Archive for the ‘Non Fiction’ Category

Lost Wonders. Vanished Creatures of Aotearoa by Sarah Ell, illus. Phoebe Morris.

February 11, 2020 Comments off

lost wondersLost Wonders. Vanished Creatures of Aotearoa by Sarah Ell, illus. Phoebe Morris. Pub. Allen&Unwin, 2020.

This very readable non fiction work about lost animal species in New Zealand is one of the most fascinating works i have ever read. Not only does Sarah Ell describe the geological history of New Zealand and the species that lived here she gives the Maori legends and stories that surrounds great beasts like the moa and the Haast eagle and smaller creatures live the huia and piopio.

80 million years ago when the continent of Zealandia, on which New Zealand sits, broke away from Gongwana, it carried a cargo of plants and animal life that thereafter would develop in isolation. While Haast and other geologists found evidence of the moa and the Haast Eagle in the early 19th century it wasn’t until  in the 1970’s in Hawks Bay that Jean Wiffen found evidence of dinosaurs. After the dinosaurs died off 65 million years ago NZ became Land of the Birds and was until European settlement in the 1800’s.

Amazingly while 24% of species have disappeared from NZ since Human settlement on the Chatham Islands the extinction rate is over 50%. Read this story too.

Part 2 of this book features species that have been lost and then found such as the Takahe found in Dusky Sound in 1848.

Phoebe Morris’s illustrations are superb. This wonderful; non fiction work should be in every school library. For primary Intermediate and High school.


Today in New Zealand History by Neill Atkinson, David Green, Gareth Phipps & Steve Watters.

January 21, 2020 Comments off

today in historyToday in New Zealand History by Neill Atkinson, David Green, Gareth Phipps & Steve Watters. Pub.  2020.

There are hours of fascinating reading about true events in New Zealand’s short history in this recent publication.This non fiction work goes through the calendar year and for each day there is an historical event. For instance Samuel Marsden planting the first grape vines in New Zealand in 1819.

The first thing I did when I got this novel was go through all the family birthdays to see what happened on that date. My wife for instance has a birthday on the same date as the National Council of Women was formed in 1896. My grand children were fascinated by what happened on their birthdays too and we had great discussion about it.

Social, historical, war, music, artistic, sporting and tragic events are recalled. Each entry has at least half a page of information but mostly whole pages. The facts are concise, not biased and are accompanied by a photograph or diagram or cartoon. The ownership and artistic works of these photos etc is documented in the back of the publication.

Crucial to any book like this is a good Index and this book has one. Check out the Beatles and you leaarn of their landing in NZ get on 21 June 1964 with plastic tikis around their necks. This is an updated version and includes events like the Christchuch Massacre on 15 March 2019 and the World title for the women’s netball Team last year.

This is not only for school libraries but also for the home. I don’t often promote books for sale but at less than 40 bucks this book is  a must  have. Check it out when it is released in February.

The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones by Rich Cohen.

December 14, 2019 Comments off

stonesThe Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones by Rich Cohen. Pub. Headline Publishing Group, 2016.

From the author “you’ve never seen or heard the Stones unless they are playing in a bar, you’ve had 3 drinks, Charlie has gotten loose, Keith has found his groove and Mick has remembered who he really is.” I think that is about right and how I would have loved to see them play like that.

This very literate, entertaining, opinionated, factual and perceptive book not only about the Rolling Stones but also about the cultural movements that occurred in the 60’s & 70’s when they were in there heyday. Jagger once said “I’d rather be dead than singing Satisfaction when I’m 45″. Well he is mid 70’s now and still performing. Keef seems to think they will keep going till they can’t.

The Stones were wild,”Would you let your daughter date a Rolling Stone” screamed the press. They were middle class boys who dressed and acted down unlike the Beatles who were working class boys who were dressed up like the middle class. The Beatles were better musicians in my opinion but the Stones had the blues roots that I adored. The contrast between the two bands is a theme of this book.

I first heard the Stones on the radio on the West Coast doing It’s All Over Now but the song that grabbed me was Little Red Rooster. The blues was everything from the beginning for the Stones and they owed this to Brian Jones. His decline within the band and his death is another theme of this book.

The book tells how the Stones got together as Brian’s band and how Andrew Oldham changed the dynamics by encouraging Mick and Keith to write the songs. Charlie became the safety valve between factions in the band and Bill followed the girls and laid down the base line. Even  the author  was mocked by Charlie when he first got the job of interviewing the band. Keith said “if Charlie mocks you you are alright, if not he is silent”

Cohen also looks at the perspective that the story of the Stones is about drugs. Yes and no. Keith certainly, Mick often in the early days, Brian big time, Charlie and Bill never. The raid on Keith’s house at Redlands is described as is Brian’s decline and death and Marianne Faithful’s overdose in Australia. All the goss including the alleged Mars Bar.

All the albums, all the big songs are discussed, plus the view by Bruce Springsteen that “what more can a poor boy do except to sing for a rock n roll band” is the best line from a rock n roll song. Ever. From Street Fighting Man if you don’t know. The account of Altamont will blow your mind.

