27 June, 2016

Whose beak is this? by Gillian Candler

Gillian Candler is an award-winning writer whose previous children's books, like this one, focus on the beauty of nature and the great outdoors. It is no surprise that this fantastic picture book has been shortlisted for this year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children.

Candler invites the reader to guess the bird from an illustration of its beak. The names of the birds are all given in English and Maori. The favourites are all here – Kiwi and Tui and others – but also some lesser known birds like the Toroa. The text accompanying the images is short but informative and consistently interesting.

Where the book is so clever is that it teaches science almost without you realising, introducing the concept of adaptation. Children not only see the bird in its natural environment but also gain an understanding of its evolution. It is rare to see science blended so successfully into a picture book aimed at such a young audience.

This is Candler’s first collaboration with the artist and illustrator Fraser Williamson, and Williamson’s illustrations are simply delightful, sharp and vivid and jumping out at the reader. They provide the perfect counterpoint to the text and Candler’s inviting questions.

This book is a real pleasure for any adult to read with their young child and one you will want to pick up again and again. You may be surprised at how many beaks your child knows, and how few you recognise!

Author: Gillian Candler

Reviewed by Nick K, Ranui Library

Nick K enjoys reading crime fiction, demonological adult and young adult fiction, classic children’s fiction like Arthur Ransome and picture books, especially those illustrated by Quentin Blake. He hates reality TV. 

Something new [graphic novel] : tales from a makeshift bride by Lucy Knisley

I have been to very few weddings in my life, and only ever helped prepare for one.  Still, my minimal experiences with the planning and running around like headless chickens have been enough for me to know – organising a wedding is serious business.

Enter cartoonist and comic artist Lucy Knisley, who has never really thought about getting married – and certainly not with John, her ex-boyfriend (who she was still madly in love with at the time). However, one thing led to another and before she knew it, Knisley was organizing wedding dresses and arguing with her mother about how many people to invite.

If you’ve ever read anything of hers before, you’ll know that she doesn’t shy away from being honest with herself and her readers. Putting parts of her life on show that you don’t often see or think about (like her terrible, no-good, first ever big argument with her mom; the pressure – from advertising and otherwise - that suddenly bombards you when you update your social media to ‘engaged’; the joy of seeing her fiancée and knowing she’s going to 'marry the heck out of him') and depicting how she reflects back on her own values while suffering through these ‘small’ (not to a bride to be, I’m sure) trials, Knisley makes a lovely autobio comic about the highs and lows of planning the wedding she never expected.

I was a huge fan of Lucy Knisley’s before, and still am now. Art-wise, her books have gotten clearer and more polished (compared to French Milk, which was already beautiful) and her storytelling skills the same. As autobiographical comic artists go, Lucy Knisley is a fave of mine and Something New did not disappoint.

Title: Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride
Author: Lucy Knisley

Recommended by Dana S, Central Library

Dana S is a library assistant who loves any kind of organising or planning, especially when it involves a list or two and some crafts. She is not, however, very good at:
  • organising;
  • planning; and/or
  • crafts.
As you can see, she's pretty darn good at making a list though - and one out of four ain't bad.

26 June, 2016

Slice Harvester – A Memoir in pizza by Colin Atrophy Hagendorf

What first attracted me to this book was of course the triangular beacon of delicious, greasy NYC pizza pie that takes center stage on the cover. And as with the promise of its cover, the pages within rose to the challenge to continue grumbling my tummy. And in my case - and to my husband’s delight, three trips to my local Sal’s pizza. 

Colin is a self-proclaimed punk, a man who has his own personal set of demons that he deals with, while on a mission to try all the pizza joints in New York city and write a review blog about them that becomes an international sensation. 

Shadowing Colin is a hard lifestyle of alcoholism (while working in a bar), coupled by a tendency to compulsively lie to all around him – including himself.  However after 2 ½ years and 436 slices of pizza, his mission helped give him a path forward and an opportunity to indulge his pallet and his gift for writing.

Colin has a clear and authentic punk rocker voice that will make you cringe, laugh and occasionally salivate at his vividly human anecdotes.

Author: Colin Atrophy Hagendorf 

Reviewed by Suzy D, Mt Albert Library

24 June, 2016

Art forms in nature : the prints of Ernst Haeckel : one hundred color plates

This is a stunningly beautiful book that will appeal to art lovers as well as those fascinated by the weird and wonderful variations of forms in nature. With 100 plates of amazing illustrations there is plenty to study and enjoy. Submerge yourself in the details, it is a feast for the eyes.

Ernst Haeckel, (1834 - 1919), was born in Prussia, and was a zoologist, evolutionist and professor of comparative anatomy at the University of Jena. He has been credited with introducing the terms phylum, phylogeny, and ecology. He identified many new species of living beings and gave names to thousands of them. Obviously he was also a skilled artist as well.

