Last night I was part of a panel discussion with authors Gavin Bishop, Bill Nagelkerke and reviewer extraordinaire Trevor Agnew, reviewing finalist books for the NZ Post book awards for children and young adults.
I was given the task of reviewing the non-fiction books and I have to say right from the start I believe this year the non-fiction finalists has been one of the strongest selections in many years. Often one book stands out amongst the others but this year they are all quality books equally deserving of a place in the final selection. I think for the judges this would have been a tough choice.
Anyway it was a small but dedicated crowd of teachers, librarians and parents who attended and was a lovely evening. So here are my thoughts in no particular order. We will however have to wait until next week to see who wins the award.


ANZAC Day the New Zealand Story : What it is and why it matters
By Philippa Werry

This is beautifully presented.The cover alone gives so much information – map, Simpson and his donkey, the nurses, medals and on the back, the battle field. It just makes you want to dive in and read.
There are relevant websites, an excellent bibliography, glossary and picture credits – nothing is missed out.
The title page is simple and symbolic. It includes a great timeline of the Gallipoli campaign.
Readers can skim and scan for information under headings if doing research or just picking something out to read that interests them.
It includes bizarre facts such as a photo of a turtle shell that belonged to a turtle found by a NZ soldier in the trenches and kept as a pet. That is until one day when the soldier wasn’t there, some other soldiers ate the turtle!
This is very well researched and planned. The book includes postcards and images of diaries. I love the background colours of the pages.
Visually stunning and informative and more than that – it is an important book and should be in every school library. A very impressive book and I actually went out and bought my own copy as this truly is a treasure.


Wearable wonders
By Fifi Colston

Beautifully produced package with bright appealing cover and a bright, bold double spread title page.
Well thought out with contents, index page and internet links.
It has very much a scrapbook feel to it with ideas almost like journal entries and the author talking directly to the reader. The author talks about planning your ideas and the tools and materials to use and create your wearable art costume.
One of it’s highlights for children is that readers have permission to photocopy templates. An excellent instructional book for children, parents and teachers on creating wearable art!

Flight of the honey bee
By Raymond Huber
Illustrated by Brian Lovelock

A mix of fiction and non-fiction
The story of Scout a honeybee, interspersed with facts
Appealing cover but disappointed that the end pages have the author and illustrator bios. It would be better with a dust jacket with the information on the inside flap. I personally think end pages are works of art in their own right.
Gorgeous colours. vibrant and full of warmth.
Interesting facts such as this one which to get your one little jar of honey, bees need to harvest nectar from over 2 million flowers.
A lovely crossover book for young readers.


An Extraordinary Land : Discoveries and Mysteries from Wild New Zealand
by Peter Hayden
Rod Morris – Photographer

This is very informative with language appropriate for middle readers.
It is first-person and friendly. There are many side bars of informative information which would suit children but the text as a whole is perhaps too wordy for many children.
Some very interesting facts
Rod Morris has a basement freezer where he keeps frozen, dead victims! It gives him a chance to study their claws, feathers eyes etc but he also has live animals in the fridge in plastic boxes, with weta, ancient velvet worms, leaf vein slugs – some even breed and raise babies in the fridge. Gross!
Or the fact that in 1885 Kea were considered a pest and had a bounty on their head. A Kea beak could earn 2 shillings.
It is a gorgeous book and I think it would be great as a coffee table book.

The beginners guide to hunting and fishing in New Zealand
By Paul Adamson

Great photographs, heaps on information which will interest readers, boys in particular,
Lots of helpful tips – each chapter has its own glossary.
Great safety advice not just for guns but for keeping safe in the bush.
I love that it has recipes to cook whatever has been caught.
It does have a few photos which will either delight or disgust some children such as the photos of how to skin a rabbit. In full colour too!
This book is very good as there really isn’t anything out there for young hunters. It is well produced and something just a little different from the rest.

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