Christmas Music

Christmas carols have a long and surprising history. In the very early days of the Church, songs weren’t sung during the Christmas period. It was believed that Christmas should be celebrated in a very sober way, not like those pagans with their raucous midwinter festivals! The word carol comes from two places: the ancient Greek choros (“dancing in a circle”) and the French carole (“a song to accompany dancing”).  So carols were basically any song that was sung at any time of celebration.  When people started singing in Church, they’d often get kicked out by an annoyed priest, so they went around to people’s houses instead.  That’s why in some countries carol singers go around streets singing songs.  It was only during the 15th century that people started writing carols specifically for Christmas, and singing them was allowed in Church.

A lot of the songs we still sing today are very old. “The twelve days of Christmas” and “We wish you a Merry Christmas” are from the 16th century.  Then there are some from the 18th century, like “Hark the Herald Angels sing” and “O come all ye faithful.” Most of these very old Carols are English or French, but there are a few from America too: “Jingle Bells” and “Away in a Manger” were written there in the 19th century.

Another carol from that period, “Silent Night” has quite an interesting story behind it.  It was written in 1818 in Germany. At its first performance it was supposed to have been accompanied by the organ, but mice had chewed through the bellows so it had to be accompanied by a guitar instead.  During the “Christmas Peace”  of 1914, during WWI, it was sung by English, French and German troops as they all knew the melody and the words. Although obviously they sang it in their own languages!

We’ve got lots of awesome Christmas music at the library, so come down and check them out.


Most of my information for this post came from The Christmas Almanac and Horrible Christmas.


New non-fiction stuff to make

The brilliant book of easy recipes

If you’ve ever wanted to learn to cook, but been too intimidated, then have no fear: there is a book for you.  There’s a great range of easy, delicious recipes for you to make, and most of them you should be able to make on your own, without needing a parent looking over your shoulder! Although asking for help isn’t a bad thing, of course. But you might want to keep everything you make to yourself, as there’s some really yummy treats in here, like marshmallow fingers and quesadillas.


The brilliant book of Easy crafts

Like the previous book in this series, this a simple book for crafters beginning in crafting. It’s perfect for younger children, as most of the projects aren’t really that difficult.  What’s great about this book is that chapters are arranged by types of project, so if you feel like making a mask or a puppet you can find what you want easily.


Rock star style: fun fashions you can sketch

Lights! Camera! Action! Learn how to draw the latest celebrity fashions with this cute book.  The fashions are wild but there’s plenty here to appeal to everyone. Each design is named after a genre or type of musician, from “cross-over artist” to “rock royalty.”  If you’re just starting out drawing, then you might find this book a little tricky, but it’s certainly good inspiration and something to challenge yourself. But this is a great book for any budding fashionista.


My first knitting book

Winter’s nearly over, so surely you don’t want to be spending your time stocking up on winter woolies, right? Luckily for the more DIY inclined among you, this book is packed full of cute things to knit like soft toys and Ipod covers.  Perhaps you might want to work on these projects during the summer so by the time winter rolls around again (we do live in Wellington, after all!) you’ll be ready to make hats and scarves for you and your friends.



Sewing for kids

Knitting not for you? Take a look at this book.  As well as having lots of fun projects (mostly toys and stuff for your room) it will teach you the basics  of both hand and machine sewing. It’s a great book for beginners, although there’s enough here to interest ardent sewers of all abilities.



Craft it up: Around the world

Travel around the world without leaving your house; this book has projects from many countries, and all of them cute and colourful. There’s a ton of different types of craft represented, so this is a good book if you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge.



New non-fiction: Cooking up a storm

Here’s a great selection of cookbooks  for younger readers.

Cook it! 30 delicious recipes for scientists of all ages

This book is written by the “Punk Scientists”; three wacky guys who love science and cooking and try to bring the two together. All the recipes are easy, but look pretty delicious.  They’re mostly ‘classic’ recipes, like spaghetti and pizza and muffins, but there are some trickier recipes as well, like Baked Alaska and chicken casserole. But it’s not just a cookbook; there are plenty of science factoids that go along with the recipes, as well as some fun experiments in the back for you to try.





