Tag Archives: children’s non-fiction

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

Some books encourage children to imagine, some books teach children a new skill, and some books inspire children to do amazing things.  Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is an incredible new book by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo that is bursting with stories of amazing girls and women from all over the world. This is a book that everyone needs to read and I guarantee you will be amazed and inspired every time you pick it up.

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There are 100 tales of extraordinary women in Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.  Inside you’ll find stories of artists, mountaineers, nurses, activists, sportspeople, writers, scientists, spies and rock stars.  There are women that you will have heard of before and others who you’ll read about for the first time.  There is such a range of women that there is someone for every girl to relate to.  Each double-page spread features a short biography told in the style of a fairy tale alongside a full page portrait that captures the spirit of each heroine.  Each of the portraits has been created by a different female artist from around the world so they are all completely different styles.

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I love everything about this book!  The fairy tale style biographies are the perfect introduction to each of these extraordinary women.  The authors have captured exactly what it is that makes these women heroines and they’ve done so in a way that is accessible to children young and old.  Each of the biographies really would make great good night stories as you can imagine girls (and boys for that matter) dreaming about the amazing things that they themselves could achieve.  Unlike the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, these are real women who have overcome adversity to achieve great things.  I love the design of this book, with the double-page spread for each woman.  Their name is at the top of the page, along with what they were known for, and their date of birth (and death if applicable) and the country they came from are at the bottom of the page. A quote from each woman is overlaid on the portrait of them, which is a nice little touch.  There is a contents page at the start of the book but the book is laid out alphabetically by first name so that you can easily flick back to a bio that you want to read again.  The production quality is high too, as it is a beautiful hardback book with ink and paper that you can smell.  A feature that I especially love is the space at the back of the book for girls to write their own story and draw their portrait.

I found this book absolutely fascinating and I learned so much.  There were women that I had never heard of before, such as Jingu, an exceptionally talented and tough Japanese empress, and Claudia Ruggerini, an Italian partisan who helped to bring down Mussolini.  I also learned that as well as being a famous chef Julia Child was a spy in World War Two who cooked cakes to repel sharks.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls needs to be in every home and school library.  It’s not just an important book for girls to read but also boys.  Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo show us how strong, brave, determined and fearless women can be and that girls can achieve amazing things.  I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

 

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A World of Information by Richard Platt and James Brown

There have been some absolutely stunning children’s nonfiction books published this year.  I love that authors and publishers are trying new and exciting things to make nonfiction exciting for kids.  A World of Information by Richard Platt and James Brown is the perfect example of an innovative design for children’s nonfiction.  It is brand new from Walker Books and I LOVE this book!

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Do you know how many bones there are in the human body or how clouds form? Or about different types of knots or how Morse code works? Each illustration is both beautiful and enlightening, and is accompanied by an engaging fact-filled explanation by celebrated author Richard Platt. Covering more than 30 diverse and fascinating topics, there is a world of information at your fingertips in this book, which is perfect for all the family to enjoy.

A World of Information is a gorgeous book, filled with fascinating facts about all sorts of things.  This is the sort of book that you want to buy for everyone, from curious 8-year-olds to grandparents.  It is a book that will be read over and over again and dipped in and out of when you need an answer to a burning question.

There really is a world of information in this book and it is all essential stuff that will be useful to you throughout your life.  There is information about different types of knots, how to classify clouds, diagrams of the human skeleton, how to communicate with Morse code and semaphore, the anatomy of a bicycle, the periodic table of elements and the layout of the orchestra.  Textual information about each topic is accompanied by retro-style graphics and diagrams.

One of the most appealing things about this book is its size.  Its large, hardback format makes it perfect for opening out on a table or on the floor and pouring over.  The illustrations are large which means that James Brown has been able to fit lots of information onto each page.  You almost wish the pages were detachable so that you could put them on the wall.

A World of Information is a perfect present for anyone in your family this Christmas.  It is a book that everyone will love and will want to read.  It is certainly one of my favourite children’s nonfiction books of the year.

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Activity books for the whole family

There have been a range of activity books that have been published recently.  There is something for everyone in the family, from toddlers right through to the 12-year-old history buff.

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Alison Lester’s Wonderful World brings together Alison’s illustrations from her many delightful books and gives kids the chance to create their own colourful adventures with Noni the Pony, beach holidays, and explorations of the jungle and oceans.  There are more basic illustrations for younger children, right through to very detailed scenes for older children (and their parents).  It’s a wonderful colouring book for old and young alike.

