Illustration by Thomas Sulman from The Children’s Friend (London, England) [Tuesday 1 August 1876]; pg.123; Issue 188 One of the publications available through the 19th Century UK Periodicals database at the National Library of New Zealand

To the Friends next event, when Mary Skarott, Children’s Literature Specialist at the Alexander Turnbull Library, will give an introduction to some of the online resources available in the Library. There will be the opportunity to explore the databases yourself with the guidance of Mary and other Turnbull staff.

Date: Tuesday 26 February 2013
Time: 5.30pm for nibbles & drinks; – 6pm for talk
Where: Pipitea seminar room
Lower Ground Floor, National Library of NZ. Please use the Aitken Street entrance


The Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection 2012 AGM was held on Wednesday 23 May 2012 in the Training Room (Poutama Ruma) at Archives NZ.

Full minutes of the meeting can be found here – or if you would like a paper copy this can be supplied. Give Joan a ring on 04 474 3056 or email

Most of the serving committee members were available again for 2012-2013, however, David Retter stepped down after three years in the chair. He was replaced by Emma MacDonald who had previously held the position from 2005 to 2008. Members thanked David for his work as President, and Emma for her willingness to take on the role again. We are delighted to welcome a new member to the committee. Corrina Gordon “introduces” herself later in the newsletter.

At the time of the AGM the Committee was:
Patron: Margaret Mahy
President: Emma MacDonald
Treasurer: Janet Blake
Membership Secretary: Trevor Mowbray
Minutes Secretary: Lynne Jackett
Newsletter: Joan McCracken
Committee: Audrey Cooper, Corrina Gordon, Alison Grant, Mary Hutton, Barbara Robertson, Mary Skarott.

Following the AGM local author Fleur Beale gave a presentation…


After the Friends’ Annual General Meeting on 23 May 2012, Wellington author Fleur Beale gave a talk about her novels. She started by showing some of the “roughs” for the cover of her 2011 book Dirt bomb (published by Random House). The book was inspired by the enthusiasm of Fleur’s nephew for his old Holden “paddock basher”. She discovered that city children did not understand that term so the name was changed to Dirt bomb and she worked with a local designer on a cover that would reflect the title. The designs were shown to students at Rongotai College and they gave their opinions on both the image and the fonts.


Left & centre: Two of the proposed designs for the cover of Dirt bomb.
Right: The final cover published by Random House in 2011.

Having started with one of her most recent books, Fleur then went back to talk about some of her earlier novels. She noted that this seemed an appropriate way for her to structure her talk as it is the way she reads some books – when a book gets too tense she will read the end, then if it seems like it is going to work out happily she goes back to continue from where she left off.

Fleur started writing for radio programmes such as Grandpa’s place, Ears and Storytime. At the time (the late 1980s) she and her husband were both teaching at Melville High School in Hamilton. Her classes were largely non-academic and the students had little interest in books and reading. She decided to write a book for them. At the time her husband was co-driving a rally car. Knowing Fleur didn’t like hearing the dangerous details of the races, he would give reports to a friend on the phone. Fleur overheard these and they formed the basis for her book Slide the corner. It took Scholastic two years to publish the book as at first they tried to interest Australia in co-publishing. This was not successful and finally it was just published in NZ in 1993. In 2009 a new edition of the book was published. Fleur updated the text to take account of new technologies and reflect educational changes (for instance she needed to have the characters sit NCEA rather than the exams of the 1980s). She found this an interesting exercise but more difficult than she expected and there were ramifications of the changes on the storyline that she had to incorporate.


Another book that came from her time as a teacher was I am not Esther (first published by Longacre in 1998, a new edition with a new cover came out in 2012 – shown right). The story was based on the experience of a boy at the school at which she was teaching. He wanted to be a doctor but his religious family insisted further education would open him to inappropriate knowledge and that he must leave school. He refused to give up his dream, and although banished by family he persevered with the help of friends and became a doctor. Fleur used some of his story in her novel.This ‘true’ story led to her being asked to tell the story of another religious family. Sins of the father: the long shadow of a religious cult: a New Zealand story (Longacre, 2009) tells of the experiences of Phil Cooper, the son of Neville Cooper the leader of the Cooperites, a religious community on the West Coast.

Fleur then talked about writing readers in the “Go for it” series for Gilt Edge Press. These books are published in Petone for the US educational market. She finds them interesting to write, but demands to make changes for American readers can be frustrating, and on some occasions, unacceptable. Fleur needed to write a “firm but fair” letter to the publishers when changes were made the really altered her books. As a result the American editor was replaced.Fleur commented that she likes to set her characters in difficult situations where they need to be make hard decisions. This is the case for fourteen year old Minna in The transformation of Minna Hargreaves (Random House, 2007). Minna has a 17-year old boyfriend who is keen to start a sexual relationship with her. When Fleur talks to school groups she asks them – should she or shouldn’t she? Her audiences are usually split 50:50.

