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Archive for the ‘Non Fiction’ Category

Ernest Rutherford. Just an Ordinary Boy by Maria Gill, Illus. Alistair Hughes. Pub. Upstart Press, 2023

February 2, 2023 Comments off

An easy to read picture book on the boyhood life of arguably New Zealand’s finest scientist Ernest Rutherford.

Aimed at primary and intermediate age children the picture book part of this publication looks at an ordinary boy growing up in small town New Zealand in a family of 14 children.

Young Ernest played rugby was fascinated by lightening and the world of science and failed early exams as he sought scholarships for higher learning. He persisted and was ultimately successful and became one of the mist revered scientists alongside the likes of Einstein, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday and Marie Curie.

He was Knighted, appears on the NZ$100 note and has a statue in Shanghai showing him holding two parts of an atom apart in recognition of his achievement of being the first man to split the atom.

In the back is a time line of his achievements, his experiments with radiation and a glossary of scientific terms..

Alastair Hughes illustrations paint a picture of a bygone era in which young Ernest grew up and show the wonder he had for science..

Excellent cover.Maria Gill on the money as usual.

Be My Baby by Ronnie Spector with Vince Waldron. Pub. MacMillan 2022.

January 11, 2023 Comments off

The history of Rock ‘n roll is a gateway into how society has changed over the years. This autobiography of Ronnie Spector not only tells her story and that of the Ronettes but throws light on what was happening in society especially the civil rights movement from the early 1960’s onwards. It also tells the story of one of the greatest rock ‘n roll songs ever Be my Baby.

Ronnie Bennett was born of Afro Cherokee mother and white European father and grew up in Spanish Harlem New York a mixed race community and home of the great Apollo Theatre. She was neither black nor white and struggled with this in the early part of her life but all barriers break down when it comes to music.

She formed a group with her sister Estelle and her cousin Nedra and they watched American Bandstand in the morning and practiced routines and harmonies with all the popular songs. Her first influence was Frankie Lymon a 13 year old singer whose hit was “Why do fools Fall in Love” a great song. They got their first job as dancers and backing singers with Joey Dee and The Starlighters at the Pepperment Lounge in New York and Miami and after an unsuccessful attempt at fame contacted the man she was to marry Phil Spector.

The profile of Phil Spector is one of the highlights of this book and you will have to read it yourself if you want to know more and if I were you I would do it. It does discuss the “wall of Sound” technique developed by Spector and it’s influence on rock music.

It is written in easy style and you can flow through it with ease. At the back is a timeline and a discography and there are photographs as well.

There is more to the book than that as Ronnie bedded a number of high profile artists as you would guess and there is the music. Suitable for anyone with an interest in rock ‘n roll and the social development that resulted from it.

The New Zealand Seashore Guide by Sally Carson & Rod Morris. Pub. Potton & Burton, 2022

December 24, 2022 Comments off

This comprehensive guide to the plants and animals of the New Zealand seashore will become the definitive work on this subject for use in schools and for those interested in this subject.

It is a quality publication with a strong cover and is designed for study and just flicking through because it is fascinating. Every plant and animal portrayed has its anatomical name plus Maori name where available and the information is simply displayed and very readable for primary children to adults.

New Zealand has over 15,000kms of coastline, some inaccessible but most available to people. The study of the seashore and inter tidal zone is one of the most studied subjects in the School curriculum and this makes this book an essential purchase for every school.

Most NZers live less than 10km from the coastline whether it be a sandy beach, a mudflat or a rocky shore and each environment will have a splash zone, a high tide zone, a mid tidal zone a low tidal zone and a sub tidal zone. All these environments are different and the animals and plants have adaptations suitable to these different zones.

Of all the animals studied my favourites were the star fish. There are twelve different star fish on the NZ coast and their body parts are arranged around a central axis because they have no head or tail. The Seven-armed sea star is bright orange in colour and they are covered with short white spines. It lives mostly near Kaikoura and has a preference for intertidal snails. Yummy.

Rod Morris’s photographs are outstanding. he captures not only the environment but the characteristics of each plant and animal.

There is a full and comprehensive Index and all information is logically presented and easy to find.

This is surely an award winning book. Don’t miss it, it is brilliant.

NZ SERIES: Weather and Climate New Zealand by Sandra Carrod, graphics by Karsten Schneider. Pub.Oratia, 2022

October 25, 2022 Comments off

It is said the New Zealanders talk about the weather more than any other subject and if you read this very informative book you will understand why.

It begins by defining the difference between climate and weather then goes on to show the main influences in creating the weather that we get here. It starts with the water and carbon cycles, explains global atmospheric circulation including the effects of the earth’s rotation, the jet stream, the oceans, El Nino and La Nina.

Best section is the explanation of the greenhouse effect and how it causes climate change. Not all the heat from the sun is radiated back into space because of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere-water vapour, Carbon dioxide methane, nitrous oxide and man made gases like fluorinated gases from refrigeration. These gases keep heat in and it is a careful balance. Man has upset that by living on Earth and released carbon into the atmosphere by burning coal and oil etc. The facts about this are astonishing.

How to read the weather map, the elements of weather-snow, rain, wind fog and mist are explained and how storms form.

You don’t need any other book about weather and the graphics and photographs illustrate everything.

The best book on this subject for primary intermediate and high school that I have read

Inside Bubble Earth. Recycling by Des Hunt. Pub. OneTree House, 2022.

June 16, 2022 Comments off

This is one of the best books I have read on the problem of rubbish disposal and waste created on planet Earth and where humans must go to ensure that we survive. It looks at the past to compare how rubbish was disposed of and to the future urging that sustainability and biodegradable products are the salvation to the wastage problem.

The reason why it is so good is because it is written as a story by an author who is a skilled writer of fiction and his technique explains the issues in a very readable and understandable way for children. There are six short chapters with bite size pieces of information and diagrams and examples from New Zealand incidents to show what is happening here.

It begins by comparing a Stone Age archeological site and notes that all the rubbish has gone as it has rotted away because it is organic materials. He looks at the changing nature of human rubbish through the Bronze Age and Iron Age to today which he calls the Age of Plastics.

He looks at the NZ example of the Fox River site that was eroded away by floods and the nature of the plastic rubbish which was still in tact. He then looks at the chemistry of plastic to show why it is indestructible and a problem for humankind.

I learnt a lot from this 64 page picture book and in the back is a Glossary of Terms used, an accessible Index and further reading including the web site Recyclekiwi.co.nz.

This is an essential purchase for any school and for the home. The information found here is better and more understandable than a web site. Great photographs too.

The Maori Picture Dictionary. Te Papakupu Whakaahua. Illus. by Josh Morgan & Isobel Te Aho-White. Words by Margaret Sinclair & Ross Calman

January 30, 2022 Comments off

This picture book sized dictionary of Maori words translated into English is not the sort of book you pick up and read cover to cover although I did this and you might too as it is so interesting.

It is a dictionary formatted in alphabetical order with each word, concept and activity given the English word, the Maori translation and a picture of what it is all about. Simple and very effective for those young readers learning the Maori language or just needing to find out what a word is in either language.

Some of the concepts that are in here are whiteboard papa ma, photographer kaiwhakaahua, bald moremore, astronaut kaipokai tuarangi, judo nonoke and many other actions of modern living.

It brings the Maori language into the modern world for children and students of the Maori language.

The illustrations are superb for each word and in the back there are topics of the Home I te kaianga, The classroom I te taiwhanga ako and the marae ki runga marae in which all the language associated with these areas [presented.

This publication is finished with a Maori to English word list. A very useful and beautifully presented publication for schools and the home.

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