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Archive for November, 2014

Catching Tinselitis

The Jacqueline Wilson Christmas Cracker
by Jacqueline Wilson (Random House, $19.99)
Reviewed by Sophie Robinson, age 12

9780440870784-1-edition.default.original-1On the first page of Jacqueline Wilson’s new book The Jacqueline Wilson Christmas Cracker, the well-known and loved character Tracy Beaker is jealous because her arch-rival Justine has a present from her Dad. The present carries a label saying ‘Do not open till 25th December!’ You will have to work hard to obey that instruction, too, if you are a fan of Jacqueline Wilson. The book has excerpts featuring many of her best characters are packed into over 300 pages of hilarious holiday reading. There’s Hetty Feather, twins Garnet and Ruby, and of course Tracy Beaker, ‘You’re Tracy Beaker, so you get to be big bossy knickers, right?’

Whenever I find a new Jacqueline Wilson book, I just have to sit down and read it straight away. And that is just what I had to do with this book too. Jacqueline Wilson has a way of making the characters come to life, and it feels as though you are really there beside them in the story.

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Re-building Christchurch

Once in a Lifetime: City-building after Disaster in Christchurch
Edited by Barnaby Bennett, James Dann, Emma Johnson & Ryan Reynolds (Freerange Press, $45)
Reviewed by Alison McCulloch

Editor’s note: A Q&A with the book’s editors follows this review.

OIALT_cover_WebRather like the city it is imagining, this sprawling book is full of brilliant ideas, clever people and infectious enthusiasm, all leavened – as any city is – with a few cul de sacs best avoided.

And how could it not be: this impressive undertaking comprises 55 written essays (and 39 visual) from academics, activists, journalists, architects, as well as people with métiers I’m less sure about, like ecourbanists, spatial analysts, and futurists. It’s a potpourri (organic, for sure) and not the kind of book you should sit down to read right through. (Though if you do pull that off, it feels a bit like you’ve earned a bachelor’s in urban design theory, perhaps with a minor in futurism.)

Before diving in to the book’s content, it might be useful here to offer up a few facts: • As well as the major quakes on 4 Sept. 2010 and 22 Feb. 2011, Christchurch has suffered more than 13,000 aftershocks. • 185 people from 17 countries died as a result of the February quake. • The entire recovery is estimated to cost around $40 billion. • Most major projects are running behind schedule, and it’ll be at least 2020 before they’re completed. • 12,000 homes have been demolished together with 1,500 commercial buildings.

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Building Wellington

Raupo to Deco: Wellington Styles and Architects 1840-1940
By Geoff Mew & Adrian Humphris (Steele Roberts Aotearoa, $69.95)
Reviewed by Simon Nathan

Raupo-Deco-001Wellington has its own distinctive architecture. Many visitors, arriving by sea or by air, have commented over the years about the steep winding streets and houses perched precariously around the hills, contrasting with the compact city centre with its government buildings. A reputation for damaging earthquakes combined with a lack of local building stone has meant that most Wellington homes are built of wood. As a Wellingtonian who walks around the city and suburbs, I have often wished that I could identify different architectural styles, and this beautifully illustrated book fills that gap.

Authors Geoff Mew and Adrian Humphris have previously given an account of the development of the suburbs of Kelburn and Kilbirnie in their Ring around the City, but this book covers the whole of Wellington, with examples from almost every suburb and the central city.

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Meow!

Quake Cats: Heart-warming stories of Christchurch cats
by Craig Bullock (Random House, $39.99)
Reviewed by Kelly Bold

Cover_Quake_CatsAs a crazy-cat-lady in the making, Quake Cats immediately went onto my “must have” list when I heard of its pending publication. And my anticipation of this companion to last year’s best-selling Quake Dogs was well founded: it’s another beautiful, emotional and uplifting read.

The book is laid out with the same winning formula as its predecessor but this time photographer Craig Bullock has done it alone, writing the stories accompanying his truly stunning photography himself.  I loved the juxtaposition of the relatively succinct stories with the generosity of the photos: each tale has at least three images with it and every puss portrait is striking in its clarity and ability to really show us the unique, often plucky and courageous, and sadly all too frequently traumatised kitties Craig shares with us. For like the battered and weary human residents of earthquake ravaged Canterbury, their feline friends have suffered, too.

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‘Sibs’ and Disability

Siblings: Brothers and sisters of children with disability
by Kate Strohm (Wakefield, $27.50)
Reviewed by Nikki Slade Robinson

Siblings cover.3.inddIt’s not unusual for the subject of disability to appear in the media, or to be a topic for discussion. Generally the focus is on issues directly impacting disabled people themselves or, less often, the family member (especially parents) in the primary caregiving role. However there is another side to disability that isn’t often covered: siblings of disabled people – or ‘sibs’ as they are referred to in this book.

Australian Kate Strohm’s book ‘Siblings’ opens the door to the ‘sib’ world. Strohm is an experienced health professional, journalist – and sib. She speaks from personal experience: her older sister had cerebral palsy. ‘[As a child] I was incapable of understanding, let alone expressing, the effect of growing up with my sister.’ She goes on to say ‘I had made a decision not to ‘make waves’… I needed to be perfect but on another level I felt guilty about all the things I could do … but my sister couldn’t.’ Out of her journey to come to terms with being a sib, came the establishment of the organisation ‘Siblings Australia’, and of course, this book.

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