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Literary Cookbooks for Edible Inspiration

You know what two things are great? Books and food. I know what you’re thinking, “Oh, if only there was a way to bring these two great things together!”

Well be despondent no longer! Because I am about to introduce you to some of the literary cookbooks we have in our collection.

These are cookbooks full of recipes inspired by the food in fiction, the deftly described deliciousness, the succulent snacks that your favourite characters munch on at feasts or as they head off on an adventure. Did you find your mouth watering as you read about the fellowship snacking on Lembas Bread in the Lord of the Rings? Or maybe you got a hankering for some forbidden Turkish delight such as that given to Edmund by the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? Or perhaps your stomach started grumbling at the mention of Deeper’n’Ever Turnip’n’Tater’n’Beetroot Pie in Mossflower? Whatever your literary cravings, there’ll be a cookbook out there with something that will entice you.

So let’s have a look at these cookbooks, paired with the books that inspired them. After all, what better summer activity can there be than to lie in the sun with a book while snacking on the same thing as the character you’re reading about!

The Anne of Green Gables cookbook : charming recipes from Anne and her friends in Avonlea / Macdonald, Kate
This book contains recipes inspired by the food written about in Anne of Green Gables, but it also has some of L.M. Montgomery’s own recipes because the book was written by one of her granddaughters!

There are quotes from the book paired with each recipe so you can see how the food fits in with which book and which character.

Anne of Green Gables series / Montgomery, L. M.
Admittedly, I found Anne a bit annoying. But more people love her!


Jolly good food : recipes / McEvedy, Allegra
Relive some childhood nostalgia (if you were a child who read Enid Blyton, that is) and eat some tasty food. Enid Blyton’s books are full of wonderful descriptions of picnics and midnight feasts and “lashings of ginger beer” and this cookbook has recipes from or inspired by many of her books!

Enid Blyton has written many, many books, so here are a couple of suggestions to get you started:

Famous Five Series / Blyton, Enid
The classic adventure series featuring Julian, Dick, Anne, George, and of course Timmy!

The Faraway Tree Series / Blyton, Enid
Some fantastical ridiculousness. Also, in newer editions of these books, Fanny has been renamed Frannie. Just putting it out there.


A literary tea party : blends and treats for Alice, Bilbo, Dorothy, Jo, and book lovers everywhere / Walsh, Alison
This book features a plethora of recipes inspired by many, many books. There are recipes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Brian Jacques’ Redwall Series, Sherlock Holmes, The Hobbit, Agatha Christie, The Borrowers


The little library cookbook : 100 recipes from your favourite stories / Young, Kate
This one’s another collection of treats from a wide variety of books. If you like the sound of  Choclatl from His Dark Materials, Marshmallows from Tomorrow When the War Began, or Pear and Lemon Cake from Comet in Moominland then check it out!


The Pooh cook book: inspired by “Winnie-the-Pooh” and The house at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne; / Stewart, Katie

I’m mainly featuring this book because some part of me sniggered at the title. My childish proclivities aside, it does contain a lot of tasty recipes! From Poohanpiglet Pancakes and Biscuit Cake, to Honey Tart and Toad in the Hole, there’ll be something for everyone!

Winnie-the-Pooh / Milne, A. A.
Because who doesn’t wish they were a Bear of Very Little Brain living in the woods with a pot of honey and all your friends nearby?


Roald Dahl’s revolting recipes / Dahl, Roald
“Recipes for savouries, puddings, cakes, sweets and drinks, all of which have appeared in Roald Dahl’s books.” (Catalogue)

We’ve also got Roald Dahl’s Even More Revolting recipes!

Like Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl has written a LOT. Here are a couple of highlights:

Matilda / Dahl, Roald
Ah, Matilda. She’s super-smart, she loves books, and she’s great at pranks that serve some good comeuppance. Why not make yourself one of Trunchbull’s cakes and enjoy it while you read?

Skin and other stories / Dahl, Roald
You’ve surely read his fantastic children’s books, but have you read any of his much creepier works for older readers?

If you haven’t, well… They’re quite different!


The unofficial Narnia cookbook : from Turkish delight to gooseberry fool–over 150 recipes inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia / Bucholz, Dinah
Now the tasty food you make will distract you from the fact that somehow Christmas is still a holiday over in a whole other fantasy world Father Christmas has to sneak in to deliver presents.

The chronicles of Narnia / Lewis, C. S.
Definite classics. But Susan deserved better.


The Unofficial Recipes of The Hunger Games
This cookbook takes you on a culinary journey through all three of The Hunger Games books. It starts you off with the more basic food Katniss and her family were eating in District 12, then there’s the decadent food of the Capitol, the meal on the train on the way to the Quarter Quell, and the food offered in District 13.

If you’re feeling adventurous there are some more questionable sounding recipes you can try as well, such as “Charred Tree-Rat” and “Mom Everdeen’s Breakfast of Mush”.

The Hunger Games / Collins, Suzanne
Some good teen dystopia. And it’s confirmed that Panem is a future version of North America.

Everything Orange!

