Archive for the ‘Non Fiction’ Category

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.

The Genius of Bugs & Activity Book by Simon Pollard.

November 29, 2016 Comments off


The Genius of Bugs & Activity Book by Simon Pollard. Pub Te Papa Press, 2016.

Issued in conjunction with the Bug Lab exhibition at Te Papa these two science books about bugs are exceptional publications.

The emphasis is on selected bugs that use Weapons, Teamwork, Engineering and Deception to ward off enemies and attract their prey.

Take the Bombardier beetle that blows a super-hot, stinky gas powered spray out of it’s bottom and you are right in a very interesting book.

Add the Spitting spider, the brain surgeon Jewel wasp that surgical implants it’s eggs inside a cockroaches brain and the Japanese honey bees that surround an enemy and cook it alive with their body heat and you have an action packed read.
New Zealand Wetas , the  Harvestman spider plus my favourite the Moss piglet add flavour and science comes alive.

Splendidly illustrated with close up photographs and written in large font with bite sized information boxes and the package is complete.


Genius of Bugs Activity Book by Simon Pollard. Pub Te Papa Press, 2016.

The Activity book allows juniors to make their way through a spider maze, solve a word find puzzle, connect the dots to discover an insect and answer true or false questions. Answers are in the back of course.

Helps juniors connect with the subject of insects  in the above book.

Broad appeal over the whole primary/ intermediate school and plenty of boy appeal.

Always Managing. Harry. My Autobiography by Harry Redknapp

October 31, 2016 Comments off

always-managing-harryAlways Managing. Harry. My Autobiography by Harry Redknapp. Pub.Ebury press, 2013.

I first saw Harry Redknapp play for West Ham in 1971. He wore his shorts down to his knees at a time when it was fashionable to show 4 cheeks. Whenever he got the ball and ran with it the crowd would yell ‘Arry.

He played with some wonderful players like Bobby Moore, Billy Bonds, Trevor Brooking and he talks about these players and other famous players like George Best in a most illuminating insight into the evolution of English football from the 1960’s to present day.

To say football at the time England won their only World Cup and football played in the Premier league today is vastly different would be an understatement. Harry played and managed 6 clubs who are in the Premier League today or have been recently, he knows what he is talking about.

The bullying nature of the English school system meant he came out of school barely able to write. He was a wizard at ball control and running and he soon made his name in football. He married an Essex girl and is still with her after more than 40 years. He almost lost his life in an Italian car accident and he made and lost many friends while involved with the beautiful game. He almost became England Manager but held his mouth wrong.

An immensely enjoyable autobiography for football fans all over the world no matter what your affiliations. Harry Redknapp is a witty man and tells a good yarn. I will never view Bobby Moore and West Ham club in the same light again.

From Moa to Dinosaurs. Explore & discover ancient New Zealand by Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud

September 22, 2016 Comments off

moa-dinosaursFrom Moa to Dinosaurs. Explore & discover ancient New Zealand by Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud. Pub. Potton & Burton, 2016.

This is the sort of priceless non fiction book that cannot be bettered by any one web site. It is altogether in one superb reference book brilliantly illustrated by Ned Barraud.

Gillian Candler’s simple and authoritative written text is  accessible to children of all ages. It is the 5th outing by these experience writers, their other titles are at the link at the bottom of this review.

The book starts 180 Million years ago when new Zealand was part of the great southern land of Gondwana. Over millions of years it split off with Australia then discarded the Aussies to form the undersea continent of Zealandia and finally to the islands we have today.

New Zealand was largely  a land of ancient forests populated  by birds when the Maori first came. We had nine species of Moa with the females almost twice as big as the males. Moas were hunted by the largest eagle ever, the Haast eagle and we know this because of talon scratches on old moa bones.

NZ once had a fresh water crocodilian of up to 3 metres in length evidence of which is in the ancient Central Otago lake Manuherikia. Not a lot of people know that.

All the evidence for the facts provided are explained in a little box within the illustrations and text titled How Do we Know? There is no doubt about it.

This is a beautiful publication for everyone and essential for every school library.

Best and Bravest. Kiwis awarded the Victoria Cross by Glyn Harper and Colin Richardson.

August 23, 2016 Comments off

best bravestBest and Bravest. Kiwis awarded the Victoria Cross by Glyn Harper and Colin Richardson. Pub. HarperCollins, 2016.

This very readable and modestly written book on all thirty New Zealanders who have won the Victoria Cross for bravery in battle should have wide appeal for boys of all ages. It is not boys own stuff, it is just the facts as the action that led to the award happened. It covers every war from the New Zealand Wars to Afghanistan.

After finishing the book I thought is there  a common factor in the type of man who won the VC? They were mostly small town boys who worked the land, many were over 30 years of age and all showed a lack of fear in the turmoil of battle. I doubt I could have been so brave.

There was also an element of foolhardiness in their actions as they strove to take a machine gun nest or rescue colleagues who looked doomed. They mostly used rifles, Mills bombs or hand grenades in battle and often hand to hand bayonet struggles.

But the overwhelming similarity was their modesty and that they saw their actions as part of a team action. None thought they were the bravest, all thought they were lucky and on the right spot at the right time. All thought others were braver than them. Many died and were awarded the Cross after death.

In the back of the book are all award winners, a breakdown of Army structure and the weapons used in battle. Illustrations by Colin Richardson enhance the drama and achievements of each medal winner. Wait till you read about Jimmy Ward who crawled out on the wing of a Wellington bomber, mid flight to put out a fire. Stunning.


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