Go The Ferns! Aotearoa Women’s Sports Teams in the Spotlight


With the Black Ferns currently playing in the Rugby World Cup, and the Football Ferns soon to kick off in the 2023 Fifa Women’s Football World Cup, we thought we’d train the spotlight onto our amazing NZ female sports teams that are shining bright and creating sporting history! You’ll also notice a trend with the naming of our national women’s teams – most names incorporate a variation of the silver fern – an emblem that has become synonymous with New Zealand athletes and sports teams.

The Black Ferns – New Zealand women’s rugby team

New Zealand women's national rugby union team - Wikipedia

New Zealand women’s national rugby union team logo

The Black Ferns are New Zealand’s senior women’s rugby team and have a world ranking of #2 with World Cup titles in 1998, 2002 2006, 2010 and 2017; and they will be playing in the Finals of World Cup as I type! The Black Ferns became the first women’s team to ever be named the World Rugby Team of the Year in 2019.

[NOTE: The Black Ferns and All Blacks play Rugby Union, which is a slightly different game to Rugby League.The NZ women’s Rugby League team is called the Kiwi Ferns]

Rugby World Cup 2021 – There’s a heap of firsts at this tournament.

This is the first time the women’s version of the Rugby World Cup will be played in New Zealand, and in the Southern Hemisphere. And it’s the first World Cup tournament to go ahead since the Covid-19 pandemic began (this event was delayed a year, and why it’s still called RWC2021).

It’s also the first time it won’t be called the Women’s Rugby World Cup. Just the Rugby World Cup – the same name as the men’s tournament.

It’s also the first time poi are handed out free to everyone attending the games – part of the Wā Poi (It’s Poi Time) movement to get the crowd twirling poi to support the teams.

The Football Ferns – New Zealand women’s football team

NZ Football - HOME

NZ Football logo

The New Zealand women’s national football team,  the Football Ferns, is governed by New Zealand Football (NZF). The New Zealand national team qualified for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, held in China in September 2007. This was their first World Cup in 16 years, and the second since their 1975 debut in international competition. Because  New Zealand is co-host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup alongside Australia, the Football Ferns automatically qualify as co-host.

The Silver Ferns – New Zealand women’s netball team

New Zealand national netball team - Wikipedia

New Zealand national netball team logo

The Silver Ferns have won the Netball World Cup five times (in 1967, 1979, 1987, 2003 and 2019), and have won the netball gold medal at the Commonwealth Games twice (in 2006 and 2010).

Netball has been played in New Zealand since 1906. It is the most popular female sport in New Zealand. It was originally called women’s basketball and was played outside on grass courts. Players wore full-length skirts, hats, blouses and shoes. The net was a basket, closed at one end, so the referee had to clamber up and retrieve the ball after each goal! It was not until 1970 that the sport became officially known as netball in New Zealand. Today’s netball is fast-paced, physical and usually played on asphalt or indoor courts.

Even now, it is changing fast, with Fast5 Netball World Series taking place in Christchurch in November 2022. Fast5 is a variation of netball using only five players (regular netball has seven players a side) and features shortened games and goals worth multiple points.

The White Ferns – New Zealand women’s cricket team

New Zealand women's national cricket team - Wikipedia

New Zealand women’s national cricket team logo

The NZ women’s cricket team make its test cricket debut in 1935 against England.  In 1973 the first Women’s Cricket World Cup took place. The White Ferns are one of only three teams (NZ, England and Australia) to have participated in all ten editions of this tournament, winning in 2000 and making it to the finals on four occasions.

In 1992 The national women’s team was named the White Ferns at the same time as the men became the Blackcaps.

The Tall Ferns – New Zealand women’s basketball team

See the source image

New Zealand women’s national basketball team logo

Both national sides (the Tall Ferns – women, and the Tall Blacks – men) made their Olympic debuts in 2000 at Sydney. And both teams won silver medals in the 2006 Commonwealth Games. The Tall Ferns then qualified for their third successive Olympics in 2008 at Beijing, but didn’t qualify for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics (which were held in Tokyo in 2021).

The Black Sticks – New Zealand women’s hockey team

See the source image

New Zealand Black Sticks Hockey team logo

Modern hockey emerged in England in the second half of the 19th century. Women played hockey from the 1880s, with a women’s inter-provincial match held in 1899. Hockey was the first team sport played at international level by New Zealand women, who competed against a touring English women’s team in 1914. From the 2000s both the national men’s and women’s teams are known as the Black Sticks.


