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Archive for the ‘Non Fiction’ Category

Kia Kaha. A Storybook of Maori who Changed the World by Stacey Morrison & Jeremy Sherlock. Pub. Puffin 2021.

November 19, 2021 Comments off

At long last an accessible, hard cover book, detailing in short biographies, a hundred Maori individuals and groups who have changed the world we live in.

It starts with the 28th Maori Battalion who distinguished themselves in battle in WW2 and finishes with modern day storyteller Witi Ihimaera. In between there are groups such as Nga Kaiwhakapumau I Te Reo who worked to make Maori language an official language of NZ and rap group Upper Hutt Posse.

Sportsmen and women Buck Shelford, Michael Campbell, Farah Palmer plus others, musicians Delvanius prime who gave us the icon anthem Poi E and Stan Walker whose cancer battle inspired all of us

Film maker Taika Waititi, entertainer Howard Morrison and transgender artists Carmen Rupe and Georgina Beyer plus many others from history. Even Maui and Kupe get a mention.

Each biography is two pages long concentrating on their contribution and their tribal background, with each biography accompanied by an artistic portrait.

The language is easy and is accessible to students in primary and intermediate classes plus senior high school and adults.

The fact that there are so many is impressive, Billy T James my favourite comedian plus Mike King are there. So many.

At the start there is a timeline of all those in the book and at the end a profile of the artists who do the portraits and of the authors.

I imagine that another book could easily be written of those who missed out such as Kiri Te Kanawa.

A superbly presented hard back publication that would honour any book collection.

Categories: Biographies, Non Fiction

The History of Everywhere. All the Stuff that you Never Knew Happened at the Same Time by Philip Parker, Illus. by Liz Kay. Pub. Walker Books 2021

November 15, 2021 Comments off

This picture book sized text for everybody but especially children aged 7-16 years will interest you for hours. I loved it as it helps put World History in perspective and I am pleased to say new Zealand, Captain Cook and the Maori are mentioned, nearly always in the bottom right hand corner, which is where we are in the map of the World.

Basically divided into time zones beginning with The First Civilisations 4000-1000 BC and you may be surprised to know that the Aborigines of Australia are the oldest civilisation at 50,000 years ago.

The division is then in 1000 year lots right through to the Modern World 1990-2001 and even looks at the future with Covid and Global Warming being the issues that will dominate near future history.

The civilisations of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, China, The Aztecs, Japan Mughal India, the USA have special double page spreads as does the First and Second World wars.

Some of the more interesting titbits are – The Mahabharata written in 500BC is the longest ever epic poem at 100,000 verses, – The Nazca people of Peru made huge lines in the sand that can only been seen from the air in 100BC, – The Mayans in 683 built incredible temples and cities then completely abandoned them and less than 30 years after Columbus crossed the Atlantic the Spanish Conquistadors had destroyed the Aztec Empire.

You will find more outstanding facts when you read this book and all in time sequence.

The illustrations by Liz Kay are superb as are the bite sized pieces of information. You will not get better information than this on the net and certainly not in one place as it is with this book.

One of the best information books of the year for young kids.

Categories: Non Fiction Tags:

How Was That Built? The Stories Behind Awesome Structures by Roma Agrawal, Illus. Katie Hickey. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2021

November 9, 2021 Comments off

Roma Agrawal is an Award winning structural engineer who worked on the London Shard building, and in this large sized work, explains the forces that come to bear when building structures, especially those with height.

With the Shard she explains how to build tall buildings, the materials that are used and the techniques used to build the structure. For example the structural steel in the Shard weighs close to 12,500 metric tons which is more than 900 London buses or 70 blue whales.

The author also looks at old buildings such as The Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City which was built on top of an old Aztec temple on an island in a lake. I have seen it and it does look a trifle off centre.

The types of crane used in construction are described and other tall buildings such as the World’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa the core of which is concrete and steel to give the building stability.

Bridges, tunnels and domes are also described and there is a look to the future with building in outer space.

There is an extensive glossary at the back and all the buildings and techniques used are accurately illustrated by Katie Hickey in expert and easily understood ways.

A superb publication with information that could not be presented on the internet in the one place as it is with this book. I learnt a lot from this book and it is fascinating. Suitable for a wide range of reader from primary school through to young adult.