Christmas fairy cooking

Ok, so it’s a bit early for books about Christmas cooking. But this book is so adorable that I couldn’t resist including it here. It’s also filled with things you could make all year round. It’s mostly made up of sweet treats; my particular favourites are mini raspberry swirls and frosty fairy fudge.  None of the recipes are complicated, and all the ingredients are easily available. It’s also a lovely looking book, with a mixture of cute photos and illustrations in pastels.





Princess Poppy’s Cookbook

Princess Poppy is a popular series of picture books in our collection. Now Poppy and her friends will show you how to cook all sorts of delectable treats, both sweet and savory.The recipes are divided by occasion, rather than by meal type, but it’s pretty easy to find what you’re looking for. The illustrations are really cute, as they’re done in the same style as the picture books. There’s also a wide range of food to make; the sticky sausages and Daisy’s Fruity Banana split sound really good! And while you’re waiting for your food to cook, you can whip up one of the adorable craft projects that are also included.




One world kids’ cookbook

If it’s your turn to cook  dinner and you want something out of the ordinary, then you should turn to this cookbook.  It promises “easy and healthy” meals from around the world, and it delivers! There’s a section of information about each country, and then a typical national dish.  New Zealand even features, with a yummy kumura recipe. I think what makes this book really unique is the variety of the different countries mentioned; try Jolof Rice from Ghana or salmon stew from Brazil.



New non fiction : a miscellaneous collection

Definition of miscellaneous, from the Merriam-Webster dictionaryadjective, consisting of many things of different sorts.

500 fantastic facts

This book is definitely a miscellany (that’s a collection of various facts). It doesn’t go into much detail about each fact, but what it lacks in depth it makes up in the sheer number of topics covered.  It starts out with the big picture: the solar system is the first thing to be covered. And then it gets smaller and smaller, ending up with ‘miscellaneous’ facts.  It’s a quick and fun read and a great way to learn information for quizzes! You might also find that you get interested in a particular fact, and want to do some more research…

Do you know Dewey? Exploring the Dewey Decimal System

If you’ve ever looked at our non-fiction collection (which I hope you have!) You’ll have noticed that all the books have a number on their spines. This is because all the books are grouped together by subject, so everything is much easier to find! Melvil  Dewey invented the system in 1876, and it revolutionised the way libraries are organised.  This is great book for younger readers explaining what the different numbers mean and how to use the system to find the book you want.





You can fill a swimming pool with your spit! : the fact or fiction behind human bodies 

Rather than just a collection of “gross out” facts, this book takes a hard look at all the urban legends and old wives’ tales about the human body.  In fact, after reading this, you might be able to disprove stuff you’ve found out in other books! Of course, the book can get pretty gross, so don’t read it if you have a sensitive stomach, but it’s really interesting book and well worth a read. If only to work out whether eating your crusts makes your hair grow curly.  (Spoiler: it doesn’t.)





Let’s Get Art: children look at contemporary New Zealand Art

If you’ve ever been to an art gallery, you might have been surprised that not all the art consisted of paintings or statues. Some of it might look strange or not like ‘real’ art at all. This book looks at the different kinds of “contemporary” art (art that’s made by living artists) and tries to work out what these weird and wonderful pieces are all about.  It’s a good book  that will show you the different sorts of art that New Zealand artists are making today and will perhaps make you think about what the artworks might mean. It’s also a cool looking book; it’s a mixture of painting illustrations and photographs, so the book’s almost a work of art in itself.




Explore! The most dangerous journeys of all time

The price of glory is often danger; this is what this book will teach you. This is especially true if you were an explorer in the days before modern equipment. Marco Polo,  Roald Amundsen, and Yuri Gagarin are just some of the big names you’ll learn about. Of course, it wasn’t always men who were willing to risk their lives to make great discoveries; Mary Kingsley and Gertrude Bell also undertook dangerous voyages.  This book also has survival tips, although whether you’ll want to venture out into the jungle or to Antarctica after reading this book is entirely up to you!