To end her session Fleur was asked about her Juno trilogy – the covers of which had attracted the attention of members of the audience. Fleur was in New York soon after the events of 9/11 and that lead her to imagine what it would be like to be in a place that was truly isolated. She did not set out to write a series, but at the end of Book 1 (Juno of Taris: Self, published by Random House in 2008) she felt she needed to continue the story. The series is set in a future where Juno and the inhabitants of Taris face changes and ultimately must leave their dying island to live on the Outside. In Book 2 Fierce September (2010) Juno faces new challenges in a future New Zealand. When she finished Book 3 Heart of danger (2011) Fleur felt she couldn’t leave readers wondering what happened to Juno, so she has published Part 4 on her website and made it available to the world for free.Asked what she is working on now, Fleur replied that she is writing a contemporary love story set in New Zealand.

The newly-elected President of the Friends, Emma MacDonald, thanked Fleur for a fascinating talk, and she was presented with flowers by Mary Skarott.

Joan McCracken
Newsletter Editor

Margaret Mahy

As I am sure members will know, internationally-renowned storyteller Margaret Mahy died on 23 July 2012. She was the Friends’ patron – just the second person to fill that role (the first being Dorothy Neal White herself) – and took an active interest in the work of the Society. She is sadly missed by readers of all ages, and in a very personal way by the Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection.

Committee members share some of their memories of Margaret

Trevor Mowbray

Although I never worked alongside Margaret our lives touched at various points and I have a number of memories of her and also of some of the stories that gathered around her. It started when Mary and I went to teach at Whakatane High School and the inspiring Ian McLean who helped Margaret to start her writing was my Head of Department. The culture of the high school including the regular Gilbert and Sullivan performances and play productions and the strong musical tradition was still continuing.

Later when I was at Library School I had to go to Petone Public Library to carry out some studies and there I met the young solo mother who was doing a great job of being a good public and children’s librarian.

Two aspects of Margaret I was aware of when she was working in the School Library Service in Christchurch. One was as the colleague who enlivened many a dull administrative meeting. The other was the creative writer who could be cajoled into telling a library conference audience a new story that she was in the process of putting together. She was never enthusiastic about performing in front of an audience of her colleagues. In fact she quite dreaded it, but would never refuse when asked. She was much more willing to talk to groups of children.

The staff in Christchurch used to warn us that although Margaret was hospitable and helpful it was not a good idea to accept a ride in her car. It was not that she was a bad driver but things seemed to happen. The car, an old Honda Civic, was a like a character in a science fiction movie and had a mind of its own. One now knows that Margaret had a mind full of characters and stories and sometimes there was little room for everyday practical considerations. To hear her tell stories of her own comical misfortunes was to be aware that a contrary world lurked to trip her up.


It was a privilege to hear her read one of her own stories that she had been working on recently. Sometimes they were the ‘performance pieces’ like Bubble Trouble or Down the back of the sofa (as I remember it). At other times they were the shape of the story that became The great white man-eating shark. I have always regretted that some of the stories she told were changed by the time they appeared in print. We were spellbound by the concentrated wit and imagination of some story that was not quite the same in print. I suspect that the publishers persuaded her to water it down to make it more suitable for her usual child audience. She could have been encouraged to write more adult fantasy but that is a very tricky genre with no guaranteed market.A few months ago I heard her on the radio reading out her poem, Ghosts. It is a short poem but it struck me with great force and will always remain with me as a gem complete in itself.

As a work colleague, speaker and writer she brought life and joy into our rather humdrum lives.

Corrina Gordon

I have a particularly lovely memory of meeting Margaret Mahy at her house in Governor’s Bay when I was about 12 years old. My sisters and I were very privileged (although we didn’t realise it at the time) to come to tea there because my father, who is a storyteller, knew her or had somehow arranged a meeting. I remember her huge bookshelf which went from one end of the room to the other and right up to the ceiling (and it was a very large room). She talked to us children with genuine interest and read us a story about some red socks which were mistakenly swapped in the wash, so that a father and son put each other’s socks on and became each other for the day. The father enjoyed it immensely as he got to do all sorts of activities he never had a chance at when he was at school, and the son got to make all sorts of important grown-up decisions. I don’t know if this story ever got published, but I well remember being read a hand-written story sitting on squashy cushions in the sun, by Margaret Mahy.

Lynne Jackett

During a school holiday programme outing, the children (aged 5-12) were taken to Katherine Mansfield House. They needed an explanation about KM, but not so the bonus presence in the house – Margaret Mahy. My daughter Kate (then 7) was one of the many children who met Margaret Mahy and was spellbound, and not just by the stories and poems she told them, but also by her magnetism and kindness and the gift of a drawing created specially for them.