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See Play Do: A Kid’s Handbook for Everyday Fun is the ultimate activity book for Kiwi families.  This fantastic book is packed full of games and activities to get kids thinking, moving, exploring, being creative and having fun.  There are pages to draw on, with activities like planning your dream breakfast and drawing while listening to music.  There are pages to write on, like writing about what happened the last time you were at the park and writing a playlist of the favourite songs you like to listen to.  There are also pages with recipes to try, bird feeders and bath paint to make, and heaps of pages with suggestions of fun things to do and try.  There are so many things in this book that I want to do with my toddler.  Every family in New Zealand needs this book under their Christmas tree because it is certain to be loved by everyone.  It is a real winner!

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Peter Goes’ Timeline was a fascinating book that Gecko Press published last year.  It starts at the beginning of time and follows events right through to the present day.  It is a large book chock-full of information about people, places and events throughout time, and you find something new every time you look at it.  Gecko Press have just released a companion activity book for Timeline.  This is the perfect book for those kids that love history and who have lots of fascinating facts stored away in their head, especially older children.  Kids can be creative while learning about civilisations, historical events and famous people from history.  Kids can decorate a cave with rock drawings, bring Ottoman designs to life, graffiti the Berlin Wall, decorate the uniforms of soldiers in the Russian Revolution and help Michelangelo decorate the Sistine Chapel.  There is so much variety in this book and it will keep anyone entertained for many, many hours.  The pages can also be detached from the book so you can hang your masterpieces on the wall or share them with friends.  This is a must-buy Christmas present for older children.

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I also want to give a special mention to Gecko Press for their new card games based on two of their best-selling books.  Noisy Dominoes was inspired by The Noisy Book, a gorgeous board book featuring lots of different noises to make.  In Noisy Dominoes, players have to imitate the noise of the object or animal on their card or mime the action.  They have also released Poo Bum Memory, inspired by my favourite Gecko Press book Poo Bum, and featuring words and images from the book.  I think these are both a wonderful idea to extend the fun of these two books and they are a lot of fun.

 

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Smart About Sharks by Owen Davey

In my school I very rarely have shark books sitting on the shelves because sharks are one of those animals that kids, especially boys are fascinated with.  I’ve been keeping my eye out for any great shark books that I can find and thankfully the lovely people at Walker Books have brought a new one to my attention.  It’s called Smart About Sharks by Owen Davey and it is absolutely stunning!

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Smart About Sharks is one of the most visually appealing nonfiction books that I’ve ever seen.  It’s one of those books that you just know kids are going to gravitate towards.  The cover grabs you and draws you in to the world of sharks.

Smart About Sharks has everything you wanted to know about sharks and more.  Owen explains what sharks are, tells you about their fins, their teeth, their prey, their social life, and he compares the sizes of different sharks. He tells us about the weird and wonderful varieties of shark, shark reproduction, and the place of sharks in mythology.  He also tells us what we can do, as humans, to help sharks.  There is a great contents and index too to help you find your favourite type of shark.

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The thing I love the most about the books from Flying Eye Books is the premium production and this book is no exception.  The hard cover, binding and paper are high quality, which makes it feel like a book to treasure.  As a librarian I know that it is going to last the distance too.  My favourite part of the production of this book is the gorgeous shark end papers.

Smart About Sharks is the second children’s nonfiction book that Owen Davey has created for Flying Eye Books (he also wrote Mad About Monkeys) and I certainly hope he has more in the pipeline.  Grab a copy of Smart About Sharks now.

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Gecko Press’ Gorgeous Annual

Unfortunately I’m not of a generation that grew up with annuals.  I didn’t experience the joy of these volumes, chock-full of activities, stories and quizzes. Thankfully the wonderful Gecko Press have brought back this format with their gorgeous new book, Annual, that a new generation of kids will love.

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Editors Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris have mined the talented authors and illustrators we have here in NZ and gathered these gems into a truly radiant collection.  There are stories, short essays, comics, a song, crafts, activities and a hilarious board game.  There are well-known authors and illustrators, such as Barbara Else, Bernard Beckett and Gavin Bishop, but also some incredibly talented debut authors such as Gavin Mouldey, whose story B.O.N.E. is an absolute wonder.

Annual arrived on my doorstep on the morning that I was going away for a school holiday break with my family, so the timing couldn’t have been more perfect!  There is hours of entertainment in this book and there is something for the whole family. I especially enjoyed Kirsten McDougall’s A Box of Birds, a collection of odd words to take on a road trip.  I was thinking about some of these words as I was driving and I thoroughly confused my family when I yelled out ‘Tally ho, the salt!’ (a phrase to use when you first catch sight of the ocean).  We all enjoyed a ‘pootle’ (a wander along the beach with no destination in mind) and with 12-year-old boys in the car there were more than a few winkybubbles (you’ll have to look that one up yourself).

