Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Rush to Riches. Kauri and Gold by Gordon Ell.

June 29, 2020 Comments off

rush richesRush to Riches. Kauri and Gold by Gordon Ell. Pub. Oratia, 2020.

Adapted from two books published in 1995 and 1996 this excellent non fiction work looks at the NZ gold rushes and the Kauri timber and gum industry in a way that can be easily accessed by primary and intermediate readers and researchers.

Where these industries took place, how the timber gum and gold were accessed, the effects on the landscape and the peopling of New Zealand and the economic outcomes for new Zealand are all covered. Excellent photographs of the people who exploited these resources and the lives they led plus the effects and attitudes of the Maori population.

Did you know that one kauri tree had enough timber to build 6 houses and that the biggest gold nugget found here was called The Honourable Roddy. The NZ Govt gave it to King George V as a coronation gift and he had it melted down for a golden tea service.

These and other very interesting facts are covered in this short publication. Invaluable for school libraries and a source of reference of NZ history.

The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate

June 23, 2020 Comments off

one bobThe One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate. Pub. HarperCollins, 2020.

Children love animal stories and so do I. This excellent novel for primary and middle school readers is a sequel to the award winning The One and Only Ivan.

Ivan is a silver backed gorilla who was taken from the jungle as a baby, brought up by humans and never understood that in his own community he would be in charge. He is a gentle giant and when confined to a small zoo off a major highway he is befriended by Bob a small dog who has been abandoned by humans.

Bob has a human care giver, Julia, who taught Ivan art, and still visits him and his elephant friend Ruby at the zoo. Bob has doubts about himself but a massive hurricane and tornado wreck the zoo putting all the animals and humans in jeopardy. Bo finds strengths that he never knew he had.

Superbly narrated by Bob who has doubts over whether dog is man’s best friend or that man is dogs best friend. See what you think yourself.

The illustrations by Patricia Castelao are superb and add a necessary dimension to the characters and the story. Don’t miss this beauty.

Blowing the Bloody Doors Off and Other lessons in Life by Michael Caine.

May 10, 2020 Comments off

blowingBlowing the Bloody Doors Off and Other lessons in Life by Michael Caine. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton 2018.

The best autobiography of a celebrity that I have read.

Born in Elephant & Castle in South London he became one of the most celebrated actors of our time and he is still working in his 80’s.

This book is really a handbook on how to be an actor. Being an actor is a combination of professionalism and courtesy. Preparation is the key, learn your lines until they are natural and you can relax. When you go on set be ready to go. Always be on time and if you think it is tough at the top you have never been at the bottom or have forgotten what it is like. Rehearsal is the work, the performance is the relaxation.

His favourite director was Lewis Gilbert who directed him in Alfie and Educating Rita but he learnt from every director he worked with good and bad. I am not going to tell you too much more except to give a few quotes from the book that will whet your appetite.

On an enforced retirement to Maimi in the 90’s he said  “however happy I kidded myself I was, I was never going to be happier than when I was making a film”

On opening Langan’s Brasserie he said “if ever I saw a waiter looking at their watch in front of customers they would be fired immediately”

On drugs -A friend gave some marijuana and I laughed for 5 hours. I knew that it affected memory and I had lines to learn I never touched it again”

On Richard Burton  -Richard was always very pleasant to me when he was sober but that was almost never”

Shelly Winters who starred in Alfie with him said this -I always like to screw the leading man on the first day. It gets it out of the way”

Michael Caine never runs anybody down he wanted people he worked with to want to work with him again. He talks well of his beautiful wife Shakira and said she only was attracted to him because of the way he treated his mother.

Not many people know that.

Unlocking the Universe. everything you need to travel through space and time. By Stephen & Lucy Hawking.

May 1, 2020 Comments off

unlockingUnlocking the Universe. everything you need to travel through space and time. By Stephen & Lucy Hawking. Pub. PenguinRandom House, 2020. Imprint Puffin.

This is the most mind blowing non fiction work I have ever read. It took me over 2 months to finish as it contains information and concepts that my brain could only handle in small doses. I needed to know everything in this book before I shed this mortal coil but I needed to understand it first. I am not sure I have but this is what I learned.

Einsteins theory of relativity predicts that our expanding Universe must have had  a beginning about 13.8 billion years ago known as the Big Bang. Since then scientists have conjectured that there are multi universes.

I always thought that everything is made of atoms but not so. Apparantly only 5% of the Universe is made from atoms and that includes all the 94 naturally occuring elements and the 24 man made elements. The rest of the Universe consists of 27% Dark matter that is not made from atoms as proven by the Large Hadron Collider and a staggering 68% of dark energy which is still a mystery.

How our own Milky Way Galaxy and the Solar System was formed plus a profile of all the Planets and other bodies makes fascinating reading and good advice “don’t fly to close to a Black Hole”.

How global warming has occurred and what the future of the planet may look like are excellent additions at the end of the book.

This book is easy to read with small amounts of beautifully illustrated  concepts by highly qualified scientists. High school students of a scientific bent could read it as could young adults.

I read it because i needed to know. You will love it too. give it a crack.

Wayside School. Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar, illus. Tim Heitz.

April 17, 2020 Comments off

wayside schoolWayside School. Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar, illus. Tim Heitz. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2020.

