The Ones We Follow: NZ kids’ book websites

One of the first things we did when considering The Sapling was sit down and think: now, what can we offer that nobody else can?

There are a lot of wonderful book-focused bloggers in New Zealand, as well as quite a few great book-focused websites. And, while some of the blogs are just about children’s books and some of the websites have good children’s lit sections, the gap was there: a multi-contributor website about children’s literature that brings it all together. Because children’s literature is important.

There are some fantastic blogs and websites out there, and we’d like to tip our hats to them. So here’s a potted history of New Zealand blogs and websites about children’s books. We will undoubtedly miss some, as we’re still discovering new ones every week – but let’s start with the blogs of some of our local children’s authors, those who write the books we love so much.

Melinda Szymanik and Anna Mackenzie offer insight into their writing worlds; Maureen Crisp’s Craicer is one of the best writing and publishing tips sites around; Fifi Colston – well, we’ve hired her – has a blog with some great crafts on it. Maria Gill is known for the quality of her teaching resources, and her Kids Books NZ blog has been around for a long time. Philippa Werry’s War Books blog is fantastic, too.

Along the review blog lines, Barbara Murison ran ‘Around the Bookshops’ as a home-printed publication for donkeys years before moving online a few years ago; it has an amazing review cache. And the Book Council’s Booknotes Unbound (now the NZ Book Scene and Aotearoa Reads) also offers great coverage of kids’ books, including some excellent lists.

On the radio, and available to stream any time, Kate De Goldi has been raising the profile of children’s literature on Kim Hill’s Saturday show for ages now. We are very lucky to have her as a contributor. And the same goes for John McIntyre from The Children’s Bookshop in Wellington; he’s had a regular slot reviewing children’s books every second Friday on Radio NZ National for 15 years. (His first ‘Dear John’ reading advice column is now live.)

If you want to know more about award-winning books, check out the New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults’ website.

We love review blog The Reader (ahem, the Booksellers NZ blog that editor Sarah has run for four years), NZ Booklovers and The Spinoff Books. Trevor Agnew is a legend, as is Bob Docherty. In fact, Bob pretty much reviews every single kids’ book there is, especially from New Zealand, on his blog Bob’s Books. And another enthusiastic proponent of children’s books is Zac McCallum on My Best Friends are Books. And one Sarah watched compulsively last year is My Friend Lucy – One Year, 365 Picture Books.

We’re constantly inspired by Hooked on NZ Books He Ao Ano. If you have a teenager who is a keen writer, these guys are amazing at giving feedback on reviews and helping reviewers improve their craft. So cool! Another massive inspiration in terms of what you can do in children’s books when you set your mind to it is Storylines. Their IBBY congress last year involved 500 people from 61 countries. Their website is a great source of information about local kids’ books and their authors.

And while we are talking about education, the New Zealand Picture Book Collection and the NZ Pacific Book Collection, compiled by Nicola Daly and Marion McKoy, are just amazing, and every teacher should use them: they take 20 of our amazing picture books and 36 pacific-themed books and drill down into them, linking them with the curriculum. And there is the Create Readers blog from National Library School Services. Jeannie Skinner is a marvel and an inspiration to any who have encountered her.

The National Library is one of a huge number of libraries across New Zealand who are our heroes. The Christchurch City Libraries website and blogs are amazing, especially for their coverage of awards and interviews with children’s book authors. The Wellington City Library also runs a great kids’ blog, full of quality book lists.

So yes, there are many who have come before us – and we’re never going to stop championing the work they’ve done and are doing. But we hope to be unique, to promote our authors and illustrators to a broader audience and connect the dots between the writers, illustrators, readers, librarians, bloggers… You can read our Kaupapa here. We know that children’s literature is one of our strongest publishing sectors, and the sales of children’s books back this up. If we don’t have a strong local children’s book industry, we don’t have a strong sense of our place in the world.

Kia ora! We’re The Sapling, and we believe Books Grow Humans.