Terry and me

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I want to write something that truly explains what Terry Pratchett’s books have meant to me over the years.

I was first introduced to the Discworld waaaaay back in the 90’s, when I was a young wee slightly confused teenager, by my first ever boyfriend convincing me I needed to read Terry Pratchett. I was highly sceptical, mainly because Pratchett was described as … dun dun dun DUUUN.. Fantasy. Ew. Fantasy. I did not read fantasy. I was 16 and literary and a keen young feminist and read worthy authors like Margaret Atwood (who, it must be said, is still eminently worthy). Fantasy was all swords and sandals and lots of Bebuldeebum meeting with Aberaldee and travelling to the magical world of Hoovierpoo on a dragon.

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You get my point.

No, said the boyfriend. Pratchett’s not like that. He’s… smart. And he bought me my first Pratchett books, namely Eric and Truckers. I liked Truckers. But more than that I liked Eric. It WAS smart. And it was fantasy but it was also making fun of fantasy and it was also real and making fun of real.

Later on I borrowed Wyrd Sisters, Colour of Magic and Sourcery from him. After some compressed teenage angsty goings-on boyfriend and I were no more.

I kept the Pratchett. (Dear M, sorry. If it’s any consolation I’ve still got them.)

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And that’s how it all started. From there I used to buy a new Pratchett almost every six months, until I had all the backlist. Then I had to be patient and buy every new book when it came out. Later my last ever boyfriend bought me every new book when it came out (which for some reason always happened around my birthday, this is really going to dent his present plans). The great thing was the Discworld books really hold up to re-reading. During some of the hardest times of my life I’ve gone back and re-read my favourites, and I still do.

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What is it that makes Pratchett so (re)readable?
1. The writing is so appealing. It’s not basic but it’s not obtuse. Language is delighted in but never used to prove the author is so much cleverer than his reader. It’s enjoyable to read. It’s never wrought or tortured.

2. The characters are wonderful. Vimes. Granny Weatherwax. Vetinari. Nanny Ogg. Tiffany Aching. Carrot. So individual. So full of life and never, ever one dimensional.

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3. The storylines are so crazy but so true. As Pratchett went on with Discworld he started to move beyond the fantasy tropes and use his alternative multiverse to explore humanity. The craziness of the entertainment industry in Moving Pictures. Racism, terrorism and xenophobia in Jingo. Sexism and “difference” in Monstrous Regiment. The nature of work and slavery in Feet of Clay. Religion and philosophy in Small Gods. Why is Australia trying to kill us in The Last Continent.

4. As many people have said, above all, his books are so very funny. It’s not easy to be truly funny. You have to be smart. You have to be a bit (or even a lot) sad. You have to understand how fleeting the moment is which means you have to understand loss. You need deep insight into the human condition and a love for the ridiculous.

Thank you, Mr Terry Pratchett. Thank you for hours and hours of fun. Thank you for the laughing and the thinking. Thank you for the difference you made to my life. Thank you for your stories. (And M: you were right.)

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Thank you Terry

I’ll write a longer post later but for now we’ve woken to the sad news this morning that Sir Terry Pratchett has died, aged 66.

It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living. – Sir Terry

Rest in peace, Pterry. Thank you for everything.

Craig Potton Publishing becomes Potton & Burton

Potton & Burton logoOn 6 March 2015 Craig Potton Publishing is changing its name to Potton & Burton, a move designed to reflect the increasingly diverse range of New Zealand books we publish.

Publisher and co-owner Robbie Burton commented, “The Craig Potton Publishing imprint has served us brilliantly for over 25 years, but in recent years it has become apparent that our name is associated with a narrow range of books, in particular photographic, environmental and outdoor books. The reality however, is that our publishing programme covers far more – everything from natural history, contemporary issues, art and culture, biography, history and children’s books. The new name, Potton & Burton, gives us a chance to communicate to the book industry and the wider public that we are totally committed to publishing the widest range of high-quality New Zealand non-fiction, and to not be limited by previous perceptions.”

Founded by photographer Craig Potton in 1989, Craig Potton Publishing has grown to become New Zealand’s largest independent publisher, and were voted Publisher of the Year in 2014 for New Zealand publishing. Based in Nelson, Potton & Burton employ 17 people and are involved in both publishing and distribution.

www.pottonandburton.co.nz will go live on Monday 9 March 2015.

March picture book roundup part 2

The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade cover imageThe Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade by Davina Bell, illustrated by Allison Colpys, Scribe, ISBN 9781925106206, RRP $30 (hardcover)

Picture book stories can sometimes be a bit “out there” but they’re also a really good way to address things with kids that they might not want to talk about head-on. And let’s face it, often-times they are about brave kids doing amazing things – and not every kid can relate to that. The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade is about Alfie. Alfie is a curious kid, obviously smart, and he wants to be brave. But there’s a lot going on in his head.