All of us will surely know by now that we are in Orange, as we have been at this traffic light level for pretty much all of December so far. I’m sure that as avid library users you will already know all about visiting the library under Orange – wear your mask and scan your vaccine pass or exemption if you’re over twelve – but I feel there is more to be explored around the orangeness of Orange than mere alert levels.

In controversial Orange news, I have learned through this recent Spinoff article that while the Covid Traffic Light system uses the colours Red, Orange, and Green, the official colours of the literal physical traffic lights that are liberally spotted around our country are Red, Green, and Yellow.

Three traffic lights in a row. The left has a green light chosing, the centre has an orange light showing, and the right has a red light showing.

Image: Traffic Signals by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence

Look at these traffic lights! This is an instructional picture from the Waka Kotahi website accompanied by the instructional caption “A yellow signal means the lights will soon turn red”. This is very interesting since it is extremely clear that the coloured circle in the centre traffic light is so obviously orange. Like, they made the picture, if they’re calling it yellow why not make the picture yellow as well?

Anyway, while the certainty that orange is orange and yellow is yellow may be falling out from under our feet, let me return to my original subject of Orange in general.

I think Orange is an excellent colour. It’s such a happy colour, it’s the colour of the sun’s rays shining on the iconic Chelsea Golden Syrup Tin, and it’s great for hi-vis vests if you’re a cyclist, contractor, or builder.

Speaking of Golden Syrup, let me bring your attention to a rather orange book:

Edmonds cookery book.
The Edmonds cookbook is a classic, it fits right in here with that orange cover, and it contains a recipe for a Golden Syrup Steamed Pudding. What’s not to like?!

Golden Syrup Steamed Pudding is also a perfect Christmas pudding. Just saying.

In search of other Orange activities to keep you occupied over the summer, I’ve trawled through our vast selection of elibrary resources, but unfortunately not many of them really scream Orange.

We do have a fantastic language-learning service called Mango Languages, a name that just promises orangeness but in actual fact doesn’t deliver much Orange, even in the logo. Still, if you don’t let lack of actual orangeness get in the way of perceived orangeness you could give it a go!

We do have some other actually-orange things in the library that could get you excited…

…while you’re sitting back in the sun, enjoying your Golden Syrup pudding, what better thing to do than get into a good book?

Here’s a selection of books that I’ve grouped together simply based on the orange-ivity of their covers. There’s a wide range of genres here, from New Zealand fiction to romance to classic literature to adventure, but they’re all Orange! Which one are you most interested in?

Is underground / Aiken, Joan
“Bound to keep a promise to her dead uncle, Is travels to the mysterious north country to find two missing boys, one of them a prince, and to discover why so many children in London are disappearing.” (Catalogue)

Felix ever after / Callender, Kacen
“Felix Love has never been in love, painful irony that it is. He desperately wants to know why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. He is proud of his identity, but fears that he’s one marginalization too many– Black, queer, and transgender. When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages, Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. He didn’t count on his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi-love triangle.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

Also available as an eBook

Perfect on paper / Gonzales, S.
“Seventeen-year-old Darcy Phillips, a bisexual girl who gives anonymous love advice to her classmates, is hired by the “hot” guy at school to help him get his ex back. When Darcy is caught in the act of collecting letters from locker 89– out of which she has been running her advice service– she is blackmailed into becoming his personal dating coach. If word gets out that Darcy is behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light. What could go wrong?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Juggling with mandarins / Jones, V. M.
“Thirteen-year-old Pip finds a talent he never dreamed he had, and is determined it will remain one area of his life his domineering dad can’t touch. Somehow, Pip must find the courage to confront his father and claim the right to live his life on his own terms.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

And mandarins are basically smaller superior oranges anyway.

To kill a mockingbird / Lee, Harper
“A young girl growing up in an Alabama town in the 1930s learns of injustice and violence when her father, a widowed lawyer, defends a black man falsely accused of rape.” (Catalogue)

Trash / Mulligan, Andy
“Three friends. Raphael, Gardo and Rat. Living on a heap of trash, a lifetime of sifting rubbish. One day they find something extraordinary – a deadly secret. From that moment they are hunted without mercy. With danger snatching at their heels, the boys are chased from the city’s dirty gutters to its wealthy avenues. But they can’t run for ever. They need a miracle.” (Catalogue)

Nice try, Jane Sinner / Oelke, Lianne
“Jane Sinner, a 17-year-old dropout, sets out to redefine herself through a series of schemes and stunts, including participating in a low-budget reality TV show at her local community college”– Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)

First test / Pierce, Tamora
“Ten-year-old Keladry of Mindalen, daughter of nobles, serves as a page but must prove herself to the males around her if she is ever to fulfill her dream of becoming a knight.” (Catalogue)

A tyranny of petticoats : 15 stories of belles, bank robbers & other badass girls
“From pirate ships off the coast of the Carolinas to the peace, love, and protests of 1960s Chicago, take a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Bridge of Clay / Zusak, Markus
“Upon their father’s return, the five Dunbar boys, who have raised themselves since their mother’s death, begin to learn family secrets, including that of fourth brother Clay, who will build a bridge for complex reasons, including his own redemption.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

And if you’ve made it this far, I hope that by now I’ve managed to remove or weaken the exclusive association of Orange with Covid. I’m sure that you’ll be simmering with rage over the officially-yellow traffic lights, off to bake a tasty snack, diving deep into an Orange read, or some other Orange-related activity!