Get your game-face on and check out these books about some of the world’s amazing women athletes and the sport they play:

Stacey Waaka : world champion rugby player / Riley, David
“Follows Stacey’s journey from Ruatoki to the rugby stadiums of the world. Read about some of the many challenges she’s been through, including a terrifying bus crash, and how she overcame them. Find out how her faith, family, friends, coaches, teachers and culture have guided and powered her to aim high in life”–Back cover.” (Catalogue)
Netball / Gifford, Clive
“Build your netball skills with the Sports Academy series. Looking to take up a new sport? Or just thinking about ways to keep fit and healthy? This book is a great introduction to all the important netball skills you’ll need. Full of skills tips and illustrations showing key techniques, you’ll discover everything- from offence to defence. The series Sports Academy covers rules, equipment and major competitions through specially commissioned, step-by-step illustrations that clearly shows skills and techniques needed for a sport.” (Catalogue)

The ultimate guide to women’s football / Thorpe, Yvonne
“Dip into this fun, fact-packed book to discover the best of women’s football, from the world’s top leagues, players and competitions to awe-inspiring goals, dazzling skills and memorable celebrations. Football is fast becoming the top participation sport for women in the UK, with almost three million active players. With the next Women’s World Cup just around the corner in June 2019, The Ultimate Guide to Women’s Football offers young readers a great way into the game and provides practical advice on how they can start playing the beautiful game themselves. A perfect read for football fans aged 8 and up.” (Catalogue)

She shoots, she scores / Clarke, Catriona
“She Shoots, She Scores! tells the empowering story of how women’s football has become one of the fastest-growing sports in the world.  Young football fans will discover how the early female players overcame prejudice to set up their own teams, and read the compelling stories of players who beat the odds to become famous around the world” (Catalogue, abridged)

Hockey / Dufresne, Emilie
“From running to rugby, it’s time to get sporty. Pick a side, lace up your trainers and jump in! these informative titles will tell you everything you need to know to get into sports. Know the rules, learn the lingo and get kitted up. Check out your sporting girl heroes in the player profile, and learn what favourite sport is doing to your body. Tackle rugby, swing into tennis or make a splash in swimming — whether you’re a fierce footballer, speedy sprinter or a brilliant basketball player, we want to be on your team! Go girls!” (Catalogue)

The warm sun on my face : the story of women’s cricket in New Zealand / Auger, Trevor
“It is the story of a game played for the sheer love of it, and of the hard work of the dedicated souls who built and sustained women’s cricket, often in the face of challenge and adversity. ” (Catalogue, abridged)

Top basketball tips / Rissman, Rebecca
“Swish! Every basketball player dreams of the perfect shot. Look inside to learn mechanics and tips to take your game to the next level.” (Catalogue)

Rising above. Inspiring women in sports / Zuckerman, Gregory
“Behold the power of women! These are the inspirational real-life stories of female superstar athletes Serena and Venus Williams, Simone Biles, Carli Lloyd, and more — role models all. For sports fans, aspiring athletes and readers of sports biographies. The athletes featured in this book met earth-shaking challenges head on, and through hard work and perseverance, went on to conquer the sports world. This collection of mini biographies, complete with first-hand content drawn from interviews, is a source of inspiration and self-empowerment for kids and sports fans of all ages. ” (Catalogue, abridged)

Women in sports : 50 fearless athletes who played to win / Ignotofsky, Rachel
“Illustrated profiles of fifty pioneering female athletes, from the author of the New York Times bestseller Women in Science. A charmingly illustrated and inspiring book, Women in Sports highlights the achievements and stories of fifty notable women athletes–from well-known figures like tennis player Billie Jean King and gymnast Simone Biles, to lesser-known athletes like skateboarding pioneer Patti McGee and Toni Stone, the first woman to play baseball in a men’s professional league. Covering more than forty sports, this fascinating collection also contains infographics about notable women’s teams throughout history, pay and media statistics for female athletes, and muscle anatomy. Women in Sports celebrates the success of the tough, bold, and fearless women who paved the way for the next generation of athletes” (Catalogue)

The Universe from Beginning to End

With our Wellington City Library holiday focus and activities on Our Place in Space, we thought it’d be fun to explore some amazing facts and figures about our wonderful universe. Be prepared for some mind-blowing ideas as we take a big picture look at what’s out there.

