Do you want to be sure you’re getting top-shelf books for your favourite people this Christmas – or on any gift-giving occasion? We are making it easy for you! Here is our selection of 2018’s very best New Zealand factual books for children.
Why is that Lake so Blue? by Simon Pollard
For educators and teachers, this book ticks all the boxes: beautiful photos that will start and encourage enquiry; simple, quick-fire factoids to tease the middle learners; and plenty of scientific information to stoke the fires of budding New Zealand naturalists.
The eight chapters all begin with a simple question, then present information in different ways to ensure anyone can find something to capture their interest. This is a book that does its job extremely well, for age 10+.
Cook’s Cook, by Gavin Bishop
Another lushly illustrated, creatively told story from Gavin Bishop, this title tells the story of the one-handed ‘Cook who Cooked for Cook’ on the first voyage to New Zealand. While doing this, it also tells a story about the English class system, about Cook himself and his obsessions, and gives us a bit of a cooking history lesson.
As in Gavin’s classic The House that Jack Built, a story that is centred on colonial-era Europeans is given another perspective in the illustrations, where the Atua watch from the sky or sea, and Māori voices are given space, even if the sailors aren’t listening to them.
by Gavin Bishop
Published by Gecko
Whose Home is This? by Gillian Candler and Fraser Williamson
Whose Home is This? is the third in Gillian Candler’s and Fraser Williamson’s set of gorgeous guessing-game books that help children develop their scientific observational skills, coming after Whose Beak is This? and Whose Feet are These?
For each of the 12 native animals featured in each book, Williamson has created two lush, vibrant paintings. The first is a circular peek at a nest or other habitat, and the text below asks, for example, ‘Whose home is this, made from twigs and grass, among the flax bushes by the shore?’ Children can have a guess, and they’ll get some of the answers right first go, but most of us will be surprised by a few. We turn the page for the answer, a second, full-page painting of the creature in its home and context.
These books have it all. They’re beautiful, interactive, thoughtfully written, include respectful use of te reo Māori, and increase children’s scientific skills and knowledge. Get hold of all three.
Whose Home is This?
By Gillian Candler
Illustrated by Fraser Williamson
Published by Potton & Burton
Read full review by Thalia Kehoe Rowden
Go Girl, by Barbara Else
Following the international success of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, a new book telling stories of the women of Aotearoa, Go Girl feels like a companion, every bit as beautiful as the original.
Else writes of all different types of success, with clear and concise messages for children that go beyond conventional views of achievement. Each story is perfectly paired with an illustration by one of nine stunningly good New Zealand illustrators including the shockingly talented Sarah Laing.
You don’t need to be a little girl to be inspired by these stories, to see yourself, to see a possible future. Whatever that future might be.
Animals of Aotearoa, by Gillian Candler and Ned Barraud
This treasure trove of Kiwi wildlife is bursting with information about sea and land birds, marine creatures and a variety of other native and introduced animals, from the common blue butterfly to the mako shark.
Ned Barraud’s colour illustrations are rich with detail, and the language clear and easy to understand. Each creature is named in both te reo Māori and English, and described with curious facts that will strike a match in a child’s imagination. Highly recommended. – Tara Ward, full review coming in December
Animals of Aotearoa
By Gillian Candler and Ned Barraud
Published by Potton & Burton
The New Zealand Wars, by Philippa Werry
There’s nothing quite like colonial history to make you want to cover your head in shame or pain. In The New Zealand Wars Philippa Werry gives us an absorbing, clearly told history of some of the worst parts of our national history, with well-chosen images and great story-telling.
This is a book adults can get lost in, and children from about nine up can dip in and out, following one of the many stories of places, battles, and people.
The New Zealand Wars
By Philippa Werry
Published by New Holland Publishers