Cool things to make during a study break

However much you want to, there is no denying the fact that somehow we are already in November and NCEA exams are approaching. Now, I’m sure that as regular and devoted Teen Blog readers you have already read through our excellent blog post of study hacks to get you prepared for the exam season. The tip from this post I want to bring your attention to is #4: Take breaks, where we’ve suggested that you use your breaks from study to get a rest away from screens or do an activity that you enjoy.

But what activity will be enjoyable enough to fill in that fifteen minute study break, give you a sense of satisfaction, and get your eyes away from those ever-dreaded screens?

Luckily for you, I am here to plug a favourite screen-free activity of my own, to give you some inspiration, and to encourage your creativity!

So let’s get into the wonderful world of yarn-based crafts!

There are many crafty options out there for you. From knitting, to crochet, to embroidery or cross-stitch, the possibilities abound! But those four crafts I named are the ones I’m going to be talking about. And I’ve even found you some fantastic examples of fun things to make, all made by librarians!

For more excellent examples and ideas, go have a re-read of our Sit ‘n’ Knit post, have a look at the wonderful creations featured there, and let yourself daydream about all the fun you can have once Sit ‘n’ Knit starts up…


Knitting

A hand puppet snake, mostly knitted with green wool but with some variegated orange and red stripes. A red forked tongue pokes out of the side of its mouth. It has big plastic green eyes.

Some snakes are scary. Some snakes are knitted and teach children maths.

Knitting is a classic. You get your needles, you get your yarn, and you can just sit there knitting and purling away to your heart’s content! If you’ve never knitted before the usual beginner project is a scarf – just go back and forth until it’s as long as you want it. Use some chunky yarn and big needles and just watch it grow!

Or if you’re a bit more confident, pull out a circular needle, have a go with double-pointed needles, try some cabling (not as tricky as it looks – trust me!), or venture into the world of colourwork. Hats are also cool. Though if they’re knitted, they’re probably warm.

If you are a beginner, don’t stress about dropping stitches or getting in a tangle. It’s practice and repetition that gets you there. And this is meant to be a stress reliever!

We’ve got plenty of books full of advice and patterns. You could attempt a Literary Knit, get ready with some Tiny Christmas Toys, create some even smaller Teeny-tiny Mochimochi, or go in another direction with some Vampire Knits! If you’re stuck at home and can’t get in to the library we also have many books of knitting patterns available through our eLibrary, and also several knitting-focused eMagazines!


Crochet

A green, grey, and yellow crocheted caterpillar sits next to a yellow crocheted octopus. The octopus has one tentacle through the handle of a white and blue crocheted teapot.

Just some crocheted friends sharing a pot of tea. Lovely.

Crocheting is done with one hook rather than two needles, so there’s not as many things to keep track of with your hands. And it’s usually faster than knitting too! Particularly with a big hook and chunky yarn…

But there are so many things you can crochet! Crochet a curious critter (as seen on the right), make a garden of flowers, or even the Twelve Birds of Christmas!

Hats are usually a good beginner project, and they can be embellished in very fun ways if you feel like it, or there’s the good old-fashioned granny square – great for blankets, using up yarn leftovers, and cushion covers!

Some of the books we have available for you to borrow include more Literary Yarns, amigurumi style foods or animals, you’ll  be sure to find something fun! We’ve got books of crochet patterns available through our eLibrary, and there’s also a few crochet eMagazines, and our eMagazines are always available.


Embroidery

A chaotic piece of embroidery. Black letters on a red background across the centre read "No Candimir, you can't have any wheat". There are mountains in the upper left corner, and yellow flowers on a dark green background in the lower left. Some beads and buttons are sewn in on the right side, and the whole photo area is covered in colourful stitches.

There’s a …lot going on here.

Personally, I like to go a bit wild with my embroidery, as seen in this accompanying image (bonus points if you know who Candimir is, and why you shouldn’t give him any wheat). If you’re into carefully cultivated chaos then it’s easier than you’d think to teach yourself a few different stitches, find something to sew with (it doesn’t have to be embroidery floss – yarn scraps are pretty good!), and just play! If you’d prefer a more precise project though, you can buy embroidery kits that come with all the bits and bobs you need, and even have a design printed onto the fabric you’ll be using.

You do need a few more things before you can start embroidering than the previous two crafts. Namely embroidery hoop, non-stretchy fabric, threads of some kind, and needles (Controversial take: Embroidery needles from Daiso are perfectly adequate. Fight me.).

In terms of library inspiration, we can provide you with some Edgy Embroidery, some Animal Embroidery, and some cool ways to Customise Your Clothes!

Check out these embroidery eMagazines too, for some inspiring ideas!


Cross Stitch

I mean, you’ve got to make sure all your books are in order.

This is where I confess that of all the crafts in this list, cross stitch is the one I haven’t tried. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! Again, you’ll need an embroidery hoop, needles, something to sew with, and some of that cloth that has all the little holes in it to show you where to stitch (the internet reliably informs me that this is called “aida cloth”).