Mary Hutton

I remember Margaret with affection as a modest, quirky, highly intelligent person who was very generous with her time. I often met her at literary festivals and library conferences in New Zealand, and at one IBBY (International Board for Books for Youth) in Perth, Western Australia, where she and Aidan Chambers were keynote speakers. As always she was applauded for her stimulating address, but also for her conviviality at social occasions.

She was a fellow School Library staff member in the Christchurch office. After a visit by Head Office staff to that office, Liz McLean, then the senior School Library Service staff member, hosted a dinner at her home for visitors and local staff, Margaret among them. Margaret was not known for her mechanical skills (apart from her house building activities). When she left to drive home to Governor’s Bay she climbed into her car followed by Ian, Liz’s husband, with a length of rope to secure her doors – watched by other guests with a mixture of amusement and alarm.

In June 1991 the National Library mounted an exhibition on children’s reading, Fabulous & familiar: children’s reading in New Zealand, past and present, in the Library’s gallery. Margaret was invited to open the exhibition. I met her at the airport and brought her home for lunch. While I was in the kitchen she sat on the floor of the dining room, sipping a pre-lunch sherry, inspecting the contents of the book cases. Her eye hit on a small volume Our friend the poodle (I had a miniature black poodle as a much-loved companion) and perused it carefully. I like to think that I may have influenced Margaret’s choice of dog when she chose her standard poodle Baxter as her companion. She also met my three-legged cat who, as a wild cat, had been caught in a gin trap. “I think there is a story here”, said Margaret and later there was a picture book about a three-legged cat.

Left: Cover of The three-legged cat by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Jonathan Allen (Puffin, 1994).
Right: Margaret Mahy with her poodle “Baxter”. Image sourced from Margaret Mahy’s marvellous mind by Mike Bradstock on idealog #5, 14 September 2006

INTRODUCING… our newest committee member


Corrina Gordon joined the Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection in 2011 and became a committee member in 2012. She is the back-up Children’s Literature librarian in the Alexander Turnbull library. She has been infatuated with children’s literature for some time, especially fairy tales, and was a professional storyteller for a few years in Christchurch. She frequently re-reads ‘William’ books, The Secret Garden, the ‘Narnian’ series and ‘Harry Potter’. Long before she had a child she collected children’s books and now, semi-reluctantly, shares her collection with her 6-year-old daughter.


Children’s Literature Research in the New Reading Rooms

The move back into the refurbished building and the reopening of the reading rooms in August saw all the children’s literature collections sitting in their final locations. The NCC and DNW collections are together in the SSC (State Services Commission) basement, which places them with other National Library Collections. The Alexander Turnbull Library Collections and the children’s material within them are located in the new storage areas in the main building.

There have been some changes to how children’s material is requested and used by researchers, so here is a brief summary:

  • All published children’s material, including the DNW Collection, can now be requested online by anyone who has a patron registration for the published collections (i.e items that appear on the online National Library Catalogue). If you were registered before the move back to the building, then you don’t need to re-register.
  • Supporting online resources are also available via the onsite search stations. Just click on the “children’s literature” tab under “resources” to get started. These include subscription resources that are only available onsite as well as links to freely available websites. In addition, some children’s literature journals (for example Horn book magazine, School library journal) can also be viewed online in the reading rooms. Just follow the links from the electronic serials records in the online catalogue. [Friends will be able to familiarise themselves with these resources when Mary introduces them at the meeting on 26 February 2013]
  • When a researcher makes an online request for published material, their items will be sent to one of the reading rooms depending on which collection it is from:
    • General (Independent) Reading Room: material from the National Library General Collections, including the National children’s Collection.
    • Katherine Mansfield (Secure) Reading Room: material from the Dorothy Neal White Collection and the Alexander Turnbull Library Collections.

To look at unpublished material (manuscripts etc.) you will need a separate registration. Some unpublished material can be requested online, other items need to be requested via the relevant curator. Ask the reading room staff if you need assistance.

Purchases made with Grant from Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection


Last year the FDNW Committee generously made $1,000 available for the research librarian to select additional material for the children’s collections. This money will be particularly useful for purchasing resources supporting the study of children’s literature which will be added to the DNW Collection reference sequence.
Books purchased so far include:

Hughes, Shirley. A life drawing: recollections of an illustrator. London: Bodley Head, 2002.
This personal story of one of the most notable contemporary children’s illustrators will be added to the National children’s Collection.


Knuth, Rebecca. Children’s literature and British identity: imagining a people and a nation. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2012.


This recent publication has also been purchased by the National Library for the General Lending Collection.McGavran, James (Ed.) Romanticism and children’s literature in nineteenth-century England. Athens [Ga.]: University of Georgia Press, 2009.

Saxby, Maurice. Offered to children: a history of Australian children’s literature 1841-1941. Sydney: Scholastic, 1998.
This is a comprehensive re-write of Saxby’s earlier book, A history of Australian children’s literature 1841-1941, published in 1969.


