Scoop Review of Books

Archive for December, 2014

Chirp Chirp: Q&A With Giant Sparrow Press

Giant Sparrow Press: A Q & A with the Publisher

Amid the ongoing publishing revolution, 2014 saw the birth (or should that be hatching?) of a new local publisher, Giant Sparrow Press. Alison McCulloch, for SRB, asked the woman behind the press, Clare Needham, why,  why now, plus a few other questions: 

Q. Why start a new press, and in such challenging times for publishing?
sparrow finalA. Giant Sparrow Press, or GSP, started life as a Lotto fantasy.  You know when you imagine, if money was not a factor, what you would want to do with your time?  Of course, money is a factor, particularly if you are going to start publishing books as a business. But Giant Sparrow wasn’t started with the focus on making a profit.  I want the books to do well, but whether or not GSP is successful is more about creating good books by writers whose work ought to be out there in the world for readers to enjoy.

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Ko Witi te Kaituhituhi

Māori Boy: A memoir of childhood
by Witi Ihimaera (Vintage, $39.99)
Reviewed by Judith Morrell Nathan

WitiI-001Witi Ihimaera, the distinguished Māori author and the first Māori to publish a book of short stories and a novel, has adopted a new genre with his latest book. But despite its subtitle, this book is a great deal more than a memoir of childhood. There is far more in the book about Ihimaera’s whānau and whakapapa – and related stories – than there is about Ihimaera himself. In nearly 400 pages, his personal story only gets as far as School Certificate, with occasional allusions to his future life.

Clearly Ihimaera’s whakapapa deeply affected all aspects of his childhood. It is not just background to be covered in the first few chapters in chronological order: it permeates the whole book, sometimes repetitively to illustrate some aspect of his development, and sometimes with digressions to mythical and historical stories from Paikea to Maui to Cook to Te Kooti to Princess Te Puea and many others. After one such digression he admits, “I need to get a move on”.

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Road Trip (With Kids)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid – The Long Haul
by Jeff Kinney (Puffin Books, $17.99)
Reviewed by Ruth Brassington

Wimpy_kidI reviewed last year’s Wimpy Kid issue, Hard Luck, when someone gave it to me for my birthday. I waited this year, but it was my hard luck that I didn’t get this new one as a present. In The Long Haul young Greg Hefley is at it again – telling us about his life in ways that surprise, amuse and sometimes appal. This time the theme is a long haul family road trip, with an extra character or two on board and a range of car games to help the distances fly and the family dynamic run smoothly. Of course this was never going to happen. Those who’ve ever been on long haul journeys with children will understand that, and with the Hefley family ANYTHING can happen. And so it does – sugar wafers and breath mints for holiday dinner treats dinner anyone? Or shall we visit a pet cemetery?

Reminiscences from past dramas in Greg’s life are delivered by way of entertainment and I, as a parent and grandparent, was reassured about the “normalities” of family life. Although, as Greg says about himself, “Whenever I have a difficult choice to make, I always seem to pick the wrong one.” And there’s a self-send-up by the author, whose character comments that teachers and parents don’t always like their children being keen on a certain series of books.

Eight-year-old Henry liked Jeff Kinney’s latest offering, the ninth in his Wimpy Kid graphic series: “It’s a good book. I’ve read all of them now. I hope he gets an idea for another one next year!” As for me, well, I might be just a bit jaded by these Wimpy Kids, and I don’t think I’ll review any more of the series. But then I’m not a kid.