Sunday, August 12, 2012

Margaret Mahy Nationwide Read a blast - could it be an annual event?

Posted this morning on Beattie's bookblog

blowing bubbles to Bubble Trouble outside Rona Gallery
 I am completely exhausted but thrilled to bits with our wonderful community event remembering a writing hero. Families packed into Eastbourne library to hear authors Jenny Hessell, Jill Harris, Maggie Rainey-Smith, Manny Garcia and me read our fave Margaret Mahy stories -- the children were transfixed -- adults too! One high point: the gathered children purring like a giant three-legged cat and another: when Manny read the first line of A Lion in the Meadow and a little boy jumped up excitedly and yelled 'I know this book!' But how many times did we 'ooh' a rhyme or 'ah' a fabulous word or grin at something marvellously ridiculous? 

There was an emotional moment too at the end when we stopped laughing and clapping and listening and acknowledged one of NZ's greatest writers ever. 
my prototype of the famous Fifi Colston chair 

Then we were off - a crocodile of kids in sports gear and parents with shopping following orange-bewigged librarian Sabine down sunshiny Rimu Street to Rona Gallery bookshop. There we stood in the sunshine blowing bubbles while Bubble Trouble was read out loud by Joanna Ponder and after that it was all on for Fifi Colston's Down the Back of the Chair egg carton treasure box chairs. We had so many takers we were quite overwhelmed, but somehow they all managed to make one, especially Yoshi with his chair painted orange in and out, and Sienna with her pink and blue chair and a huge blue splotch on her pink cardy (oh dear forgot about the aprons.) 

kids (and adults) making the Down the Back of the Chair
treasure boxes at Rona Gallery (me in the pink wig)
So lovely for the late finishers to have Fifi Colston Creative turn up and show them her yellow chair and lovely treasures inside .... 

Limping home in three-legged cat style, I opened up Facebook to find reports on Mahy readings flooding in from all over the country. Such colour and optimism and fun! There was Fifi Colston talking about reading to an enthusiastic group of littlies and their parents at Wellington Central library. She reported that while her group didn't make the famous treasure box chair, they went away well-armed to do so, and with handfuls of cut-out cats. Queenstown Library's Jane Bloomfield reported that Gillian Sullivan read her own copy of 'Lion in the Meadow' (signed by Margaret last year) and recounted stories of Margaret helping her as a young writer. Jane also said that the bubbles were a hit with young and old and the event created a whole bunch of new fans. 

Marlena Davis confirmed this with her post: 'My 13 month old and I had a wonderful time at Takapuna library. Thank you so much for organising this special way for people to celebrate a beloved author. RIP Margaret Mahy your legacy will live on in those of us who loved your stories and be continued as we share them with our children.'

The 'old fans' were definitely in evidence everywhere too -- with people of all ages reported at the gatherings. Here's one reader's comment on the Facebook page: 'I remember reading The Changeover in my teens at the local library. The exciting part is that given time, I can do that all over again:). Thank-you Margaret Mahy for making ME feel special. Te-Rau Huia Te Ngore-King 

display at Queenstown library
Clare Scott's report went like this: "Back from Papakura where a small and intitially bemused group (I'm good at scaring small children sometimes!) became an enthusiastic, interactive 'bubble brigade'. RIP Margaret - you would have loved the sharing of magical words throughout New Zealand today!" Auckland Central had fun too: 'Thank you Melinda Szymanik for being our extra-special author guest at the Central City Library, Auckland, Margaret Mahy storytime this morning! Thanks for being such a fun participant... and taking part in the singing and dancing!'
Hillcrest Pirate librarian Rebecca
and Nicola Daly 

Barbara Murison's morning at Cummings Park Library, Ngaio, was especially poignant. 'Linda Forbes (National Library Adviser) had found an old (very old) copy of the School Journal that prompted publication of the very first book - The Lion in the Meadow - when the journal was on display in the New York Public Library. It was a wonderful morning full of nostalgia and even if we ran out of time for making the Treasure Chair (thank you again Fifi) the library had most fortuitously prepared handout instruction sheets for the children to take home.'

Posted by Hillcrest library is a photo of Pirate Librarian Rebecca helping Nicola Daly read The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate. Sharon Holt's report of the event concluded: 'As Nicola read Margaret's description of the sea near the end of the story I was reminded of the amazing talent that we have lost. However, as one of the people wrote in our memorial book today "A great storyteller gone forever, but alive on our book shelves". ' So true. 

Dargaville library
Reports are still rolling on Facebook and elsewhere - no doubt we'll be hearing soon about the Auckland Town Hall event on at 2.30 pm. It was, I am sure, joyous. 

Thanks a thousand times over to the organisers of the Nationwide Read:Maria Gill and Johanna Knox - it was a brilliant idea, wonderfully executed. Could it be an annual event? Margaret Mahy Read Aloud Day - a day to remember a great writer and the joys of reading loud and having fun with books. Sounds good to me. 

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