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I am an unashamed Winnie the Pooh fan. I guess, strictly speaking, I am a A A Milne fan rather than just a Winnie the Pooh fan as I love the poems as much as the stories. I think it must be genetic as my mother also loved them.  So much so, that at her funeral my sister read an AA Milne poem – Wherever I am there’s always Pooh, there’s always Pooh and me . . .Nic & John in Winnie the Pooh

I remember learning Forgiven to earn my entertainers badge when I was a Brownie. I still know most of it – along with King John’s Christmas, The King’s Breakfast, Rice Pudding, Sneezles, Vespers and Disobedience. David shares my delight in all things Milne and 15 years ago directed  a production of Winnie the Pooh for our local theatre. Our second son (who was 6) played the ‘real’ Christopher Robin while we had an older boy play Christopher Robin in the stories. I played Kanga.

bookImagine my delight when I saw Return to the Hundred Acre Wood in a book shop. It looked like the real thing, was ‘an authorised sequel’ and had illustrations that looked like the original E H Shepard ones. I sampled a few pages and was convinced enough to request it for my birthday.  So, on Sunday, I duly settled down in a sunny spot for a couple of hours escape. I enjoyed it tremendously but found it, on the whole, a little unsatisfying. The illustrations were spot-on, the characters were the same as the ones I had come to know and love (with one addition) but the stories lacked something. I have been mulling it over for several days now trying to work it out and I still haven’t entirely got the answer but it seems to me that the stories in this new book stop rather than ending. They are also quite unmemorable whereas who could forget Eeyore’s Birthday or the Heffalump or Pooh’s quest to get honey? It might be because I have read them so many times that the original stories are so clear in my mind, but I don’t think so. This book will takes its place in my bookcase alongside the 4 original Milne’s but I suspect it won’t be taken down nearly so often.

Modern VegetarianI am not a vegetarian but we enjoy vegetarian food and usually eat vegetarian meals several times a week. I am always on the lookout for new recipes so was keen to check out The Modern Vegetarian by Maria Elia.


This is an attractive book and it is a useful size. There is one recipe per page and most are accompanied by a full page colour photo. The recipes are easy to follow and most of the ingredients are readily available in New Zealand. Maria has obviously been influenced by the cooking of a number of cultures but has then given things her own particular touch. Many of the recipes sound like dishes that would be listed on the menu of a fancy restaurant – Dukkah-Rolled Soft-Boiled Eggs with Chickpea Puree; Chilli and Rosemary Aubergine Parcels with Smokey Mash; Mushroom, Beetroot, Mozzarella with a Lentil Cartouche – but although this book would suit someone who has some cooking experience, the recipes are not particularly complicated.
With most recipe books I borrow, there are usually only a dozen or so recipes that I can be bothered copying them out, but I think I may have to ask for this book for my birthday as almost every recipe sets my tastebuds tingling. So far I have tried 2 – Sweetcorn Polenta with Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms and Banana Baklava Spring Roll with Greek Yoghurt. Both were delicious and I will make them again.



When I got to work yesterday I discovered several large piles of new books on the counter for me to use to top up the new book display. One was Divine Cupcakes by Tamara Jane. On the front was a picture of a beautiful cupcake with a rose on top. Given my current obsession with cake and roses, I had to have a look. The book starts with the cupcake recipes (all yummy-sounding and beautifully illustrated), then moves onto toppings and frostings (a great selection) and finally decorations (easy and beautiful). It was while I was reading the ‘toppings’ section that I had a eureka moment (or should that be ‘an eureka’?). The recipe for ganache had 2 variations – one for dark chocolate ganache and one for white chocolate ganache. And, surprise, surprise – the white chocolate ganache had a much higher ratio of  chocolate to cream. No wonder I always have trouble with my white chocolate ganache being too runny. I have been using the wrong recipe!

Armed with this new information I set to work to make another trial wedding cake tier. Following the recipe in the book resulted in a ganache of just the right texture and I was very pleased with the final result.

On Saturday it will be the real thing and I am feeling much more confident now. Watch this space!

bookClick is a book with a difference – ten well-known authors collaborated to write a book with proceeds going to Amnesty International. I picked it up to look at when things were quiet on the desk when I was working in the children’s section of the library. I enjoyed the first chapter, so took it home so I could finish it.