There are so many things that I love about Annual.  Being a Gecko Press book the standard of production is excellent, from the eye-catching red hardcover to the smell of the high-quality paper.  The variety of pieces in the book is brilliant, with something for every type of kid (and adult for that matter).  There are pieces to make you think, pieces to challenge you, pieces to make you laugh and pieces to unleash your creativity.  One of my favourite pieces is the comic strip Bad Luck Zebra by Sharon Murdoch and Susan Paris, which cracked me up every time I read it. Kate De Goldi, Susan Paris and Gecko Press deserve a standing ovation for this gorgeous book.

You will want to come back to Annual again and again to revisit your favourite bits and uncover some new delight that you might have missed last time.  Get a copy of Annual for everyone on your Christmas list.

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Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry

Why do we celebrate Anzac Day?  Why were donkeys used at Gallipoli?  Why do we wear poppies on Anzac Day? Why is the last post played at the Dawn Service?  Why do we have Anzac biscuits?  All these questions and more are answered in Philippa Werry’s new book, Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story – What it is and why it matters

Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story – What it is and why it matters is a fascinating, beautifully designed, thoroughly researched, and very accessible book for New Zealand children about Anzac Day.  It’s one of those non-fiction books that is both great for teachers to use in the classroom or for children to delve in to by themselves.  Philippa has written it in such a way that it is accessible for children of different ages, from 8 years and up, with lots of images to break up the text.  This book is different from other non-fiction books about Anzac Day and New Zealand’s involvement, as it looks at not only the past, but also the present and how we commemorate today.

Everything you would expect to find in a book about Anzac Day is here – what it is and why we celebrate it, a timeline of the Gallipoli campaign, profiles of key New Zealanders who played a part, and statistics of casualties and deaths.  However, it’s the focus on why Anzac Day matters and how we celebrate it now that really makes this book stand out.  There is a whole chapter about how we remember the war dead with poppies and war memorials, and another chapter on Anzac Day commemorations both in New Zealand and around the world.  There are also lots of fact boxes with tidbits of information about the animals at Gallipoli, Anzac biscuits, the New Zealand flag, and why the New Zealanders had ‘lemon-squeezer’ hats.

There are lots of primary resources in the book (which makes it great for teachers), from photos and newspaper clippings, to soldier’s diaries and paintings.  Philippa has created some incredibly helpful material at the back of the book too, including a glossary, bibliography, a list of helpful and authoritative websites, and a list of ‘More things to do’ to extend children’s understanding of the topic.

Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story – What it is and why it matters should be in every home, school and library in the country.  It’s a book that will be well-used and well-read.

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Kiwi: the real story by Annemarie Florian, illustrated by Heather Hunt

New Holland Publishers are one of the leading publishers of children’s non-fiction in New Zealand and their books are often nominated for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  Their latest gem is the wonderful Kiwi: the real story by Annemarie Florian and illustrated/designed by Heather Hunt.

Kiwi: the real story is a marvelous multi-layered book thattells the story of Kiwi behaviour.  Weaving its way through the pages is a poem about the Kiwi, full of beautiful descriptive language, like ‘gorging grubber’ and ‘cricket-cruncher.’ I love alliteration and this poem is chock-full of it, making it a joy to read aloud.  Tying in wonderfully with the poem are the blocks of more detailed information on each page, which explain why the Kiwi is a ‘spider-wrestler’ and a ‘covert nestler.’  The design of the book means that you can read the poem and the information separately, or both together.  Younger children will love the poem and the illustrations, whereas older children will also enjoy finding out more about the Kiwi.

Heather Hunt’s illustrations are stunning.  I find it amazing how she can make a bunch of squiggly lines look exactly like a Kiwi.  I love the way that she shows the movement of the Kiwi on the page and the way that she brings out the character of this marvelous bird.  The colours that Heather has used, from the bright green of the praying mantis to the blue of the egg, are vibrant against the black background, and the grey and white of the Kiwi makes it really stand out on the page.  I especially like the way that she has used different colours to differentiate between the adult Kiwi and the baby Kiwi.  Heather also designed the book and I think that it’s this design that really makes the book special.  She has taken the three layers of the story and woven them together so that they can be enjoyed in unison.  The words of the poem seem to dance around the illustrations, making the book extremely appealing to young children.  The book is beautifully produced too, in a hardback format, with endpapers that look like the night sky.

The character of the Kiwi in the story was originally created by Heather to be the ambassador for Backyard Kiwi, a project carried out by the Whangarei Heads Landcare Forum.  The quirky design is used to personify the bird for road signs and billboards.  You can learn more about Backyard Kiwi at www.backyardkiwi.org.nz  and you can find out more about Heather and her working process at heatherhunt.co.nz/KIWI-the-real-story.

Kiwi: the real story is a must for any primary school library and is sure to be a finalist in next year’s New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  Grab a copy offrom your local library or bookshop now, or if you would like a special signed copy you can order these from Heather Hunt’s website – www.heatherhunt.co.nz/shop

4 out of 5 stars

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