A closer look at history: New non fiction

Usborne encyclopedia of ancient Egypt

Many books about ancient Egypt focus on Mummies and pyramids, which is a pity because, obviously, the history of an empire that lasted from  1096BCE to 30BCE is much richer than that.  This book encompasses over 1000 years of history, not only focusing on the great Pharaohs, but what everyday life was like for the poorer members of Egyptian society.  There are sections on everything from the Egyptian army to medicine to beauty care.  There are plenty of links to useful websites, as well as a few timelines; one lists the pharaohs in chronological order, the other gives a chronological look at Egyptology and how its changed over the centuries.  This is certainly one of the most through books on ancient Egypt we have in our collection, and a great book for school projects.


Stephen Biesty’s Cross-Sections: Castle

This book is a classic and for good reason. As a close look at castle life during the medieval period it’s yet to be bettered. The cross sections of the various parts of the castle are intricately detailed, with explanations of what’s happening in different parts of the drawing. They’re also quite funny; try to spot the sneaky spy and the castle inhabitants getting up to all sorts of things, many of them not exactly appropriate to the situation!  The book manages to be both very informative and extremely fun. As well as the cross sections there are plenty of things like the feudal system, clothing and warfare.  This is THE book to read if you’re at all interested in Medieval castles.



Deadly days in History

Terry Deary has been writing the Horrible History books for twenty years, and to his credit, they’re still as interesting and funny as they’ve ever been. Rather than focusing on one specific country, this is a look at the days in world history that have been particularly bloody.  True to his established pattern, he doesn’t just stick to Western History; he also looks at the Sepoy and Boxer rebellions, as well as the Battle of Isandlwana.  He also isn’t biased towards any particular group; everyone involved has their savagery discussed.  It’s a great book, even by Terry Deary’s high standards, and well worth reading if you like your history both balanced and gory.




Bones never lie: How Forensic science helps solve history’s mysteries

One of the strangest parts of learning about history is how evolving scientific techniques of the present help us better understand the mysteries of the past. Forensic science is used to solve modern day murders, but it also has its uses in working out just what happened. For example, did Napoleon die of natural causes or was he murdered? Did the Grand Duchess Anastasia survive the massacre of her family by Communists? This book works hard to debunk various theories and explains the science behind each of the conclusions.  But it also takes the time to look at each of the other theories in turn, and treats each one with equal weight.



New Non-Fiction to inspire you

The Hugo movie Companion

Hugo was an amazing film that came out in 2011 that won five Oscars. It was based on a book called The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. This brilliant book shows how you take an incredible book and make it into award winning film. This book is more in depth than your average movie guide. It includes not only interviews with the director and main cast members but also the costume, hair and set designers, as well as the cinematographer and the camera operators. So not only is it a great guide to a brilliant film, it’s also an excellent insight into the film making process.





Toy Story: the art and making of  the animated film

This is another great book that takes a close look at the making of a movie, Toy Story. It was groundbreaking back when it was released (1995!) and this book takes you through how a CGI movie is conceived and then animated. There’s lots of cool concept art to look through, and you can see how the story and the character designs changed over time.  It’s a must-read for Pixar fans.






Star Wars Clone Wars: the visual guide to the ultimate battles

If you loved the Star Wars animated series, you’ll love this book. It discusses all the major battles in the series so far, as well as having some extra information on the characters themselves.  It doesn’t go into the making of the series, but for information about the story it can’t be beaten.






Knights and Castles

Although this book is aimed at young readers, it contains some useful information about what life is like for a medieval knight and how he tried to live his life. It’s interesting, but takes a bit of an optimistic view of knights. If you’re a bit older you might want to look at Terry Deary’s Horrible History book.





Rescuing Gus

Melissa Wareham always wanted a dog. So when she grew up she started working at Battersea Dogs Home, the oldest and most famous dog shelter in England.  There she meets “Gus” a part husky mongrel who’s had a bit of a rough start in life. So she adopts him, and tries to make sure he has the best life possible. Hard when he gets into a lot of trouble! This is a great book for those who are thinking about adopting pets.






