Archive for the ‘Non Fiction’ Category

Pele. The Autobiography.

September 23, 2017 Comments off

pele.jpgPele. The Autobiography. Pub. Pocket books, 2007.

No other footballer has commanded the respect and adulation that Pele has yet he is the most humble of characters and enjoyed an almost injury free career. He played at four World Cups, scored 1283 goals and played for Santos, Brazil and New York Cosmos.

He worked for player rights in Brazil, married twice and sired seven children. He was World Ambassador for the United Nations, took the “beautiful game” (a phrase he coined) to America and the man who had Mohammed Ali say when they met “two legends together”.

How did he do all that from the slums of Bauru in Central west Brazil? Well read it and find out, it is riveting.

He was a deeply religious man but erroneously attributed his skills to god at a time when everything a young man wanted to do was considered a sin. It was practice, dedication and a strong body that made him a good footballer. He was only 5ft 9 inches tall but astonishingly good in the air. He mastered the art of keeping the ball under control close to his body and was very fast.

About his footballing ability he said this “people assume that because I scored so many goals that I was an out and out striker. But  I never was. I was an attacking mid fielder, a deep lying centre forward”. He also has some advice about the media -“before a game never read the newspaper or listen to the radio and TV”

An entertaining read that is his own story. When he met and played against George Best as the king of football, Best said to him “what kind of king are you? you don’t smoke or drink”. Well Pele is still alive. I saw him play once and he scored for Santos against Fulham at Craven Cottage but they lost 2-1. The great Bobby Moore also played.

Up The River. New Zealand’s Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands by Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud.

September 14, 2017 Comments off

up the riverUp The River. New Zealand’s Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands by Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud. Pub. Potton & Burton, 2017.

The latest in the Explore & Discover series from these two writers this time about our waterways and wetlands and incidentally an election issue in New Zealand concerning the purity of our water systems and our pure green image.

The concern in this non fiction work is to show the plant, insect, fish and other animal life in a down water ride from mountain to sea. It shows the balance in the natural world, the water cycle and the threats to plants and animals in the system from farm waste and other pollutants.

It is still essentially a nature study and Ned Barraud’s digital and other illustrations highlight the amazing natural world of the water systems.

Another essential purchase for school libraries, no web page can cover the ground as well as this publication. Others in this series are reviewed on this blog.

South Sea Vagabonds by J.W. Wray.

August 24, 2017 Comments off

south sea vagabondsSouth Sea Vagabonds by J.W. Wray. Pub. HarperCollins, 2014.

This remarkable story is a New Zealand classic that was first published in 1939. Every sailor worth his weight in salt water would have read this story and I guess every Aucklander with a boat will have heard of the yacht Ngataki and the legends that went with it.

Johnny Wray lost his job in the Depression because he was a day dreamer. He dreamt of palm-clad atolls with white sand and sailing in the warm trade winds.

He decided to pursue his dream and scrounged around the beaches in the Auckland area for logs of kauri to build a yacht. How he does this in his own backyard with little money and no training in boat building, makes fascinating reading. He does it somehow with friends and an insight possessed by few people. The result was the very sturdy Ngataki a 35 ft sloop with a 12 ft beam. The launch is hilarious.

The first voyage with a dunger of an engine called Methuselah, a chronometer and compass that didn’t work, and a sextant that took some working out, is astonishing, but they found Sunday Island where the best oranges in the world grow. A race across the Tasman to Melbourne followed and Johnny Wray was hooked for life.

Told in laconic style, with a good deal of understatement and self deprecation and the number 8 fencing wire theory as a guide, Johnny Wray travels the South Sea Islands from Tonga to Tahiti. The environment is pristine, you could see the bottom of the ocean from 20 fathoms and there were fish galore. It’s all gone now of course as man has plundered the planet.

You can read about the ship board rat Herbert, hear told of a fight between a giant squid and a whale and first hand account of sailing through a hurricane. You will be spellbound.

Johnny Wray trusted the Ngataki he built and approached sailing with this philosophy -“there is something exhilarating in a clean fight with the elements – as long as you win”

I would have trusted the man with my life. I hope you can still get a copy.

The Story of Tutankhamun by Patricia Cleveland-Peck, illus. Isabel Greenberg.

August 19, 2017 Comments off

tutankhamunThe Story of Tutankhamun by Patricia Cleveland-Peck, illus. Isabel Greenberg. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2017.

The study of Ancient Egypt is one of the most common throughout  New Zealand schools, I know I once worked for the reference team at Schools Services in the National Library.

This picture book sized reference book for primary, intermediate and even secondary school students would be hard to beat as a reference text. It is the story of boy Pharoah Tutankhamun and the discovery of his burial tomb by Howard Carter in 1922.

