Thursday, October 07, 2010

NAVIGATION - a memoir - Joy Cowley

I wrote briefly about this title a couple of days back and said then I wasn't able to say more until the media embargo was lifted on 9 October. Now it seems through a mix up many bookshops are already selling it so I am  going to go ahead and have my say!

Warm, sensitive and peppered with Joy’s irrepressible love of life, Navigation is a relaxed, heart-warming and beautifully written memoir. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it moved me often . What a truly great New Zealander this woman is. And quite a philosopher too!

The book contains wonderful sections on Joy's life growing up in a small Manawatu town (her first job on leaving school was as a pharmacy assistant in Foxton), her family life and her exploration of the joys of writing. It touches down constantly at Fish Bay in the Sounds, where Joy writes passionately about the landscape, the seasons and the natural world around her.

I was fascinated, captivated, enchanted and delighted. Whether she is writing about her love for Fish Bay, time spent with Roald Dahl, her three marriages, her first published stories, her adult novels, the NZ Post Book Awards, current educayional practices, Wendy Pye, publishers and editors, her fellow NZ children's authors, the Children's Literature Association, spirituality or growing old it is just a superb and warming read.

I am picking that this is going to be a big best-selling title between now and Christmas. Everyone who is connected in any way to the world of children's books must read Navigation. One comes to understand why in the world of New Zealand children's books, and far beyond, Joy's name engenders enormous respect and affection.

The publishers have kindly agreed to let me publish the last page of Joy's book on the blog. I think this will give you a feel for the style and nature of this charming book:

"As we get older, the world becomes more beautiful. We might not discover the answers to the great questions of life that we had in our thirties, but the questions themselves have disappeared and there is an acceptance of life that verges on contentment. We do what we can, give what we can, and really don’t care too much about what people think of us. If we don’t see well without glasses, there is compensation in excellent hindsight as we review a lot of years in Life School. Experience has brought us to a place of wisdom where we judge neither ourselves nor others. We know there is inherent goodness in everything, and we enjoy the present moment more, now that we don’t need to make long-term plans for the future.

For Terry and me, sensuality is enhanced with the knowing that comes with age. Two people sit in silence, gently breathing each other’s breath, reading each other’s thoughts and occasionally reaching out to touch. Fingertips walk the beloved landscape of flesh, every hill and valley so familiar that there is no separation. We belong. Even when we are standing at opposite sides of the room, it can be difficult to know where one ends and the other begins.

Such are our days. The wild bees no longer sing in the blood, but the honey they’ve left behind is exquisite.

I still write for children, do some retreat work and am involved with Storylines, the Children’s Literature Foundation. That is part of ongoing navigation. But I spend more time now enjoying the pull of the tides and listening to the voice of the wind.

If I walk past a mirror and look beyond the reflection, I see an old woman, sloppy, forgetful, still in love with life, paddling a leaky boat on an ever-increasing ocean of light.

It is all exactly as it should be. "

Navigation - a memoir
Penguin Books - $45.00

About the author:
Joy Cowley is a much-loved, multi-award-winning New Zealand author of more than 600 titles. She is famous in the United States as the author of the Mrs Wishy-Washy series, which has sold over 40 million copies. Four of her novels, The Silent One, Bow Down Shadrach, Hunter and Snake and Lizard have won Children's Book of the Year awards in New Zealand; Ticket to the Sky Dance and Starbright and the Dream Eater won junior fiction awards two years running. When not travelling the world, Joy spends her time between Wellington and the Marlborough Sounds.
Among her many awards are the Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2005, the NZ Suffrage Medal, The NZ Commemoration Medal, The A.W. Reed Award for Contribution to New Zealand Literature and the Margaret Mahy Medal.

Joy also has another new book releasing in October, Writing from the Heart – How to Write for Children which is being published by the Storylines Children’s Literature Charitable Trust as a fund-raising venture. RRP $25.

In warmly written prose, Writing from the Heart is essential reading for practising or intending children’s writers. Joy covers plot development, discipline, dialogue, humour, presentation and editing, and there are chapters on the special genres of early readers, fiction for children and teenagers, poetry and plays.
The witty cartoon-style illustrations are by the well-known Auckland artist Fraser Williamson.

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