Tuesday, February 05, 2013


 Two years ago, children’s author Diana Noonan, illustrator Gavin Bishop and Scholastic New Zealand launched a very special picture book, Quaky Cat, which was created in record time in response to the September 2010 earthquakes in Canterbury. At the time, Scholastic gifted 15,500 copies of the book to Christchurch school children.

To date, this remarkable book has raised over $156,000 for Christchurch charities Women’s Refuge, Te Tai Tamariki Children’s Literature Charitable Trust and the Christchurch Earthquake Mayoral Appeal. In July 2012 Scholastic launched it as an App for the iPad, available via iTunes, with proceeds continuing to be donated to charities. For the month of February Scholastic will be offering the App at half its regular price.

With the approach of the second anniversary of the February earthquake, Scholastic’s Upper South Island Territory Manager Lynne Andrews has visited St Paul’s School, previously in Dallington, Christchurch, which received copies of Quaky Cat delivered by Gavin Bishop and Scholastic staff on the day of its launch, to find how the school and its students have fared.

In December 2010, the students of St Paul’s School were being taught in the hall at Cathedral College. By February 2011, the school had moved into an old technology block at the College, proud of their freshly painted classrooms and grateful to be there. After the 22 February earthquake, the school had to relocate again, this time to a disused Ministry of Education property in St Albans, where they remain today.

Their premises in Dallington were red stickered and it was announced last October that the school is proposed to merge with Our Lady of Fatima, which will be the fourth relocation of the school since the earthquakes.

“I take my hat off to these teachers!” says Lynne Andrews. “Students who still attend St Paul’s School are being bussed in from their original suburb of Dallington. The upheaval and turmoil must be immense.”

On the day of the launch of Quaky Cat, a small boy earnestly chose his best pen to write his name on the bookplate of his copy of the book. He and his family have now moved to Dunedin. In the summer of 2010/11, Deputy Principal Damian Young visited school families and was invariably asked to read a story to the children, and much-thumbed copies of Quaky Cat were frequently the book of choice.

This week, speaking to Lynne Andrews, memories of being given Quaky Cat came flooding back to three of the students who are still at St Paul’s School. Sophia remembers ‘the tall man who painted it [telling us] how we all had the brush at home and could do it too – it was a toothbrush!’, while Learna says that ‘you could feel the rumble and the bricks fall on the journey.’ The students shared stories of rabbits and cats going missing, drawing parallels between Quaky Cat’s Tiger, the cat who went missing after the earthquakes, and their own pets. When asked if they still have their copies of the book, the answer was a deafening ‘yes!’, and they are still reading it now. ‘It reminds me of the earthquake,’ says Jade.

The impact of Quaky Cat surpasses the expectations of any of its creators. Far more than a fundraiser, it has provided comfort to children and families who experienced the earthquakes. The book helped them ‘get used to the earthquakes and not to be scared … [it] helps loads of little kids and makes them believe and be safe no matter what,’ says Sophia. ‘It helped me every day.’

‘Whenever I was sad, I picked up Quaky Cat and asked for it to me read to me,’ says Jade. ‘Same,’ adds Learna.

At the time of the book’s launch, no one imagined what was to hit Christchurch on 22 February 2011, but all those involved were thankful that Quaky Cat was there to give comfort to children when the next disaster struck.

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