Martha Stewart’s Favourite crafts for kids

This is a great little book that will teach you how to make 175 cool projects; everything from Terrariums to gingerbread houses.  The instructions are clear, and there’s a picture of everything you need to make the project, so everything’s easy to make.  We’ve recently gotten a whole heap of craft books: Art Lab is a cute book for preschoolers, Crafts for accessorising that look for  the fashionistas, and another ‘bumper’ book of crafty activities, 100 fantastic things to make, do, and play.







No superheroes: cool comic books without a cape in sight

Comic books, or graphic novels, are a new and very cool addition to our collection. We’ve got all your old favourites, like  Asterix, Lucky Luke and Tintin, but there’s plenty for you if you’d like to try something a bit different.  Superheroes are cool, but if you stick to reading about them you may miss out on some great reads! Here are a few of my favourites.


Mirka is an eleven year old girl who lives with her family in a small Orthodox Jewish community. But, as the cover tells you, she’s not like most other girls. In first book, How Mirika got her sword, Mirka has to deal with the unruly pet pig of the local witch. In the second,  Mirka meets a meteorite,  a magical double gets her into all sorts of trouble. But it’s not just fantastic adventures; Mirka, who is hot tempered and reckless,  gets into scrapes with her family and the rest of her community and learns a lot about herself .  Her faith plays an important role in the story and you’ll learn a lot about how belief helps her when she’s feeling down.  There are only two books at the moment, but a third one is on its way.


A Game for swallows

A lot of graphic novels for older readers talk about the author’s lives. A game for swallows is about a girl living in Beruit during the Civil War in Lebanon which lasted for 15 years. The city of Beruit was divided and it was very dangerous to try and travel between different parts of the city.  One night, Zeina’s parents go out to visit her grandmother, who lives only a few streets away but don’t come back.  The people who live in their apartment building rally around Zeina and her brother and try to keep their spirits up while they wait for news.  Their neighbours are an interesting group of people who all have their own stories about how they came to be living there and how the war has affected them. This is book, though, is not just about sadness; it also shows how people can keep hope alive and have fun even in the hardest of times.



Spera follows two princesses, Lono and Pira, who go on the run after Lono’s father is killed.  Pira’s mother is an evil Queen who uses black magic, and their only chance for survival is to run to the mythical land of Spera. With them they have a shape-shifting fire spirit called Yonder, who acts as their protector, although the girls gradually learn to defend themselves. Obviously, they have many different adventures on their way, and there are more books to come.  Each different adventure is drawn by a different artist, so as well as being a good story the illustrations are amazing, matching the tone of each story being told. There’s also a second volume of Lono and Pira’s adventures.




The Secret of the Stone Frog

Leah and Alan are a brother and sister who suddenly wake up in a strange world.  This is nothing like you’ve ever seen before, with lions in suits, giant rabbits and talking buildings; everything’s drawn in black and white with lots of detail.  Alone and without help, they must somehow find their way back home.  If you liked Alice in Wonderland, you’ll love this book. It has the same feeling of everything being topsy-turvy and the wrong way round, and Alan and Leah have to work out the rules of this strange place, which is harder than it sounds.



Lio: there’s a monster in my socks

…and if there is, chances are Lio put it there himself. It’s fair to say that Lio’s not like other kids. He’s a mad scientist with a strange pets and a twisted sense of humour. Each of the comic shows Lio’s attempts to get even with his classmates, get by in class, or pull pranks on who ever is unlucky enough to be near him at the time.  Most of the stories are only a page long, and told in four panels of black and white drawings.  Short, easy to read, and pretty funny.  Of course, Lio doesn’t always suceed in his plans to cause chaos…





Salt Water Taffy

Jack and Benny are on vacation. Not to Disney World, not to New York, but to Chowder Bay; a sleepy small town on the coast. There’s no TV, Jack’s gameboy has run out of batteries, and their Dad needs quiet to finish his book.  They soon get dragged into a mystery (of course) and learn that Chowder Bay has all sorts of dark secrets and mysteries. But the book has its funny moments as well, and anyone who’s gone on a vanacation with just Mum and Dad and their annoying sibling (s) understand. In the first book, the boys meet an old fisherman and go off to search for a lake monster.




