Young children read them, studied and wrote about them, drew pictures based on their stories and poems and copied lines from them as punishment for misbehaving. Who can forget School Journal?
It is believed to be the longest-running serial publication for children in the world, is published four times a year, and reflects the evolution of New Zealand society over more than a century.
Those wanting to see those changes need go no further than Renwick Museum and Library where shelves of School Journals form a collection as good as anywhere in New Zealand.
First printed in May 1907, the free publication was initiated by inspector-general of schools George Hogben as a cheaper alternative to publishing several separate textbooks on subjects like history, geography and civics. The earliest School Journals were plain black and white with few pictures, the content full of loyalty to the monarchy and predominantly based on British themes. Later, New Zealand themes crept in to replace the "colonial" perspective.
School Journals soon spawned Whitcombe's Story Books, from Christchurch-born publisher Bertie Whitcombe, mainstays in New Zealand school libraries over successive years and often owned by the teachers.
Many famous poets, artists, playwrights and authors contributed to the journals, including James K Baxter who served as school publications editor from 1956 to 1963, Frank Sargeson, Roger Hall, Ruth Park, Janet Frame, Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley, Rita Angus and Colin McCahon. Renwick Museum and Library, High St, open Mondays 10am till 3pm.
1913 JOURNAL EXCERPT - The Better Way
If I make a face at Billy.
He will make a face at me;
And that makes two ugly faces,
And a quarrel, don't you see.
And then I double up my fist
And hit him; and he'll pay
Me back by giving me a kick,
Unless I run away.
But, if I smile at Billy,
‘Tis sure to make him laugh;
You'd say, if you could see him,
‘Twas jollier by half
Than kicks and ugly faces.
I tell you all the while
It's pleasanter for any boy,
Or girl, to laugh and smile.
- © Fairfax NZ News