Scoop Review of Books

Archive for June, 2016

Women at the Centre

A History of New Zealand Women by Barbara Brookes
(Bridget Williams Books, $69.99)
Reviewed by Alison McCulloch

A-History-of-NZ-Women-WebIt was the creation stories that grabbed me. In the first chapter of her epic History of New Zealand Women, Barbara Brookes places a version of the Māori creation story alongside that of the Pākehā colonists, setting the scene for how each society saw women. The contrast is startling.

For Māori, the world emerged (in part) through the union, and separation by their offspring, of Rangi (the Sky Father) and Papa (the Earth Mother). It’s an intricate story with myriad twists and turns that, Brookes writes, “presented models of powerful women: of a female element to be reckoned with”.

Compare that to the Christian creation story of a lone male God, the model for man, where woman is created as an afterthought, “a helper fit for him” (as Genesis has it). What’s more, that “helper” is also a temptress, responsible for the Fall who must be punished: “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis again, quoted by Brookes.)

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Author Q&A: Nikki Slade Robinson

On 8 June, the finalists in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults were announced, and among them is a longtime Scoop Review of Books reviewer, Nikki Slade Robinson, for her children’s picture book The Little Kiwi’s Matariki.

Photo by Neil Hutton.

Photo by Neil Hutton.

Following is a Q&A with Nikki about her life, inspiration and work:

Where were you born? Te Puke – though I only lived there until I was 1 month old.

N publicity shot 2016 cropWhere do you live now? In paradise, near Ōpōtiki.

Where did you go to school? Woodlands School and then Ōpōtiki College.

What were you like in school? I drew heaps. I have a maths report that says I should try not to draw quite so much in my maths book. (Don’t get me wrong, maths IS important, it’s just I understand it better when I turn it into pictures.)

What was your favourite book growing up? Tons! I loved helping unpack the cartons of books at school from the National Library Service. Miffy was the first book I remember getting hooked on. Some of our books at home had been in a school fire and they had smoke marks on the pages, and smelt smoky but I loved them just the same. Dr Seuss was utterly awesome. Then I got into Cricket magazine, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tolkien, Harriet the Spy… there’s just too many to name.

Who is your favourite children’s author? Wah! How do I choose? There are wonderful NZ authors that would have to top the list – Margaret Mahy of course, Jack Lasenby, David Hill, Des Hunt, Joanna Orwin … there are just so many now writing such fantastic young adult books that to list them all would take ages. But they are all wonderful so hunt out kiwi authors next time you go to the library or bookshop!! Read more »

‘Will Attend Any Wedding’

Rent a Bridesmaid
by Jacqueline Wilson (Penguin Random House, $35)
Reviewed by Sophie Robinson

Rent_A_Bridesmaid‘Very pretty sensible nine-year-old… will attend any wedding ceremony… very small rental…’ That’s how Tilly’s Rent-a-Bridesmaid advertisement reads, in Jacqueline Wilson’s newest title, named of course Rent a Bridesmaid. Tilly (a.k.a Matilda) lives with her dad, her mum having left. Tilly is sensible, tidy, a little bit shy, and loves gorgeous girly dresses. Especially if they are raspberry ice-cream pink coloured!

One day her best friend Mattie (a.k.a another Matilda) gives Tilly her used-once, raspberry ice-cream pink bridesmaid dress. Unfortunately Tilly doesn’t have a wedding to be a bridesmaid at. Mattie is somewhat a tomboy and is quite happy to hand over a girly dress. Together, Mattie and Tilly hatch a plan for Tilly to hire herself and the dress out as a bridesmaid. Thanks to the advertisement, Tilly succeeds in attending three different weddings. She finds new relationships in unexpected places, and also learns quite a bit about her existing family and friends, not to mention herself. She reconnects with her mum … ‘Are you my actual real mum?’ The story has a satisfying, happy ending which feels just right.

As with previous Jacqueline Wilson titles, it’s a great read, I enjoyed it just as much as the others I’ve read. You don’t need to have read any previous titles however to enjoy this one, it’s a stand-alone not a sequel. Highly recommended, for girls 8 – 11.