In the first chapter we meet Maggie (and Jason) whose grandfather, Gee, has just died. Gee was a famous photographer (hence the title “Click”) and he left his grandchildren a present each. Jason’s present is a collection of photos whilst Maggie’s is a both a present and a puzzle. It consists of a wooden box with 7 smaller boxes inside, each of which contains a shell. The second chapter tells the story of how Gee was given one of the shells so I expected the rest of the book to be the stories behind the other shells. I was wrong. Instead we learn more about Jason and then meet up with Maggie again when she is older. The story takes various directions depending on the author of a particular chapter and some were more successful than others. Although I enjoyed the first half of the book, I found the later chapters less satisfactory and at the end I still wanted to know the stories of the other shells. This is more like a collection of related short stories than 10 chapters that make up a whole story and I wonder how much collaboration there was between the different authors.

For last week’s Storytellers’ group I volunteered to search out all the resources in Tauranga Library and tell people about them. I also threw in some useful web resources. This is what I came up with:



book 1
Keepers of the story : oral traditions in religionby Megan McKenna
Megan McKenna is a storyteller with a PhD in theology. She looks at the place of story in religion and illustrates this with reference to many stories form different religious faiths.

Mythology : The illustrated anthology of world myth and storytelling
Contains many stories from all over the world.

book 4Brave tales : developing literacy through storytelling by Will Coleman
This book is written for teachers to help them develop their pupils’ story writing by way of telling traditional tales. However it has information that is applicable to storytelling in any arena including a method of learning stories and of adapting traditional tales. Contains a CD of the author telling a story.

The art of storytelling for teachers and pupils : using stories to develop literacy in primary classroomsby Elizabeth Grudgeon
Although an interesting read this book has less to offer the non-teacher storyteller than the one by Will Coleman

book 6Storytelling with dolls by Elinor Pearce Bailey
A fascinating book about telling the story of Jack in the Beanstalk using ‘dolls’. Two doll-makers with their own unique take on the story, each make a set of props to tell the story. Instructions are provided for the props and tips on storytelling with props.


The power of the story : touching the lives of listeners by Rob Harley
Written from a Christian point of view, this book is about using stories to inspire and change lives. Not much practical information on storytelling

book7Anyone can tell a story : Bob Hartman’s guide to storytelling by Bob Hartman
A good practical guide to storytelling.  Contains a selection of stories, some biblical, many not.


book 5

Storytelling with children by Nancy Mellon
This book is written for parents who want to tell stories to their children but contains a wealth of ideas and techniques that would be universally applicable.



Handbook of the NZ Guild of Storytellers, Nga Kaikorero Purakau o Aotearoa (Inc)by Annette Knowler
The first half of this booklet contains information about the New Zealand Guild of Storytellers but the second half has useful information for storytellers.

book 3Shake-it-up tales!: stories to sing, dance, drum, and act out by Margaret Read MacDonald
A selection of stories that include audience participation.



The story-telbook 2ler’s start-up book : finding, learning, performing, and using folktales by Margaret Read MacDonald
A comprehensive book covering how to find stories, how to learn stories, how to perform stories, how to structure a storytelling session and using storytelling in the classroom. It includes 12 stories and each chapter has a bibliography of useful books and articles.


Websites– The New Zealand Guild of Storytellers website. Online copies of the magazine, tips for tellers, story of the month.– Articles on storytelling, podcasts of storytellers and stories. – An archive of stories arranged by category – A good article on how to become a storyteller – Interesting articles about storytelling from magazines and newspapers – A directory of useful storytelling websites

I managed to find a rubber chicken in the pet section of a variety store but didn’t have much luck tracking down plastic vegetables for the Stone Soup story. I thought about buying some of the modelling clay that dries hard but then I remembered salt-dough. For the first Christmas after I was married I made lots of salt dough ornaments for our Christmas tree – hearts, stars and candy canes. Later on I bought some Christmas cookie cutters and made more decorations – angels, Santas, bells, stars etc. Thirty years later, some are still surviving although others have absorbed moisture and crumbled or been chewed by our dogs. While my children were at Playcentre we would make salt-dough ornaments there each year. It has been 10 years since our Playcentre days so I 1853687294_01__SX140_SY225_SCLZZZZZZZ_thought I’d better look for a book to refresh my memory. I found Dough Craft in a Weekend in the library and it even had instructions on how to make some vegetables. I made a carrot and leek following their instructions but then I was on my own. The parsnip was pretty much the same as the carrot but longer and thinner at the end. The celery was pretty easy – I rolled a log and then indented it with a pencil – but I wasn’t particularly happy with my onion. I still had some dough left so made salt and pepper pots, some mushrooms (from the book) and a head of garlic. I baked them overnight and then for a few hours more the next day. Finally I painted them and sprayed them with polyurethane. I’m quite pleased with how they turned out although the dough was too soft so they ended up flat on the back.

saltdough vegetables

saltdough vegetables


I belong to a recently formed storytellers group and did my first public storytelling last Thursday. It had been arranged several weeks before that I and 2 other members of the storytellers group would tell stories at a local old folk’s home.  Since our telling would be on the day before Good Friday I thought that stories with an Easter theme would be appropriate. The one that came immediately to mind was the story of how the donkey got his cross. Then I wondered about Faberge eggs and whether there was a story there that I could tell. I looked in the library catalogue and found a book – Faberge’s Eggs . It looked pretty interesting so I took it out.