Like embroidery, you can buy kits that have a design for you to make and all the materials you need. Or if you snorted when seeing the picture to the right and would like to create something a little more exciting…

We have books! We’ve got Subversive Cross Stitch and Improper Cross Stitch and Really Cross Stitch. We have Literary Cross Stitch, Creepy Cross Stitch, and Cross Stitch with Attitude. There’s also a whole LOT of cross stitch eMagazines for your perusal!


The great thing (or so I think) about all these crafts is that they are activities that you can pick up for fifteen minutes or so and stitch away, then put down to come back to later. And that sense of accomplishment and “Oh, I made This” when you’re done is just so good!

So what are you waiting for? Get into it!

Let’s ace Ace Week!

We’re now in the middle of Ace Week! Ace Week is an annual week to celebrate and highlight asexuality and all asexual-spectrum identities. So let’s celebrate all you Aces out there!

If you’re wondering what asexuality is, aces & aros has a pretty good introduction to asexuality and aromanticism. Awareness is important, and knowledge is a powerful thing!

Or if you’re after something more local… As part of their More Than Four campaign, InsideOUT created a series of videos that feature and explore the wide range of identities within our rainbow community. Check out their Asexual/Aromantic video below!

And since we’re a library, I couldn’t end this post without giving you some reading recommendations from our collection! Here are some books that feature asexual characters, or asexual authors!

Ace : what asexuality reveals about desire, society, and the meaning of sex / Chen, Angela
“Ace” delves into the lives of those who identify using the little-known sexual orientation of asexuality and shows what all of us can learn–about desire, identity, culture, and relationships–when we use an asexual lens to see the world”– Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)

Also available as an eBook

Rick / Gino, Alex
“Eleven-year-old Rick Ramsey has generally gone along with everybody, just not making waves, even though he is increasingly uncomfortable with his father’s jokes about girls, and his best friend’s explicit talk about sex; but now in middle school he discovers the Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities can express themselves–and maybe among them he can find new friends and discover his own identity, which may just be to opt out of sex altogether.” (Catalogue)

Also available as an eAudiobook and eBook

Overdrive cover Asexual Fairy Tales / Hopkinson, Elizabeth (ebook)
“A refreshing collection of enchanting fairy tales that reflect the spectrum of human sexuality.” (Overdrive description)

Gender queer : a memoir / Kobabe, Maia
“In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity – what it means and how to think about it – for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.”–Amazon.” (Catalogue)

Also available as an eBook

 Elatsoe / Little Badger, Darcie
“Imagine an America very similar to our own. It’s got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream. There are some differences. This America has been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day. Seventeen-year-old Elatsoe (“Ellie” for short) lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect façade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family” — Publisher’s description.” (Catalogue)

Also available as an eBook

Every heart a doorway / McGuire, Seanan
“Children have always disappeared from Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere … else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced … they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world. But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. No matter the cost.” (Catalogue)

Also available as an eAudiobook and eBook

8 reasons why you should check out our updated Teen book lists! (Number 3 will shock you)

Hopefully the excitingly click-bait-y title has managed to grab your attention. Let’s get into it!

We are always in the process of updating our Teen book lists. You can find them by clicking that link I just gave you, or by clicking on the “Book lists” tab under the “Teen Blog” header. And I am here to tell you about all the exciting reasons you should go read them!

1. New booklists = new books
When we update our book lists, we make sure we include recently released titles to give you something fresh and exciting to read. Maybe you’re a romance reader who’s read their way through every YA romance published before 2018 and desperately needs to find something new. Well never fear, because in our new-and-improved Romantic fiction book list you will find titles such as The Henna Wars (published in 2020), and Love in English (published in 2021)!

2. We’ve got your genre

Whatever genre you’re into, we’ll have something for you. We have many different lists of individual titles for you, as well as a list of the all the languages other than English we have books in and which libraries you can find them at.

Whether you’re into Horror, Dystopia, or Manga, we’ve got you covered!

3. They can help with your NCEA independent reading

If you’re looking for things to read for school, we can help! Our lists will definitely have something new to you, and you’ve got a lot to choose from. Choosing a book award winner or classic novel will almost certainly impress your teacher, or you could read a Māori author or a book from around the world.

We’ve also got a list specially tailored to those of you who are new to high school which covers many different genres

4. We pay attention to what you’re looking at

Over here on the Teen Blog, we pay attention to what you’re reading (as part of our mission to overtake the Kids Blog readership numbers!). And we noticed that quite a few of you have been browsing the “New Zealand Books” tag. So you didn’t ask, but we have listened and we have created a brand new New Zealand fiction book list just for you!

Yes, you.

5. Get recommendations from the best

While it may be a little proudful to claim that we are the best, this is our job and I think we’re doing pretty well. We work with books, we read a lot of books, and we know books. If there’s a book on one of our lists there’s a high chance it has been read and loved by one of your librarians (like The long way to a small, angry planet. Ugh, so good). So you can trust us! Or at least know that we’re doing our best.

