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 revised and updated edition is not just a tell-all about the ills of modern slavery. It is a handbook on how you and I can make a positive stand to become abolitionists.
David Batstone systematically goes through all of the regions of the world (sadly, most countries) where some form of slavery operates in the form of sex trafficking, human trafficking, child soldiers, working in factories without pay and being held against one’s will.
This book has a plethora of information that we can call upon to do our bit to be abolish slavery. It is a clever mix of real life anecdotes, contemporary examples of what others are doing and facts and figures from governments to support his argument. Batstone offers several options of how we can contribute to the ‘Not for sale’ campaign which makes the reader feel that however small their efforts are, they count. I hope mine will.
Recommended for intermediate upward.
review by Melissa
Image by TheIRD
Dom has just finished school and is engaged in a painting job at his father’s advertising agency before he starts university. One morning he walks into his father’s office to ask for the keys to his car. Here he gets drawn into a conversation on the benefits of advertising and next thing he knows he’s being thrown a challenge to come up with a pitch to sell toothpaste. Dom’s philosophy it that it is easy enough to write an advertisement and that any ‘monkey’ could do it.
What follows is Dom’s process of due diligence on the campaign. The question raised is why does Dom really want to beat his dad at his own game? The story deals with the serious and humorous side of advertising, a father son relationship and Dom’s learning curve of where he wants to be in terms of a career.
Leonie Thorpe has done a brilliant job of keeping the story light, youthful and purposeful. Also noteworthy is the exposure to the world of advertising which is insightful for anyone wanting to pursue this line of a career.
review by Janice
Image by owly9
David Riley is a teacher and Head of Dance-Drama at Tangaroa College in South Auckland, and has a background in journalism. He was aware of a lack of appropriate resources and decided to write this book when Niuean students told him they did not know of role models from their culture. He wrote it “to encourage and inspire students”.
He writes about people like Che Fu, Pero Cameron, Stephanie Tauevihi and NRL player Dene Halatau. As most of them had mixed ancestry- Pacific, Māori and Pakeha- this is a book with a broad appeal. Other profiles are from mythology and history.
Themes in the book include achievement, leadership, believing in yourself, overcoming obstacles- always a popular subject- and issues to do with culture. David has a deft writing style that will appeal to students from mid-Primary to Secondary levels.
You can see some sample chapters on his website.
review by Rob
Image used with permission
Twinship… what a fascinating concept. Jerry Spinelli explores the reality behind the concept through the eyes of 12 year old twins Jake and Lily as they grow through the physical and emotional changes of puberty and struggle to establish their own identities.
This book would have equal appeal to boys and girls as there is equal page space given to the voices of both Jake and Lily. I can imagine it being read aloud on a boy/girl shared basis. They speak in alternating short chapters. There is enough action, intrigue and emotional involvement to sustain the interest of a class of students (8 – 12 years).
On their sixth birthday, Jake and Lily both awaken to find themselves holding hands at the train station, surrounded by the smell of pickles. This happens every birthday thereafter and this marks both their significant railway birth and the development of a special sixth-sense that the siblings refer to as goombla. This is their term for a twin communication that either of them can explain. They know when the other is hurt, where they are hiding and how the other is feeling. Having goombla means that they are never truly alone because they always have each other.
Lily defines herself as a twin first and foremost and struggles to see herself as an individual girl in her own right. Therefore she is particularly devastated when her parents make her sleep in a separate room when she turns 12, and when Jake prefers to spend his time bike riding with a group of boys. Not only this, but the boys “gang” is lead by Bump Stubbins, Lily’s nemesis. He invents the pastime of following goobers and supergoobers and Jake is more than happy to tag along.
Many sub stories keep the intrigue, underpinning the main plot of Jake and Lily’s relationship. Each character is well drawn and totally believable. Highly recommended.
review by Glenda
Image by bambibabe48
There will be few teachers or library staff who are not familiar with Chris Van Allsburg’s work – Jumanji; The Polar Express; Z was zapped; The widow’s broom; and others. My favourite amongst his work is The mysteries of Harris Burdick (1984), which I have used in the classroom numerous times. The introduction alone is a great read-aloud (especially if you read it with a bit of sombre mysteriousness…) and the starter for the many journeys of the imagination on the following pages.
His wonderfully atmospheric drawings with their deceptively simple titles and accompanying quotes have jump-started some very productive classroom writing sessions, and the same drawings have now been submitted to some well-known authors for their interpretation. Louis Sachar; Stephen King; Walter Dean Myers; Lois Lowry; Jon Scieszka; Kate DiCamillo are just some of the famous names telling their version in The chronicles of Harris Burdick (2011).
Last word to Lemony Snicket, who writes the introduction to this volume:
“…the mysteries of Harris Burdick continue, and if you open this book, you will likely be mystified yourself. As you reread the stories, stare at the images, and ponder the mysteries of Harris Burdick, you will find yourself in a mystery that joins so many authors and readers together in breathless wonder.”