What is the Universe?

The universe is…well…everything. Every star, galaxy, planet, and all of space down to the smallest cell and atom. We don’t know how big the universe is – it may go on forever, but we don’t know if it does! The farthest we can see is around 13 billion light years away. Everything within this distance is called the observable universe. As far as scientists can tell,  space spreads out infinitely in all directions. By observing the known universe, scientists conclude that galaxies fill all of the space throughout the entire universe, and our little corner where the Milky Way Galaxy sits, appears to be no different from any other corner!

The Big Bang – the start (and end) of it all

Most scientists today believe that the universe was created about 13.8 billion years ago by a massive explosion. Matter, space and time all began at this moment. This is called the Big Bang Theory. Straight after the Big Bang, the universe expanded incredibly quickly, doubling in size about 100 times a second! The universe continues to expand even today, but what will happen billions of years into the future? There are three main ideas about how the universe will end:

The Big Crunch theory: According to this theory, the universe will at some time reach its maximum size. It will then start to get smaller and smaller, eventually collapsing into the biggest-ever black hole.

The Big Freeze theory: This theory suggests that the universe will keep expanding forever. This theory has its problems though – as everything is s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d further apart, all of its heat will be spread out thinly across space. In the end nothing will remain warm in a dark and very cold universe! Brrrrr!

The Big Rip theory: According to this theory, everything in the universe will keep expanding until it is eventually ripped apart with all matter destroyed.

Want to blow your mind with more space facts?

To look up space books in the library, go to the children’s non-fiction section and look under the Dewey number 520

Space number crunch! : the figures, facts and space stats you need to know / Pettman, Kevin
“Space Number Crunch! is a snappily written, fact-packed overview of the world of space, bursting with colourful, punchy data graphics and high-impact artworks. It’s guaranteed to contain all the essential info that space fans aged 8 and up need to know. Each piece of data is based around a number, creating an entire book of easy-to-digest information that will hook the most reluctant of readers. Includes features on the Big Bang, Mission to Mars, the Hubble Telescope and each of the extraordinary planets in our solar system.” (Catalogue)

Space record breakers / Rooney, Anne
“Space is mind-boggling. Time is measured in billions of years, and distances in trillions of kilometres. Space Record Breakers takes all this wonder and packages it in digestible, factual form, focusing half on the natural wonders of space and half on the history (and future) of humankind’s exploration. Which is the biggest known planet? What’s the hottest star? Who’s the most intrepid astronaut?Presents information on outer space and human space exploration, including the planet with the most moons, the first woman in space, and the closest star to the solar system.” (Catalogue)

Super cool space facts : a fun, fact-filled space book for kids / Betts, Bruce
“Take an exciting, fact-filled journey that goes where all great space books for kids should – to our solar system and beyond! Super Cool Space Facts is bursting with info about stormy planets, exploding stars, weird black holes, amazing landers, and more. Launch into learning with awesome and easy-to-digest facts about everything from asteroids hurtling through space to astronauts on the International Space Station.  Fill your outer space adventure with the jokes, big word alerts, and fascinating mysteries of the universe all space books for kids should have. See how cool space is with incredible pictures of stars, galaxies, planets, constellations, and more.” (Catalogue, abridged)

Super space encyclopedia / Gifford, Clive
“Bursting with fascinating facts and the latest breathtaking images, this space book for children brings the wonders of the Solar System to life. Find out about the never-ending storms on Jupiter. Learn about the towering volcanoes of Venus — all 1,600 of them, and see the Valles Marineris on Mars — a canyon that is ten times longer than Earth’s Grand Canyon. Find out many more fascinating “super” facts about the cosmos with Super Space Encyclopedia. Based on recent research and discoveries, Super Space Encyclopedia showcases everything you need to know about the Universe — from the Big Bang to the formation of galaxies and planets as well as the technology used to explore it unimaginable depths. Fabulous cutaway artworks help to reveal the inner workings of the Sun, planets, and spacecraft.” (Catalogue)