This volume highlights the research and findings of this natural scientist. Powerful modern microscopes have confirmed the accuracy of Haeckel's prints, which even in their day, became world famous.

Title: Art forms in nature : the prints of Ernst Haeckel : one hundred color plates
Author:  with contributions by Olaf Breidbach and Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt and a preface by Richard Hartmann ; [translated from the German by Michele Schons ; edited by Michael Ashdown].

Recommended by Anita S, Blockhouse Bay Library

Anita S reads widely and eclectically, but most often random non-fiction fact books, good general and teen fiction, (often dystopian future types), fantasy and sci-fi if they cover a new angle on something, kids books and... actually she'll take a look at most stuff. Books are great! She also loves art and illustration..

21 June, 2016

A brush with Brown: the landscapes of Capability Brown by Tim Scott Bolton; foreword by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales

This book combines two subjects of interest to me; painting and gardening.
Tim Scott Bolton has spent two years completing the 90 or so paintings that grace the pages of his first book and for 40 years he has travelled round Britain painting many of its well known homes in oils and watercolours.

Lancelot (‘Capability’) Brown was born in 1716. Influenced by William Kent, one of the founders of the new English style of landscape gardening, it is estimated he was responsible for over 170 gardens in Britain surrounding the finest country houses. His naturalistic landscapes done on a grand scale replaced the older style of formal gardens.
Interesting to see how well he was paid – 6,000 pounds a year in the 1760’s which is the equivalent of 740,000 pounds in todays money. Eventually he bought his own large estate.
A number of books have been released to celebrate the 300th anniversary of his birth. ‘Capability Brown & his landscape gardens’ by Sarah Rutherford is also in our library.

The author/artist was able to access about a third of the estates that were landscaped by Brown. The paintings are beautiful and it’s interesting to realise that the mature trees we see now were only there in Brown’s imagination at the time of planting.
Bolton says “ Lancelot Brown was lucky to have been born in an aesthetic age, the eighteenth century, the Age of Enlightenment. Today we live in utilitarian times and I fear all I see is ugliness in much that is new.”

Title: A brush with Brown: the landscapes of Capability BrownAuthor: Tim Scott Bolton 
Reviewed by: Claire S.
Claire S works in Information Services, Central Library and enjoys reading, biographies ,art, New Zealand and other interesting bits and pieces.

18 June, 2016

The silent cry by Cathy Glass

Cathy Glass has been a foster parent and has helped many children in her care. It was amazing to see how empathy by the foster carer for the child and their family , makes a difference to them psychologically, and helps them  adjust to the problems that they are facing . Every child is unique and the author shows how a foster parent has to take into consideration the environment that they come from. She shows how to handle boisterous kids  who actually are quite scared and vulnerable underneath their tough exterior. Innocent kids learn the ways of the world through the parent/caregiver who gives them the right guidance . This helps them to grow into well adjusted adults.

Cathy also shows how not to brush off depression problems that young mothers may have after a pregnancy and how important it is to address them with specialized care if a solution is needed. Parents often need help with their children as, it can be overwhelming at times and the foster carer supports them in their journey.

The book shows the importance of a good carer who is sensitive to the needs of a child and is flexible to the demands of a job which can call on their services at a very short notice.

Title: The Silent Cry
Author: Cathy Glass

Reviewed by Kanchan T, Blockhouse Bay Library
Kanchan T loves reading biographies and inspirational stories

Re-inventing New Zealand: Essays on the arts and the media by Roger Horrocks

This newly published book offers an insightful personal commentary on major shifts in New Zealand cultural history from the 1930s until nowadays. It is especially valuable as it is written by a person who, through the most of this period, has been directly involved in shaping and re-inventing the New Zealand art and culture scene.

More than in others, the author is interested in those writers and artists who remain in New Zeland but have a strong international awareness. In a similar way, “think globally, act locally” turns up to be his own life principle.

Emeritus Professor Roger Horrocks is widely known as an expert on the life and work of New Zealand-born artist Len Lye. He founded the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies at The University of Auckland and co-founded the Auckland International Film Festival. 

He regards himself a critic, organiser and teacher. Once in a while, he takes a role of an artist too, believing it is beneficial for any good critic, organiser and teacher to experience the process of making art. 

The selection of 21 essays written in the last 30 years covers a whole range of themes related to New Zealand literature, visual arts, music, film and television. With masterly skill, Horrocks discusses the most complex issues in a lively and engaging manner, often referring to his personal interest and experience:

“If I am excited about something new, I want to share it, and most of my essays have taken their starting-point from that impulse – a crusade of sorts”.

Title: Re-inventing New Zealand: Essays on the arts and the media
Author: Roger Horrocks

Recommended by Maria M, Central Library

Maria M believes reading is the best way to understand other people and places. She is an avid bilingual reader who is particularly interested in New Zealand fiction.