Takahe Maths by Julie Ellis, Illus. Isobel Te Aho-White. Pub. OneTree House, 2021

September 13, 2021 Comments off

The fall and rise of the Takahe in New Zealand a conservation story and a unique way to teach simple mathematics especially addition and subtraction.

The takahe is a flightless, plump bird with a magnificent red beak, red spindly legs and blue green plumage. When the Maori came there were approx. 10,000 Takahe in NZ. They were easy to catch and made a nice meal so numbers fell by 1,500.

The arrival of Europeans knocked off a further 1,700 so the Takahe hid in remote tussock covered mountainous valleys. Stoats and weasels ate their eggs and numbers reduced further. From 1800-1900 only 4 were spotted and the opinion was that they were extinct.

In 1948 Geoffrey Orbell found Takahe in the Murchison Mountains above lake Te Anau. Since then they have been the target of conservation and this classy picture book tells that story. Read it and see.

Clever text by Julie Ellis has the reader doing simple maths to plot the progress of the Takahe while perceptive illustrations create a pleasing picture book.

Essential picture book for the classroom and the home for juniors and pre school children. Don’t miss this one

Protest! Shaping Aotearoa by Mandy Hager. Pub. OneTree House, 2021

August 18, 2021 Comments off

This is one of the most meaningful books written about the influence that protest movements have had in shaping New Zealand as it is today. It is short, it is all encompassing, it is well documented and it directs readers to other sources of information particular that which is online.

Hone Heke started it all in 1840 against the Treaty of Waitangi which he called “smooth and oily, but treachery is hidden under it”. The Land Protests are the first protests covered and include bastion point through to Ihumatao. Employment issues follow with all the strikes over working conditions. particularly good reading about the 1912/13 Great strike and the 1951 Water front Strike which divided NZ.

The two protests that I was involved in The 1981 Springbok Tour and the Nuclear ships debate are well covered and give the wittiest quote from that master David Lange “there’s only one thing worse than being incinerated by your enemies and that’s being incinerated by your friends”.

The introduction notes the need to change attitudes and behaviours that the protest movements have brought and there is a print of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the principles of Non Violence.

Other chapters deal with racism, conscientious objectors, gender and disability Rights and up-to date issues of protecting the Environment and Climate change. There has been a change from protesting over local issues to NZ’s inclusion over global issues with the MeTo protests, Black lives Matter and Greta Thunberg and climate change.

Manger Hager does not preach she presents the facts and lets the reader decide how protests have shaped Aotearoa. In the back are references for all quotations and areas of further reading. Very well documented.

An essential purchase for school libraries.

Categories: Non Fiction Tags:

Remarkable Animal stories from NZ and Australia by Maria gill. Illustrated by Emma Huia Lovegrove. Pub. Scholastic, 2021.

August 12, 2021 Comments off

Twenty eight delightful stories about animals in NZ and Australia who have displayed acts of behaviour that have inspired humans. Bravery, humour, intelligence, empathy, difference from the norm, ability to understand human speech, companionship are all displayed in one of these stories.

Each story is told on a double page spread and includes a real image plus and artistic image drawn by illustrator Emma Huia Lovegrove. As well there is an amazing information box telling something about the animal concerned eg on Flint the drug detection dog it informs us that “dogs with longer snouts have a better sense of smell because they have room for more scent receptors” and on Lulu the cuddly kangaroo we learn that the Red Kangaroo can hop up to 70 kilometers per hour.

Its great to know that Einstein the Hugging camel has three eyelids which he can squeeze to keep out sand. And there is more. Check it out. Animal lovers will be delighted. I gave it to my granddaughters and they read it in one sitting.

You don’t get this sought of info and entertainment on a web site.

Categories: Non Fiction Tags:

The NZ Series: The New Zealand Wars by Matthew Wright. Pub. Oratia 2021

July 12, 2021 Comments off

This is the latest edition to the NZ Series of historical facts that are a very valuable resource for New Zealand schools. This is a concise short version of a larger work by the same author but it doesn’t scrimp on fact and is a powerful work in it’s own right for primary, intermediate and high school students.

The book makes some very strong points about all the battles and skirmishes that took place between 1845 and 1872 when the last shots were fired and it continues into the the 1880’s with the Parihaka protests.

The book delves into who took part in the wars on both sides and makes the point that at times the wars were like a civil war as some Maori fought against their own if tribal aspirations were to their advantage.

The consequences of the wars were overwhelming for Maori who were not fought into submission but made Maori engage in the NZ economy which was to overwhelm them.