The day before the telling, I was reasonable happy with the donkey story (which was a pared down version of this one) but still hadn’t even begun to think about a Faberge story. Although the book I was reading was very interesting, it was a bit short on the personal detail that makes for an interesting story. I almost decided to can the Faberge story but then it came to me out of the blue. I decided to tell the story of the first Faberge egg and present it as a traditional ‘fairytale’.

Although I had the rough outline in my head and the opening phrase worked out – “A long time ago in a country far away, there was a ruler who had a problem” – I didn’t actually tell the story before it was the real thing on the Thursday.  It went really well. I enjoyed telling the story and the residents seemed to enjoy it too. I stuck pretty much to the facts but imagined some personal details and tried not to give away the fact that I was talking about Faberge and the Russian royal family until right at the end.

That evening when I told my family what had been doing, my son asked, “what is a Faberge Egg?” I said I could tell him the story but he wasn’t interested.  A pity – I was dying to tell it again.

Two days later I finished reading Faberge’s Eggs.It was a great book.  As well as telling the story of the eggs, it also helped remind me of the Russian history I learnt at school and traced what had happened to the eggs since the Russian revolution. My only criticism is the scarcity of photos. It would have been great to have a photo of each of the eggs interleaved with the story of its creation. There are no photos of some of the eggs but by searching the Internet I found pictures of many of them including the one at the top which is of the first Faberge egg. I also found lots of extra information about some of the eggs.

I have always been a bookworm and have learnt over the years that I need to exercise some self-discipline if I want to get things done. So now, I read nonfiction for most of the year and have an annual splurge on fiction during the summer holidays. As good and interesting as many nonfiction books are, I don’t find myself staying up too late reading them or reading them when I should really be doing something else. Fiction, on the other hand, can snare me and make me incapable of thinking of, or doing, anything else and then leaving me in a daze when it is finished. An unputdownable book draws you into its world and makes you care about its characters but precisely how it does this – I’m not sure. Obviously the characters need to be believable but the setting and situation don’t. Some unputdownable books are completely realistic but I have found some fantasy and science fiction to be equally unputdownable. My first (remembered) experience of an unputdownable book was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. My mother was reading it to me, a chapter a night, but when it got to Aslan being killed we couldn’t just stop there but had to read the next chapter as well.
All year, I note down book titles that friends have recommended or that I have read reviews of or that have caught my eye in a book shop or library. Then, once the bustle of Christmas is past, I head to the library to see what I can find. I have read 18 novels (and some recipe books) since Christmas and whilst all of them were enjoyable only a couple were of the unputdownable kind. One of these was The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris. It is the sequel to Chocolat, following the exploits of Vianne and Anouk in Paris. They have changed their names, and their charactors as well apparently. Vianne has abandoned her magic (but not the chocolate) and seems ready to settle for a boring life with a boring man. Things are stirred up by the arrival of a woman, Zozie, who is on the run and wants to steal Vianne’s identity. This book was published as The Girl with no Shadow in some countries.
Although I have seen the movie of Chocolat several times and even attended a church study group on it, I haven’t read the book. It is definitely now on my ‘to read’ list along with the rest of Joanne Harris’ books. My library didn’t have any copies of Chocolat immediately available but I was able to borrow Five Quarters of the Orange. I will need to get a move on and read it as the study notes for the paper I am doing this semester arrived a couple of days ago – the end of the holidays are in sight!

067002034601_sx50_sclzzzzzzz_2Working in a library means you are continually coming across interesting looking books. Every day I work I find at least one new book I would like to read but I will never manage to read all the books I add to my list. Recently, when I grabbed some new nonfiction books to put on a display one caught my eye – Anticancer: A new way of life by David Servan-Schreiber. My sister-in-law has had cancer for a couple of years now and has tried all the conventional treatment without success so I decided to read the book to see if it would be any use to her. What I particularly liked about this book is that it is scientific without being hard-to-follow or dry. The author is a neuroscientist and all his recomendations are based on reputable scientific studies. He also has had a brain tumour for 15 years and his personal story and those of other patients is woven into the book. I will definitely be recommending this book to my sister-in-law – I might try harder to like green tea too!

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