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.
The life cycle of the Tuatara by Betty Brownlie was a finalist in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 2012 in the non-fiction category. Beautiful photographs illustrate the simple but very informative text boxes, fact boxes and captions that describe the life of the tuatara. All aspects of this ancient reptile’s life cycle are covered - where they live, breeding, eggs, diet, behaviour, lifespan and threats.
I liked the inclusion of interesting facts - specially the surprising effects of temperature on the tuatara. For example, when it is cold the tuatara cannot digest food and need to lie in the sun to warm up first, and when eggs are incubated in cool temperatures, female tuatara are produced.
Other books in Betty Brownlie’s recently published Life Cycle series are; kiwi, pukeko, monarch butterfly, frog and albatross.
review by Heather
image by SidPix
Records is full of interesting information about Olympic records and how they are measured in the many different sporting disciplines. Part of ‘The Olympics’ series, this title focuses on Olympic breaking records and what ways officials measure them. A selection of summer, winter and Paralympic sports are covered alongside a mixture of historical in-action black and white and colour photos. Different measurement categories are discussed such as fastest, highest, strongest and closest. Each section offers an ‘Olympic Facts and Stats’ box relevant to the sport grouping. Recommended.
Sports Heroes of Ancient Greece by Paul Mason
As well as discussing the origins of the Olympic Games and the life and times of early Olympic sporting heroes, this title introduces readers to historical Greek gods, language, culture, art and way of life. A mixture of images are used including photos, diagrams, maps and sketches alongside Greek ‘stylised’ boxed facts and information.
Review by Natasha
image by momboleum
This colourful series is a welcome addition to any primary school library collection. Aimed at years two and three it contains great pictures and photographs covering the warriors of Ancient Greece. The images are supported by clear, bold text but not too much that it becomes overwhelming for students. The first page has a useful timeline from 776BC to the 2000s where the author has written ‘2000s You are reading this book’.
Many photographs take up most of the page and include a small amount of accompaning bold text which makes the book a very accessable read. It’s a good selling point and the series will be a winner for most junior classes wanting to study this aspect of ancient Greece but at the appropriate level.
review by Melissa
image by Robert Ball
If you are looking for activities for National Primary Science week or ideas to fill in a wet afternoon, this book has 84 experiments about materials, forces, energy, electricity and magnetism, and the natural world for you to try. It is beautifully set out with wonderful colourful illustrations. As well as the usual and exciting suspects like vinegar volcanoes and bottle rockets, there are a few different ones, such as making a metal detector or radio. Some experiments are suitable for younger children while others require adult supervision, even for older children. The instructions have symbols and warnings when hazardous materials and activities are involved.
The introduction says that most can be done with materials you find around home. While that appears largely true, quite a number of items will need to be especially purchased e.g. dry ice, alum powder, hydrogen peroxide, phenolphthalein indicator, and a germanium diode. I certainly don’t keep all of those around my home! It will pay to read the instructions carefully before beginning.
Insect or spider? How do you know? by Melissa Stewart.
While it is easy to differentiate between most of the different types of minibeasts, children often confuse spiders and insects. Six distinct differences between insects and spiders are explained through beautiful clear photographs and simple fact boxes.
I found the two recommended websites mediocre. Much better sites for New Zealand students for general information about spiders and insects are Te Ara Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, and Landcare Research.
Review by Heather
image by Raven Photographic
image by photobunny
This book provides more than the usual over view of the native flora of New Zealand. Its attractive format is divided into two main sections 1) An Introduction, and 2) The Plants. Each provides fascinating information that is scientifically accurate, but will be of interest to the nature lover.
Chapter 4 in the first section is devoted to Maori and the plant world. The information is well referenced. Throughout the book, Foster includes details of how the various plants were used either for their medicinal qualities or for weaving and building. Proverbs are introduced in Te Reo and an explanation provided in English.
