NZ Book Month


Today is the last day of NZ Book Month and the post a day challenge.

It’s been fun and the challenge for me was not what to include but which books to leave out.

Deborah kept up with the calendar. In doing so reminded me of some old favourites and added several books to my must-read list.

Family, work, life and other more important things got in the way of Rob’s good intention to post each day, but what he lacked in quantity was more than compensated for by quality. 

 He didn’t get round to Bollard and Buckle’s “Economic Liberalisation in New Zealand’  which he reckoned is a real page turner; nor Malcolm McKinnon History of the NZ Treasury which he promised would have you on the edge of your seat.

Maybe next year. 🙂


Deborah has posted on a month of books and in doing so reminded me that Karen Healey became a late entry to the challenge and posts here on Margaret Mahy; and that Oswald Bastable also did some book month posts, although none on his own.

Beak of the Moon


Not long after I started my first job on a newspaper the chief reporter told me an author was coming and I was to interview him.

The author was Philip Temple who was on a promotional tour for his newly published novel, Beak of the Moon.

It must have been one of those interviews authors dread because I hadn’t read the book. However,  I had heard of the author and was an admirer of his pictorial books like Mantle of the Skies, with its amazing photos of the bush and mountains.

He gave me a copy of Beak of the Moon which I read and then reviewed enthusiastically.

It’s an anthropomorphic story, giving a kea’s eye view of the arrival of people in the high country. The plot is absorbing and the story reflects the author’s knowledge and love of the high country.

Temple is one of New Zealand’s most prolific writers and has won several prizes including the Prime Minister’s Literary Award.

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Post 31 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge

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Over at In A Strange Land Deborah’s final post for the challenge is The Best Loved Bear by Diana Noonan, illustrated by Elizabeth Fuller.



Bogor the little woodsman and the pot-smoking hedgehog added wisdom and humour to the pages of the Listener for years.

Bogor was a philosopher and a conservationist way back when green was just a colour and not a political persuasion.

Every now and then the cartoons by Burton Silver were collected into books like this one.


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Post 30 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge

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Over at In A Strange Land Deborah posts on Maddigan’s Quest by Margaret Mahy.

Alison Holst’s Complete Cooking Class


Several of the 60 or so recipe books which crowd the shelf in my kitchen are Alison Holst’s.

From the small paper back one for using food processors – a birthday gift nearly three decades ago when kitchen whizzes were new – to the large, hard back Ultimate Collection.

Then there’s her Complete Cooking Class. It’s full of reliable, easy to follow recipes with ingredients which are usually on hand or easy to find.

The tatty cover is testament to the amount of use it gets.

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Over at In A Strange Land Deborah posts on Kaitangata Twitch by Margaret Mahy.

Post 29 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge

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In Touch


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No woman could get in to the All Blacks, not even a West Coaster. Or could she?

In Janette Sinclair’s In Touch, Sandy Jones manages it.

This is a light hearted romp with a twist in the tail – and the tale.

Post 27 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge

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Over at In A Strange Land Deborah posts on Down the Dragon’s Tongue by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Patricia MacCarthy.

Rob’s catching up with The Shag Incident by Stephanie Johnson and two books by Barry Gustafson: His Way, a Biography of Robert Muldoon and kiwi Keith, a Biography of Keith Holyoake.

And Karen Healey has made a late entry to the challenge with: The Alex Quartet by Tessa Duder; The works of Elizabeth Knox; and Gavin Bishop.

The Road to Castle Hill


 If you judged The Road to Castle Hill by it’s cover you’d think it was the story of high country farming.

It is, but it’s much more than that.

Christine Fernyhough’s story is not just about how she came to buy Castle Hill Station and learned to farm it. It’s also the story of her involvement with the books in homes programe and the gifted kids programes which grew from that.

The book shows us the challenges Christine faced, including those with tenure review. She also has some very good thoughts on bridging the town-country divide.

I’ve heard Christine speak twice, she’s a delight to listen to and this book is a delight to read. Louise Callan helped with the writing and the words are enhanced by John Bougen’s photos.

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Post 26 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge

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Deborah at In a Strange Land posts on The Witch in the Cherry Tree by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Jenny Williams.

Rob posts on Greg McGee’s Tall Tales, Some True  and Memories of Muldoon by Bob Jones.

Going the Distance


 Tracey Richardson reached rock bottom.

She was clinically depressed, morbidly obese, unfit, her business had collpased and two of her four children had cystic fibrosis.

She was faced with giving up or radically changing her life.

She chose to change and succeeded. She went from being a non-athlete to competing in a triathlon and the Hawaii Ironman, raising money for cystic fibrosis in the process – and then wrote about it in Going the Distance.

It’s an honest, open and inspiring account of an ordinary woman doing extraordinary things.


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Post 25 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge

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Deborah at In A Strange Land posts on Kauri In My Blood by Joanna Orwin.

Oswald Bastable posts on Craftsmen in Uniform by Peter Irwin Cape.

The Dumpster Saga


Ben, the narrator of The Dumpster Saga is contending with aliens, secret agents, a bothersome little brother, he’s trying to impress a girl and he’s got a job which requries him to wear a bear suit.

