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.
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
First published in 1954 and long out of print, this new edition was my first introduction to the work of author Palmer Brown. It shares a timeless quality with some of the best fantasy stories, and while there is much that is sweetly quaint about it, the adult characters all had a definite edge to them which made me sit up and take notice. Anna Lavinia herself is as dauntless and practical a child hero as you could hope to meet. Her triumphant return home with long lost father, treasure and knowledge should leave any reader well satisfied.
Even better, another Anna Lavinia adventure is waiting in The silver nutmeg. Palmer Brown’s own delightfully wacky pen and ink drawings set both stories off perfectly.
review by Pamela
Image by Rob Innes
Jane Brocket’s clever concept book about patterns is an exceptionally bright, bold, and colourful one, full of vibrant photographs that demonstrate what patterns are, how they are formed and how they help us to decorate, plan, and predict.
Creative use has been made of familiar items like flowers, vegetables, sweets and socks, before moving through to the more complex patterning details of quilts, tiles, building facades and even shadows.
This title will have children looking around their environment for patterns, and wanting to create their own.
Professor Cook’s dynamite dinners by Lorna Brash is one of a series that uses fun delicious recipes and zany humour to explore the science concepts that happen as food is transformed into something edible.
Each double page spread is a brightly coloured mix of photographs and text boxes showing the recipe, step by step instructions, and the associated science idea. The variety of dinners include Sticky chicky burger stacks, incredible edible bowl soup, tongue-tingling sweet and sour noodles, thirsty couscous cakes and scrambly egg fried rice, plus more. Each title has a glossary, an index, and a list of useful websites to explore further.
Other titles in this series are: Dynamite dinners; Smashing snacks; Mind-blowing bakes; and Fascinating fruits.
review by Karen
Image by photoholic1
Healthy Eating with My Plate: Protein by Nancy Dickman is part of the My Plate series that aims to inform younger readers on the types of foods we need to maintain good health. This title is concerned with protein; different forms and where it comes from. Protein is shown from all the major food groups with simple explanations on why our bodies need this important food product.
As with other titles in the series, Protein uses vivid photography alongside clear bold text to engage early readers. A quiz and picture glossary are also included and also suggested teacher/student discussions points for before and after reading.
review by Natasha
Image by fidothe
This is an uplifting and thought-provoking book which gives children of all ages the chance to experience a different way of seeing. Isaac, having been taken aback by Luke’s (who is blind) response to a question about colours, sets out to use Luke’s other senses to give him an understanding of the different colours of the rainbow.
This book is stunningly illustrated in watercolour and guache by Keinyo White, and the evocative, poetic language reads aloud beautifully.
Colour the Stars has been retold in Te Reo by Ngaere Roberts (Taea Ngā Whetu), and has been translated into Braille and made into an audio book by the NZ Foundation for the Blind, who will receive any royalties from the sale of the book.
Published in 2012 by Scholastic New Zealand, who also provide a useful set of teaching notes
review by Jan
Image used with permission
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
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
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
If you wish to make a piupiu with the confident knowledge that the outcome will be successful look no further than this book. It has been compiled by an expert in the field. Leilani Rickard became one of the first permanent guides at Whakarewarewa in the early 1970’s when part of her job was to weave tāniko headbands, bodices and other garments for summer and winter wear.
Using her years of practical knowledge she has gone to great lengths to write and photograph each stage of the piupiu making process. The language in the book is easy to follow and the images compliment the written detail remarkably well. It is divided into six chapters: Materials, Methods, Patterns, Finishing, Storage / Care and Gallery. No aspect of the process has been neglected. Although the book’s primary role is describing how to make a piupiu it provides useful information about working with flax including details of the dying process.
The Gallery focuses on images of Leilani’s contribution to the Wearable Arts event as well as interesting historical images held by the Alexander Turnbull Library. An excellent flow diagram summarising the production process completes the book.
review by Barbara
Image used with permission
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
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