50 things you should know about space / Prinja, Raman
“What exactly goes on at the International Space Station and why does the Earth spin? Just how big is our galaxy and how did the Moon form? From constellations to space shuttles, Space is as endlessly fascinating as the Universe itself. Discover everything you ever wanted to know about space missions, colliding galaxies, light years, solar eclipses, the surface of the Sun and much, much more in this exciting title. Packed with facts and figures, you’ll also find out about astronomers, astronauts and scientists and how their incredible jobs have enabled us to learn so much about our Universe.” (Catalogue)

Your place in the universe / Chin, Jason
“A non-fiction introduction to the massive scale of the known universe” (Catalogue)

Exoplanets / Simon, Seymour
“Introduces exoplanets, examining the planets outside of our solar system, discussing what makes them habitable, and exploring the efforts to discover new life.” (Catalogue)

Germs: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Microscope | Free SVGA germ is a common term for a tiny organism (so tiny that you can only see it through a microscope) that causes a disease in a plant or animal. The term ‘germ’ is a catch-all word for several different kinds of organisms including bacteria, viruses, protozoans and fungi. Check out Encyclopaedia Britannica online for loads more info on these amazing (and sometimes deadly) little beings: Encyclopaedia Britannica | Germs

Covid-19 is a germ called a virus.

Probably the most well-known and infamous germ of modern times is the germ that causes Covid-19! For the past two years, the world has been living with a global pandemic because of Covid-19.

The Covid-19 germ is a virus called a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that affect animals. Occasionally, coronaviruses have been known to move from animals to humans. The coronavirus we’re talking about today is a new virus, which has caused COVID-19.

On its own, a virus, like coronavirus, is lifeless. However, it becomes active when it infects, or enters, a cell of an animal or a plant. Once inside a cell, a virus can reproduce itself, like living things can.

How can we stop ourselves getting sick?

There will always be times in your life when you get sick – you can’t avoid it! But there are some simple things you can do every day to help you stay healthy and prepare you body to fight the germs:

  1. Eat healthily, with loads of fruit and vegetables, so that you build and maintain a healthy immune system. Your immune system will help you fight off the germs that want to get into your body.
  2. Wash your hands regularly, using soap and water – especially after using the bathroom and before you eat.
  3. Don’t spread the germs amongst your friends by going out when you’re sick, and cough and sneeze into your elbow so that the germs stay off your hands.
  4. If you feel really sick, you should go to your doctor and follow their advice.

Good germs vs. bad germs

Not all germs are bad. Some types of bacteria actually help people’s bodies stay healthy. There are good bacteria that live inside your intestines that help you digest your food so that all the nutrients get to the places they need to get to. Other good bacteria are used to make medicines that fight sicknesses.

Sir Alexander Fleming, Frs, the Discoverer of Penicillin Art.IWMARTLD4217 - PICRYL Public Domain Image

Sir Alexander Fleming working in his lab. Image: Public domain

Did you know? The first anti-bacterial medicine, or antibiotic, was discovered by mistake by a Scottish bacteriologist called Alexander Fleming in 1928. Penicillin was named after the green mould called Pennicilium notatum which had contaminated dishes in Dr Fleming’s lab while he was on holiday. When he got back he found that the penicillin was killing the bacteria he’d been growing! Find out more about Dr. Fleming by borrowing his biography from the library.

Want to do more germ research online?

Any Questions | Epidemics

20 Interesting Activities to Teach Kids about Germs

Awesome 8 Things Living On, In, and With You

Fun Science and Tech for Kids | Biology

Biology for Kids


Want to do more germ research in the library?

The giant book of germs / Hendry, Lorna
“How many germs live on your hand? How do germs make you sick? Do the germs in your gut really keep you healthy? Discover many more surprising facts in The Giant Book of Germs!” (Catalogue)

It’s catching : the infectious world of germs and microbes / Gardy, Jennifer
“Presents general information about different types of germs, as well as the diseases they cause, and how people work to prevent them from spreading.” (Catalogue)

Dirty Bertie : germs / MacDonald, Alan
“Join Bertie as he attempts to catch sister Suzy’s horrible illness, finds himself partnering Gran at a dancing competition and meets his match in the new babysitter who’s even grubbier than he is!” (Catalogue)

Little bunny, big germs / Wells, Rosemary
“Saying nope to soap, little bunny soon learns the importance of protecting himself and others from germs when he catches a cold and is sent home from school.” (Catalogue)