It looks at the rivalry between Carter and American Theodore Davis over rights to search for the tomb and the union of Carter and Lord Carnarvon that found the Tomb in the valley of the kings.

The Egyptian Gods and burial rites are simplified so that they are understandable by young students and the mummification procedures make for gruesome but fascinating reading.

The mystery of the curse of opening the Tomb and of Tutankhamun’s death are updated from recent forensic studies and the significance of the find in archaeological terms is described.

The Coup de Grace of this publication is undoubtedly the brilliant illustrations of Isabel Greenburg. She has been true to the Egyptian style and clearly shows the plan of the tomb, the descriptions of the treasures and artifacts found in the tomb and of course of the sarcophagus itself. Her portraits of Carter, Carnarvon and Davis are superb as are those of the Egyptian Gods and Pharoahs.

This book leaves for dead any webpages that may cover the same subject. An essential purchase for school libraries with the cover saying read me.

Sky High by David Hill, Illus. Phoebe Morris

July 17, 2017 Comments off

sky highSky High by David Hill, Illus. Phoebe Morris. Pub.Penguin Random House, 2017.

When Jean Batten flew back to Britain after setting the record for the journey from Britain to Australia the Press lauded her as “the girl who has beaten all the men” and again when she landed at Mangere Airport after a World record flight of 23, 000 Kilometers in 11 days 45 minutes she was named Hine-o-te-Rangi “daughter of the skies.”

She opened the Aviation Pioneers Pavilion at MOTAT in 1977 and then we forgot her. Five years after her death on the island of Majorca her death was discovered. What happened in between is a mystery.

Sensitively told by David Hill and dramatically illustrated by Phoebe Morris. Her first double page spread of a small plane tossing in the turbulent skies with the sight of New Zealand in the distance sets the standard.

These two worked together on Hillary’s story First to the Top and this is another winner.

For primary and intermediate students. There is a timeline of Jean Batten’s life in the back and the covers show a map of the World with Batten’s flights marked. No space wasted in this book.

A quality publication.



Categories: Non Fiction, Picture book Tags:

Blue Peter best Book Awards 2017 Winners

July 13, 2017 Comments off

anti boredomThe Anti-Boredom Book Of Brilliant Outdoor Things to do by Andy seed, Illus. Scott Garrett. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2017.

These two books are not fiction titles but are equally valuable in getting kids to do things during the holidays for instance and to inspire their imaginations.

Fun can be created simply in your own environment with a little effort and imagination. In the outdoors Make a garden, photograph things up close, play pooh sticks (my favourite), make a shelter, enjoy sponge bombs, create sand art and a host of other activities.

You should never be bored again if you have this book. Of course there are some silly things in here as well but you will have to read it yourself to find out what they are.

Excellent illustrations show you how and highlight the fun to be had. So turn off the tv, shut down the play station and get outside for some fun.

Aimed at primary and intermediate school aged pupils.

book of meThe Book of Me by Adam Frost, illus. Sarah Ray. Pub Bloomsbury Childrens Books, 2017.

This is a book that helps you take a good look at yourself, the things that you do and the people who are the most important in your life like your dad and mum.

It gets you to look at the things that you like and dislike, what makes you happy and sad and how you would like the world to be. It suggests ways in which you can test yourself.

Where are you most ticklish? If you had a tail what would you prefer? can you snap your fingers or juggle?

And your parents. Do they embarrass you in front of your friends? How does your dad dance to music – like a rock god, a total freak out or just a head bob.

Lots of laughs to make that rainy day pass quickly. For Primary and intermediate kids



I Am Brian Wilson by Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman.

July 3, 2017 Comments off

brian wilsonI Am Brian Wilson by Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman. Pub. 2016 Coronet.

George Martin called Brian Wilson a musical genius whose album with the Beach Boys titled Pet Sounds had a big influence on the Beatles classic Sergeant Pepper. God only Knows was Paul McCartney’s favourite song but for me it was Do It Again and the classic Crystals song Then I kissed Her.

Brian Wilson was a major influence in my musical life and in the history of rock music. You would never know that he was deaf in his right ear and that after taking LSD when he was 22 years old he started to hear voices that told him he was worthless, that he should give up and that they would kill him. He tried everything to get rid of them including therapy, drugs and alcohol all documented in this book.

Fortunately he heard other voices that created harmony and harmony was what Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys were all about. That Brian was able to manage his life is miraculous as he lost his two brothers Carl and Dennis, came under the influence of Doctor Landy who almost wrecked him and finally found his second wife Melinda who managed his moods and gave his life meaning.

Lots of music and songs in this book but do not expect an ordered chronological sequence of events. Brian can take you from 1963 to 1997 in the space of a sentence but it is all part of the man and for me it was riveting reading.

There is more to the book than this but you cannot help liking the man and it is all good vibrations in a little deuce coupe.