Letters to the Zoo

Books, mostly.

Month: September, 2016

STEM – the first of many posts

Dear Zoo,

Here are some things I like: learning (duh), libraries (double duh), STEM…

This week I attended a children’s librarian conference in Palmerston North. A library conference basically goes like this…you enter a room set up for speaking and listening, you squee over your goodie bag and smile gingerly at your fellow librarians, you drink 20 cups of tea, and you sit in a chair and behave exactly like a sponge for the rest of the day/s. At the end you are…still like a sponge. Full and floppy. In need of Thai food, crap TV and the nearest bed. (It is known that at some conferences there is hair-down, shoes-kicked-off dancing that goes on into the early hours – not this one).

In short: you learn a sh*t-load of stuff.

One of the best presentations of this particular conference was by Adrienne Hannan of Wellington City Libraries, who talked about STEM.

STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and maths, taught in an interdisciplinary, hands-on, real-world manner. According to Adrienne, STEM is basically essential for the progression and success of our nation, and inevitably our children (and vice versa).

I’m not going to write anymore now. But I’ll leave this here because I stumbled upon it in post-conf research and it’s ace.

Kiwi kids share stories through coding and Te Reo.




Saturday Reading: Dahl

A quick note to say I thoroughly enjoyed this piece about Roald Dahl, written by granddaughter Sophie Dahl.

Dahl article on The Guardian.

Chocolate Cake and Group Hugs


Dear Zoo,

Well, it’s been a week. I’m actually writing from my bed, with a hint of sunshine poking into the room (it will rain soon). After what was a spectacular week of Roald Dahl madness, my final outreach visits, ophop wins, frantic school holiday planning and Moomins and I have succumbed to some sort of bug which I am trying to destroy with large quantities of Vitamin C.

This week had numerous high points and each of these made me think about how lucky I am to have fallen into librarianship. We celebrated what would have been Dahl’s 100 birthday with chocolate cake, afternoon tea, activities and prizes. One quirk of being a librarian is that you spend most of your time creating things that will hopefully engage your visitors without ever knowing if they actually will until you send them out into the world. This week was especially pleasing because the activities were all a hit. We had a quiz-meets-scavenger hunt on Dahl himself, book reviews, a BFG  dream jar collection, fox origami and word puzzles.

This week was also interesting because I had my last visit to the kindergartens. This experience – outreach – has been the most challenging and most rewarding aspect of my job here. My trip this week involved introducing children to lemurs through ‘Follow Me’, singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat, with lots of frantic rowing, looking at other kinds of movement and meeting my friend Mr. Kiwi the hand puppet who likes gentle pats and pecking small children’s hands in search of worms. He was the star of the show. Librarianship is also often surprising and this week I was surprised with flowers and cards and a spontaneous giant group hug with one of my preschool groups. It makes me happy that children first learn to be loving and generous with their love before the world kind of tramples that out of us.

I’ll save the rest of the week for another post. And oh look, in the paper again. Fourth time in as many months.

Yours with 5 weeks to go,




In Love with Ann Patchett

Dear Zoo,

Most people have a favourite author. Someone like Nora Roberts who has written at least 200 novels (possible exaggeration). Not me. When people say ‘who is your favourite author?’ I don’t have a good answer. Roald Dahl – he’s like the Springsteen of writers? But no, no favourite author. That is mostly because I read not based on authors but based on books alone. And I generally don’t read genre fiction. So it is a rare occasion that I have read more than two books by the same author (Rainbow Rowell notwithstanding – she’s my homegirl).

But, Ann Patchett. Holy crap this woman can write a book.

I just finished reading The Patron Saint of Liars, her second novel and the third book of hers I’ve read. I haven’t read a ‘grown up’ book since I arrived on the Coast, just lots of great kids book. I really didn’t think I would break this spell until October. But as it always happens in the library, this book fell into my hands and I was possessed.

The Patron Saint of Liars is set in the South roughly around the sixties. It’s about a home for pregnant girls who have to, for one reason or another, give up their babies. Saint Elizabeth’s is where they come to wait out the pregnancy, hand over the child. Most of them.

I didn’t know much more than that going in so I won’t say much else. Only that it isn’t really about pregnant girls, just one in particular, and the people that are part of her life. And Saint Elizabeth’s, the old hotel itself.

Really, Patchett writes about relationships and she does a brilliant job of that. As was the case in State of Wonder.

In this book I loved the old hotel, the long, endless roads of the South. The southern heat dripped of the page and the cold, the snow made my bones ache. I loved Son, his bigness of spirit – what a phenomenal character. Patchett has a Catholic theme that runs through her books. I kind of like the element this adds to the story – mostly because I know nothing about Catholicism except that my Nan hated the nuns at her school.

OK. I’ll stop. Just do yourself a favour and read a Patchett book.