Archive for the ‘Non Fiction’ Category

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.

Finding Gobi. The True story of one Little Dog’s Big Journey by Dion Leonard

June 12, 2017 Comments off

finding gobiFinding Gobi. The True story of one Little Dog’s Big Journey by Dion Leonard. Pub HarperCollins, 2017.

Animal stories are close to children’s hearts, they evoke joy, apprehension and tears and this heart warming story is no exception.

Dion is a seasoned ultramarathon runner and during a 155 mile race across the Gobi desert he is accompanied by a little dog whom he names Gobi. After the race finishes he has become so attached to Gobi that he wants to take her/him (I am not sure what sex Gobi is) home with him.

Complications and drama begin. The costs of such an exercise are huge and the quarantine restrictions in China and in Scotland where Dion lives are prohibitive.

Dion tells his story and people start sending in funds to help bring Dion to Scotland and then Gobi goes missing. What has happened to the little dog? Has someone dognapped her/him for money? Is he/she still alive?

Dion has to go back to China to find her/him. Read the rest to see what happens.

I loved the story with Gobi also given a voice, but the story of the endurance race through the Gobi gripped me as well.

Easy to read with high appeal to reluctant readers from Primary school upwards even to adult and young adult. The story is amazing.

Into The White. Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey by Joanna Grochowicz.

April 27, 2017 Comments off

into whiteInto The White. Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey by Joanna Grochowicz.  Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2017.

When I went to school the ill fated race to the South Pole between Robert Falcon Scott and Norwegian Roald Amundsen was known by everybody. It’s a story that should never be forgotten and thankfully Joanna Grochowicz has written this simply told and accessible account of Scott’s famous journey.

Joanna lays the facts before you to let you the reader understand and decide why this journey ended so badly. Many blame Scott himself for being a poor decision maker and being aloof from his men. There is ample evidence for you to make up your own mind but I think it is fair to say that if the facts surrounding this trip were put on the table today, no body would go for it.

Patriotism can be an overly persuasive emotion and I think it was with this trip. Showing the Norwegians whose boss got in the way of safety. Scott had mistakenly taken ponies and motorised sleds. Both failed. Amundsen took dogs, 200 of them. He finished with 11.

Scott suffered appalling weather conditions on the Great Ice Barrier. Heavy snow caused men to sink up to their shins and ponies to leave holes a foot deep. White out conditions demoralised the men as they tried to pick a course through a blank wall of white. Scott planned for 16 kilometers a day but they were lucky if they did half that.

The journey across the Great Ice Barrier up the Beardmore Glacier and across the High Plateau was formidable . Food and fuel were short, the men were constantly freezing. Sometimes to stand outside for 2 minutes would cover the men from head to foot in snow. That they got so far was miraculous. After the horses died the men dragged their heavy supply sleds themselves.

Read this superb account to find out the full story. It is gripping.

Sarah Lippett’s illustrations at the head of every chapter enhance the reality of the story and Herbert Ponting’s photographs are astonishing. Take a look at the photo of Dr Atkinson’s frostbite to see what it looks like.

This book like the story of Scott, Bowers, Oates, Wilson and Evans is unforgettable. The last days will bring a tear to your eye.

Wide appeal from primary students through to Young adult.

Bloodsuckers. The most irritating creatures of all. by Paul Zborowski.

April 19, 2017 Comments off

bloodsuckersBloodsuckers. The most irritating creatures of all. by Paul Zborowski. Pub. New Holland, 2017.

There is something about bloodsuckers that inspires fear and horror in human beings and this splendid publication will not make it any easier for you but it will put you right on what they are and how they go about their work.

Starting with leeches that need blood to mate and after cutting into you can gorge themselves on your blood  up to several times their own weight. They can be useful in medicine and are still used in plastic surgery. The one that lives up a hippopotamus’s bum is very interesting. After gorging itself the short sharp movements of the hippopotamus’s tail help remove it.

Mosquitoes, tics, bedbugs, tsetse flies, lice and others are also covered plus the sea creatures the lamprey and hagfish. The one everybody wants to know about is of course the vampire bat and when you know it can run along the ground shave your hair and drink without you knowing, your blood will really curdle.

Terrific photographs, computer generated diagrams and information bubbles on life cycle of these creatures makes this book an essential purchase for primary school libraries. Its a great start for research by secondary school students and there are online addresses at the back of the book for further research.

A very classy publication.


Tinui – The last Post by Michelle O’Connell.

April 2, 2017 Comments off

Tinui last postTinui – The last Post by Michelle O’Connell. Pub. BMS Books, 2017.

This is as moving, accurate and powerful picture book about Gallipoli and those who have fallen in war, as I have read.

Tinui is a small town in the Wairarapa with a reputation as being the first town to remember ANZAC day on 25 April 1916. On the hill above Tinui is a large cross and every year people come from all over New Zealand to remember the fallen.

This story was inspired by Linda Morgan who played the Last Post and Reveille at the 100th remembrance day in 2016. The illustrations in pen and ink and watercolours of her playing are some of the most moving in this book.

The memorial service is shown with 3 tiger moth bi planes flying over head. All those that fell from Tinui are featured as is Mary Innes the only woman to fall.

At the back of the book are suggested project ideas for teachers and portions of writing from Wairarapa students on what ANZAC Day meant to them. The one that got me was by Mathew Byl who wrote “if I was in war I would hate to see my friends shot and dying right beside me”. Me too Mathew.

This book has wide appeal for everybody but particularly valuable in schools. The illustrations and written text are moving.