Tag Archives: Mr Whistler

NZ Post Children’s Book Awards

Book  awards can be nerve wracking times. My heart goes out to all those who didn’t get a gong and my delight goes out to all those who did. I was really impressed with the flurry of inventive activity that celebrated the shortlisted books throughout New Zealand. Bravo organisers!

I have read a number of the shortlisted books and I certainly had some favourites. Kate De Goldi generously answered some questions for Poetry Box ( May 19, 2013 — and I talked about what I loved about The ACB of Honora Lee). But I also loved Barbara Else‘s The Queen and the Nobody Boy. This is a book that is deliciously imaginative with exquisite detail. You enter the world of the book and you want to stay awhile! I really enjoyed Racheal King’s  Red Rock. This is like a beautifully written fable that is also grounded in the real world. David Hill‘s novel Mr Brother’s War won Best Junior Fiction and I was happy for David. His book takes you into the grip and guts of war in ways that are both complex and moving. It’s ages since I have read it — now I want to read it again ( I will publish one of David’s poems on Poetry Box sometime this year). I highly recommend all these books!

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AAhhh! Picture books. I love children’s picture books. And these two winners are heavenly. I have already flagged Mr Whistler on Poetry Box (March 28, 2013) — Gavin Bishop‘s lively illustrations and Margaret Mahy‘s brilliant story are a treat. This won best picture book. Later this year Kyle Mewburn is going to answer some questions for Poetry Box and I will share what I love abut his books. There is a poet lurking inside this fabulous storyteller that’s for sure. He knows what to do with words to make them sing and gleam. I was happy he won the children’s choice award. Well deserved!

A YA book won the top prize: ‘Ted Dawe’s book Into the River won the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and was also the winner of the Young Adult Fiction category.  This engaging coming of age novel follows its main protagonist from his childhood in small town rural New Zealand to an elite Auckland boarding school where he must forge his own way – including battling with his cultural identity.’

Simon Morton and Riria Hotere won Best Non-Fiction with 100 Amazing Tales from Aotearoa. Will have to get a copy of this!

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Now all the authors can get back to the real world of writing and reading and visiting schools and cooking dinner and driving children to school and feeding dogs and cats and walking on the beach or in the bush or up mountains and flying in aeroplanes and riding bikes and catching ideas and trains and going to the library and bookshops and watching movies and answering the phone and sending emails and posting letters.

Writing poems is sometimes like making soup & Mahy’s Mr Whistler

Writing poems is sometimes like making soup ( I love making and eating soup in winter). You need just the right amount of ingredients, but I reckon we all have a different idea of what those ingredients might be. Too much salt and the soup tastes yuk! Not enough salt and the soup tastes yuk! Not enough liquid and it’s not really soup. Pumpkin and ginger — a match made in heaven.

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Margaret Mahy knew how to make a good soup poem and a good soup story. Just as I showed with The Moon & Farmer McPhee, Margaret used her ear when she wrote Mr Whistler. Sometimes a whole sentence will be full of shiny words, but often she writes a plain sentence with one word that shines:

‘Last of all he clapped his hat on his head.’

Margaret could have said ‘put his hat on’ but clapped just adds music and zing to her story. She uses just the right amount of salt (shiny words).

Mr Whistler sounds good but it is also a great story. Mr Whistle gets dressed. He is off to the station, dancing and tapping with a song in his head.  He is really worried he is going to lose his ticket. I don’t want to spoil how this delightful story unfolds — you will just have to read it.

Gavin Bishop, one of our very best illustrators, did the illustrations. The illustrations dance and tap across the page like the song in Mr Whistler’s head. I love them! I always get curious about the pictures and wonder what the illustrator used to do them. These look like a mix of water-colour and ink on special water-colour paper. I always wish the publishers would give us this information. Gavin Bishop lives in Christchurch.

Mister Whistler was published by Gecko Books in 2012. This is what it says inside: ‘For more curiously good books see http://www.geckopress.com.’  Congratulations Gecko Press, this book is one of them!