What would you do with almost unlimited power? This is the question that Emily must answer when she finds an amulet that gives her powers in a strange and magical world.  She and her brother Navin set out to explore this world and rescue their mother from the grasp of the dark forces. This is a great adventure story, and once again, the first in a brilliant series. The illustrations are particularly amazing, as they are in colour and beautifully detailed.





Hilda and the Midnight Giant

The cover of this book is a bit misleading. It shows Hilda, the main character, standing among a cluster of small buildings. But Hilda isn’t the giant mentioned in the title…but to say more would ruin the story. It’s quite unique; Hilda takes the existence of creatures of elves and giants for granted. Instead of being taken to a fantasy world, she can recognise the fantastical elements of her own. The illustrations are fantastic (again) and beautiful, despite being quite simple. It’s a must read if you’re looking for a magical story that’s a bit different from all the others.  There’s also another book about Hilda, called Hilda and the Bird parade.


Francis Sharp in the grip of the Uncanny

A vivid imagination helps Francis escape the realities of life; he doesn’t get on with his parents and life on the farm  during the Great Depression is hard. Unfortunately, it also gets him into a lot of trouble.  He finds himself in a strange town full of strange creatures with no idea how to get home again.  He does find allies, but his arrival has been noticed. This is a great book, the first in a four part series. While you may take a while to warm up to Francis,  you’ll want to keep reading to work out the mysteries the first book sets up.


New non-fiction: books for younger readers

First illustrated Science dictionary

This is a great little book for younger readers who are curious about how the world works. It’s beautifully illustrated, and the information is presented in a clear, simple way.  It talks about everything from cells to the stars, and is a great introduction to scientific concepts.






Black Holes

If the Illustrated Science dictionary has sparked your interest in black holes, this is the book you want to read next.  It’s simple, clear and if you get stuck, there’s a glossary of words at the back.  Plus there are some great pictures that take you through how Black Holes work.




African Myths and Legends

All cultures tell amazing stories about the past. This is a great little collection of myths and legends from all African cultures.  Gods, heroes and trickster spirits all have their own special stories, depending on where they come from. If you liked this book, you could check out other myths in our collection.






Make it!

If you like crafts and want to save the planet, this book is filled with awesome projects that will help you do just that. All of these are pretty easy, but very fun, so you probably won’t need Mum or Dad looking over your shoulder when you make toys out of odd socks or rocket ships from milk bottles.






Welcome to your awesome Robot

This book is a lot like Make it! except you’ve got one project to focus on; making a robot costume out of an old cardboard box. Sounds boring? Well, it isn’t. There’s plenty of ideas here about how to customise your ‘robot’ as well as a cool comic strip showing how a kid (with a bit of help from Mum) made theirs. It’s not your average craft book.






What exciting things can be found beneath the sea? Mankind has been sailing the seas for centuries; but occasionally, things go wrong, and all sorts of ships end up on the ocean floor. It’s not just about the treasure; shipwrecks





New Non-Fiction : Big Books of interesting facts and things to do

Star Trek : The Visual Dictionary

Like it says on the cover, this really is the ultimate guide to characters, aliens and technology of Star Trek.  It’s almost been 50 years since Star Trek first appeared on television, so there’s a lot to include! It doesn’t look at the more recent movies, but for all the old school tv series and movies, you can’t beat this book.






Houses of long ago

This has to be one of the coolest books we have in the library.  It’s got gorgeous pictures of different houses through history; from the Chinese courtyard house to the medieval English manor. Each picture of the house has small flaps you can lift to see inside the houses and learn all sorts of interesting facts about how people lived in the past.





Cook it step by step

With over 100 recipes, this is a pretty extensive cook book that could teach you how to make pretty much anything. There are lots of pictures that take you through each recipe, and there’s some great information on basic cooking techniques as well.  It’s a great book for a beginner cook, but there’s plenty healthy, delicious recipes in here that anyone could make.