He dreamed that he was carrying the ocean, all on his own.

This is a beautifully illustrated little book that gently looks at anxiety, being empathetic, feeling your feelings and knowing that being brave might not be you today… but one day you’ll be ready for it. Cute as a button and just as useful for adults and parents, as for kids. For anyone who feels they’re carrying the ocean, all on their own.


One Thousand Things cover imageOne Thousand Things by Anna Kovecses, Wide Eyed Editions, ISBN9781847806079, RRP $29.99 (hardcover)

I swear, I’m dying with cuteness at how gorgeous these picture books are. One Thousand Things is billed as “learn to say your first words with Little Mouse” and is a collection of absolutely beautiful cut-out style illustrations with words. Divided into Things at Home, Things to Learn, Things to do with You, etc, this is one of those books you could sit down with a little one and spend ages just turning the pages, pointing out the pictures and entertaining yourselves. Includes the cute character of Little Mouse who is on every page.

Some of the “things” are perhaps slightly obtuse (colours to learn includes pink and rose. rose? not what I would have deemed a need to know first colour) but that’s a minor quibble. For ages 1 – 5.


Atlas of Adventures cover imageAtlas of Adventures by Lucy Letherland, Wide Eyed Editions, ISBN 9781847805850, RRP $39.99 (large hardcover)

Okay, geek reader confession time: when I was a wee primary school child I used to LOVE those Usborne children’s illustrated atlases and encyclopedias and histories. You know, the ones that had loads of pictures and all this incredible knowledge. We had ones on dinosaurs and plant earth and I read them over and over. Aaaanyway, Atlas of Adventures took me right back there, which was great. It’s a big book with beautiful, detailed illustrations, that takes the reader on more than 100 adventures in different parts of the world.

Each spread has pictures you could look at for hours and heaps of little facts, figures and information. We travel to every continent and yes, even to New Zealand (to do the haka during Waitangi). Now, yes, this is a kids’ book so the facts are simplified for that but if you have a geek reader kid (or any kind of kid) then this is a great buy – and great value for the amount of reading time they’ll get out of it!  For ages 6 and over.

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March picture book roundup part 1

I am enamoured with picture books at the moment. If you want to see amazing design and original, creative stories then picture books are where it’s at (as the kids say [tiny kids because they’re the only kids who think I’m cool anymore]).

Note: Age guides given are just suggestions and do not preclude anyone else from enjoying these gems.

Snappy Birthday cover imageSnappy Birthday by Mark Sperring, illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson, Bloomsbury, ISBN 9781408852620, RRP $18.99

The new next-door neighbour sends out an invitation to a birthday party….but the new next-door neighbour is a crocodile! Snappy Birthday is colourfully illustrated and is written in a fun-to-read-out-loud rhyming style. The potential eating of children is a weird sort of traditional children’s book plotline that may be a bit scary for some but for most kids it’s their first experience with scary/fun thrills! Fun for (almost) everyone. I would say for about the 3 – 5 year olds.


Love Always Everywhere cover imageLove Always Everywhere by Sarah Massino, Nosy Crow, ISBN 9780857632494, RRP $24.99 (hardback)

Seriously, if you want to be overcome by cuteness and warm fuzzy feelings then this is the book for you. Oh my but it is cute. The illustrations are (there is no other word for it) DARLING. And it’s about love.

Love me. Love you. Love one. Love two.

Absolutely MADE for reading to your bundle of joy at bed time. And for reading to yourself if you’ve been feeling blue. For babies – 5 year olds.


Dinosaur Rocket cover imageDinosaur Rocket by Penny Dale, Nosy Crow, ISBN 9780857633811, RRP $29.99 (hardcover)

For some kids there are two things guaranteed to fascinate: outer space and dinosaurs. Clever Penny Dale and Nosy Crow have come up with your ultimate solution to a problem you never knew you had – Dinosaur Rocket! What happens when you put dinosaurs in a rocket and blast them into space? You get dinosaurs playing footy on the moon, that’s what. Detailed and researched illustrations combine with repetitive text (great for young readers) and onomatopoeia (vrrrm, clank, brrrm, etc) to produce fun and action. For 3 – 5 year olds.


The Umbrella cover imageThe Umbrella by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert, Book Island, ISBN 9780994109859, RRP $29.99

I’ve left the best for last. The Umbrella is the new release from Book Island, a New Zealand publisher, who produce absolutely gorgeous creations. The Umbrella is up there with their best.

One day a little doggy discovers an umbrella leaning up against a tree. He picks it up and gets blown away on a great adventure across the world. The Umbrella is delightfully illustrated and the story is told only in pictures – yes, this is a wordless picture book. Your imagination will soar along with the umbrella. For everyone.

The umbrella inner spread - Africa