And that leads me towards the next reason which is…

6. We’ve put a lot of work into these

As I’ve said, we try our best to make these lists the best they can be. The best example here is the Books from around the world list. This list features authors who write works set in their own countries, and it is one of our longest lists because our goal is to have at least one book for every country in the world! And what’s more, we’re not just picking books willy-nilly, no, we’re making sure that each book on this list (even if it’s not in the Young Adult collection) features kids or teens in prominent places in the story!

So it’s not that I’m begging you to look at our lists, but we did a useful thing – look at it please?

7. We’re always waiting for your recommendations

While we do rely on our own knowledge and reading preferences, we love hearing from you about what you’re reading and what you think. Whether you’re chatting with the librarian at your local branch or submitting a book review for the Teen Blog, we do want to hear what you think! And maybe your recommendations will make their way onto a list…

And that’s the end of my list of reasons why you should check out our Teen book lists. Like every clickbait article, I have made sure to promise more reasons than I have actually delivered, and I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not number 3 shocked you.

So go forth! Investigate, issue, reserve, and read!

Books about books and books within books

Some of you may have read The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. It’s got a sequel too, The Night Country. If you haven’t read them, they’re both books about Alice who lives with her mother and has spent her whole life moving from place to place trying to avoid bad luck. Some weird stuff happens, her mother goes missing, and Alice figures out that it has something to do with a book of creepy cultish fairytales that her estranged grandmother wrote: Tales from the Hinterland. There are snippets of these fairytales throughout the two books, which are, as I’ve already said, creepy. And fascinating – throughout Albert’s book, everyone who reads these fairytales seems to become an also-creepy-fan of both the stories and their author.

They sound cool, right?! I mean, who doesn’t like the sound of a dark fairytale?

But sadly, you/me/we/the person reading The Hazel Wood never gets to read all these tales in full. At least not in The Hazel Wood, but I’ll get to that later.

Tales from the Hinterland is an example of a book within a book, and in this case, it started out as a fictional book. I’m saying fictional here because when Melissa Albert wrote The Hazel Wood, and created Tales from the Hinterland as something important to the plot, Tales from the Hinterland didn’t exist. She never planned to actually write these tales. The Hazel Wood is a work of fiction, and Tales from the Hinterland was a fictional book within that book.

At least, it was a fictional book until earlier this year when it was released as a real book! (and yes, we do have copies you can get out)

Let’s go over that again. Author writes book about a book. People like author’s book, she writes another. Readers have been interested enough in the book-within-the-book that author and editor decide to make the book in a book a real book.

There, nice and clear, right!?

Books within books within books within books…

Anyway, it shouldn’t be a surprise that people who write books sometimes also enjoy writing about books. And, in my case, that people who like reading books also like writing about books.

The point of this post is that I want to write about books that don’t exist and books that started off not existing. There are lots of them out there, a few different kinds, some that I wish were real, and some that (like Tales from the Hinterland) eventually became real! And, if you find this as interesting as I do, I want to know which books you’ve read about that you wish were real and you could actually read too!

Let’s get into it! (And don’t worry, I’ll be sure to give you links to the real books in our collection that you can read.)


The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death
This book within a book remains fully fictional. Ellen Kushner has written a short story with the same name, but it’s completely different and is about characters from her earlier book Swordspoint: a melodrama of manners. The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death can be found in Kushner’s The Privilege of the Sword and it’s obviously very important. Two characters bond over it, it becomes a play and, in the words of one of the characters, “It’s not trash. It is full of great and noble truths of the heart. And swordfights.” There are a couple of these things in The Privilege of the Sword as well.

From what goes on in The Privilege of the Sword, we know that The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death is about the swordsman Fabian who is bound to kill Lady Stella, but they love each other, and there is an antagonist in the awful Mangrove with his awful moustache, and also Stella kisses Fabian’s friend Tyrian! And there are many swordfights and a scene with hunting cats on the roof, and it’s all very dramatic. But The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death is not a book we’ll ever get to read.

So you want to be a wizard
This not-real book appears in Diane Duane’s real book of the same title. In the real So You Want to be a Wizard, Nita finds the not-real So You Want to be a Wizard at the library. It looks just like one of those other books about a future career, except in this case the career is wizardry. Which is… not a Real Thing. But isn’t this such a wonderful idea!? That you can just find a book that has snuck itself onto one of the shelves in a library (an occurrence surely not possible here, due to our diligence and constant shelf-checking), a book that is there specifically looking for you, and that it is there to guide you on your journey to becoming a wizard? It’s a book that I think would just be so cool to read for real, because it would mean you were a wizard. For real.

The not-real So You Want to be a Wizard is a fictional non-fiction book, in that in the world of the book that it’s in, it’s a textbook for new wizards. Come on, that explanation makes perfect sense.

Over the woodward wall
This one’s just like Tales from the Hinterland, in that it was a fictional book within a real book (the real book in this case being Middlegame by Seanan McGuire), until it got written and published a couple of years after Middlegame.

Over the Woodward Wall is one of those weird stories about children who go off on a surreal adventure. Think The Phantom Tollbooth, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Book of Changing Things and Other Oddibosities. But this one was written by McGuire’s fictional alchemist, A. Deborah Baker, and contains hidden messages about her own agenda and doctrine that she wants to sneak through to future generations of children. There are quotes from Over the Woodward Wall at the start of each Middlegame chapter demonstrating different aspects of this doctrine and if you’ve read both books it’s fascinating seeing how the prewritten snippets of Over the Woodward Wall work their way into the published version.

