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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Childrens non-fiction for 12 years+, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. A How to Play Rugby book for teenagers


The Beginner’s Guide to Rugby by Aaron Cruden, Random House NZ

This handsome sports book will be very popular on the New Zealand market. I can see public and school librarians (intermediate and secondary) rushing to buy it, and it will also be welcomed by parents of rugby-mad youngsters (fathers and grandfathers will enjoy it too!). First impressions of the book are that it is very comprehensive, but at the same time it makes the wealth of information readily accessible to young readers. It begins with chapters focusing on Aaron Cruden’s stellar career in rugby, beginning with his stint as captain of Palmerston North Boys’ High School First XV, and taking us right through to his continuing success in the present day. The following how-to chapters are written by Cruden himself, starting off with What is Rugby? and continuing through advice on rugby training and skills, to discussing other factors such as nutrition, leadership, and injury. The chapters on skills include sections headed up Checklist, When It Goes Bad, Activity, and The Cruden Clue. The book is well designed, with lots of headings and colour photos, and the layout encourages both dipping into and reading from beginning to end.

Comment from my rugby-mad husband: “There’s a massive amount of information in this book. Youngsters wanting to use it as a training manual will need to focus on one skill at a time, utilising Cruden’s advice, and only move on to the next skill once they’ve mastered the current one.”

There’s a Teachers’ Resource PDF available for download from the Random House website. My only slightly critical comment on the book: the cardboard binding will rapidly become tatty. Libraries will need to do their own strengthening of the cover.

ISBN 978 1 77553 790 8 $34.99 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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2. Two new non-fiction titles from New Holland Books

Playing Rugby League with Benji Marshall, co-written with Lynn McConnell (New Holland)

Benji Marshall shares rugby league tips and lessons in this 206 page book filled with description, photographs and quotes. Benji speaks directly to his audience of 10-18 year old boys (and adult rugby enthusiasts) in a conversation tone inspiring teenagers how to improve their game and also get the most out of their life. For all rugby enthusiasts and fans of Benji Marshall at the back is a description of Benji's 10 favourite games. An example of subjects covered include: the object of the game; how to pass, kick, goal-kick, tackle; and captaincy, leadership and coaching; fitness; and the right approach to league.

The book would appeal to rugby enthusiasts who also enjoy reading. However, even if they aren't readers you can tell your rugby fan the great thing about non-fiction is you can start anywhere in the book, where you want and just dip in and out whenever you want.

It's more than a how-to book about rugby it is also Benji sharing his knowledge and wisdom about growing up as a male in New Zealand, how to overcome mistakes and struggles, and to rise to be the sports person you want to be. Also recommended for High school and Intermediate school libraries.

Benji Marshall is a professional rugby league footballer currently with the St George Illawarra Dragons and ex-captain of the New Zealand national team - the Kiwis. 

Co-writer Lynn McConnell is a freelance writer/editor at NZ Sport Daily with 14 years of internet sport journalism, and 27 years of newspaper journalism, and author of over 15 books for adults.

ISBN: 9781742574387
RRP $34.99

For younger children ...

The New Zealand Nature Activity Book by Dave Gunson (New Holland)

An activity book that parents will want to buy for their bored 6 -12 year olds in several weeks time. It's got quizzes, activities, cut-out masks and mobiles, science experiments, spot the bugs, book plates, mazes, craft activities and lots more. Kids could take it away on holiday or use it on wet inside days at home (or the caravan/tent/bach) or do the activities outside in the sunshine.

For the parents - kids will learn scientific terms and get to know place names, and names of bugs while they're having fun; without even realising they're learning something.

The book follows on from the 'The New Zealand Wildlife Activity Book' by popular illustrator Dave Gunson. Dave has written and illustrated the 'All About' series which includes Birds, Insects, Plants, Seashore, Sea Life, Garden Wildlife; as well as the 'Read, Colour and Keep' colouring-in books; the encyclopaedic 'Big Book of New Zealand Wildlife'; and even board books for the very young.

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3. Books for Teachers

Many Primary and Intermediate school teachers will be planning their forthcoming term's lessons.  Here's some books that will be great in the classroom ...

Packing a Bag for Mars by James Norcliffe, illustrated by Jenny Cooper (Clerestory Press)
James Norcliffe (award winning author of the junior fiction fantasy series The Loblolly Boy) has written 45 lively thought-provoking poems for children on diverse subjects as ATMs, packing a bag for Mars, wildlife (real, mechanised or otherwise), people (dance of a castaway, the drunken waitress, the sportsman drops a goal), and other ordinary and extraordinary topics.  James Norcliffe does not talk down to his audience - he uses a range of styles, voices and approaches THEN he encourages his audience (or you the teacher to try with your class) that style.  After each poem is a text box that suggests you 'Try This'. Such as on page 5: Write a poem in which you set up reader expectations in one way (e.g. care for the fish) and then pull the rug by revealing that the poem has a different purpose altogether (in this case, care for the hook). Use the kind of language found in technical manuals or recipe books.'
At the beginning of the book is an interview with James Norcliffe with helpful suggestions on how he gets started with a poem, redrafting, use of capital letters and punctuation in poems, why not all his poems rhyme etc.  Teachers could start with one of these suggestions and use it for the theme of that lesson. At the back of the book there are notes on each poem. Sometimes it is where James got the idea for the poem, definition of difficult words used in the poem, and an insight into the meaning of the poem.  Lastly, there is a glossary of literary terms and examples where James has used that style in his poems.
If I was still teaching I'd be photocopying some of the poems, including the notes for that poem, add some comprehension questions (that encourages students to look closely at language features), and the suggested poem activity 'Try This'. Then I'd be laminating it and using them as part of a poetry unit.  These poems will encourage your students to write more sophisticated poetry. This book would be extremely useful for Year 5-9 teachers of English - highly recommended!