This short, easy to reader novel for primary and intermediate kids is crazy from the first to the last page. It is funny, it is serious, it is absurd, it is honest and it is always entertaining.

Wayside School is in a 30 story building. The headmaster is wacky, the teachers are eccentric and the pupils have every quirk and difference that society can muster. Still they get on well together with a lot of tolerance of each others behaviour.

Mrs Jewls class want to know what a million looks like so they start collecting toe and fingernails in an attempt to get a million. Will they do it? Then a large dark cloud they call the Cloud of Doom settles over the school and doesn’t move.

The cloud affects everybody’s behaviour and culminates on the day that the Ultimate school test finishes. Totally bizarre but very entertaining.

Tim Heitz’s illustrations help you picture the characters and the action.

Burn by Patrick Ness

March 24, 2020 Comments off

burnBurn by Patrick Ness. Pub. Walker Books, 2020.


This is a Young Adult novel out of the top draw. It is a novel of parallel worlds, of dragons, of the human condition, of action and ultimately a love story.

It is the year 1957 and the Cold War is heating up so to speak. The Russians are on the verge of putting a satellite into space and the Americans are worried about the spying implications of such a satellite.

This is real history but there is an additional element -DRAGONS. Yes dragons inhabit this planet living in the waste lands of Russia of Asia of Europe and the Americas. Humans and dragons rarely meet. They have lived a peaceful but uneasy existence for centuries but that is all about to change with the launch of the Russian satellite.

There is a prophecy that nuclear war will break out between men and rid the planet of humans thus allowing dragons who are immune from radiation to fly free. The satellite launch is going to be used to trigger the war.

Enter a religious cult of dragon worshipers called Believers in the person of Malcolm a ruthless 17 year old, gay killer whose job is to assassinate a teenage girl called Sarah Dewhurst as she is prophesised to stop the dragons.

The action and plot turns are staggering. Written in two parts the end of the first part seeming to be the end of the world. After a torrid conflict a claw of a dragon known as The Spur is used to transfer all the action into a parallel world where every character in the first part has a different life in the second world.

This is a brilliant transition but will the prophecy be true in this second world and is there hope for human kind and dragons?

Superbly told, totally compelling. If you miss this you will miss the best book of the year.

Maui’s Taonga Tales. A Treasury of stories from Aotearoa and the Pacific.

November 26, 2019 Comments off

mauis taongaMaui’s Taonga Tales. A Treasury of stories from Aotearoa and the Pacific. Pub. Te Papa Press, 2019.

December release

For me the most appealing aspect of Maori Culture has been the myths, legends and story telling along with the distinctive and unique art work. Maori highly regard their Toanga or treasures and this work combines Taonga relics with myth, legend and factual story telling.

The stories are narrated by that braggart and trickster, Maui and we get his famous legend of catching the North island with a special hook carved from a jaw bone plus Tane and the Kete of Knowledge amongst others.

There are modern stories of Willie Apiata’s bravery in battle and the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior plus the beautiful tale of Hinemoa and Tutanekai. Stories of bravery and heroism of Maori women and men in battle and in protection of their tribe and children also feature.

All are illustrated by eight contempory Maori Artists who combine the past styles with the new techniques of todays art. For me the most haunting artwork and story is that of Captain Cook’s confrontation and misunderstandings with first contact with Maori. The bodies on the beach make stunning artwork.

This work is for everybody. A powerful piece of publication. Don’t miss it.

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.



Ravi’s Roar by Tom Percival

August 22, 2019 Comments off

ravis roarRavi’s Roar by Tom Percival. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2019.

Ravi is not happy being the youngest and smallest in his family even his dog biscuit is bigger than him.  He is always last in a race for anything, he is not allowed on the big slide and he can never find anyone during hide and seek.

When he is last to the ice cream cart and there is none left, Ravi sees red and turns into a tiger that scares everyone off. this loses him all his friends and he has to make a big decision. Read it and find out what it is.

Easy to read script and illustrations that enhance the plot and highlight personality differences. Tom Percival is good at this sort of thing and two others of his picture books are on this blog. Check them out.

Coo Coo Kereru by Terry Fitzgibbon

August 18, 2019 Comments off

coo cooCoo Coo Kereru by Terry Fitzgibbon. Pub. New Holland, 2019.

A big reason why I like living in New Zealand is the birds and not just the feathered variety.

The kereru or blue green wood pigeon is one I have seen less and less of. I used to see many at Totaranui in the Abel Tasman National park where we used to camp every year and the last time I saw one was in the Christchurch botanical gardens.

You don’t just spot one, the first evidence of one in your presence is the noise it makes when it flies. They are a plump bird and are often clumsy in flight probably due to fermenting berries in their stomach.

like many NZ birds the kereru is in danger. Loss of habitat, animals such as the possum and man himself have reduced the life expectancy of the kereru from 20-25 years to 5-6 years. This is a tragedy.

This beautifully illustrated picture book tells the story of the life of a kereru which also features in the Maori legend of Maui. it helped him pull up the North Island.

This book has rhyming verse in the front and information in the back and it tells you what to do if you find an injured bird. The onus is on us all to save these beautiful gifts.

The information is compiled by Terry Fitzgibbon who works for the Department of Conservation.

Simple, easy to understand and excellent for study at primary and intermediate level.