Middlegame won an Alex Award last year, which is an award for for books that were written for adults but have special appeal for young adults, so make of that what you will.

My Parents Didn’t Steal an Elephant
Now THIS is a book that I wish I could read! My Parents Didn’t Steal an Elephant, by Uriah C. Lasso (unscramble that name and see what you get) is a book given to the main character Bradley in Louis Sacher’s There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom to use for a book report.

My Parents Didn’t Steal an Elephant is about an unnamed child who’s living with their aunt and uncle because their parents have been (get this!) accused of stealing an elephant.  There are excerpts from My Parents Didn’t Steal an Elephant in There’s a Boy in the Girls Bathroom that show just how great it is – like when the lawyer gets the child to eat peanuts so they can say if asked that they can eat fifty thousand peanuts a day. Totally manageable for a child and a normal number of peanuts of have in a house that has no elephants in it at all! (Question: Do elephants actually like peanuts?)

This nonsensical logic is just the sort of thing I like to find in a book, so since you can’t read Uriah C. Lasso’s My Parents Didn’t Steal an Elephant, you might as well go and read Louis Sacher’s Wayside School series for the same sort of fantastic nonsense.

The Princess Bride 
“What!” I can hear you saying, “The Princess Bride’s a real book/a classic movie!” Well, you’re right. The Princess Bride is a real book by William Goldman. BUT Goldman’s The Princess Bride is, as Goldman writes, merely an abridged version of the Florinese classic of the same name by S. Morgenstern. Except S. Morgenstern does not exist, Florin is not a real place, and the only The Princess Bride is Goldman’s.

S. Morgenstern’s The Princess Bride is a fictional book, that a fictional version of Goldman says is his favourite book from when he was a child (and according to the introduction of the 25th anniversary edition, still is). The fictional Goldman’s father read The Princess Bride to him as a child. Later in life Goldman realised that his father had left out a lot of the boring historical detail, the Morgenstern version wasn’t as exciting and swashbuckling as he remembered, and it was out of print and very hard to find, so he decided to write an abridged version so other people could love it as much as he did.

The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern is different to the other books in this list because of the way it exists within the world of Goldman’s The Princess Bride. Goldman’s framing of his own novel as a retelling of another fictional narrative is an effective and interesting literary device and is an example of metafictive or self-conscious storytelling.

Ok, that was possibly too much literature-nerd talk. Just know it’s fascinating.

There’s also another fictional book alluded to in The Princess Bride, which is its unpublished sequel Buttercup’s Baby. Some editions of The Princess Bride include a sample chapter of Buttercup’s Baby, but the fictional Goldman informs us that due to legal problems with the Morgenstern estate he has not been able to publish it.


So that’s a few of the books-within-books that I’ve come across. There are definitely more – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (the actual guide), Don’t Go Out Alone, The Book of the Dead, The Neverending Story, Diseases of the Sheep… but this post is just getting far too long with the books I’ve already written about.

So now it’s over to you. What book within a book do you wish you could read?

Black Cat Appreciation Day (feat. some library cats!)

Something you may not have known is that August 17th is Black Cat Appreciation Day. This is a day for us to let our appreciation be known for these demons in feline form, these bringers of bad luck, these companions of witches and evildoers, lest they bring their displeasure down upon us all!

Or not.

A black cat is lying curled around the right side of a large book. his teeth and front claws are wrapped around the top corner. The title of the book is Devastation: the world's worst natural disastersNow, black cats are definitely not harbingers of absolute devastation. In fact, they’re quite nice. Or at least I think so!

Black Cat Appreciation Day is here because apparently some people still believe these awful things about black cats. Or at least cat societies, shelters, and SPCAs have noticed that it often takes longer for black cats to be adopted than their more colourful counterparts.

A black cat curled in a ball on a white cushion. He is a black blob with a tail. All detail has disappeared into a void of black.Part of this could be that people still feel that there is something unlucky or uncanny about black cats. Or it could be that nowadays so many people fall in love with a picture of a cat they see on an adoption website, and black cats don’t always photograph too well. Look at this snoozy gentleman on the right. You can tell there’s a cat there, but all detail has disappeared into THE VOID of DARKNESS.

There are plenty of black cats who are not beings of evil both in the world and in fiction. Surely you all read Slinky Malinki (let’s not mention Scarface Claw) as children? And then there’s the black cat in Coraline, and the excellent Kaspar: Prince of Cats. You must remember Thackery Binks from Hocus Pocus as a black cat who definitely was NOT helping the witches. Or there’s Salem Saberhagen who hangs out with Sabrina Spellman and depending on your interpretation may be slightly evil but is still more loyal than you’d expect.

Anyway, as part of Black Cat Appreciation Day I’m going to highlight some of the black cats who belong to your librarians. There are a few out there, and they’re all excellent cats!