Scott, Keith. Dear Dot, I must tell you: a personal history of young New Zealanders. Auckland, N.Z.: Activity Press, 2011.
An exploration of the letters sent to the long running ‘Dear Dot’ column published in the Otago witness.

These books are not yet available for use as they still have to be catalogued and shelved. This work will be completed shortly.

Mary Skarott
Children’s Literature Specialist, Alexander Turnbull Library


The 2012 Annual General Meeting agreed to hold the subscription rate at $20 a year. Members might also like to make a contribution to a special Scholarship fund that will allow us to continue and / or increase the amount we are able to offer a student doing research based on the collections supported by the Friends. A separate line has been included on the form for those Friends who would like to make such a donation.

The Treasurer will be delighted to receive your subscription payment at the next meeting, or by post to:
The Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection
PO Box 12499

Please indicate any changes to your address details when you complete the form. We are now able to send notification of meetings by email. If you would like to receive information in this way please include your email address.

Please note: We will only be sending Newsletter and other publications to current (paid-up) members. Libraries and booksellers are encouraged to subscribe to support the work of the Society and the promotion of children’s literature in New Zealand.

subscription form



The General Reading Room, Level 1.
The General Reading Room, Level 1.
Photo: Joan McCracken

On Monday 17 December 2012 the Friends held their end of year event. It was the first opportunity for many Friends to visit the re-furbished National Library building. After our festive drinks and nibbles (including our traditional christmas mince pies from Word of Mouth café), staff took Friends on a tour of new spaces – both the DNW and National Childrens’ Collections in the climate-controlled stack areas in the basement, and the Turnbull’s reading rooms on level 1. There will be a chance to take a closer look at some of research resources held by the Library when Mary Skarott introduces Friends to material available online at the February 2013 meeting.


The NZ Post children’s book awards are always followed with interest by Library staff, but this year we had a particular reason to keenly await the bannouncements from the awards ceremony. A book by Chris Szekely, the Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library, was amongst the short-listed publications.

The 2012 Award’s ceremony was held in Wellington on 16 May 2012, and to our delight the winners were…

Picture Book winner

Cover of RahuiRāhui by Chris Szekely, and illustrated by the late Malcolm Ross, won the Picture Book category. The book has two language editions: Te Reo Māori and English. It was published by Huia Press.

“Both versions of this beautiful book have a timeless quality, with the story dealing sensitively with the sad drowning of a cousin,” said Gillian Candler, the Awards Convenor of Judges.

Junior Fiction winner and Best First Book Award

image of cover of 'Super Finn'

Debut writer, Leonie Agnew not only took this year’s Best First Book award but also won the Junior Fiction category for her novel Super Finn (Scholastic New Zealand).

Cover  of Super Finn“The characters in Super Finn are incredibly funny and thoroughly believable. This book touches the heart and the funny bone. The judges couldn’t ask for more,” says Gillian Candler.

Young Adult Fiction

Cover of Calling the Gods

The Young Adult Fiction category award went to Calling the Gods (HarperCollins Publishers) by Jack Lasenby. Calling the Gods was praised by the judges as a masterful work that transcends genre and can be read with pleasure at many levels.

Jack Lasenby has regularly been short-listed in the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards – and won the prize for Junior Fiction in 1997, 2005, and 2009.

Non-fiction winner and NZ Post Children’s Book of the Year

Cover of Nice Day for a War

Nice day for a war: adventures of a Kiwi soldier in World War I by Matt Elliott and illustrated by Chris Slane (HarperCollins Publishers) is based on the diaries kept by the author’s grandfather Corporal Cyril Elliot during the first World War I. Gillian Candler, described it as “a stand-out book which offers young readers an honest glimpse into the lives of soldiers during World War I.”

“The beautiful fluid line drawings and muted watercolour washes bring the diary to life”, she said. “The interplay between the illustrations and text creates a powerful, emotionally engaging story for young readers.”

Children’s Choice Award

Cover of Cat's Pyjamas

The Cat’s Pyjamas by Catherine Foreman (Scholastic New Zealand)
A picture book, The Cat’s Pyjamas, by first time published writer and illustrator Catherine Foreman, won the coveted 2012 Children’s Choice Award.

The award is heralded as a significant indicator of audience opinion. The book’s main character enchanted children throughout New Zealand with his colourful collection of pyjamas; one for everyday of the week.

The judges of the 2012 Awards were Gillian Candler, Education and Publishing Consultant and formerly Chief Executive at Learning Media, Convenor, with school curriculum advisor, librarian and bookseller Annemarie Florian and award-winning writer and illustrator Bob Kerr.

Entries for the 2013 Awards are already being submitted. Children’s literature expert and author Eirlys Hunter and presenter of Radio New Zealand’s Arts on Sunday programme, Lynn Freeman, will join Chief Judge, author Bernard Beckett, on the judging panel for 2013. The winners will be announced in a ceremony in Christchurch on 24 June 2013.

