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National Library of New Zealand - Te Puna Mātauranga O Aotearoa Services to Schools - Supporting literacy and learning

Create Readers

We want to help create motivated and engaged young readers. This blog is about children's and YA literature (especially New Zealand), literacy research, and ways to get, and keep, kids reading.

How toys float by Helen Whittaker

inflatable toysHelen Whittaker’s series, Toys and Forces,” pulls young readers into great physics lessons with the ultimate lure: toys.

The author illustrates the forces that cause floating toys to work, move, change direction, speed up, slow down, and stop moving. Simple illustrations and colourful photographs cover a variety of activities, from swimming to bodyboarding and boating.

Whittaker provides adequate detail regarding the physics of forces in language primary students will readily understand. The toys and activities depicted will be relatable to the majority of students while engaging them in a subject covered in most primary classrooms. Additionally, there are simple instructions included for making an elastic band-powered boat and conducting an experiment to discover whether eggs float in different liquids. The book also contains a contents page, glossary, and index to encourage greater literacy skills with non-fiction texts. Recommended for junior and middle primary students.

review by Courtney

image by asterion1

The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 by Lauren Tarshis

Titanic George and his sister are returning to the States with their aunt. They befriend a family travelling in third class. This is a simplified and not- too- graphic adventure aimed at young readers (say Year 3 - 6) about the Titanic disaster.

The black and white diagrams sprinkled through the text, and the realistic cover add extra appeal. Several useful teaching topics are raised within the less than 100 pages, including class differences, friendship and courage. There’s a brief Titanic summary after the last chapter and also the author’s own description of her Titanic connection in New York.

This is one of a series of “I survived “ stories by the same author. Check out how Tarshis creates them in this interview with her on the wordswimmer blog – and look out for her next one on the 9/11 events.

Review by Phil

image by ISD 191 Performing Arts Programs

Steel Pelicans by Des Hunt

FireworkPelly and Dean are best mates and call themselves the Steel Pelicans. Dean’s dare-devil attitude to fireworks gets them into trouble more than once.
When Pelly has to move from Australia to New Zealand, they are both sorry to say goodbye. Pelly eventually makes friends with Afi and while on holiday together, they come across a smuggling operation. When Dean arrives to join them, the tension between the three and Dean’s obsession with explosives could spell disaster for them all.

An action-packed story in Des Hunt’s inimitable style – good characters, New Zealand-feel, and a really good read.

review by Rosemary

image by Mydaas

Power and fuel by Pennie Stoyles and Peter Pentland

WindmillsHow energy and forces work can be confusing, but I think this book really helps to sort them out. The section on how energy, matter and forces interact explains very clearly what they are and what they do. I also liked the simple way potential and kinetic energy are defined and the different forms of energy that relate to power and fuel are explained.

There is good use of lots of illustrations that include photos and labelled diagrams. The interest level is kept high with short fact boxes of ‘try this’ activities, interesting facts about energy, and related famous people. Recommended.

Other books in the ‘Energy in action’ series are Earth and space, Everyday technology, Living things, Medicine and health, and The human body.

review by Heather

image by Brenda Anderson

He Pa AuroaIt becomes apparent very quickly that this book has been written by a person who understands the needs of students learning Te Reo. The dimensions of the book are perfect. It is a useful size for keeping in a satchel to have at hand when needed. The layout is straightforward and practical. It is a working document designed to be used with ease by students at an upper primary level of competency. The book includes the following: Māori - English Dictionary; English - Māori Dictionary; Words in Thematic lists; and a Guide to Grammar and Structures. Words in Thematic Lists include 22 headings ranging from People; Feelings and emotions; to Computers; Leisure, sport and pastimes.

I would recommend it as an essential item in all New Zealand classrooms.

Te MaramaIn Te Marama, words and illustrations by Robyn Kahukiwa (Translated by Kiwa Hammond) Robyn Kahukiwa’s depiction of the legend Te Marama is stunning. The gallery of images presented are bold and powerful and stand alone as works of art. With Te Reo, incorporated into the images and translated simply in English at the base of the pages, the book immediately become accessible to the many New Zealand readers searching for bilingual titles. While the text is simple it unifies the art work which is the outstanding feature of this book. Students will enjoy Te Marama, especially those with an interest in art.

review by Barbara

Labels: maori, non-fiction