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Montana Winner Has A Lot To Sing About!

Montana Winner Has A Lot To Sing About!

Learning Media book: A Nest of Singing Birds: 100 years of the New Zealand School Journal written by Gregory O'Brien was named winner of the Reference and Anthology category at the 2008 Montana New Zealand Book Awards last night.

Acting Learning Media Chief Executive Officer Pam O'Connell said she was delighted with the win.

"Margaret Mahy once described the School Journal as a 'national treasure'. We completely agree, and at Learning Media we also think that Gregory O'Brien, author of A Nest of Singing Birds, is also one of our country's taonga".

The Montana winner, A Nest of Singing Birds: 100 years of the School Journal, celebrates the School Journal, a publication that over the last hundred years has shaped our country - and the luminaries of New Zealand arts and letters who have featured in it.

"This year, the School Journal is officially 101 years old - it's believed to be the longest-running serial publication for children in the world. The School Journal represents and celebrates all New Zealanders, and it has touched the lives of generations of kiwis with its stories, poems and artwork reflecting this great country we live in," says Pam O'Connell.

Over the course of its history, the School Journal has attracted work from some of New Zealand's greatest writers and artists, among them Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley, Janet Frame, Rita Angus, Russell Clark, and Dick Frizzell, and continues to help develop the careers of many contemporary writers and illustrators. Margaret Mahy's earliest published work, including the well-loved "The Lion in the Meadow", appeared in the School Journal.

The book's unusual title comes from a description of the School Journal office as 'a nest of singing birds' by poet and past-Journal editor Alistair Campbell.

The School Journal has been one of the most influential literary and educational publications in New Zealand history and has reflected the development of New Zealand's sense of identity and nationhood.

Despite changes in the social and educational climate over the past hundred years, the main purpose of the Journal has remained the same - to provide high-quality reading material that is relevant to the needs and interests of New Zealand children. In doing this, it also played an influential and, in Gregory O'Brien's words, largely "untold" role in the evolution of this country's art and literature. Many of New Zealand's foremost authors and visual artists have had their work published in the School Journal during its 100 years.

The book was printed last year with its first printing of 1500 copies selling out within three months. A following reprint has sold over 1350 copies (during the period from Sept 07 to June 2008).

A Nest of Singing Birds: 100 years of the New Zealand School Journal was written by Gregory O'Brien and published in 2007 by Learning Media in partnership with the Ministry of Education to celebrate the Journal's centenary. The book was published with support from Wakefields, Blue Star Print Group and Spicers Papers, long-standing pre-press, printer and paper supplier of the School Journal.

Mr O'Brien also curated the exhibition A Nest of Singing Birds: 100 years of the New Zealand School Journal at the National Library of New Zealand in Wellington last year.

The book and exhibition were both launched by the Prime Minister and Arts, Culture, and Heritage Minister Helen Clark in May 2007.

Learning Media, best known as a publisher of educational materials, has been a Montana Award winner once before when the English-Mäori Dictionary by H.M. Ngata took second place in the 1994 Montana Book Awards.


Learning Media, a state-owned enterprise, is New Zealand's premier designer, developer, and publisher of educational materials that enable and enhance effective teaching and learning. It produces much of the student and teacher material that the Ministry of Education provides to schools. It also contracts publishing services to other public and private sector agencies in New Zealand and overseas. Alongside its publishing operations, Learning Media designs and delivers professional development programmes for New Zealand and overseas teachers.

Despatched by MediaPeople NZ for Learning Media.


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