We want to help create motivated and engaged young readers. This blog is about children's and YA literature (especially New Zealand), literacy research, and ways to get, and keep, kids reading.
This is a story about Dewey’s eventful twelfth year. Set in a small Florida mining town in the 60s, there is a lot that’s confusing and potentially dangerous going on; racial tensions, class bullies, and girl friends.
Dewey befriends the class misfit and solves the mystery of the abandoned building but uncovers some adult secrets in the process. Luckily his family is close knit and the dramas are coped with - the brother nearly kills the bully and the girlfriend dies tragically. The 60s aspect is carefully integrated (Vietnam, race issues) and all the characters are well drawn. The sex scene (Dewey succumbs to the older girl) might restrict this story to secondary readers only, but hooray, at least there’s no bad language.
review by Phil
image by SportSurburban
Your Body by Brenda Stones and Thea Feldman is part of the Kingfisher Readers series. This title introduces beginner readers to how their bodies work and how to keep them healthy. Using a combination of clear, bold text to accommodate the beginner reader with vivid photography and clear diagrams, the title provides a clear informative approach to finding out about the human body. Reflection questions are used throughout the book to further reinforce the learning offered. Are you right or left handed? Have you ever had a cold or flu? Do you like to ride a bicycle? Clear glossary included.
review by Natasha
image by WiserIE
This is a moving, but compassionately told story, about August, a boy with a severely deformed face, and his experiences attending public school after several years of home-schooling. The story is told from several different viewpoints with chapters narrated by the ten-year old himself and various people around him including his sister, his family and his friends. Within each chapter are sub-chapters, very short such that the story moves along quickly, visiting the hard facts but not dwelling on them. Each ‘storyteller’ describes events, the humour, the hurt, and the actions people take to try to protect August, and themselves, from embarrassment.
It is easy to warm to the central character as he yearns to be the normal kid he is inside, whilst battling the jibes and stares and sometimes outright cruelty of those who only see his face.
review by Melva
image by Merrick Brown
Here are two new picture books with a similar theme, but totally different approaches. Two baby elephants is told in rhyme which captures all the joyful energy of a playground chant. Great choice for a boisterous read aloud romp!
The humour in Rhinos don’t eat pancakes is much more sophisticated, steering a lovely line between subtle and slapstick. Best of all is the happy ending, in which all the book’s characters are winners: the rhino is reunited with his family; Daisy’s parents discover what an amazing child they have; and Daisy has a Mum and Dad who actually listen to her!
review by Pamela
image by johnmuk
Whether or not you are familiar with the high rivers, valleys and mountains of the Southern alps, the villages of Greece, the landscape of Crete or the whiteness of Antarctica you will be spellbound by both the artworks and the life story of the remarkable Austen Deans. Austin Deans was one of New Zealand’s foremost landscape painters, a serving soldier in the Second World War and a man who actively tramped and rafted well into his eighties and beyond. Austen Deans was clearly a personality of note.
This work does not simply praise his art but also tells the story of his life. A man to be admired, author Nathalie Brown has done him, his achievements and his life ample justice. Family, faith, friendship, loyalty and spirit shine through in every painting reproduction and every story.
Brown has produced an excellent work that achieves the rare balance of enlightening the man; his achievements, and life, without becoming eulogistic. This work has duel value, as an examination of the art of Austen Deans and also as a biography of the man.
Beautifully illustrated, and well indexed the book is enlivened with a detailed and appropriate family tree. Capturing Mountains is a remarkable tale of a truly renaissance man,
review by David
Image by ekieraM
Lucky Biddy and Julia to be grand-daughters of Margaret Mahy—who could possibly have a better Nana at bedtime story time?
The DVD Margaret Mahy’s Rumbustifications features the author reading, or reciting from memory, a wide range of her best loved stories and poems to the two little girls who, a few years later, would proudly carry her ashes in a flowered box at the Christchurch Memorial Service.
The twins play an active role for much of the film. As they are identical but unnamed it is impossible to tell which one is providing the sound effects in Hiccups, which laughing child ducks as her own animated replica flies past her in Down the back of the chair, and whether the dramatic red-coated figure dancing over stark black rocks and grey sea in Puck’s song is Julia or Biddy, and it really doesn’t matter.
They and their Good Grandmother share the stage with a white fluffy dog, a fat black and white cat and a host of animated figures from the pages of Margaret’s books.
The DVD video footage was captured by Margaret’s longtime friend Yvonne MacKay at Margaret’s home in Governors Bay, a bay that has provided a great back-drop for the mixture of animation and real life in Summery Saturday Morning, Dashing Dog, The three-legged cat, The boy who was followed home, and a host of other favourites—the DVD features eight picture books in all, as well as a selection of poems, long and short.