Two cats sitting on each knee of their owner. The left cat is white with black ears and a black splodge on her back. The right cat is black with a white chest and white whiskers. Both have yellow eyes.These two are Princess Holly (left and not as relevant to today’s theme but still an excellent cat) and Le Beau (right). Le Beau can most often be found making nests in the long grass in the garden. Is Le Beau a bird or a cat?

Well… cat, obviously. 

Shot from below, Oz is looking majestically off to the right. He has a bright blue bow around his neck that contrasts brilliantly with his sleek black fur.This is Oz. Oz is “a big ball of need”. If you are Oz’s owner, Oz will sit on you. If you are nearby, Oz will sit on you. If you have a lap, Oz will sit on you.

And doesn’t he look handsome with that blue bow around his neck? Definitely not a minion of devils and demons.

A black cat sitting on the edge of a table with a copy of Two Raw Sisters standing open in front of him to stop him moving any further forward. He has a small white patch under his chin, and a look of complete and utter betrayal in his golden eyes.This is Poot. Poot is obviously the best of the bunch because he is my cat and since I’m writing this I get to say what I like.

Poot is a distinguished gentleman of fourteen and is still super snuggly and, as demonstrated in this picture, may sometimes need a book barricade to stop him sitting uncomfortably close to you while you eat. It’s very hard not to give in to that look of betrayal though!


A black cat being held towards the camera. Her front paws rest on the wrist of the person holding her. Her yellow eyes are open very wide and her pupils are very round.This is Shavana. She’s not a huge fan of being held and prefers to come hang out with you only when she feels like it. She is a very respectable thirteen years old so I’d say she’s allowed to do what she wants.

Look how huge her eyes are! Maybe she’s watching some eldritch spirits pass by…


A dainty black cat lying on a platform. Her front paws are slightly hanging over the edge towards the camera and her pale yellow eyes are slightly downcast.This is Tove. She is eight and was named, of course, after Moomin creator Tove Jansson. As an extremely dainty and literary creature she could never ever be thought to be a bringer of bad luck. Look at those neat wee paws!

Do you ap-purr-eciate Tove?

A large white and grey spotted dog lies with his head cushioned on a large black cat.This is Wolfram, pictured here with Tama. As you can see, cats and dogs can definitely be friends, and Wolfram is a very patient cat and a very excellent pillow.

Also, can you see those kangaroo ears of his?


The last black cat on this list is in fact a black Kat. She is a very good girl so I don’t see why a difference of one letter should stop her being included here. I’m sure none of you will object!


So those are some of our black cats. They are all very excellent, very loved, and always very appreciated and I am very pleased to have been able to share them all with you.

I will leave you with one last picture of Poot snoozing in the sun with toe beans on display because, as I said, I’m the one writing this so I can do what I want.

Poot lies sleeping curled on his side on top of a newspaper in the sun. His head is resting on his front paws and his back paws with their toe beans are extended towards the camera.

The Book Was Better – You Decide!

I’m sure you have heard these words before, and maybe even said them yourself! I know I have. I have very fond memories of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. I read them all, I knew the prophetic poems in them off by heart, and I loved the way more and more complex situations, villains, and magics were introduced as the books went on. And then in 2007 they released a movie based on the books! Exciting, right?

Wrong.

The Seeker: The Dark is Rising was NOT as good as the book. (In my personal opinion, this is not the exclusive opinion of Wellington City Libraries!)

First of all, why make a movie of the second book in a series and completely leave out the first? Then they made Will’s family an American one who has only just moved into the small English village. Ridiculous. And there was all this extra action added, and so much left out, and Merriman acted completely different and everything just seemed oversimplified.

Humph. The book was better.

Anyway. There are many other books that have been made into movies and TV shows. Some are classics that have been out for a while, some are new TV shows that are only just starting, and some became multi-million dollar film franchises that everyone has heard of. And with so many screen adaptations of books that already exist, that are coming out, and that are in the works I just feel the need to help facilitate outraged conversations about these adaptations – the book was better! Or was it?

I won’t be writing about the big ones here. I’m sure that you’ve already discussed the nuances of Divergent, or The Hunger Games, or (dare I say it) Twilight to your heart’s content. And I will only be writing about titles that we actually have available here at Wellington City Libraries. Shadow and Bone came out this year but it ain’t on DVD so we don’t have it. Though we do of course have Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy! But that will be my only mention of it because I don’t want to tantalise your TV taste-buds with something we can’t actually provide for you to watch.

Here I present to you a carefully selected list of films and TV shows, all adapted from books, and all available to be borrowed (as both book or DVD!) right here in our libraries.

So read on friends! And I hope to inspire ferocious debate amongst you, or maybe even the need to watch a new movie or check out a new book!

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An exciting Out on the Shelves update!

Unlike what you may have heard, librarians are actually human. And as such, we do like to boast a bit when we win things. So on with the boasting!

Back in June was the Out on the Shelves Campaign Week (actually two weeks, but we’ll let that slide!). If you don’t know what that is then I’d definitely recommend having a poke around the Out on the Shelves website, or even reading this blog post about it that we put up in June.

Anyway.

There’s a Campaign Week, there’s a Display Competition, and we won some things!