Dr. Dog / Cole, Babette
“Common sense advice with some good rude fun. Both pet and personal physician to the Gumboyle family, Doctor Dog is always on hand with the perfect diagnosis and remedy for every complaint.” (Catalogue)

Wash your hands / McNamara, Margaret
“When everyone in Ms. Connor’s first grade class has a cold, she shows her students how to wash their hands to get rid of germs.” (Catalogue)

Alexander Fleming / Tames, Richard
“Describes the life of Alexander Fleming, his bacteriological research and the importance of the discovery of penicillin.” (Catalogue)

Keep it clean: germ free / Minden, Cecilia
“Level 1 guided reader that teaches students how to prevent the spread of germs by washing hands and the importance of cleanup.” (Catalogue)

What are germs? / Daynes, Katie
“What are germs? How do they spread? And how do medicines help? Curious young children can take a closer look at those mischievous, microscopic bacteria and viruses in this fascinating introduction to germs and hygiene, with 30 flaps to lift and tips on hand-washing and staying healthy.” (Catalogue)

Puzzle Paradise: The Fun and Science of Problem Solving

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Do you like any/all of the following:

  • Problem solving
  • Maths
  • Reading
  • Art
  • Patterns
  • Shapes

Then it sounds like you like doing puzzles! Puzzles can come in a variety of shapes and sizes and they are often toys that we’ve played with since we were babies. If you think of blocks, Lego, Rubik’s cubes, picture puzzles, jigsaws, card games, Jenga, tangrams, sudoku – they’re all puzzles that need to be solved, and in doing so your brain is getting loads of exercise!


What happens to your brain when you do a puzzle?

Mental health icon vector clip art | Free SVGYour brain thinks you’re hunting! Puzzles play with words, numbers, shapes, and logic which makes us want to uncover the solutions that they hide. It’s like reading a Whodunnit – our brain is constantly trying to work out why. It is the ‘hunt’ itself that stimulates the areas of your brain that involves discovery.

You’ll get a whole brain workout: Puzzles activate both the left and right hemispheres of the brain which includes imagination, reasoning and memory.

You get a rush of pleasure when you solve the puzzle! That feel-good moment when you finally figure out that last clue or place the missing piece? That comes thanks to a rush of dopamine in your nucleus accumbens, the area of the brain responsible for rewards.


Who invented…?

Jigsaw puzzle in different colors | Public domain vectorsJigsaw Puzzles: The first jigsaw puzzle was created by a map engraver called John Spilsbury, in 1762. He mounted one of his master maps onto wood and then cut around the countries. He gave it to children in the local school to help them with their geography education. Learn more about the history of jigsaw puzzles on Britannica Online: Encyclopaedia Britannica | Jigsaw Puzzles

File:Rubik's cube scrambled.svg - Wikimedia CommonsRubik’s Cubes: In 1974, a young Hungarian architect named Ernő Rubik became obsessed with finding a way to model three-dimensional movement to his students. After spending months experimenting with blocks made from wood and paper, held by rubber bands, glue, and paper clips, he finally created something he called the “Bűvös kocka,” or Magic Cube. Learn more about the Rubik’s Cube on Britannica Online: Encyclopaedia Britannica | Rubik’s Cube

tangram | Free SVGTangrams: Invented in China approximately 200 years ago, a tangram is a re-arrangement puzzle created by cutting a square into seven geometric shapes called “tans”.


Online brain teasers to get you started

Stuff Kids’ General Knowledge Quizzes

CBC Kids Games and Puzzles

Jigsaw Puzzles for Kids

Safe Kids’ Games


Puzzle Books for everyone

Usborne Young Puzzle Book series: This is a great series of puzzle books aimed at ages 4+. There are many different stories and scenarios to choose from. For example:

Puzzle mountain / Leigh, Susannah
“A fantastic new padded hardback edition of this exciting, fun adventure, which challenges young children to answer a puzzle on every double page. Brightly coloured, detailed illustrations in a cartoon style, along with plenty of maps, guides and things to spot, help children become engrossed in the absorbing adventure story.” (Catalogue)

More picture puzzle books:

I spy A to Z : a book of picture riddles / Wick, Walter
“Easy-to-read riddles by Jean Marzollo are paired with 46 object-filled photographs by Walter Wick to create the most engaging alphabet book ever! Young readers can use the simple picture clues to recognize the letter and letter sound featured on each page. There are more than 30 million I Spy books in print!” (Catalogue)

Around the world in 80 puzzles / Artymowska, Aleksandra
“We are going around the world! Take yourself on a fantastical journey packed with puzzles to unpick and meandering mazes to wander through. There are 80 challenges to complete. Can you solve them all?” (Catalogue)

The looky book / Bixley, Donovan
“Presents a series of picture puzzles with a New Zealand theme in which the reader is invited to find a variety of objects.” (Catalogue)

Where’s Wally series: Fun fact: “Where’s Wally” is called “Where’s Waldo” in North America!