A must-buy for all school library collections.
review by Linda
Image by gruntzooki
These are strong themes that I am sure a lot of us have felt within a family…what it is like being different from the rest of your family? How do you deal with the feelings like being left out from family outings?
Jamie feels it a lot more because he does not change into a werewolf when the moon is full. These elements are intriguingly explored like unfairness and loneliness. Is there such a thing as being lucky to not be part of this family’s ‘change’?
I enjoyed the fast-paced plot, the suspense the interesting vocabulary, and the best part was when the ‘vet’ said she could cure the family’s illness!
With a story that has a definite structure, a satisfying ending. And easy to read font this addition to the Go for it series is ideal for classroom and independent reading. See also “In less than a flash” by Corinne Fenton.
review by Fiona
Image by PumpkinWayne
Bob Dylan’s lyrics fit perfectly into Sophisticated Picture Book format, but the surprise here is the enormous difference illustration and general presentation make to words that true Dylan devotees regard as timeless.
Of the three examples here, Forever young (Simon & Schuster, 2008) is a Good Fairy-type wish for a child
‘May God bless and keep you always, May your wishes all come true…’
that is often sung at christenings.
Paul Rogers’ illustrations to the picture book version, however, take the message firmly into the adolescent area, and the retro-American style makes this the 1950s period of Dylan’s own adolescence. While the Illustrator’s Notes at the back are mainly about Dylan and his works (Paul Rogers is obviously a True Fan) they include useful snippets of information about Martin Luther King, the Beatles, Jack Kerouac, and other people whose lives touched Dylan’s in various ways. A good book for giving an older child a picture of life in the 50s and 60s, but, alas, it does not include a CD, so you’ll have to sing it yourself.
Blowin’ in the wind and Man gave names to all the animals do include CDs, Dylan’s original version of the songs in both cases.
This is perhaps the only problem with Blowin’ in the wind (Sterling Children’s Books, 2011). Jon J. Muth’s illustrations, though beautiful as always, seem to be aimed at a younger target audience than the lyrics, especially with Dylan’s gravelly diction included in the mix. The beauty and peace of the illustrations, linked by a paper crane motif, provide a strong contrast to the bitterness of the words— maybe this is the intention. The lyrics, can of course, speak against discrimination or unfair treatment over a much broader spectrum than the song’s original focus on racism, This is made clear in the afternote from music historian Greil Marcus, and keeps this definitive protest song, even wrapped up in a pretty package, as relevant today as it was when first written in 1962. The times may have kept on a-changing, but sadly, half a century on, many attitudes haven’t changed all that much.
Man gave names to all the animals (Sterling, 2010), illustrated by Jim Arnosky, is a much simpler proposition. A 1979 song from Dylan’s brief Christian period, this one is definitely a children’s song, and Arnosky’s illustrations make the picture book version a masterpiece.
The clear bright colours bring to life the ‘land of primeval beauty’ suggested to him by Dylan’s bouncy, light-hearted lyrics. There are hidden animals to find on each page, and an interactive element to make this a great read-aloud. It deserves a place, not just in every Sunday school, but in the bookshelf of every child who loves animals.
Of the three illustrators, I feel that Jim Arnosky is the one who made best use of the picture book medium to bring Bob Dylan’s words to life for a new generation.
review by Cecily
Image by brizzle born and bred
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
If you have ever wanted to tell your Poseidon from your Perseus with no idea where to start then this is the book to read. Each chapter is titled with the name of a Greek mythological character and their role or what they are known for. For example; ‘Perseus -the ill fated hero.
Stunning artwork brings the stories and characters vividly to life and helps maintain the reader’s attention while sidebars also place the stories into a historical and cultural context.
I appreciated this book because its intention is not to just tell stories about mythological characters but to differentiate one from the other and to find answers to many of the questions humans long to understand. In reading these myths we see that the Gods, Goddesses, heroes and monsters feel love, hate and jealousy like mortals. They are blessed and cursed with the same emotions that hurt and hinder ordinary human lives. Recommended for intermediate up.
review by Melissa
Image by SeeMidTN.com (aka bBrent)
This is the third edition of the Essential Māori Dictionary. Before first going into publication in 1999 teachers were one of the groups alongside the Auckland Educational Advisory Service who had the opportunity to comment on its format.
I suggest that this may be one of the reasons for its usefulness within a class room setting. It is a compact and durable size while the font is clear and the information comprehensive and useful for the early study of Te Reo. The words are presented Māori-English, English-Māori with the corresponding alphabet produced at the top of each page. The most common variants of dialect are given. The final section of the dictionary includes the following themed words: Days of the week; Months of the Year; Numbers; Cities of New Zealand; Colours; Emotions; Actions; Parts of the Body; In the Classroom and On the Marae.
This is a thoughtfully, designed and practical publication for the basic and intermediate level learner of Te Reo
review by Barbara
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