That might not be much fun for Ben but it’s a lot of fun for the reader.

The Dumpster Saga, by Craig Harrison was a finalist in last year’s children’s book awards. It’s aimed at older children and teenagers but like any good young people’s book will be enjoyed by adults too.

I gave copies to a friend and a niece who are teachers and both then bought class sets of it.


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Post 24 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge

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Deborah at In A Strange Land posts on Home is the High Country by Mona Anderson, illustrated by David Cowe.

Hairy Maclary’s Caterwaul Caper


There had to be at least one book by Lynley Dodd in my contribution to New Zealand Book Month.

It could have been any or all of them, but I chose Hairy Maclary’s Caterwaul Caper partly because Deborah and Rob have already posted on other titles, and mostly because – like all of the others – it’s a delight to read.

Hairy Maclary and his friends, Hercules Morse,  Bottomley Potts, Muffin McLay, Bitzer Maloney and Schnitzel von Krumm, Scarface Claw and Miss Plum play a rhyming rhythmy role in this rollicking tale.

That this is the only author which all of us doing the post a day challenge have posted on says a lot about Lynley Dodd and her books.

Wonderful words and fantastic pictures – the author does her own illustrations – make this one of those books I didn’t mind reading again and again and again.

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Post 21 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.

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Over at In A Strange Land Deborah is celebrating Pohutukawa, written and illustrated by Sandra Morris. 

P.S. If you’re a Lynley Dodd/Hairy Maclary fan you might want to test your memory with the Hairy Maclary quiz. I managed only 22/32 the first time last week. I’ve done some re-reading since then and managed 28 last night.

Jane and the Dragon


I indenitifed with Jane from the first sentence:  Jane hated sewing.

However, there’s a lot more to the heroine of Jane and the Dragon written and illustrated by Martin Baynton than a dislike of practising her stitches.

She wants to be a knight but the only one who takes her seriously is the court jester.

There’s a moral to this story about following your dream and not being frightened to do the unexpected, but it’s not heavy handed. This is first and foremost a delightful tale which is beauitifully illustrated.

The inscription in the copy on our daughter’s book shelf shows it was given to her as a Christmas present when she was four. We enjoyed reading it to her, she enjoyed being read to and a few years later, read and re-read it herself.

Back then it was just a book. Jane has now been televised and has a website.

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Post 17 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.

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 Over at In A Strange Land Deborah posts on Down in the Forest by Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Jenny Cooper.

Rob’s been reading Slinkly Malinki by Lynley Dodd.

Here Comes Another Vital Moment


Diane Brown combines poetry, memoir and travel in Here Comes Another Vital Moment.

She has a poet’s gift for making every word count, painting word pictures and trusting the reader to see beyond the surface.

I loved the way she wove poetry into the prose:

From the Dom zu Berlin rooftops: a man clinging to the rounded blue glass of the new hotel roof as he adjusts something. Dizzy, I hold my breath, look away. Over in the distance, a think blue line on the horizon.

Those of us born on islands

always interpret blue

as sea, a distant line


as horizon to slip over . . .

It’s an original approach which makes this book so much more than a travelogue.

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Post 16 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.

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Over at In A Strange Land Deborah posts on Maraea and the Albatross by Patricia Grace, illustrated by Brian Gunson.

The farmer takes a wife


Apropos of  International Rural Women’s Day, today’s book is The farmer takes a wife by Mary Moore, illustrated by Helen Moore.

The stories were first broadcast on National Radio, the book came after thousands of readers responded positively to them.

They tell the tales of Alice who “had married George for better or worse . . .  The better was much better than she could ever have dreamed. The worse much worse. The really bad incredible worst always had something to do with animals. . .”

Fortunately Alice has a sense of humour which comes across in all the stories and each leaves the reader with a grin.

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Post 15 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.

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Over at In A Strange Land Deborah posts on Tane’s Weta by Jennifer McIvor, illustrated by John Rundle.

Rob’s giving us a double helping  of Maurice Gee – Ellie and the Shadow Man and Going West.

The Garden Party


A bonus book for NZ Book month in honour of  Katherine Mansfield’s birthday:

The Garden Party, Katherine Mansfield’s New Zealand Stories, illustrated edition.

This book 16 stories, illsutrated with a selection of New Zealand and British pictures from the Auckland City Art Gallery which opened in 1888, the year Katherine Mansfield was born.

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If you’re a fan you may be interested in the Katherine Mansfield Society.



Tessa Duder’s heroine Alex is articulate, feisty, talented, determined and fragile.

She is a champion swimmer, aiming to qualify for the Olympics. She’s also a hockey player, musician and an amateur dramatist who faces health problems and a tragedy.

The book gripped me from the opening sentence, held me through to the last word and stayed with me long after I finished it.

It is the first book in a quartet and the author maintains the high standards she set in the first book in all of the other three.

Alex won the New Zealand Story Book of the Year in 1988 and it also won the Esther Glen Award for children’s writing.


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Post 14 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.

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Rob posts on 101 Great Tramps and Grant Smithies’ SoundTrack.