RRP $27.00

Buy it at UBS or ask your local bookstore to get it in for you.

The Universe Rocks: The Complete Guide to Space by Raman Prinja (QED Publishing)

A must-have in your school or classroom library - especially if you're doing a Space Unit.  This book covers topics such as the Milky Way, Mapping the Universe, The Big Bang theory, The Dark side of the Universe, a Tour of the Solar System, how planets are made, volcanoes in space, Pluto and the dwarfs, life beyond earth, where stars are born, life story of the sun and other great 'space' subjects. After each double page spread there are some excellent activities that you could encourage your students to try. For example: build your own Milky Way, explore the shape of spiral galaxies in a cup, make a timeline of the Universe, make a balloon universe, construct a toilet-paper solar system,  explode a volcano, put together a CD Saturn, turn a paper-cup into a sundial, twinkle some stars, experiment with tennis balls to make a supernova blast wave, find a way to count stars, invent a constellation, make a rainbow, construct a balloon rocket, learn how to have super hearing just like space scientists, find out how the force of gravity can change your height in one day.

At the back of the book are really cool stuff about the universe, planets, spacecrafts, stars, and the top 40 Universe Facts. Plus there are useful websites, a glossary, and an index.

I could build a unit around this book. It has background information for teachers and students, and activities to make the new information real and understandable.  The images are first class - taken by professional photographers, NASA and other scientific sources. Highly recommended for Years 5-8.

This book is possibly not available in your bookstore but can be ordered by booksellers such as Wheelers who will order it in.


Watch out for an artbook called New Zealand Art Activity Book: 100+ ideas for Creative Kids by Helen Lloyd, published by Te Papa Press - due out mid-March.  I'll review it in a couple of weeks.


Now for some teaching resources that will be useful:

Essential Resources has some new teaching resources coming out early this year.  Phillip Simpson has written a Non-fiction Writing Unit for junior, mid and senior levels. Maria Gill has written a non-fiction reading and writing unit due out Term 2, an Oral Language Unit due out Term 1, and a Sustainable Living unit for mid and senior levels due out now. Each book has curriculum criteria for New Zealand, Australia and UK standards, complete daily plans to execute the unit, templates for student work sheets, evaluation matrix sheets, and recommended reading resource lists.

Curriculum Concepts has the Big Book of School Journal Units for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 - out now and 2012 due out Term 2.  Each book contains comprehension questions that include open questions, metacognitive strategies, looking closely at language features, thinking skills an an activity for each Journal story/article or poem.

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4. World War One book for the family

New Zealand and First World War by Damien Fenton (Penguin Group NZ)

If you are going to buy only one illustrated non-fiction book about World War One - this is the one that I recommend. It has just been shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Book Awards (adult book awards) but I believe every Intermediate and Secondary school should have a copy in their library. It is not cheap but you get a lot of bang for your buck! So why would it suit teenagers? Its 112 pages are beautifully illustrated with photographs, cut-out objects such as medals and weapons, and on every second page is either a pull-out letter/postcard/notice or a fold-out map. There are 8-10 photographs/illustrations/cut-outs/fold-outs per double page spread (approximately 620 images in total). Intermediate-aged students upwards are going to love investigating every detail on the page. (Note, that one double page spread does cover problems with prostitution (tactfully) and soldiers contracting venereal diseases as a result.)

The book is also very well organised. It starts with why the war began, New Zealand's position prior to the outbreak of war, enlistment, training in Egypt, the invasion of Gallipoli and different stages of the battle at ANZAC Cove (four double page spreads), and every other battle during the Great War. There's also pages about: crime and punishment, disease, how the soldiers were looked after if wounded, women at war, the war at sea and air, armistice, the signing of the treaty, repatriation and remembrance. The endpapers feature a world map in 1923.

This book is a fantastic resource for WW1 school projects, as well as for teenagers and adults who just love to collect knowledge and have a special interest in World wars. They'll get a comprehensive understanding of WW1 by the time they've finished reading it. I heartily recommend teachers using this book as a companion to fiction books about the war such as the 'Kiwis at War' series published by Scholastic (see review beforehand).

Dr Damien Fenton is a senior historian at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage in Wellington, New Zealand. He completed an MA in Defence and Strategic Studies at the University of Waikato in 1998 and a PhD in history at the Australian Defence Force Academy, University of New South Wales in 2006. His interests include Australian and New Zealand military history and he has worked in this area as an academic and a public historian in both countries.

ISBN 978-0-143-56975-6
RRP $75  (I bought my copy from Mighty Ape for $57 + postage)

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