Monday, 23 April 2012

Children, Grief and Literature

One of my favourite museums in Wellington is the Museum of Wellington City & Sea. Visitors to the city tend to make a beeline for Te Papa, which is great too of course, but there is something special about the City & Sea museum. I've been there on several class trips when the children all squeal delightedly at the holograph rat peeping out from between sacks at the entrance, and I never fail to be moved by the short movie on the sinking of the Wahine.

On Sunday I was there for a panel discussion (part of the museum's current exhibition on Death and Diversity) titled "Children, grief and literature." It was a beautiful Wellington day, which had lured most people out of doors so the audience was not very big, although the intimacy of the occasion benefited those of us who were there.

There were five speakers, each with a different take on the subject but all displaying great insight: Tricia Irving-Hendry from Skylight (a charitable trust that helps those who are suffering from change, loss, trauma and grief), Alex Collins (editor at Learning Media, who produce the School Journal), Mandy Hager (author of Tom's story), Chris Szekely (author of Rahui, shortlisted for the NZ Post Children's Book Awards) and Julia Marshall (Gecko publisher), all chaired by John McIntyre from the Children's Bookshop in Kilbirnie.

I enjoyed them all, but especially hearing from Chris Szekely about the development of Rahui, which has emerged from a 20 year gestation as a beautiful picture book covering big concepts in a simple and appealing way.

One other slightly bizarre feature of the talk was that the boy band One Direction had just arrived from Auckland for their concert that night, and the museum is located across the road from one of Wellington's top hotels, so every so often the serious conversation was overlaid by waves of screaming from the teenage and pre-teenage girls camped out on the pavement hoping for a sight of their idols!

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