Where’s Wally / Handford, Martin
“Detailed pictures for the readers to find Wally in, plus other tasks to do on each page, under the flaps. Open the flaps and frantically find extra things that have never been seen or searched for before.” (Catalogue)

Master-mind : over 100 games, tests, and puzzles to unleash your inner genuis / Drimmer, Stephanie Warren
“An introduction to the human brain uses quizzes, trivia, and puzzles to explore the different functions of the brain, how to improve brain power, and why each brain is unique.” (Catalogue)

The everything kids’ dinosaurs book stomp, crash, and thrash through hours of puzzles, games and activities / Wagner, Kathi
“A collection of puzzles, games, and activities about dinosaurs that describes how to become a palaeontologist, what the earth looked like during the time of dinosaurs, and other reptiles and birds that coexisted with dinosaurs.” (Catalogue)

Math games lab for kids : 24 fun, hands-on activities for learning with shapes, puzzles, and games / Rapoport, Rebecca
“Math is the foundation of all sciences and key to understanding the world around us. Math Games Lab for Kids shares more than 50 hands-on activities that make learning about math fun by drawing and building shapes, solving puzzles, and playing games.” (Catalogue, abridged)

The 5 minute brain workout for kids : 365 amazing, fabulous, and fun word puzzles / Chamberlain, Kim
“With ten levels of puzzles–ranging from easiest to most challenging–and an answer key at the end to check your work, this book is sure to help keep your brain active and will help increase your understanding of and love for all kinds of words!” (Catalogue)

Gadgets away : 100 great games to play / Jennison, Fiona
“Technology has become the too-easy way to entertain ourselves and our children. This easy-to-use, imaginative book has everything. There’s plenty of fun here to keep your family laughing: Sporty games and playground classics Activities for indoors, gardens, parks and beaches Memory and travel games, brain teasers and magic tricks.” (Catalogue)

How to solve the Rubik’s Cube
“The Rubik’s Cube is the world’s best-known puzzle, a magical object that has baffled and fascinated the world for more than forty years. This clearly-illustrated step-by-step guide teaches you a foolproof beginners’ method for solving the Cube, plus advanced techniques if you want to learn to solve it in seconds.” (Catalogue)

Railways, Trains and Destinations

This week is National Rail Safety week in both New Zealand and Australia (8 – 14 August 2022).

TrackSAFE Foundation NZ is promoting a superstition that might help keep pedestrians safe at railway crossings:

A superstition we're on board with | KiwiRail

We hope that by “Blowing to the left and right” near railway tracks will be the magic you need to keep you and your friends safe!


James, the red engine, from the Thomas the Tank Engine stories by Rev. W Awdry. Image: Jamie Boorman

Trains, and going on train journeys, have always had a magical quality to them. So many books have been written about trains or with a train journey as a central part of the book – think “Thomas the Tank Engine”,  “The Railway Children”, or the Hogwarts Train in the Harry Potter series. Trains can clatter over high bridges, run underground through long tunnels and can even go at lightning speeds on high-tech electromagnetic tracks.

Train FAQ

What is a Train Spotter?

A Train Spotter is a rail enthusiast that really likes watching trains! They will often write down the numbers of passing trains as a hobby and compare their notes with other enthusiasts. A Train Spotter can also be called A railfan, rail buff or train buff, railway enthusiast or railway buff… or ferroequinologist!

What’s the largest model railway in New Zealand?

The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) has a Main Trunk Line model railway that’s a must see if you’re visiting Auckland. The model showcases the history and engineering feats of the North Island Main Trunk Line; including the Hapuawhenua Viaduct and the twisting Raurimu Spiral. Watch this You Tube clip to see this amazing model in action and learn about the NZ’s incredible railway history.