The wars never ended the battlefield just shifted to parliament and the courts and they are still being fought today.

Great descriptions , diagrams, maps, art works and photos of all the battles. The photos of Parihaka are astonishing and some i have never seen before. This series is absolutely essential in NZ schools and concise enough for students to read a whole work.

Categories: Non Fiction Tags: ,

Inside Bubble Earth. Climate Change by Des Hunt. Pub. OneTree House for Creative NZ, 2021.

June 22, 2021 Comments off

This non fiction work for Intermediate and high school students clearly explains the science behind the causes of climate change, global warming and what can be done to avoid the major crisis that will effect all life on Earth.

It looks at our planet as a bubble using the Covid pandemic term that children are familiar with. Des Hunt shows how the resources that are on Earth especially those involved with Carbon, and that is all of life, are finite. They are neither lost or gained unless something from outer space interferes. He shows that all life is dependent on each other. Plants use carbon compounds by combining them with sun light and chlorophyll to produce sugars and return oxygen to the atmosphere. They also store carbon that becomes oil, gas and coal and have done so over the millions of years that Earth has existed.

Human beings have severely upset the balance particularly over the last 200 years by using up all the stored carbon and released it to the atmosphere. In 2020 humans inside Bubble earth used up 9 years of carbon storage in two minutes. The only energy we have coming into our bubble is that from the sun.

This excellent book also looks at the signs of global warming and climate change and the warming of the oceans and melting of the icecaps. The rise in sea levels, the once in 100 years climate events and the importance of the icecaps in reflecting a lot of energy from the sun back into space.

Carbon footprints of us all as individuals is discussed, what we can do about it and energy sources that we can use that is better for our bubble.

Well illustrated, simply explained, the details of the science and the chemical reactions, it is all there and anybody who doesn’t after reading this book is just plum ignorant. We have the next 40 years to sort it and for future generations it must be fixed. Don’t miss this excellent work.

Do Animals Fall in Love by Katharina von der Gathen, illus. by Anke Kuhl. Pub Gecko press, 2021.

May 27, 2021 Comments off

Written in response to questions asked about sex by children this highly informative and entertaining book is a must for inquisitive children aged 9 to 13 years.

it is divided into three main sections dealing with firstly The Art of Seduction or how animals get it together. secondly Mating which is both entertaining and informative and thirdly The babies Arrive which deals with pregnancy and looking after the new born.

Under the Art of Seduction animals prance dance sing and fight to attract a partner. musk ox bang heads together, kangaroos box, zebras bang necks together and swans dance and preen. Mating shows the wear with all that animals have and some of it is impressive but all accurate. And Arrive shows animals looking after the young. polar bears eat all summer and give birth in winter so that the young can suckle while in a snow cave. Ostriches are brought up by the males.

But do animals fall in love? Check this beautifully illustrated book out and see and get informed and have a good laugh at the same time. Domestic animals pets like dogs and cats are featured so children will be interested.

Fourteen Wolves by Catherine Barr, illus. Jenni Desmond. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2021.

May 6, 2021 Comments off

This is positively the best non fiction picture book I have read for many a year and it is about wolves an animal that features heavily in literature and myth and mythology of human beings. It is also a success story for humankind who are so often, in fact nearly always responsible for habitat destruction and the cause of species disappearing.

In the 1930’s the wolves disappeared from Yellowstone national park due to human beings and the ecosystem of the park started to collapse. Elks started to thrive as they were the food of the wolves. Elks ate all the shrubbery and grassland and started on the trees. Subsequently the whole cycle of life disappeared from the park including birds fish insects, everything.

In 1995 14 wolves were transferred from Canada as a first shipment of wolves back to Yellowstone and the fate of each of these wolves is monitored in this book. The wolves formed into breeding packs and scattered throughout the park along with other wolves who were brought in later.

As a result of this the life cycle habitat and environment of Yellowstone changed back to the way it was before.

The book is divided into three parts – Coming Home in which the wolves are transplanted back and how they adapt to their new environment. A New Yellowstone which tells how the park changed, and Understanding How Nature Works shows the food chain of the park and how all the living things there are connected.

Magnificently illustrated by Jenni Desmond which enhances Catherine Barr’s storytelling. A first class package that is essential for school libraries and for the home. Science and human behaviour at it’s best. A rewilding story.