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.
Published to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Collingwood Area School, this book of stories and photographs combines the high points of early school history with an update of events since the centennial celebrations in 1959.
It also encompasses the other eight schools of the area that have now closed. At first glance it may seem that only those who have some connection with Collingwood could find interest in this book. On the contrary, it is a documentation of changing times and changing schools in NZ history. Some highly sought after photographs are included in this books which detail life when the school opened in 1859 of not only school life at this time but life in NZ as a pioneer settler. This close knit community school was, in its origins, witness to pupils who were children of goldminers, storekeepers and pioneer farmers who knew the value of an education. The Collingwood community should be congratulated for 150 years of support to its students in preparation for the wider world. Recommended intermediate upward.
review by Melissa
This book is not a New Zealand history book. It’s not a book devoted to Kiwiana. It’s not a current affairs book. But it is a realistic, honest look at what it’s like to live in Aotearoa in the 21st century. An eclectic mix of all things New Zealand make this book so entertaining as does the quality of the images and graphics. The idea of the bach, the barbie and bikers are broached with as much conviction as favourite landmarks and the Cook Strait. The book’s layout, modern design and text are a credit to the Massey University graduate designers. My favourite pages are ‘Our people’ (where we are told that 86% of NZers are satisfied with life and a third of the population do voluntary work) and Land of the long white flat. Apparently, Kiwis have more coffee roasters per capita than anywhere in the world!
A thoroughly enjoyed great read. Ideal for intermediate and secondary readers.
review by Melissa
I really enjoyed the accessibility of this book which will sit well in any loan requesting books about important heroes in past and recent history that have shaped the world. This book is one of four in the ‘black history makers’ series and focuses on black politicians through history beginning with Queen Nzinga in the 17th century to the most obvious contemporary figure, Barack Obama.
I love the way the text is laid out alongside useful drawings or photographs offering key biographical information about these significant figures and their impact on the world and their ongoing legacies through family and followers.
At the back is a brief timeline and list of websites where you can research more about this fascinating selection of rulers and leaders. Recommended for primary and intermediate readers.
review by Melissa
Image by blacque_jacques
Nanberry is based on events in Australia around 1789 when the colony was a dangerous, dirty and difficult place to live in.
Surgeon White struggles to cope with the influx of starved and diseased convicts into Sydney town in the midst of an epidemic that wipes out hundreds of Aboriginals. Having no family of his own, the surgeon decides to fill this gap by adopting an Aboriginal boy whom he christens Andrew Douglass Keble White. This is the beginning of a struggle for a boy who has to find a balance between his Cardigal origins and the identity bestowed on him by his English father.
The author’s intense research provided the strong background for this remarkable novel - the past is not always comfortable to look at and that is why we need to understand what really happened and why.
This book is another credit to Jackie French’s historical fiction expertise. It has a realistic, fascinating and seamless flow of events that transports you into another time and place to witness history seemingly firsthand.
review by Janice
Image by matt-emery
What attracted me most to this series is the style of the jacket in which they are presented. It is a small book yet packed with a wealth of historical information about the Titanic and other historical ships that have come to a tragic end.
The light hearted approach that the author takes does not mask the fact that he is a knowledgeable historian but rather, keeps the reader entertained. Such a lot of information in such a little book and it’s finished off with a Titanic timeline, Titanic recipe and even Titanic tunes! A very entertaining way of conveying historical facts.
Recommended for intermediate readers.
review by Melissa
Image by Ontario Wanderer
Celeste is a 16 year old girl from an upper class family, who holidays at Lake Conemaugh. She secretly befriends a local boy and becomes disenchanted with the superficial face and judgments of her family’s society crowd. Lake Conemaugh, a mountain reservoir, is a man-made lake which is held back by a seventy-foot earthen dam. The people who live in Johnstown below the dam often joke with each other about the dam breaking, until the day …
At the back of the book information is given on where to find out more on this historical event , along with a chronology from when and why the dam was built, to what happened afterwards. A great debut novel and an interesting read for people who like historical fiction interlaced with fact.
review by Michelle
Image by NOAA Photo Library
The fact that I read this book cover to cover in a very short time was testament to the fact that not only is the subject matter gripping, but the style the author has chosen is key to it’s success. I loved the way the book begins with a graphic novel style story board of Gandhi’s early life and prepares and informs the reader of what is to come.
I really think that an intermediate student would appreciate the good mix of colour, photography as a primary source and clear straightforward text in this book that easily presents Gandhi’s life’s work. The back pages are filled with colourfully presented quotes from Gandhi and words of kindness said about him by other people like Martin Luther King who, throughout history, we have all come to revere.
An informative, excellently presented non fiction text covering basic Indian history. Recommended for intermediate up.
review by Melissa
image by Luiz Fernando / Sonia Maria
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
This book is a great read even for those who do not often read non fiction. It shows well how women during the Second World War’s role in society shifted without them even realising or preparing for it. The author cleverly intertwines diary excerpts and interviews with a group of women to show how their lives changed during this period and although the war was a terrible experience, in some ways brought out the best in the women and allowed them to realise abilities in themselves that they would never have had the opportunity to reach had it not been for the fact that most of the men were at war.
This book is a celebration of women’s triumph and resilience in the most trying times and rather than being solely about the deprivation of war, is a celebration of their brilliance.
Recommended for senior secondary reading.
review by Melissa
image by slaup
European history traditionally credits Egypt, Greece and Rome with “civilising” and developing humanity through science and the arts. However, Alexander the Great, as he conquered his way through Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, continued to “discover” sophisticated and developing cultures -including the Indus River Valley. Richardson concentrates on the centuries prior to Alexander and builds a detailed picture of a cultivated and cultured series of societies. These are carefully constructed from a variety of sources and include information on wealth, trade, city construction, government, beliefs, writing, arts and invention. Remarkable achievements are highlighted in a simple and informative manner. The illustrations and photos enhance the text in a way that enlivens the information and brings the past to life.
The glossary and index add to the book’s accessibility. The book is one in a series that provides surprising historical insights for students
review by David
image by tommorgan5
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