What is the fastest train in the world?

File:Shanghai maglev train.jpg - Wikimedia CommonsThe fastest train in the world is  Shanghai Maglev. It is a magnetic levitation train (maglev) that operates in the city of Shanghai, China. This 504-foot-long train can fit 574 passengers and roars to life over the tracks at a top speed of 431 km/h – wow!

Can trains crash?

undefinedYes! But they are still considered to be one of the safer forms of transport, ahead of car and motorbike travel. New Zealand’s worst train disaster was the Tangiwai Disaster. At 10.21 p.m. on Christmas Eve 1953 the Wellington–Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River at Tangiwai, in the central North Island, after a lahar from Mt Ruapehua washed away Tangiwai Bridge. Of the 285 passengers and crew on board, 151 died.

New Zealand author David Hill has written a historical novel exploring the environmental tragedy from the perspective of a young person, check it out here.



Let’s take a train journey through the Wellington City Libraries Catalogue:

Trains / Jenner, Elizabeth
“Explore the wonder of the railway and see how train travel has developed through time. Trains are used across the world to transport goods and passengers. They can ride rails underground, move at high-speeds and travel between countries. In this book, you will discover the wonder of the railway and see how train travel has developed through history- from simple mining wagons to high-speed machines and beyond.” (Catalogue)

Thomas the Tank Engine : the complete collection / Awdry, W
“This volume brings together all 26 books from the classic Railway series in one volume, with a foreword by the author. The stories are brought to life with the original illustrations, beautifully restored and reproduced.” (Catalogue)
The railway children / Nesbit, E.
“Family! Friendship! Adventure! Mystery! Roberta, Peter, and Phyllis have their lives turned upside down when their father mysteriously has to go away. The railway becomes the centre of their new life, but little do they know what wonders and changes it will bring to them – maybe even the answer to Father’s disappearance …Oxford Children’s Classics present not only the original and unabridged story of The Railway Children in a beautiful new edition, but also help you to discover a whole world of new adventures with a vast assortment of recommendations and activities. Ages 7+” (Catalogue)


Two little trains / Brown, Margaret Wise
“Two little trains head west, travelling through hills and mountains and over rivers and plains.” (Catalogue)
How trains work / Gifford, Clive
“From the fastest to the longest, the oldest to the newest, through tunnels and up mountains, take a fascinating ride through the world of trains in this brilliant new book from illustrator James Gulliver Hancock.” (Catalogue)

Skimbleshanks / Eliot, T. S.
“We must find him or the train can’t start! All aboard as Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat, stars in the third picture-book pairing from Arthur Robins and T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s cats, set on the Night Mail train where Skimble won’t let anything go wrong.” (Catalogue)
Train / Demarest, Chris L
“The amazing sights of a train ride through the countryside whiz by in this deceptively simple rhyming book. Little listeners will be mesmerized by this rhythmic, rhyming ride-perfect reading for kids on a roll!” (Catalogue)
Night train, night train / Burleigh, Robert
“Told in rhyming text, a train speeds through the night, revealing the sights and colors along the way to its young and sleepy riders.” (Catalogue)
The space train / Powell-Tuck, Maudie
“Jakob has found the long-lost SPACE TRAIN! But it’s old, battered and broken. With the help of Granny and Derek the robot chicken, can Jakob fix the train? A stunning intergalactic adventure, packed with fun flaps and out-of-this world illustrations.” (Catalogue, abridged)
Where’s Thomas? : a Sodor search-and-find adventure
“Sodor is a busy, bustling place with plenty of things for a team of Very Useful Engines to do. Join Thomas and all of his friends as they travel all across the Island and see how many hidden things you can find on each colourful page!” (Catalogue)

Puppets & Puppeteers

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With puppets and puppetry featuring in our Beyond the Page Festival July holiday activities, we thought we’d explore all things PUPPET!

A puppet is a ‘moving doll’. They are often used in theatre performances, kids’ TV shows and films and often use strings or other devices to make the puppet move and look alive. Some puppets are very simple (like sock puppets), but others are more complicated and need lots of practise to use. The person who works the puppet and makes it move is called a puppeteer.

Simple Puppets that you can make at home

FPin on Paper Dollsinger Puppet: As the name suggests, you simply pop the puppet over your finger/s and get wiggling! Another form of finger puppet is the two-finger puppet that has holes for two fingers which act as the puppet legs.