Each page includes clear photographic images, matching text and points of interest high-lighted in green with white font. This layout means the pages while accessible for a younger audience retain excellent detail for the older scholar.
Review by Barbara
image by Tonyfoster
This book is significant first and foremost because of Ans Westra’s wonderful photography. The images have been at the centre of an extensive debate about the accuracy of their portrayal of Māori life. The integrity of the monochrome photographs and the images that they portray has however endured. They are technically and contextually very special. The captured moments of family life draw the reader back through the pages.
Washday at the Pa as presented here offers both a visual record and a written summary of the various conversations that have been presented since the book was first published in 1964. The two essays provide a fascinating insight into the shift in attitude toward the work over time.
Review by Barbara
‘I Know Someone with a Hearing Impairment’ is part of the ‘Understanding Health Issues’ series. The book introduces readers to some of the issues surrounding hearing disabilities. Topics include anatomical description, hearing aids and implants, lip reading and sign language as well as living with hearing impairments at school and home. These areas are explored through clear explanations, examples, and bright anatomical diagrams and photos. Key vocabulary is printed in bold text and links to the glossary.
A recommended book for Year levels 2 to 4 to introduce them to issues surrounding hearing impairments; how they affect people and how they can be a friend to someone who has a hearing impairment.
Disgusting Body Facts: Mites and Bites by Angela Royston
More distasteful aspects of the human body! Disgusting Body Facts: Mites and Bites presents the subject of human parasites in a fun yet informative approach. Using a combination of vivid ‘under the microscope’ photographs, lively illustrations and ‘did you know’ fact bubbles, readers are introduced to some of the more sordid aspects of the human body.
Topics discussed include head lice, fleas, dust mites, ticks, bee stings, mosquitoes, pinworms and snake bites. Read “Mites and Bites” to learn about how parasites and the like, attack your body.
review by Natasha
image by Albus
Having never read anything that the Dalai Lama has written, this book was a revelation to me. It does not simply focus on Buddhism as a philosophy and religion but more about how we can all live our lives in a happier more peaceful way. It seeks to personalise the Dalai Lama as it is written in the first person and in his only words. He begins the book by telling the reader about his childhood and upbringing and how, at a young age, he became the 13th Dalai Lama.
This book is quick, accessible and summerises the Dalai Lama’s essential life teachings including some sound adages. I did however, expect to be more inspired by some of his teachings.
Review by Melissa
image by Serjao Carvalho
One in the series “Make Your Own Art” that includes the ever-popular masks, puppets, origami and drawing.
Attractively presented, well designed and structured these items provide a sound introduction to the recyclable materials, and the art tools required.
A very interesting range of creative ideas are covered including; a bird feeder, bookends, bookmarks and batik paper. Each comes with good illustrations and clear instructions.
The “eco-crafts” title lends itself to a considerable range of classroom use from art to recycling. It’s an excellent instructional book that will provide ideas and inspiration for teachers, parents and year 4-8 students.
A glossary, index and list of websites allow will allow readers to explore further any aspect or project that particularly takes their interest.
Review by David
image by SunnySideUp Studio
Rosa Park’s legendary 1955 bus (photo right) protest in Montgomery, Alabama is a story I thought I knew well. But until I read this book, I had no idea that 15 year old Claudette Colvin had already done something remarkably similar nine months earlier. So why is Rosa’s story so well known, when Claudette’s is not? The background to Claudette’s omission from the history books is just as intriguing as her defiant stand against the humiliating Jim Crow laws of that time.
Author Phillip Hoose alternates his voice with Claudette’s own, crafting a powerful narrative backed by thorough research. Illustrations have been well chosen to set the story in its place and time. This book goes a long way towards restoring Claudette to her rightful place in the history of the American black civil rights movement. Recommended.
Here’s an interview with Phillip in which he talks about his motivation for writing it: http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2009_ypl_hoose_interv.html
review by Pamela
Flickr image by Maia C
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