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
Part of the Weird true facts series this fun colourful book is filled with interesting and quirky facts about wheels that not only informs but entertains readers. Attractively laid out with a mixture of text, diagrams and photographs this book begins with the earliest known record of wheel use in 4500 BCE.
The following pages cover various forms of transport, the power of wheels to drive machinery, and the technology of tyres. Future trends look at invisible cars, tyres with no air, and cardboard bicycles. The book concludes with a glossary, and websites.
review by Karen
Image by theirhistory
Aloian provides a lively and colourful introduction to the world of the submarine. With illustrations and useful diagrams, including cutaways, the operation and roles of a wide variety of submarines are cleanly shown.
Power sources, varied uses, ability to dive deeply and/or sustain lengthy and rapid submerged voyages, even under the Northern Polar icecap, are all examined to enhance the readers understanding of these vessels. Military, research and tourism purposes are acknowledged and the relative sizes of these submarines are clearly illustrated. Research and development and the future of the submarine are also outlined.
A useful index adds value to this very interesting book produced in the “Bobbie Kalman” style.
review by David
Image by Mr T in DC
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
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
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
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
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
Sally Sutton’s Demolition, illustrated by Brian Lovelock, follows the highly successful format of her 2009 NZ Post Award winner, Roadworks. An irresistible read-aloud, it cheerfully clanks, whumps, whops and splishes its way through the demolition of a tall building—a scenario all too familiar to the residents of Christchurch. However, any trace of grimness is removed by the fact that in this scenario the building materials are being re-cycled to build a children’s adventure playground.
Something new springs up from something old and damaged, the materials living on in play equipment designed to give years of enjoyment. The message is, in the end a positive one, and told with a rollicking beat that will appeal even to older children than the juniors it is designed for, particularly with its inclusion of a simple but effective machine factsheet.
Gavin Bishop’s Bruiser is a different kettle of concrete. Our hero is a machine on a mission, and nothing is going to stand in his way—literally.
“Oi! Get out of my way….I’ve got a motorway to build!”
And he ploughs through hills, rocks, forests and even daffodils to flatten the landscape enough for his new road.
It takes a close encounter with a magpie and her baby, while he is temporarily bogged down in a ditch, to bring about a change of heart in Bruiser.
But what a change of heart it is! Bruiser becomes a conservationist. After building a nest for his new friends, he sets out to replace the things he has destroyed, even the daffodils, and in the process becomes happy, looking back ‘with a big oily smile’ at the beauty he has restored.
While the language in this book is just as simple as in Demolition, the conservation message gives it an added depth. Gavin Bishop’s illustrations have a lovely, orange-y boldness that fits well with Bruiser’s personality. He has dedicated Bruiser to the rebuilders of Christchurch, with the message:
“Look to the future boldly, Remember the past gently.”
Both these picture books reinforce this message very well.
review by Cecily
Images 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
0800 LIB LINE
0800 542 5463
Get help from our advisers using this free phone line