17 June, 2016

Before we visit the goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Before we visit the goddess is the latest novel from the author of the much-acclaimed The mistress of spices and One amazing thing.

This Indo-American tale takes us on an extraordinary journey from the countryside of Bengal, India, to the streets of Houston,Texas.

It showcases the lives of 3 women related by birth - a grandmother, mother and daughter. Each is estranged from her mother, for various reasons, sometimes silly reasons, as is often the way in families. While breaking off ties brings with it a sweet sense of freedom, it’s also accompanied by loneliness and anguish that must be borne on one’s own.

Mistakes and misjudgements are painful aspects of the relationships and they give us an inside look into the struggles many mothers and daughters experience. Love choices don’t necessarily offer the escape that they first promise, and there is no happily ever after ending.

The story is told from the 1950s to 2020 in no chronological order and always from a different point of view; but even though the voices are from different generations, they appear to face the same troubles that the older generation faced. It also shows quite powerfully, how decisions made early in life can affect others, including future generations.

A few other characters shape the lives of the three women and their impact is brought in naturally and realistically. In fact every complex emotion in this book is portrayed authentically, which I think is possibly its greatest strength.

This warm and wise story about keeping connections and one’s independence has got to be instantly recognisable to most women. Read it.

Title: Before we visit the goddess
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Reviewed by Suneeta N, Highland Park Library.

Suneeta N particularly enjoys biographies, travel stories and reading authors from around the world. She loves a good discussion and believes that everybody has a story worth telling.

15 June, 2016

Very good lives: the fringe benefits of failure and the importance of imagination by J.K. Rowling

Rarely do I get a chance to recommend a speech as an entertaining bedtime read, but when J.K. Rowling is the writer, an exception must be made.

This book is the published commencement address that Ms Rowling gave at Harvard University in 2008, an honour which she took seriously enough to be ill over. The book has been placed in the Dewey area of “personal improvement": a do-goody area I usually avoid as reading within it usually has the perverse effect of making me feel worse about myself. However, it could just as well have been classified under “humour”: a much more palatable choice and one bound to make anyone feel good.

For her lucky Harvard University audience, J.K. Rowling discusses the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination succinctly and wittily in this light volume that is interspersed with descriptive graphics that reinforce the story on each page. It is a lovely looking little hard-cover and is the sort of book that improves with multiple readings and would make a very good gift for a new graduate (or a struggling would-be writer).

Since reading this little gem, I’ve started taking a closer look at the do-goody section lately in the hopes that another witty treasure may be found amongst them.

Very good lives: the fringe benefits of failure and the importance of imagination by J.K. Rowling.

Reviewed by Monica F, Waitakere Central Library, Henderson.

Monica F is happiest in gumboots and apron, attending to her animals, harvesting her crops and making stuff. Like all truly wholesome people, she has a dark side, and enjoys nothing better than well written true crime and forensic medicine.

14 June, 2016

Always the bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk

Chick-lits aren't my go-to when I pick up a book. I tend to prefer - well, scroll down to the bottom, that little paragraph about me will fill you in.

Sometimes though, I just want to read outside my usual genres, and there is something to be said for browsing the catalogue with no expectations and borrowing a title on a whim. 

It was during such a time that I borrowed Always the bridesmaid on OverDrive, and this whim left me pleasantly surprised.

In this book, we meet Maddie Fraser, a young woman perpetually stuck in the background: her crazy boss treats her like a slave, her ex traded her in, her friends take her for granted, and she's always the bridesmaid.

Suddenly, one best friend is in wedding countdown while the other faces marriage meltdown, and let's add to that the fact her ex is also headed down the aisle.

Maddie soon finds herself juggling bridezilla texts, late night counselling sessions and a chance at promotion at work, only to wonder whether it's time to stop putting everything and everyone else first, and go after what she wants.

Despite having no expectations when I began this book, I really enjoyed it. It was light, moved along quickly and Maddie is very sympathetic as a main character - there was many a time where I became offended on her behalf! 

I also liked Kelk's exploration of female friendships, how she took Maddie on journey from people-pleaser to self confident woman and her take on different kinds of relationships.

If you're keen for a light-hearted but heart-warming chick-lit, check out Always the bridesmaid now!

Title: Always the bridesmaid
Author: Lindsey Kelk

Recommended by Sucheta R, Grey Lynn Library

Sucheta R is based in Grey Lynn Library. When she doesn't read, she has an overflowing shelf full of books and an ever-growing to-be-read pile. When she does read, it’s two or three books at the same time: a few chapters here, a few chapters there and a few more somewhere else. Sucheta likes dystopian sci-fi, contemporary fantasy, satire, young adult and the occasional classic.