Joan McCracken, Newsletter Editor
Information sourced from


Other New Zealand awards of particular interest are those given annually by the New Zealand Library Association. In 2012 the judging panel convenor was Gisborne District library manager Pene Walsh, and with her were Kathy Aloniu of Dunedin City Libraries and Colleen Shipley, Marlborough College librarian. Alice Heather, Māori Advisor for School Services at the National Library in Auckland, was the panel convenor for the Te Kura Pounamu award. The winners of the LIANZA awards were announced in Wellington on 6 August 2012. The winners were:

LIANZA Junior Fiction Award and Esther Glen Award

Cover of Travelling Restaurant

The Travelling Restaurant by Barbara Else, (Gecko Press). Barbara Else lives in Lower Hutt and works as a writer, editor and literary agent.

The Esther Glen Medal is awarded annually to the author of the book which is considered to be the most distinguished contribution to literature for children aged 0-15.

Over summer, listeners to Radio New Zealand’s Storytime early on weekend mornings will have heard Stuart Devenie reading The Travelling Restaurant.

LIANZA Young Adult Fiction Award

Cover of Pyre of Queens

Pyre of Queens by David Hair, (Penguin NZ) David Hair lives in Wellington and writes around his work in financial services. He was inspired to write this novel by the time he spent living in India.

The LIANZA Young Adult Fiction Award recognises the distinguished contribution to literature for children and young adults aged 13 years and above.

LIANZA Illustration Award – Russell Clark Award

Rāhui by Chris Szekely and Malcolm Ross, (Huia).
Chris Szekely lives in Wellington and is Chief Librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library. He worked with Ross (now deceased) 20 years ago in the School Services department of the National Library. This book is based on their memories of holidays at the beach with whānau.The Russell Clark Award is made for the most distinguished pictures or illustrations for a children’s book with, or without, text.

LIANZA Non Fiction Award – Elsie Locke Medal

Nice Day for a War by Chris Slane and Matt Elliott, illustrated by Chris Slane (HarperCollins Publishers (NZ) Ltd). Slane is a cartoonist. Elliott is a comedian, historian and biographer. This book tells the story of Elliott’s grandfather during World War I. Both the author and illustrator live in Auckland.

The Elsie Locke Award is awarded for a work that is considered to make a distinguished contribution to non-fiction for young people.

Te Kura Pounamu (te reo Māori)

Cover of 'Ngā Taniwha i te-Whanga-nui-a-Tara'

Ngā Taniwha i te-Whanga-nui-a-Tara by Moira Wairama and Bruce Potter, (Penguin NZ).

Moira Wairama is a storyteller, writer, poet, playwright, puppeteer, and teacher who loves to bring Māori legends to life. This myth was first told to her by Tipene O’Regan and she has been telling it to audiences for 30 years. She has only seen the myth referred to on paper, so she was inspired to write it down to ensure future generations of Wellingtonians could read it. Moira lives in Wellington.

Te Kura Pounamu Award is awarded annually by Te Rūpū Whakahau, the organisation for Māori Librarians, in association with LIANZA, to the author of the work which makes a distinguished contribution to literature for children or young people written in Te Reo Māori.

Librarians’ Choice Award

Rāhui by Chris Szekely and Malcolm Ross, (Huia).
The Librarians’ Choice award was introduced in 2012 to give the wider library profession the opportunity to participate in the LIANZA children’s Book Awards. Every member of the Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA) can vote for their favourite book from the finalists across all five awards via an online survey. The author or illustrator of the winning book is awarded the Librarians’ Choice medal,

image of page from Rāhuiimage of page from Rāhui

This list of Awards is taken from the Booksellers NZ website

Kirsty Nicol Findlay and ‘Arthur Ransome’s Long-lost Study of Robert Louis Stevenson’

This is a story about a girl from 1950s Upper Hutt, two of her favourite children’s authors and a mysterious parcel. It is also the story of a book in whose creation all four of the above were to play a significant part. The girl was Kirsty Northcote-Bade and the authors were Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Ransome. The parcel in question was a ‘brown paper package, tied up with string’ and sealed with black and red sealing wax. Back in May 1914, Ivy Ransome, the aggrieved wife of the author, had been engaged in a spot of spring cleaning in her husband’s study. Here she came upon a stack of hand-written pages and, in a fit of either fastidiousness or pique, wrapped them up in an old piece of paper and addressed them to Parr’s Bank in Regent Street, London, ‘to be delivered on demand to Arthur Ransome Esq or Mrs Arthur Ransome.’ The wrapping paper she used for the job had come from a boot maker, round a pair of new boots that Arthur had bought in preparation for a trip abroad. By the time of Ivy’s assault on his study, he was in St Petersburg, where he had gone to write a book and to escape the trauma of an intolerable marriage.

Wrapping from the parcel
Wrapping from the parcel.
Photograph Special Collections, The Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, and The Arthur Ransome Literary Estate.