The Great Big Book of Feelings

What do you do when you feel jealous? What things make you sad? What do you do when you feel satisfied? This book doesn’t have all the answers, but it will make you think about the hows and whys of your feelings and what to do when they cause you trouble.






RHS Garden Projects : loads of fun things to do and make in the garden

If the weather holds up, there’s plenty here to keep you entertained in your backyard. Or you could keep them in mind for the warmer weather. At any rate, this is a fantastic book full of awesome projects.  They’re divided into three sections: “make it”, “cook it”, and “create it.” There’s plenty of instructions on when to make the projects, as well. My favourite project is making a fairy ring for your garden…just ask your Mum or Dad first!



The Big book of Big machines

If you’re a nut about all sorts of movers, diggers, flyers and cars then this is an excellent choice.  It’s got lots of fold out pages, so you can appreciate just how big these machines are. It doesn’t go into much detail about exactly how these machines work, but there’s enough information to give you a pretty much basic understanding of what the biggest machines are and what they do.






Animal diaries: Tyrannosaurus Rex

This is an unusual book that’s told from the perspective of a Tyrannosaurus Rex who hatches from an egg shortly before the end of the dinosaurs.  The reader stays with him as he grows up, and learns all about how young t-rex dinosaurs learn to hunt, how they live in their family groups, and all the other creatures they would have interacted with. Which were not necessarily dinosaurs and not necessarily food! It also looks at what survived after the meteorite and why. If you find the mighty meat eater a bit much, there’s also a really cool book from the same series told from the point of view of an elephant.







New non-fiction: History

Avoid being Sir Isaac Newtown!

Sir Isaac Newtown was one of the greatest scientists who ever lived. But he didn’t have it easy; he survived plague, civil war and poverty to become a Professor of Mathematics at 26!  He went on to live an amazing life and make many important discoveries that changed science forever.






Awesome Adventures at the Smithsonian

This is the official guide to the Smithsonian Institution, which is not just one but a collection of museums mostly located in Washington D.C.  There are exhibitions on everything, from human flight (The National Air and Space Museum) to the origins of human life (  National Museum of Natural History.) While this would be a great book to take on a trip to the U.S.A, it’s really interesting to read in its own right.





ANZAC Day The New Zealand story : what it is and why it matters

This is an important book about New Zealand’s role in World War I. Although it does talk about Gallipoli, it also mentions other places that New Zealanders fought, such as the Western front.  The Maori and Pacific Island soldiers who fought are also discussed. The book also looks at what happened after the war; what life for the soldiers who came back was like, how the dead were memorialised and the first ANZAC day services.





Dogs: a very peculiar history

This is a great little book will tell you all about the history of dogs,  from the wild dogs that our ancestors domesticated to the pampered pooches of today’s top celebrities. Not only will this book tell you the history of dogs, it also explains their doggy behaviors and quirks.  Also included are stories about heroic dogs, fictional dogs and movie star dogs! Basically this is a great book for you canine lovers. However, if you’re more of a cat person, there’s also Cats: A very peculiar history. 



The Book of Blood

A lot less gruesome than its name suggests, this book will tell you everything you need or want to know about blood. As well as looking at the science of blood, this book also takes a look at what people in the past thought about blood (and how it worked) and how that changed over time.  There’s also some really interesting sections on bloodsuckers, from the real ones, like mosquitoes to the fictional, like vampires.  It’s a well written book with great pictures and lots of interesting information.





The Arab-Israeli conflict

The Arab-Israeli conflict is one of the most contentious issues of our time and sometimes it’s hard to know what to think. This book lays out the history of the conflict and how it’s shaped international relationships.







Medicine through the Ages: Modern, Renaissance, Medieval and Industrial Age

These are some really fantastic books about how medicine changed and developed over time.  They’re extremely informative, and filled with great (if gory!) illustrations.  They’re a bit more serious than books like the Horrible Histories, but they’re still very interesting and worth a read.