Monthly Archives: August 2009

Where do Underpants come From

Have just read Joe Bennett’s Where Underpants Come From. Joe tracks a pair of underpants he bought as part of a 5 pack for $8.59 from The Warehouse in NZ back to their origins in China. He visits the factories, cotton mills, cotton fields involved. A very funny, warm, insightful , but also analytical look at China, the Chinese people, their government, and the structure of global business.

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Bookrapt Seminar

I am involved in a most wonderful organisation – Bookrapt or the Bay of Plenty Children’s Literature Association. The aim of our group is to promote and celebrate excellent children’s literature. I’ve been involved with Bookrapt since coming back to Tauranga to live in 1995. I say wonderful because it is such a friendly, informal, but also a very successful group. We achieve a good deal, because we know clearly what our goal is, and we all share the same beliefs about the values of reading and books for young people.

One of the events we run is an annual seminar – and yesterday ‘s seminar featured authors Philippa Werry and Jenny Hessell, and writer/illustrator Gavin Bishop. Each are talented in their own way, and it was inspirational listening to each one speak and share their ideas about writing and give us insights into their work.

Philippa Werry talked about the extensive background research she did on her excellent children’s novel Enemy at the Gate – about the polio epidemic of 1936/37. The novel weaves in some of key historical events and people of the time – Jack Lovelock, Shirley Temple, the depression… She talked about the importance of including only the essence of the historical facts – otherwise the history can swamp the story. I’ve read this fabulous book and think she achieves this very well indeed.

Gavin Bishop didn’t do any research on his book Piano Rock, until he’d finished it (and only to check some of the facts) – but this was appropriate as it was a personal memoir of his life as a young boy in 1950s New Zealand. It is a fascinating and beautifully produced book. He also talked about the techniques he’s been using lately – including monograph printing. He’s been simplifying the illustrative techniques he uses, and it was interesting hearing him talk about this. He made it sound easy but we all know he is an incredible talent with a huge amount of expertise and skill – and his just published board books speak of this – they are simply world class. The vertical format is intriguing and works with the board book format, story (nursery rhymes), and illustrative style.

Jenny Hessell spoke about the process of writing, and shared the wonderful metaphor from Roald Dahl about writing being like a piece of wood dipped into the water with a piece of string attached. Every now and again you’ll pull the piece of wood out and something interesting will be attached…like a barnacle or some seaweed…and over time a story builds up from all these interesting bits and pieces. She believes good writing mainly comes from the subconscious. Jenny read a couple of her Grandma McGarvey books to the audience – a real treat to hear these famous and well loved stories told in the author’s voice.

Three superb speakers. Click here for photos and an extended report.

As usual it was fantastic to have been involved in the organisation of the seminar (my role this time more in the catering department), and the catching up and chat with the attendees at morning tea and lunchtime was wonderful. As usual people had a great day.

Four flat whites in Italy

Five of us went to see Roger Hall’s latest play Four flat whites in Italy at Baycourt last Thursday Night. A fabulous production – a witty script, great acting, brilliant theatre design, costumes, and lighting – all added up to give this event the vavoom X factor. No wonder the Tauranga season sold out. There were so many one liners it was a belly laugh a minute, but the overriding theme for me was one of human kindness. Two couples who are at opposite poles of the social spectrum (Labour vs National, white collar vs blue collar, Dick Francis vs highbrow fiction etc ) and who have very little in common (apart from living in the same apartment) bitch at each throughout the holiday in Italy they end up going on together. This provides much of the play’s humour. And it is HILARIOUS. But as they get to know a little about each couple’s past, little acts of kindness/forgiveness occur and the couples end up perhaps seeing each other (and themselves) a little bit differently. The two supporting actors were brilliant as they played a whole range of different roles. A great story with lots of layers to keep the interest up. The occupation of one of the couples was librarian, and as one myself there was quite a bit of personal cringe factor as Roger Hall gently ribbed the characteristics of the typical librarian. Spot on! I suppose if you were a plumbing contractor like the other husband you would cringe just as equally…maybe???

Have to admit I did love the book recommendations Adrian gave!

Lee the librarian.

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