What happened to the parcel at this point remains unclear. Perhaps it was delivered to the bank, perhaps it wasn’t. All that is known is that when it eventually resurfaced in 1990, it wasn’t in a bank at all but in the strongroom of a London solicitor, where it appears to have been deposited by a person or persons unknown, 43 years earlier! The solicitor advised the executers of Ransome’s literary estate of the discovery and the executers got in touch with Arthur and Ivy’s daughter Tabitha, who by then was 79 years old. At length it was decided that the Brotherton Library of Leeds University would be the most appropriate repository for the manuscript as the Library already held many of Ransome’s private papers. In due course Special Collections Librarian Ann Farr, was dispatched to London to pick up the new acquisition. In the interim, the contents of the parcel had been separated from its wrapping, but the sharp-witted Ann, with a presence of mind that does credit to her profession, asked about the packaging and requested that it be located and forwarded to the Library forthwith.

Arthur Ransome ca 1916
Arthur Ransome, Moscow, ca.1916. Photograph: Special Collections, The Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, and The Arthur Ransome Literary Estate.

The material that Ann brought home to Leeds could have been loosely described as a manuscript of sorts, but in such a state of disarray as to be of no practical use to any scholar or reader, however dedicated. The page numbering was hopelessly jumbled, sections were missing, there were published articles and notes scattered throughout, footnotes omitted and the hand writing if not quite illegible, was close to it.

 Portrait of R L Stevenson from the Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref no: 1/2-148870-F
Above: Portrait of R L Stevenson from the Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref no: 1/2-148870-F

Research on Ransome’s life reveal that what had been discovered was most likely a draft of a critical study of Robert Louis Stevenson that Ransome had been known to have been writing. Ransome (born 1884) had already published two critical studies of writers (Edgar Allan Poe in 1910 and Oscar Wilde in 1914) and hoped to add a work on Stevenson to the series. However, wrangles with his publisher and the deteriorating state of his relationship with Ivy, distracted him from the Stevenson project and it would appear that he had virtually abandoned it, when he left England in 1914. This, therefore, in all probability, was the incomplete manuscript that Ivy came upon in the study, during the spring cleaning, along with a variety of other related written items, which she bundled up in the same parcel and addressed to the bank.

In the course of 76 years, the Ransome manuscript had gone from the author’s home, to a bank, to a solicitor’s strongroom, to a library archive. Here the story might very well have stalled, if it hadn’t been for the enthusiasm and foresight of the literary executors Christina Hardyment and David Sewart. Christina and David were convinced that the manuscript deserved to be published and they began the daunting task of transcription. It was slow, exacting work and they were busy people with countless other demands on their time. After ten years of trying to make sense of the material, they finally gave in and asked for assistance from Boydell and Brewer Ltd at Woodbridge, Suffolk. This firm had already published the letters of Benjamin Britten and was experienced at deciphering authorial scrawl. In the case of the Ransome manuscript, however, it decided to call on the services of a Ransome expert. By a curious chance, there was an ideal candidate living in the area and she was duly enlisted as editor. Her name was Kirsty Nicol Findlay.

As already mentioned, Kirsty (nee Northcote Bade) had grown up in Upper Hutt, north of Wellington. She was an unusually talented, book-oriented child, who loved the poems of Stevenson and could recite them at a very early age. When she was eight, she was given a copy of Swallows and Amazons, a gift which sparked a life-long fascination with the stories of Arthur Ransome and the far-away world of the British Lake District, the setting of his popular children’s books.

Dr Kirsty Nicol Findlay
Dr Kirsty Nicol Findlay looking at her book Arthur Ransome’s Long-lost Study of Robert Louis Stevenson. Photographer: Martin Connelly

In the fullness of time, Kirsty went to Victoria University where she achieved a first class honours degree in English, and a QE 11 Scholarship in Arts which took her to Cambridge in 1965 to study for her doctorate. She became a renowned academic, specialising in renaissance drama but never out-grew her love of children’s poems and stories. As a lecturer at the University of Waikato in the late 1980s, she ‘championed and introduced’ the study of children’s literature to B.A. and M.A. courses, an addition to the curriculum later adopted by other New Zealand universities. Her interest in Arthur Ransome never faded. She founded the New Zealand Branch of the Arthur Ransome Society in Hamilton in the early 1990s and on her return to the United Kingdom a few years later, became the second international secretary of the British-based organisation.

When Kirsty began work on the Ransome project in 2004, she wasn’t breaking new ground. The valiant efforts of Christina and David had provided ‘a valuable starting point’ from which to assess the material anew. None the less, it was a colossal undertaking. Kirsty, like her predecessors, was no lady of leisure. By the time she agreed to try to ‘do something‘ about the material, she was working as a moderator and examiner for Trinity College of London and spending large chunks of the year away from Britain. Amazingly, she managed to battle on with the manuscript in her scant free time, struggling to cope with Ransome’s scrawl, his erratic pagination, his eccentric working style, and painstakingly researching his obscure references. Even more amazingly, she managed to stay on track with the project and after toiling away at it for six years, got it done! The book was published in 2011 and is reported to be selling steadily. A paperback edition released some months later was entirely bought out by members of the Arthur Ransome Society!

