Whitcoulls Kids Top 50 Books

Kiwi’s love to read and vote for their top books

Whitcoulls Kids Top 50 logo

Since 1998, Whitcoulls has been asking Kiwi kid’s (and adults as well) to nominate their favourite books and from Monday 28 July 2014 they get the chance to cast their votes again.

In recent years, the most popular books have been series such as Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, all of which routinely appear in the top five.

New Zealand picture books have also fared well, with Lynley Dodd’s iconic Hairy Maclary books and Craig Smith’s award-winning book, The Wonky Donkey, always appearing in the top ten. Eric Carle’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, is another enduring favourite and books by Roald Dahl and Dr Seuss are always hugely popular with Kiwis.

Whitcoulls asks New Zealanders to vote for up to three books and they can do this in one of several different ways:

  1. Whitcoulls website www.whitcoulls.co.nz.
  2. At their local Whitcoulls store.
  3. Via their smart phones/tablets using a unique QR code.

Everyone that votes will be in with a chance to win one of twenty $100 Whitcoulls Gift Cards.

Whitcoulls Head Book Buyer Joan Mackenzie, and the ‘face’ behind Whitcoulls influential Joan’s Picks says: “In an era where, it’s often said, books and reading are under threat from new media, and time is an increasingly rare commodity, the really good news is that kids are not only still reading – but reading more than ever! We’re seeing a consistent, growing interest from young readers who are still captivated by the exploits of strong characters, and by the thrill of a really good story – and their willingness to share these enthusiasms with other kids is truly alive and well.”

Once votes are in, the team at Whitcoulls begins the huge task of collating entries and compiling the nation’s Kids’ Top 50 books. The voting period runs for three weeks from Monday 28 July and closes on Sunday 17 August 2014. The Whitcoulls Kids’ Top 50 books will be announced on Monday 22 September 2014, just ahead of the school holidays.

So of course I’m totally going to vote! Probably for Elizabeth Knox’s Dreamquake series, Roald Dahl, Where the Wild Things Are, Gangsta Granny, The Book Thief… :)

A big thank you from BookieMonster

Wow, I can’t believe I started my Givealittle Fundraiser five days ago and I’ve already had 24 donations and have more than doubled my goal. I am so humbled by the support I’ve had and thank you so much to people who have donated, shared the link, sent me messages, shared their stories and just generally been awesome.

So awesome, that I have pretty much been like this all week.

Cas from Supernatural thank you gif

My fundraiser is still open so please keep sharing with your networks and with anyone you think might be interested, would like to support or would be interested in talking to me! Exceeding my goal means I can spend more time with the right people, I can afford to set up domains and webhosting right away, and I can visit more places.

And it means you lovely people rock. Hard. :D

Why I agree you should be embarrassed to read YA books

So, this article from Slate, entitled Against YA: Adults should be embarrassed to read children’s books has caused something of a wild storm throughout the book community. But, with (insincere) apologies to the many commentators who hated it, I really agreed with it. Basically it’s a call to those who persist with the “I only read YA. I even have a t-shirt” line to perhaps think about it in a different way.

(I want this t-shirt though:

…anyway, as I was saying.)

Our reading habits will and should change over a lifetime. Reading is so personal and so communal we almost inevitably make the personal political (or at least extrapolate the personal opinion into the wider opinion). The serious literary types pooh-pooh the YA types. The paranormal romance types laugh at the serious literary types who can’t afford to eat. The YA types accuse others of being literary snobs, Dan Brown readers have no idea we’re looking down on them, and everyone laughs at those who read nothing but Mills & Boon.

It’s the nature of opinion.

And opinion changes.

For example as a kid I absolutely loved Roald Dahl, I read most of his books over and over. I still adore him and thoroughly enjoy reading his books. But the profundity of them has changed. To read them is enjoyable, and doing so reminds me why my 10 year old self related to the lovely characters, but my present self does not.

In my 20’s I was enamoured with “serious literature”: prize winners, difficult reads, often quite avant-garde stuff. I read it, not because I necessarily enjoyed doing so but because I was an English student and I wanted to have the experience of reading it, I wanted to push myself, to read for more than enjoyment and satisfaction and fun. I was, and in many ways still am, a literary snob.