There were three categories, each with a winner and a runner-up. One is for the Best School Library Display, which we aren’t eligible for, but congratulations to St Hilda’s Collegiate School, the winner, and to Northcote School, the runner-up! You can see their displays on the Out on the Shelves website.

The winner of the Most Creative Display, however, was very exciting for us here at Wellington City Libraries. This category was won by our very own Johnsonville Library!

Check out their fantastic (and award-winning!) display:
A collage of four pictures of the Johnsonville library display. Largest at the bottom is the whole display, a table covered with a selection of pride flag scarves, a sign across the from saying "Out on the Shelves”, rainbow-themed books on stands, then a large rainbow arch across the whole table. The second picture is a close-up of a group of colourful painted wooden figures holding a sign that says “Pride!”. The third picture is of two small wooden people holding a sign that says “Be Trans and throw hands” above two 3D printed penguins that are holding hands. The last picture is of a small wooden Bernie Sanders sitting on a chair in his famous mittens and mask pose. He is wearing all pink, except for his mittens and socks which are rainbow.
Johnsonville Library is lucky enough to house Tūhura – The HIVE, our makerspace. The HIVE is full of all sorts of exciting things, a loom, a laser-cutter, and several 3D printers, to name but a few. And this display has made excellent use of these exciting things. There are those fantastic 3D-printed penguins and wonderful rainbow arch. And what about those pride-flag scarves adorning the table? They were woven right there on the loom in the library by expert staff, interested passers-by, and by many keen queer kids who use the library. And do you see those laser-cut wooden figures of people waving flags and banners? Those were painted for this display by some of the young people at one of the recent Youth Nights. Ka pai e hoa mā!

The Most Creative runner-up was Martinborough Library in the Wairarapa who also did a great job. But of course we’re firmly behind our own here in Johnsonville.

The winner of the Best Community Space Display was Dunedin Public Libraries down in …Dunedin.

But the runner-up was Te Awe Library, our CBD branch just off Lambton Quay!

Have a look at the Te Awe displays:
A collage of four pictures of two displays, clockwise from the left they are: first the whole upstairs display around the corner that sticks out into the young adult area. A large picture of a bookshelf has been stuck to the wall, on these shelves are the heading “Out on the Shelves”, holders for bookmarks, and pictures of book covers. Along the top are real books on stands. Hanging from above are rainbow paper chains and pompoms in pride flag colours. The second picture is a close-up of the fake bookshelves. The third picture is of the second display in the downstairs area. There are rainbow paper chains along the top, then a colourful heading of “out on the shelves”. On the left side are pictures of book covers, on the right side are posters of the Out on the Shelves booklists. Between the two sides is a vertical line of pride flags. The last picture is a close-up of a bookmark holder on the first display.
Such excellent rainbow chains! And those shelves look almost real (Out on the Shelves, get it?). There’s pompoms and flags and bookmarks. So fun!

A whole bunch of our libraries had awesome displays as well — check out these from Karori Library and Arapaki Library on Manners Street!

A collage of two displays. Left: A rainbow pyramid of books at Karori Library, decorated with person-shaped cutouts in various colours. Right: A brightly-coloured display of books at Arapaki Library, decorated above with rainbow streamers and balloons.

So that’s our celebratory blog post! We’re very happy to have taken part in the Out on the Shelves Campaign Week, very proud of our displays, and very excited to have won things!

Help, I don’t know what to read next!

I’m sure you know the feeling. You’ve just finished reading the last page, last paragraph, last word of a fantastic book. You close it, put it down, and are struck with that itchy feeling, that need to just keep reading. But what? It’s going to have to be something good to live up to the book you’ve just put down. Will the next book you pick up have a character quite as lovable as that one hero you grew so attached to? Or will it have someone quite as chilling as that other character that was so ambiguous you couldn’t figure out if they were a hero or a villain (but you were so invested in them nonetheless)? And what about that ending?! And the way it tied so well back into that chapter where there was that confrontation that made you question everything you’d thought about where the book was heading. How are you going to find another book as good as that one?

Maybe though, this wasn’t the feeling you got when you finished your last book. Maybe you slogged through it. Getting slowly through page after page of foolish characters doing foolish things over and over and over and over. Maybe none of the characters were particularly good people and you dragged yourself through chapter after chapter of them all making each other unhappy with their poor decisions, hoping that maybe once, just once one of them would do something redeemable, but they never do. Maybe the characters aren’t even that bad, but the combined mix of foolish decisions and self-interest just put you off them entirely. Maybe the author’s writing style just didn’t catch you. Perhaps they included too many descriptions of food, of oatfarls and elderflower cream and shrimp and hotroot soup and acorn scones and dandelion tea (I’m looking at you Brian Jacques!), or not enough descriptions of food and too much dialogue! If you’ve been reading a book that you really struggled to get to the end of (but still persevered through to the last page) you might be left with a bad taste in your mind and the need to consume something actually good, or at least better suited to your tastes.

Whether or not you enjoyed the last book you read, upon closing its cover for the final time you will be, I am very sure, be beginning to ponder over the question “But what will I read next?”

And that’s what I’m here to help with! So sit back, pour yourself a glass of dandelion tea, and ready yourself for wall of text I’m about to present you with.

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