Cover of Arthur Ransome’s Long-lost Study of Robert Louis Stevenson

Arthur Ransome’s Long-lost Study of Robert Louis Stevenson (The Boydell Press, Woodbridge Suffolk, 2011) consists of Ransome’s critical analysis of the writer’s work, together with all of Ransome’s other writings on Stevenson in the form of appendices. The book is prefaced by a substantial introduction by Kirsty that covers the story of the discovery of the manuscript in detail. It contrasts the lives and careers of Stevenson and Ransome and looks at some of the reasons why Ransome may have abandoned his Stevenson project at such a crucial stage.

Of special interest to lovers of Ransome’s children’s stories, is Kirsty’s description of a tiny notebook ‘no taller than an adult’s thumb’ which turned up among the assortment of Ransome’s other works on Stevenson that were included in the parcel. Written by Ransome when a boy of eight, it is the tale of Jack, who sets out to find his father who has been press-ganged and taken to the South Seas. While Kirsty admits that the story is clearly derivative of Treasure Island, (Ransome’s favourite!), she remarks on the young author’s ‘careful shaping of the book within such a physically small compass’ and ‘the completeness and details of the story.’

Dr Kirsty Nichol Findlay (formally Cochrane) was a trustee of the National Library of New Zealand from 1989 to 1993 (approx.)

Tania Connelly
Winner of the FDNW Scholarship 2002 and former President of the FDNW


Jenny Zwartz

With the death of Jenny Zwartz (nee Barnard) on 27 August 2012, the Friends lost an enthusiastic and long-time supporter. Jenny was brought up and educated in Christchurch, completing her BA and Mus Bac at Canterbury College. It was there she met fellow student Peter Zwartz whom she later married and accompanied overseas. On their return the two settled in Wellington and for over 50 years Peter -a renowned conductor, and Jenny – a gifted pianist and teacher – made vital contributions to the musical life in the city and beyond.

Jenny’s wide range of interests included children’s literature. Not only did she accumulate a large personal collection of children’s books – books she was only too happy to lend – but, based on her own and her children’s reading, she acquired a discerning knowledge of literature for the young. It was Jenny, a family friend, who gave the seven-year-old Kate De Goldi “her first own book” One hundred and one dalmatians and the suggestion to Kate’s mother that paperback books be bought for Kate on a regular basis. Action that was immediately taken, and with such zeal, that by the age of 14 Kate had amassed 400 Puffin paperbacks1. Jenny, it could be said, had played no small part in Kate’s progress from keen reader to dedicated book owner to today’s successful and highly-regarded children’s writer and critic known to us all.

Peter died in 2005 and now Jenny has gone too, but their achievements and influence live on. The Friends extend their sympathy to Jenny’s family and friends.

1. LM, KM, EL, ME and me KDG: a talk to the Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection by Kate De Goldi (Notes-Books-Authors 8, 2002) Note: Kate, herself a Friend and an ex-committee member, gave the actual talk on 19 June 2000. Both a report of the talk and N-B-A 8 can be found on the Friends’ website

Jenny Zwartz (right) with Kate de Goldi after the Friends event, National Library of New Zealand, 19 June 2000
Jenny Zwartz (right) with Kate de Goldi after the Friends event, National Library of New Zealand, 19 June 2000

Maurice Sendak

Biography and Timeline from The Rosenbach Museum & Library

Dubbed by one critic “the Picasso of children’s literature” and once addressed by former President Bill Clinton as “the King of Dreams,” Maurice Sendak illustrated nearly a hundred picture books throughout a career that spanned more than 60 years. Some of his best known books include Chicken Soup with Rice (1962), Where the Wild Things Are (1963), and In the Night Kitchen (1970).

Born in Brooklyn on 10 June 1928 to Jewish immigrant parents from northern Poland, Maurice Bernard Sendak grew up idolizing the storytelling abilities of his father, Philip, and his big brother, Jack. As a child he illustrated his first stories on shirt cardboard provided by his tailor-father. Aside from a few night classes in art after graduating high school, Sendak was a largely self-taught artist. His characters, stories, and inspirations were drawn from among his own neighbors, family, pop culture, historical sources, literary influences, and long-held childhood memories. He worked with such well-known children’s authors as Ruth Krauss, Else Minarik, and Arthur Yorinks, and illustrated books by Leo Tolstoy, Herman Melville, Isaac Bashevis Singer, the Brothers Grimm, and the poet Randall Jarrell.

Sendak began a second career as a costume and stage designer in the late 1970s, designing operas by Mozart, Prokofiev, Ravel, and Tchaikovsky, among others. He won numerous awards, including a Caldecott Award, a Newberry Medal, the international Hans Christian Andersen Award, a National Book Award, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and a National Medal of Arts. His books continue to be read by millions of children and adults and have been translated into dozens of languages and enjoyed all over the world.

