Tuesday, June 18, 2013

From Zero to Ten: The Story of Numbers by Vivian French & Ross Collins

I was pleased to find this book to add to my collection of maths-related books and dictionaries, and I really enjoyed reading it too. It is not what I would call a taxing book and it delivers some thought-provoking information on how our number system developed. This book could comfortably be read in a night, or a couple of silent  reading sessions at school, and is very enlightening and entertaining. It is humorous and the illustrations are lively and quirky. It talks about the counting system used by the Incas, the Mayans,  the Egyptians, the Indians, the Arabs, the Romans, the Babylonians. It also focuses on how measurements evolved, and the section on "Using our Bodies to Measure" highlighting Leonardo da Vinci's theorie will have uour mind boggling.. And what are good and bad numbers? What are lucky and magic numbers? It also traces the history of mankind's attempts to measure time. Do you have time to find out about the story of numbers?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Star Trek: Mission to Horatius by Mark Reynolds

I have added this brand new book to the little library especially for one boy in my class who is a hardcore Trek fan. Mission to Horatius by  Mark Reynolds is the title of a 1968 novel especially for children based on the television series. It was actually the first novel to be based on the Start Trek franchise  and was done  whilst the series was still being made. This hardback edition was published in 1999 by Pocket Books. Anyway, in this book the USS Enterprise is on its way to Star Base 12 for well-deserved shore leave, supplies and repairs, as food is running low and also the engines need attention. However, en route, a distress signal diverts the Enterprise to the outer edge of  the known solar system. The mental health of  the crew is not the best according to Dr McCoy. They are restless and irritable and he is concerned that they could be prone to cafard, a type of space madness. When they arrive at the NGC 400 solar system, the Enterprise crew come across three planets inhabited by different human settlers who had been disgruntled with the social norms of Earth. One planet has reverted to a Stone Age state, another has a mid-20th Century technology while the third has the most advanced technology and weaponry, and is ready for space travel. Kirk and his crew are trying to figure out who sent a distress signal and the nature of the emergency. To complicate things, they run into  a warrior society, where drugs are used  by a small elite to control the general population.

Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear by Tomi Ungerer

Otto is a  German teddy and his first memories are of being stitched together and presented to a Jewish boy for his fifth birthday some years before the outbreak of WWII. David shares his bear with his best friend Oskar, using him for pranks, games and showing him how to operate a typewriter and to write with ink. The purple pink indelible stain which marks his head is an important part of the story. Then comes the war and David is taken away by German soldiers. Hardships are ahead and Otto is to change hands many times throughout the book. Students will find this innocent protagonist appealing and although the book deals with one of the darkest chapters in history, the story with its beautiful ending will prompt important questions and reflection without causing undue stress. A small corner of the Holcaust seen through the eyes of a teddy bear is a truly unforgettable experience.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Figures of Julian Ashcroft by Gary Crew and Hans De Haas

Another obscure and dark publication from Gary Crew first published in 1996 which deals with youth and the supernatural. Fans of Crew, especially The Tower, and Caleb,  will not be disappointed. On his home one day, solitary student, Julian, from a somewhat impoverished family (by Western standards!)  finds a figure which is pretty much a replica of himself. Some months later, whilst on his way to play footy, he purchases another figure exactly the same from a toy shop. However,  upon arriving home and eager to place it alongside the existing figure, he is astonished to find his treasure strangely missing! The story then, suddenly jumps forwards in time when Julian is considering going to university or getting a job. His parents offer him the departing gift of a figure. Yes, you guessed it, the same one he had fielded twice before. What could possibly be going on?  Some years later...he encounters an old woman with claw-like hands offering a curious figure which could contain clues to his future. To find the eternal truth Julian must run "the length of a nightmare."  This is a very unusual picture book which will leave the majority of upper primary readers baffled.  But then again, that is exactly what Crew's books are all about. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ethel & Ernest A True Story by Raymond Briggs

This is definitely a book I would recommend to all upper primary and lower secondary students. It is a graphic novel by English author and illustrator, Ronald Briggs which tells the story of his parents from their initial meeting in 1928 until their deaths in 1971. It is an engrossing and thoroughly enjoyable history capsule making reference to many significant events in British society during these years. The plot is a heartwarming progression through the lives of Ethel and Ernest with it's ups and downs, and  their joys and sorrows. When Ernest meets Ethel, she is a lady's maid with a middle class mentality and firm ideas of what is respectable. She marries Ernest, a milkman with socialist ideas and a passion for progress. Eventually they are blessed with a son, Raymond,  and live in a London suburb experiencing the Great Depression, World War II and the bombing of London, as well as the postwar advances such as the advent of television and automated household appliances. The book richly depicts London working class life and makes references to the major political developments of the 20th century. This books succeeds in making the social history personal. The illustrations can only be described as small masterpieces, which coupled with a witty and thought-provoking dialogue between two people from totally different classes makes for page turning reading. It is a tribute to ordinary folk living through quite extraordinary times.