Over at In A Strange Land Deborah posts on Seadog: A tale of Old New Zealand by Dorothy Butler, illustrated by Lyn Kriegler.



Sting by Raymond Huber  gives a bees-eye view of the world.

It’s the story of Ziggy, a bee who knows he’s different and his search to find out why.

It’s aimed at children but will be enjoyed by adults too. I was both entertained and educated by it.

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Post 13 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.

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Deborah continues to meet the post a day challenge at In A Strange Land with Taniwha written and illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa.

Rob catches up with two cook books and a garden book: Food For Flatters  by Michael Volkering;  Rowan Bishop’s  The Good Health Adventure Guide and The Yates Garden Guide.

Not part of the post a day challenge, but apropos of NZ Book Month, at The Sound of Butterflies Rachael King comments on the Sunday Star Times story with stats which indicate only 5% of the books New Zealanders buy are New Zealand books. She  says local books would sell better if they were placed with international fiction and not in a separate section of book shops.

I think she’s right. The way book shops display their wares, New Zealand books are never near the front. They are ghettoised further back where a casual browser is less likely to come upon them and the bigger the shop the harder it is to find New Zealand fiction.

Tomorrow When It’s Summer


A collection of columns, subtitled The Wit and Whimsy of Helen Brown would probably not be a likely candidate for a life changing book. But Tomorrow When It’s Summer, changed mine.

 A friend who came to visit me a few days after our son had been diagnosed with a degenerative brain disorder told me about the book and said I should read it.

It was some time later, months after Tom had died, that I came across it and started reading.

The tales of family life and domesticity amused me. Then I came to the column which dealt with the death of her son and its aftermath.

I’d read about death and grief before, but that was all academic. This was the first real account of the sheer awfulness of dealing with the death of a child that I’d come across. It made me cry but it also helped by showing me the raw pain, the confusion and despair were normal.

Then I came to the story of the first anniversary of her son’s death and it helped me believe I could find a way through those dark clouds which were enveloping me and I’d find the sun again.

Tomorrow When It’s Summer opened a door to the bereaved parents club for me, showing that learning about the experiences of other people could help and even better the book gave me hope.

 Helen has recently published another book, Cleo, how an upppity cat helped heal a family. I read an extract in Next magazine and have bought a copy but have not yet read it. Friends who have tell me it’s wonderful.

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Post 12 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.

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Over at In A Strange Land Deborah posts on Lynley Dodd’s The Smallest Turtle.

Aotearoa Psalms


Since it’s Sunday, today’s offering for New Zealand book month is Aotearoa Psalms by Joy Cowley with photos by Terry Coles, who is her husband.

Joy is best known as the author of children’s books, she has also written adult fiction. I came across this collection of meditations on my mother’s bookshelf.

I especially liked this from God of The Absurd:

Tune my ear to the laughter

of your universe

and help me to understand it

as my own.

And this from Do Dogs go to Heaven?

. . . I can’t count the times God has loved me

through small furred and feathered things,

how often I’ve been taught through them,

lessons of trust and playfulness,

simplicity and self-acceptance.

And since I do believe that heaven

is not so much a place as a state of being

I can say to my own mokopuna,

“Yes there are dogs in heaven.”

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Post 11 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.

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 Deborah has another Lynley Dodd favourite, Slinky Malinky Cat Flaps at In A Strangeland.

Rob gives us two for one at Rob’s Blockhead Blog: Ten Year’s Inside by Tom Scott and A Dagg At My Table by John Clarke.

And over at Kiwiblog David Farrar adds some facts to the figures on reading Kiwi books.

The Book of Fame


 It’s not just the story, it’s the way it’s told in the first person plural, which made The Book of Fame by Lloyd Jones stick with me long after I read it.

We’re introduced to the characters, the members of the 1905 All Black team which toured Britain, but we never know which is telling us the story because it’s always we and us.

It’s a couple of years since I’ve read this so the details escape me, but I remember being engrossed by it. A friend who was an All Black in the 1970s said it was a very realistic depiction of an overseas tour. But it’s also a story about people and you don’t have to be interested in rugby to enjoy it.


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 Post 9 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.

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Over at In A Strange Land, Deborah delights in Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, written and illustrated by Lynley Dodd.

At Rob’s Blockhead, Rob has posted on Allen Curnow’s selected poems.



Bulibahsa  by Witi Ihimaera is the story of a family feud.

One of the most memorable passages is a description of a shearing competition which is the most exciting sports commentary I’ve ever read.


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 Day 8 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.

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Deborah at In A Strange Land is reading My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes by Eve Sutton, ilustrated by Lynley Dodd.

A River Rules My Life


 Mona Anderson’s story of life on Mount Algidus Station, in Canterbury is another of those I remember when I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself.

 A River Rules My Life, recounts adventures and day to day trials of high country life and the people who lived there.

It wasn’t an easy life but the author tells the story with humour and without any self pity.


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Post  7 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.


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Over at Rob’s Blockhead, Rob posts on The Lovelock Version by Maurice Shadbolt.

Deborah at In A Strange Land has been reading The Biggest Number in the Universe by Julie Leibrich illustrated by Ross Kaird.

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