As the mother of a 9-year-old boy, my reading habits have changed over the years. I'm as likely to be reading books about dinosaurs and Demon Dentists as I am more luminous, literary prose.
I'm now a huge fan of books for the younger reader, so just about burst at the programme for the Auckland Writers Festival. It has events and workshops for pre-schoolers, primary-aged children and young adults: this is an exciting time to be a word nerd in Auckland.
Family Day Events
Family Day is a smorgasbord of 30-minute sessions for children aged 5-10. Short-story reading sessions for the under 5s is a way to get kids engaged with reading.
Raymond McGrath will be talking about his Monster series of books; these exuberantly illustrated picture books are a delight to pre-schoolers, plus he's the man who created TV series Puzzle Inc.
Philippa Werry will be taking audiences to Gallipoli with Best Mates, which she illustrated, as a guide.
Award-winning illustrator Donovan Bixley (who doesn't love the Dinosaur Rescue series?) will be giving primary schoolers a thrill when he talks about the world of his hit comic novel Monkey Boy.
Maori myths take centre stage when animator and illustrator Zak Waipara talks about the ancient stories to which he's given a new lease of life.
Sunday, May 17, Herald Theatre. Free, but most sessions are ticketed. writersfestival.co.nz
We all recall the books we loved as children, especially the ones that catapulted us from picture books or being read to, up to proper chapter books we read on our own. These days,
is often the magic ingredient that turns children into bona-fide book lovers.
Creator, American illustrator and author Dav Pilkey, says when he was growing up he always hoped he'd be an artist. "But I didn't think that would work out. My principal took me aside one day and told me; 'Artists are a dime-a-dozen. You will never make a living as an artist'.
"Fortunately, I had very supportive parents who always encouraged me. And, as a bonus, my unsupportive principal inspired the character of Mr Krupp (the world's meanest principal) aka Captain Underpants."
Pilkey's books are silly, a bit naughty, and filled with zany illustrations.
"The best thing about writing for this age is that I really like my audience. All they care about is having fun. That forces me to focus on fun -- every chapter has to be funny or crazy or action-packed. I can't be boring or I'll lose my audience."
The 11-book series has sold more than 70 million copies worldwide.
Pilkey's talk is sure to amuse younger readers who possess a scatological bent.
"My goal is to make reading as much fun as watching TV or playing a video game," he says.
"The best thing about festivals like this is meeting the kids. I spend most of my time locked away in a studio, bent over a drawing table, rushing to meet deadlines. When I get to take a few weeks off and meet my readers, it rejuvenates me.
"I love the smiles, the laughter, the crazy questions - it's the best part of my job."
May 17, 9am, ASB Theatre. $25, students $12.50, under 12s free but ticketed.
Alphabet Soup and Animal Poems with Jenny Palmer
Six years ago, artist Jenny Palmer started creating original poetic stories and watercolour characters for children.
"The best thing about making art with children," she says, "is that it's just as inspiring to me as it is to them".
Drawing on her fine art background, she runs wonderful poetry and picture initiatives for primary and preschool children, engaging with them with rhythm and rhyme. Animal Poems is aimed at under 5s and will have colouring-in, action rhymes and poems.
Primary school-aged children get talks about the craft of creating poetry using animals as inspiration in the Alphabet Soup session.
"[They] will get involved creating an original, collaborative poem especially for the festival. It's all about play and participation with poetry - and I can't wait."
Part of Family Day, May 17, 11.15am, 12.25pm. Herald Theatre. Free but ticketed.
If you have read
, you'll know what an incredible talent Maurice Gleitzman has for entertaining readers aged 8 to 12.
One of Australia's best loved authors, Gleitzman has written 37 books, most famously the Toad trilogy. His most recent, Loyal Creatures, looks at the experience of young Australians during World War 1 a more serious book compared to his other more wacky, comedic works, although all explore personal issues of justice and fairness. "Writing is easiest when I know exactly what a character is feeling and I'm feeling it myself. Emotion is the universal language that connects us to stories and to each other through stories."
Gleitzman's talk is sure to be engaging. "A mix of literacy-enhancing insights into my books, together with dollops of indiscreet but family-suitable gossip about the personal and working lives of a number of children's authors including myself," he says. "Dress informal, questions warmly encouraged and always answered."
May 16, 1.30pm, Lower NZI Room, Aotea Centre. $25, students $12.50.
Hooked on classics: Dalloway and Shakespearean Spinach
Get your secondary schoolers with leanings towards the performing arts to Dalloway, the acclaimed one-woman show by Rebecca Vaughn, adapted from Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. Staggeringly clever and incredibly moving, it picked up five stars at last year's Edinburgh Fringe and was described by The Huffington Post as "perfection" and Vaughn "simply sublime".
May 14-17, Winter Garden, Civic Theatre. $35, students $17.50.
Lovers of the Bard, young and old, may be keen for a serving of Shakespearean Spinach, a free, lively lecture by Peter Holland. Holland, University of Auckland's 2015 Alice Griffin Fellow in Shakespeare Studies, points out where Shakespeare's themes have been spun off, mashed up and taken to new heights.
The burning question: what do Popeye, the Dude, R2-D2 and Quentin Tarantino have in common?
May 14, 5pm, Clock Tower 039, Auckland University. Free.
Picture these books
The term graphic novel was coined in 1964 to differentiate it from the comic book and the genre is being taken increasingly seriously by mainstream publishers.
A Graphics Affair brings together four of New Zealand's leading graphic authors to talk about their processes and their inspiration -- interesting to both adults and more sophisticated teens. If your appetite is whetted, join Ant Sang's Comics 101 workshop (best suits young adults already keen on the genre as well as regular old grown ups).
Workshop, May 15, 9am. $45. Free reading, May 17, 4.30pm, Limelight, Aotea Centre.
Hollie Fullbrook is better known as the frontwoman for the band Tiny Ruins and her heartfelt, poignant and clever lyrics surely make her one of the country's most popular writers. When Fullbrook was younger she was always a bit disturbed at the thought of being a grown up.
"When I was 8 I wrote a note to my future self saying 'don't forget what it feels like to be a kid - we understand more than you think'. I wanted to be a musician from a very young age, but there was also talk of being a truck driver. As a teen, I veered towards being a photographer, a cellist or journalist, before being in a couple of bands and having that deep wish to be a songwriter again."
And thank goodness she followed the calling.
"The writing of music has always been an enormous comfort and joy to me. Writing music feels like a mixture of all my childhood aspirations-- spy, archaeologist, lawyer, even truck driver - I've tried to get better at observing, uncovering and being honest. "
Fullbrook will be talking about all this and there's a chance she may even sing.
May 16, 4.30pm, Upper NZI Room, Aotea Centre. Free.