The Rosenbach Museum & Library has been the home of his picture book artwork since the late 1960s and mourns his passing as it also celebrates the life and work of an artist who touched so many young lives and nourished so many dreams.

June 10, 1928—Born in Brooklyn, NY
1932—Charles Lindbergh, Jr., kidnapped and eventually found murdered. The ensuing media frenzy becomes a formative memory for the young Sendak
1939—Attends the New York World’s Fair, another important experience that laid the foundation for In the Night Kitchen
1941—Family receives news that Philip Sendak’s village in Poland is destroyed by the Nazis and most of his family are killed or taken to concentration camps
1947—Completes first book illustrations for Atomics for the Millions
1948-9—Works at F.A.O. Schwarz toy store in Manhattan as a window display artist; it is there he meets Ursula Nordstrom, children’s book editor at Harper & Row
1951—Illustrates first children’s book, The Wonderful Farm by Marcel Aymé
1956—Publishes Kenny’s Window, the first book he both wrote and illustrated
1961—Paints a mural for the Chertoff family in their upper west side apartment
1962—Publishes The Nutshell Library, a set of four small books including Pierre, and Chicken Soup with Rice
1963—Publishes Where the Wild Things Are
1964—Wins Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are
1966—First visit to the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia, and the beginning of relationship with the museum
1967—Suffers a heart attack in England; beloved dog, Jennie, dies. He writes and illustrates Higglety, Pigglety, Pop! or, There Must be More to Life in her honour.
1968—Mother, Sarah, dies of cancer; begins depositing picture book art and working materials at the Rosenbach
1970—Wins international Hans Christian Andersen Award; Father, Philip, dies; Publishes In the Night Kitchen, which is dedicated to his parents
1972—Moves from New York to Connecticut
1979—Writes and designs first opera, Where the Wild Things Are; creates designs for various opera productions throughout 1980s and ‘90s 1980—Publication of major biography by Selma Lanes, The Art of Maurice Sendak (Abrams)
1981—Publishes Outside Over There
1995—Illustrates Herman Melville’s Pierre, or, The Ambiguities
1996—Receives the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton
2003—Publishes Brundibar book and designs opera production; awarded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award; friend Tony Kushner publishes The Art of Maurice Sendak: 1980 to the Present (Abrams)
2007—Death of Dr. Eugene Glynn, Sendak’s partner of more than 50 years
2009—Release of Spike Jonze film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are
2011—Publishes Bumble-Ardy, the first book both written and illustrated by Sendak in thirty years
8 May 2012—Dies, age 83, in Danbury, Conneticut

Why is Sendak at the Rosenbach?

The Rosenbach Museum & Library was founded in 1954 through a testamentary gift by Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach (1876-1952) and his brother, Philip (1863-1953). Sendak was an avid collector of many of the same authors and artists as Dr. Rosenbach in his day, and his long relationship with the Rosenbach Museum & Library was based, in part, on those shared collecting interests. Sendak described some of those common interests and his earliest trips to the museum during an interview in 2007: “They had Herman Melville, they had people I love, artists I love. They had the Alice [in Wonderland] illustrations…. I remember I would lay in Dr. Rosenbach’s room and they would bring me in some drawings for a French novel by Fragonard…. And there was a big fur, animal fur blanket, and I used to lay under it with my Fragonards all around…. Hey—that was living! Of course, they took it all back in the morning…that’s the way of life….” The museum’s collections of work by William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll, and George Cruikshank, among others, reflected Sendak’s own passion for these authors and artists.

The Maurice Sendak collection at the Rosenbach includes over 10,000 pieces and covers a period from the 1940s through the early 21st century. The artwork consists of various media, though most were drawn with combinations of watercolor, pen-and-ink, and pencil. The collection also includes prints, acrylic paintings, dummy books (preliminary drawings assembled in book form and bound), publisher’s proofs, manuscripts and typescripts, first editions of all Sendak titles, foreign editions, posters, videos, interview footage on DVD with Sendak and his editors (about 14 hours), and ephemera (including original sketches for newspapers and advertisements, merchandise, photographs, working materials, and other items). Like the Rosenbach’s other holdings, the Sendak collection is available for research by appointment. Exhibitions of Sendak’s artwork are regularly on display in the Maurice Sendak Gallery on the first floor of the museum.

Maurice Sendak’s last book
My Brother’s Book, the last completed work by the much-loved author of Where the Wild Things Are, is being published this month. The story, about two brothers separated when the brightest star in the sky smashes, is a tribute to Sendak’s brother. Sendak considered the book, drawing on both Shakespeare and William Blake, his most important. Here is a selection of its images.

Sendak IllustrationSendak IllustrationSendak Illustration

See Sendak’s brother’s site on Guardian books



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