Play in the Garden: Fun projects for kids to enjoy outdoors (2014) Sarah O’Neil, New Holland, 120 pages, NZ$34.99, paperbackISBN 978-1-86966-413-8
Piggy Pasta and more food with attitude (2014) Rebecca Woolfall & Suzi Tait-Bradly, Scholastic NZ, 64 pages, NZ$19, paperbackISBN 978-1-77543-216-6
New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame (2014) Maria Gill, ill. Marco Ivancic, New Holland, 64 pages, NZ$24.99, paperbackISBN 978-1-86966-422-0
Three non-fiction titles are aimed at young readers’ special interests. All three provide interesting material and challenges.
Play in the Garden is gardening writer Sarah O’Neil’s invitation to young Kiwis to try their hand at vegetable growing. O’Neil knows her young folk, and while she has plenty of tips on how to grow vegetables, she also offers some intriguing activities to lure the reluctant into gardening. This book tells how to grow square cucumbers, create a 3-story bug hotel, and cook food using newly-cut grass. More conventional gardening techniques are not neglected; beans, carrots, pumpkins and potatoes are all here.
There are good suggestions for parents who want to capture young imaginations. For example a treasure map (made with onion ink) can inspire pirates to dig up hidden treasure (The harvest of a potato crop is a bonus.) Advice is given on how to make cornhusk people, a scarecrow, a bean tepee and wind chimes. Colour photos are helpful.
Rebecca Woolfall and Suzi Tait-Bradly operate the Little Cooks cooking classes for young people, and their book shows some of their techniques for making food preparation into fun. Piggy Pasta begins with eye-catching desserts like Dirt Pudding (made with brown biscuits and chocolate) and Exploding Orange Cake. Many of the recipes are for snacks, suitable for quick meals or the lunchbox, like Green Eggs and Ham Pie or Jumin’ Mac & Cheese (a variant of macaroni cheese). Revised versions of familiar dishes, such as muffins, nachos and meatballs, appear, although some have acquired eyeballs, so they can stare back. Young chefs are given plenty of food preparation guidelines, as well as tips on kitchen safety and hygiene. Index.
Maria Gill follows up her award-winning New Zealand Hall of Fame (2011) with a volume specialising in athletic achievements. New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame has brief biographies of 25 Kiwis who have achieved success in their field, from Russell Coutts (yachting) to Sarah Ulmer (cycling). (Actually there are 26 athletes, because sailing champions Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie count as one.) Each sportsperson is given a double-page spread with their personal details, sporting statistics, timeline and trophy board. There is a text-box for every sport shown. Each person has also provided a summary of their personal training programme. This can be a quite daunting indication of the level of commitment required; Bevan Docherty, Olympic triathlete trains 35 hours a week, and swims, runs and bikes six times a week as well as doing exercises at the gym.
The most outstanding feature of the volume, of course, is the portfolio of cheerful full-colour caricatures by Marco Ivancic. Also included is a section where young readers can create their own Sport Plan with a check-list of achievable goals.
Glossary. Bibliography. Index.
Trevor Agnew, August 2014