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 ancient Phoenicians are reputed to have discovered the process of turning sand into glass and created a product that some consider one of our most important inventions. In this excellent title, Somervill examines the history of glass, how it is made and how the various types of glass may be used and reused. A brief chapter on glass art is an excellent illustration of how this simple produce can be used not only in a multitude of practical ways but also artistically.
Beautifully illustrated with photographs that serve to enhance an already interesting work, Somervill makes judicious use of charts, drawings and sidebars as well. An excellent timeline allows the reader to understand quite simply the development of glass from its earliest time.
A thorough glossary and index make this work very accessible for the user. A “bibliography” that refers the reader to both websites and books is also of value.
review by David
Image by kistienberghs
One of a number of worthwhile titles in the “World Commodities” series, Coal, presented in a “series” style, addresses the subject via two-page spreads ranging from history, production and usages to political, environmental and social issues. A brief if valuable item that does not hide from the genuine concerns surrounding the continued use of coal but at the same time handles this potentially controversial topic with even-handedness and clarity.
This reviewer was somewhat disappointed at the lack of acknowledgement of the dangers involved in the mining of coal and the impact of the miners on the early working class history of many countries. Coal-mining is a dirty and hazardous occupation. This book does not present it as such.
The websites, glossary and index add value to this title which would be of considerable use with middle and upper primary classes.
review by David
Image by Jeffrey Beall
The Big Green Book is full of information on sea creatures, and environmental issues that affect the ocean. We can learn things like why the ocean is salty, what happens to bits of plastic that end up in the sea, and how an oil boom works to remove oil from the surface of the ocean.
For pupils there are lots of activities to do using readily available materials, and there is a good explanation for what each activity demonstrates and related facts about the ocean environment.
I found the cover of this book a little dull - it has a 1950s feel from the limited use of colour. But never judge a book by its cover! Lots of cartoon style drawings and photographs inside make this a lively relevant book to dip into.
Remember The Big Green Book for Seaweek when it will be especially useful.
review by Heather
Image by Fabi Fliervoet
A lot of information is packed into this book. The first explanation is how and why the earth spins, and how it is tilted on its axis. We also find out how day and night occurs, and the reasons for the seasons. While the language is simple it still manages to introduce terms like orbit, axis, and terminator, the imaginary line that divides day from night. The depth of information is welcome as these topics are often covered superficially in books at this reading level.
There is a glossary, index, website list and a short quiz. A minor point - I felt that junior primary school children would not be able to use the five recommended websites independently.
This title is one of 60 in Rourkes series My science library and is in the Grade 2-3 level section.
review by Heather
image by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
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
Want some simple and fun science experiments for you and your friends to try? Here are eleven science experiments that you can do in the kitchen, or maybe take outside. Some are very messy! Just as well the introduction has a good brief explanation of the difference between an explosion and an implosion.
I liked the layout for each experiment. They have a ‘what you need’ list, and clear, well illustrated, step by step instructions on how to carry them out. The text box at the end of each one explains clearly why it works. For words that may be unfamiliar, there is a definition at the bottom of each page and these are also listed in the glossary at the back of the book.
This is one title in the series Kitchen Science from Capstone. Other titles are Fizz and bubble, Fly and move and Surprise and delight.
review by Heather
image by njorthr
Here is a simple introduction to kitchen science experiments that junior students will have fun completing while learning – a winning combination.
Each double paged spread uses colourful graphics and clear bold text to explain each science experiment, and its done in a style that doesn’t compromise the science involved. The nine basic experiments look at bubbling and fizzing, oil and water, cleaning properties of vinegar, mould, and mixtures.
A cartoon cat and mice offer helpful information bites, quick facts, and quiz questions that will further engage young readers. Recommended.
review by Karen
image by Scott Hamlin
New Zealand has some pretty unique wildlife and this title reveals how different New Zealand species live together in symbiotic relationships. Chapters cover the baddies: (parasites, like the weta worm), taking and not giving back (commensalism, like tuatara and fairy prion), and goodies (mutualism like kereru and karaka). The last chapter is about humans and where we fit – are we goodies, baddies or both?
There are amazing facts, beautiful photos, fact boxes, a glossary and index. A ‘find out more’ section includes really informative, authoritative websites and (mostly) very recently published titles concludes this really useful book.
The back cover blurb says this title is the second in a ‘continuing series about New Zealand’s amazing nature’. The first one that Nic and Rod wrote and illustrated was in 2009, titled Invaders: Animals from elsewhere that are causing trouble here. and it has proved to be extremely useful. I am really looking forward to the next title in this series!
review by Heather
cover image used with permission
Initially, the photos attracted me to this book. The book tells us ‘macrophotography’ is the ‘art of taking pictures of small things in close-up’, and these beautiful photo illustrations show us the huge diversity of tiny sea life in its many fascinating shapes and forms. There are incredible shots of small colourful life forms, such as fish, crabs, sea anemones. Labels clearly show the different magnifications used. Some of the close-up photos are actual size and have a standard paperclip along side for comparison. There is information about each animal in the accompanying caption, and factoid boxes with related information are on every few pages.
This is a great book to browse and marvel over the unusual illustrations and information.
Suitable for children years 3 - 5.
Flickr image by richard ling
How toys slide by Helen Whittaker looks not only at the force of friction, but also pulling - to make it go, pushing - to make it change direction, and gravity - to make it go faster. Also covered is how heavy sliding toys need larger forces to make them move, however the term inertia is not mentioned.
The explanations are simple and clear, and well supported with labelled illustrations. The book concludes with a sliding game, and an experiment that young children could easily carry out with a little adult input. As well as a table of contents, the book includes a glossary and index.
This is one of six books in the Toys and Forces series by Macmillan Library. Each book covers the forces that make different types of toys work - bouncing, floating, flying, rolling and spinning as well as sliding - and they all have a similar format.
It is a very useful series for junior primary school children when learning about the science of forces or the technology of toy making.
reviews by Heather
image by alandberning
Patricia Wooster’s look at space exploration begins with the early discoveries by Nicolaus Copernicus, Sir Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, and the detection of planets Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto.
The book then reveals developments that took place during the space race leading to U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to walk on the moon. Advancements continued during the 1970s with the Columbia shuttle starting the first of its 28 missions in 1981.
The timeline extends through to the present day with space records, space tourists, private space flight, and a look to the future. This title is full of facts with added interest coming from the comic illustrations of Eldon Doty.
image by DUCKofD3ATH
What’s in your pizza? by Jaclyn Martineau is from a series called “What’s in your fast food?” that investigates popular convenience foods. From its origins in Naples, Italy pizza came to United States of America with Italian migrants and from there pizza is now consumed around the world.
Early chapters look at the main ingredients that go into pizzas, and how they are made. The next few chapters look at the production of frozen pizzas focusing on the artificial flavours and colourings needed to replace vitamins and other nutrients lost in the manufacturing process, and the preservatives that are required for an extended shelf life. Especially useful is the chapter on the nutritional value and how to read food labels.
Finally readers are encouraged to make their own tasty healthy pizzas using fresh ingredients with low fat cheese options.
reviews by Karen
image by The Eggplant
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