Possibly the most moving moment is at the end, when Margaret is seen walking down the Governor’s Bay pier into a golden sunset as she recites her very un-sentimental poem When I am old. Following behind her, jostling and pushing and trying to catch up, is a wonderful animated hullaballoo mish-mash of characters from her books. The Lion has left his meadow, the Followed-home Boy has brought three of his hippos along, The Three-legged Cat is hopping jauntily on his peg-leg, -all the usual suspects are there. And raucously shouting from the throng comes the voice of the Pirate Mother: ‘Wait for me, Maggie!
The DVD has just been published (RRR NZ $19.99) and is available from Roadshow Entertainment .
review by Cecily
image by geoftheref
The double-spread title page of this book opens up to a large coloured drawing of an owl’s face immediately capturing the readers attention and dramatically demonstrating what symmetry is all about.
The first pages have pictures of objects in nature as well as man-made leading to the question, `so what is symmetry?’. All the different types of symmetry are then described with extensive pictures of animals, human bodies, clothing, letters, words, furniture, and buildings to help explain and reinforce the concepts.
Finally there are further notes, some symmetry activities, a glossary, and an explanation of why symmetry is an important math concept.
image by AdamAtom
I enjoyed browsing through How things work in the house by Lisa Campbell Ernst the wonderful eclectic range of items this author has chosen to portray will keep junior primary aged children turning the pages, and possibly a few adults too.
Amongst the common items are the familiar technology tools like taps, spoons, straws, and crayons. Then various toys and musical instruments are included. The more unusual additions are pets: a cat, dog, and goldfish. Food is not forgotten either with details on popcorn, bananas, and what makes a sandwich.
With a mix of single and double page spreads, each topic is laid out with a labelled picture and titbits of information all complimented by the papercut collage illustrations and easy to understand language.
reviews by Karen
Two classic and favourite picture books, The very hungry caterpillar by Eric Carle and We’re going on a bear hunt by Michael Rosen with illustrations by Helen Oxenbury, are now translated into te reo Māori, published by Huia.
These wonderful stories have been loved by generations and don’t need much introduction, but their translation into Māori now makes them available to a whole new audience, at kōhanga and kura, and on laps and at bedtime with whānau in homes.
We’re going on a bear hunt is translated by Kawata Teepa and it seems, to this non te reo speaker, to have all the rhythm, onomatopoeia and energy of the original… Remember going swishy swashy through the long wavy grass? Here it is hūwihi, hāwihi and the adventure continues, splashing through the river - paratī, parahū, squelching through mud - kūwehi, kūwera, and tiptoeing through the forest - tūtuki, hīrau… Like the original, it just begs to be read aloud with expression and all joining in, and the macrons on the long vowels help create the emphasis and cadence. The very hungry caterpillar is translated by Brian Morris.
You can scan the QR code on the back of these books to access the te reo audio tracks which would support those learning to speak te reo.
Congratuations to Huia on this great initiative, and have a look at their website for more te reo translations of well-loved children’s picture books coming soon.
To enjoy Michael Rosen’s own wonderful (English) bear hunt performance, see this link on youtube. And if you are planning a trip to the USA you might be interested in visiting Eric Carle’s Museum of Picture Book Art in Massachusetts, or take a virtual tour in the meantime to whet your appetite!
Review by Jeannie
image used with permission
Corinna School is riding on the crest of a wave with this wonderful news article in the local Kapi Mana news.
The article captures all the fun that Corinna kids and their families are going to have choosing, sharing and reading books from their library. It will also inspire other schools to make reading a fun, family activity over summer.
Behind the scenes there has been a huge amount of thought and careful planning to make this a successful programme. Trish Nash and her colleagues at Corinna School have worked hard to involve as many families as possible to ensure that “Corinna kids keep reading over summer.”
Principal Michele Whiting also reports that Corinna School now has 70 children taking 10 books home each this summer. Michele says: “All their parents came in to help select the books and there could be more after this afternoon’s three way interviews.”
Image by iansand
The Spanish Civil War of the mid-1930s was something of a ‘proving ground” for the military aircraft of Nazi Germany. The fact that German military equipment was, in many ways, initially superior to their opponents (in WW2) was due to it having been tested and refined in Spain. German tactics were also significantly superior as the Allies quickly discovered through the Wehrmacht’s combination of ground and air forces known as the ‘Blitzkrieg’. But Great Britain and the United States, quickly adapted and upgraded their air forces to successfully combat the German air force, or Luftwaffe. The changes from training Tiger Moth bi-planes used in the very early stages of the conflict to the jet-propelled fighters at the end of the war shows the staggering advances in aircraft design, engineering and technology made in the six years of war.
Taylor details the aircraft of each of the major combatants - Britain, United States, Russia, Germany and Japan - from fighters to bombers. he also includes information on the Battle of Britain, “Strategic Bombing Campaigns” and Japanese kamikaze fighters.
For boys the book represents a clear and well illustrated part of a series about World War 11 that also includes leaders, battles, navies, generals and weapons. Air Forces of World War 2 also includes a worthwhile timeline, glossary, index and a list of relevant websites.
Review by David
Image by johntrathome
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