject line

I will post some favourites on Friday October 12th

 

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Clotilde Perrin is an illustrator who lives in Strasbourg in France. Inside the Villains was first published in France.  She has illustrated numerous books including At the Same Moment Around the World.   [Paula: I want to track that book down it looks amazing!!!]

Gecko page here

In the hammock: Eirlys Hunter’s sumptuous The Mapmakers’ Race

 

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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.   paulajoygreen@gmail.com

 

Gecko Press page

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my hammock: Reading ‘Wolfy’

 

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Wolfy  by Grégoire Solotareff, Gecko Press, 2018

 

Julia Marshall of Gecko Press said this was a book she had wanted to publish for years and I can see why.

Wolfy was originally published in French in 1989 as Loulou.

Picture-book stories can do many things. They can make you laugh out loud. They can make you keep turning pages without taking a breath to the very last page because they are so good. They can make you stop and look at the illustrations for what seems like a year because they are so good. They can be fun or serious or mysterious. They can be excellent to read aloud.

Wolfy is like a fable – a story with a message or a moral. It is not a SHOUTY message but a quiet message that shares something important about being human.

There is a rabbit who has never met a wolf.

There is a wolf who has never met a rabbit.

They get to be best friends even though wolves usually eat rabbits.

But then they play:  Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

 

And for a few pages things get DARK and SCARY but not like you     may        think.

It is like listening to a piece of music that is sweet and calm and then gets LOUD and TERRIFYING.

 

And then …..

And then …..

 

you get my favourite page where the rabbit is lying on his bed face down sobbing.

I nearly cried.

 

Oh another favourite page: I love the rabbit reading in bed early on!

 

And then …..

And then ….

 

Well dear reader, you have to find this fabulous, exquisitely written, divinely illustrated, heart-stopping, uplifting story to find out what happens next.

This is a gem of a book and will no doubt become a classic for English readers.

I adore it!

 

PS: If you read it and love it: send me a letter to put on the blog: paulajoygreen@gmail.com

 

Gecko Press page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my hammock: reading Maria Jönsson’s Valdemar’s Peas

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Valdemar’s Peas by Maria Jönsson, Gecko Press, 2018

 

This picture book is just for me because when I was a child I used to think I was Pea Green not Paula Green  –  but I hated peas and I would hide them in my pockets and out they would spill when I would least expect and what ho! my face would turn red.  Maybe I should have called myself Apple Green because I loved apples, especially from my aunt and uncle’s orchard.

In this gorgeous gobble-in-a-second and lick-your-lips book

Valdemar is a young wolf who knows exactly what he likes!

Yes he likes fish fingers and yes he likes ice cream.

But like me he hates PEAS but he has a far more CUNNING plan at dinner than I ever did.

 

Yes indeed I highly recommend this PEA FILLED book with its divine illustrations. It will put a smile on your face as you read.

 

Gecko Page here

 

My May challenge is a festival of poems about epic women (and that might be our aunt or grandmother or best friend!!). I have posted it here!

 

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Gecko Press’s The Old Man is essential reading especially in a long power cut

 

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The Old Man   by Sarah V and Claude K Dubois  Gecko Press  2018

 

 

Last Tuesday we had such a storm in Auckland I couldn’t sleep with the rampaging wind. I live near Bethells Beach where the storm really roared and rattled. It felt like the wind was going to pick our house up like a kite and whisk it down the valley to the sea. But instead the house was a strong anchor. I was glad when morning came and I could see.

We lost power for 5 nights and, even though it was a pain at times, I learnt from the experience. We had no running water because we live in the country but got buckets out of the water tank.  We couldn’t use the internet. We couldn’t have showers or flush the toilet. I went to bed early and woke up early. I wrote things in my notebooks and read novels. I listened to National Radio by candlelight.

On the radio news I heard about the terrible hurricane in Fiji and my heart went out to people who had lost so much. I heard about the war in Syria and my heart went out to the families there.

I felt like my problems were little problems.

 

 

Most importantly I read a new book published by Gecko Press:

The Old Man   by Sarah V and Claude K Dubois

 

The story is about a homeless man huddling under a blanket.

He could be anyone of the homeless people I see on the streets of our cities and maybe even towns.

He has nowhere to call home, he has no food, and he has no one to hug and share his stories with.

In the story a young girl sees the homeless man and offers him her sandwich and says he looks like a teddy bear. He doesn’t remember his name.

I got goosebumps as I read this book and then I cried in the candlelight.

It is so beautifully written and so beautifully illustrated and it will make you feel something about something that matters.

 

I read this book and it put the Auckland storm in perspective. I have somewhere to live with roof and walls and windows. I have a name. I share my life with you. I have a garden and I can restock my empty (after the power cut) fridge with food.

I have a home.

I am really really hoping you read this book because although this book is sad it is also full of hope. The little things we do matter. I love this book so very much.

 

 

Based on Gecko Press’s spectacular invention book: You still have time to do the Holiday challenge 

Don’t forget: You have until Friday April 27th to do the APRIL challenge (on the way poems – perfect for the holidays too!!).