Now, in my 30s, I still read a lot of those types of books – mostly prize winners – but I do so with one eye on my enjoyment levels. My time is becoming more limited, I don’t have hours to spend reading so I try to balance it more. So I read (and love) a bit of YA, I laugh and marvel at really good children’s picture books, I delve into the odd piece of easy reading… I’ve even discovered the joys of speculative fiction. And I still go head over heels for serious adult literature.

So what I took from this article was not the headline (which is obvious click bait, and dammit, why don’t I do that with my blog and stop being so high and mighty, on that note, see above), what I took was don’t let YA literature be all you read. Books for kids and teens are for kids and teens and we should be honest about that, and acknowledge that that’s what makes them good books. If I wanted to write a YA book but I didn’t write it for YAs then I would not be doing my job well, at all. If you’re not the target audience then of course those books can still speak to some part of your soul, my 15 year old soul was thrilled by The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood but in very different ways from my 25 year old soul and my 36 year old soul. And I imagine my 72 year old soul will again view it in a completely different way.

Also, just to really make you all mad, I didn’t think The Fault in Our Stars was all that great. It was fine but, jesus, it was so written for teenagers and, bless them, they are invariably annoying. We all were. That’s why we can relate.


Book Watch – NZ Herald on Sunday, 9 February 2014

Maia and What Matters

By Tine Mortier, Illustrated by Kaatje Vermeire, Book Island

A stunning and deeply moving picture book, Maia and What Matters is the story of Maia and her beloved grandma. Dealing compassionately and appropriately with issues of loss and grieving, as well as old age, this is a wonderful book to share with children and to treasure for years to come.

Raising Steam

By Terry Pratchett, Doubleday

Amazingly, Raising Steam is the 40th Discworld novel and Terry Pratchett remains as fresh as ever. The book takes us back to Ankh Morpork and raconteur Moist von Lipwig, now in charge of bringing the steam train to the varied population of Discworld. With his characteristic dry wit and a plot that races along, Pratchett delivers another highly enjoyable read.


By Brandy Wehinger, Random House

Zombies may be so last year but fun and romantic stories are timeless. Blue is the debut teen novel from New Zealand author Brandy Wehinger and it’s an enjoyable, fun read, and the perfect antidote for teens hung up on Twilight or Stephen King. Summer may be over for kids but they can still enjoy a beach read.

The Kept

By James Scott, Random House

Another debut novel, this one has an authentic horror voice. The Kept takes us to rural New York State in the late 19th century, examining long-held family secrets and the deep desire for revenge. Genuinely literary prose combined with a darkly haunting story make The Kept a satisfying and troubling read.

Book Watch 090214 image

Ghosts of Parihaka by David Hair

Ghosts of Parihaka cover imageGhosts of Parihaka by David Hair, Harper Collins, $24.99, ISBN 9781869509323, 4 April 2013

Ghosts of Parihaka is book 5 in David Hair’s popular Aotearoa series, and it’s the penultimate instalment. It’s nice to have some NZ YA fantastical fiction kicking around. Our hero, Matiu Douglas, is able to slip between two worlds – our modern day world of New Zealand and the parallel country of Aotearoa, a ghost world that combines elements of NZ history and myth. In Ghosts of Parihaka Matiu’s best friend Riki goes missing on a school trip to Parihaka – caught up in the Aotearoa-en version of events.

It’s a perfectly enjoyable read with a few points of detraction but I’d still be recommending this to most Kiwi kids and teens. Leaving aside questions of cultural appropriation, there’s still a bit of a thrill in seeing Maori and Pakeha myths and legends combined in a skilful way.

Detractions first: it suffers a bit from penultimate curse, in that there are interesting storylines that are started or advanced in Ghosts of Parihaka but not wrapped up, and that makes it not quite as satisfying a read as it could be. There’s a fine line between teasing and irritating and Hair doesn’t always get it right.

But my biggest gripe would have to be the female characters. I think this is a book designed to attract boys but I do wish it had a female character who stands on her own, rather than solely in relation to the males.

Ultimately though I think Hair is doing a great job of exploring how two separate cultural identities can be combined into one national identity through shared history and knowledge.

Plus the kids will like it.