I’m not going to tell you any more you can find out for yourself by reading this very readable and fascinating biography of  the band that has been called The greatest Rock n Roll Band in the World. Mick was not pleased when this title was given to them by Sam Cutler the organiser of the Stones free concert in memory of Brian Jones in 1969 and of Altamont.

There is so much in this book that even if you don’t like the Stones, you get a portrait of the 60’s & 70’s which in my opinion is one of the best ages that people on this planet have had. I feel privileged to have been a Boomer and witnessed it all. I can relive it through this book.

Go ahead spoil yourself this Xmas by reading a rock n roll book of real substance. The author concludes that history gives way to legend about anything with the Stones.

Into The Forest by Christiane Dorion, illus. Jane McGuinness.

November 28, 2019 Comments off

forestInto The Forest by Christiane Dorion, illus. Jane McGuinness. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2019.

Apart from the sea, the next biggest provider of ecological habitat are the forests of the World. There are many of them and this book broadly divides them into Deciduous, Coniferous and Tropical.

Of course we can add man made forests now as humankind realise the folly of exploiting the forests for their own use.

Every tree in the forest is a world teeming with life from the top of the tree to the ground cover below. Forests are rich with food and every animal group not in the sea can be found in the forests.

Each broad forest group is portrayed through the seasons, as a home for animals and for what they provide for the planet. A section at the end shows how to plant a tree and warns that trees are faced with more threats than ever before. This book was helped by

The illustrations are amazing. Animals, trees, habitats and seasons are drawn with accuracy and feeling. Treat forests well is the message, life depends on them. As always a non fiction work these days stands or falls on it’s ability to compete with information on the Internet. This book leaves the Internet for dead.

TOHORA The southern Right Whale by Ned Barraud

October 20, 2019 Comments off

TohoraTOHORA The southern Right Whale by Ned Barraud. Pub. Potton & Burton.

Ned Barraud is one of the best illustrators in NZ especially of wildlife and in this excellent publication he gives the reader a real sense of affection for the whale that got it’s name because it was the right whale to hunt.

From the 1840’s the southern right whale was hunted to near extinction with nearly 40, 000 of them being slaughtered, cooked for their whale oil and their baleen used for the corsets of European women.

This picture book sized work is a hopeful look at the survival of the right whale prompted no doubt by the visitation and frolicking of a right whale in Wellington Harbour a couple of years back. An area that it once thrived.

Illustrations of the Right whale are superb.

Excellent information in simple yet powerful text. Better than anything you can get on the Net. For primary and intermediate levels.



Tell Me. What children really want to know about bodies, sex and emotions by Katharina von der Gathen, illus. Anke Kuhl.

October 17, 2019 Comments off

tellTell Me. What children really want to know about bodies, sex and emotions by Katharina von der Gathen, illus. Anke Kuhl. Pub. Gecko press, 2019.

All families should have a book like this in the home if they have young children. Recommended as suitable for children 8 and up, it answers questions asked anonymously by children involved in classes with the author who is an experienced sex educationalist.

The answers are direct and heart warming and they are illustrated in a way to avoid embarrassment and to smile over. Gee I wish I knew all of this when I was young.

It covers more than the sex act and the sex organs although it does answer the question that males are obsessed with – “how long is a penis?”. It also answers the following What makes sex fun? What is homosexual? Do babies get made every time you have sex? What is porn? What is sexual harassment? What happens if you’re pregnant and you don’t want to have a baby? and the birth process and changes at puberty.

I liked it and thought it was fun and avoids embarrassment. It is easy for a care giver or parent to open discussion with their children using this book which incidentally opens from south to North. Anke Kuhl’s illustrations are a star.

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Wildlife of Aotearoa by Gavin Bishop

September 27, 2019 Comments off

wildlifeWildlife of Aotearoa by Gavin Bishop. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2019.

Gavin Bishop describes this fully comprehensive, large picture book sized, encounter with New Zealand’s amazing array of wildlife, as a “leap into the unknown”. Well it is known now thanks to him, in the best non fiction work I have read this year and one of the best ever.

Superbly illustrated with a Maori component and a strong emphasis on conservation and the future.

It begins and ends with a giant squid and it’s famous eye, on the front and back inside covers. Then comes god of the sea Tangaroa and five long-finned eel larvae who begin their journey through the multiple environments of Aotearoa.

The whales, fish, dolphins and sea life of the oceans around New Zealand are first followed by the bird life and we learn that a third of these birds are endangered and that Shag droppings have killed all the trees on Whero Island in Foveaux strait.

The 15,000 kilometers of life on the shoreline is followed by wetlands, Estuaries and rivers and we learn that the Lug worm leaves decorative castes on the sand and is frequently used by fishermen as bait.

Effects of Polynesian settlement is next with the introduction of rats, pigs chickens and dogs of which only the dogs and rats survived. Life above and below the tree-line follows then European settlement which continued the clearance of native bush started by the Maori till now when only 20% remains.

Domesticated wildlife such as cattle, sheep pigs and deer are covered and their effect on native species,as is wildlife in the towns and cities and in the house.

This superb work ends with safe places for wildlife in the sea and on the land. Outstanding drawings and illustrations with a Maori context throughout.

A phenominal piece of work for everyone. essential purchase for all schools and there is a place in the home for it too.