Sock puppet: Find an old sock and glue funny eyes and noses onto the foot of the sock. Then wear it like a glove with the thump acting like a jaw.

Glove Puppet: Similar to a finger puppet, but larger. The puppeteer uses his or her fingers and hand to work the puppet.

Paddle Puppet: The puppet is on the end of a cardboard or wooden paddle, or is even the paddle itself. When the puppeteer wiggles the paddle back and forth, it seem that the puppet moves by itself.

Complicated Puppets

Jumping Jack: A puppet where the arms and legs of the puppet are joined to a string. When the string is pulled down, the arms and legs go up.

Rod Puppet and Bunraku: The puppet is worked with rods joined to the puppets arms and legs, while another puppeteer moves the head and sometimes the mouth. Bunraku is a special type of Japanese rod puppetry.

Make a Shadow Puppet Theatre Book – Stories In Paper | Shadow puppets, Shadow theatre, Puppets

Shadow Puppet Theatre. Image: Pinterest.com

Shadow Puppet:  A cut out figure on a rod is held in front of a light. Its shadow is projected onto a screen. The puppeteer moves the puppet around, giving it some life.

Marionette: This puppet is moved around with strings that hang from above the theatre. This is one of the more complex types of puppetry and is hard to master as some marionettes can have up to thirty strings.

Ventriloquist Figure or Dummy: This puppet is one of the few where the audience sees the puppeteer. The puppeteer moves the puppets head arms and mouth with his hands as well as with levers. The performance usually takes the shape of a conversation between the dummy and the puppeteer. The puppeteer speaks normally, then puts on a different voice when the puppet is supposed to be talking. His voice seems to be coming from his stomach (from the old Latin word: “venter”). His lips are not moving, but the puppet’s lips may move, so it seems as if the puppet is talking.


Jim Henson and the Muppets

Jim Henson's Legacy: A "Rainbow Connection" with UMD | Flickr

Jim Henson with the Muppets. Image: Flickr

Jim Henson (1936 – 1990) ) was one of the most well-known and innovative modern puppeteers. He is the creator of the Muppets – think Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Cookie Monster, and Elmo.  He made up the word Muppets as a blend of “marionette” (see above) and “puppet” and created the Muppets while still a student at university. The Jim Henson Museum is in his hometown of Leland, Mississippi and has an assortment of original Muppet characters on display. One of the bridges in Leland is also named “The Rainbow Connection” after the popular song from the 1979 film The Muppet Movie.




Check out the catalogue and get making and performing with puppets these holidays!

Puppets / D’Cruz, Anna-Marie
“An exciting collection of step-by-projects that readers can do at home on their own or in the classroom.” (Catalogue)

Sock Puppet Theater presents The three little pigs : a make and play production / Harbo, Christopher L
“Hear ye! Hear ye! Sock Puppet Theater Presents The Three Little Pigs! Now it’s a snap to make simple, adorable puppets, key props, and the perfect stage for bringing this classic fairy tale to life. But that’s not all! As an added bonus, this book also includes a fun starter script, helpful acting and performance tips, and clever suggestions for making your play truly unique. With Sock Puppet Theatre, you hold in your hands everything needed to get your puppeteer career started on the right foot!” (Catalogue)

Making shadow puppets / Bryant, Jill
“In this book in the Kids Can Do It series, kids can create traditional shadow puppets from around the world.” (Catalogue)

The most excellent book of how to be a puppeteer / Lade, Roger
“Tap students hidden talents with these clever books filled with step-by-step instructions for entertaining friends and family at home or at school.” (Catalogue)

Recycling things to make and do / Bone, Emily
“Provides step-by-step instructions for a range of craft activities using recycled materials. Suggested level: primary, intermediate.” (Catalogue)

I am Jim Henson / Meltzer, Brad
“Presents the creator of the Muppets and describes the creative spirit, performance talents and beliefs in the goodness of people that inspired his career and how he helped create the iconic programs Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.” (Catalogue)

The Muppets character encyclopedia / Shemin, Craig
“The most sensational, inspirational, muppetational character encyclopaedia ever! Play the music, light the lights, and meet all your favourite characters from the Muppets in The Muppets Character Encyclopaedia. From Animal to Zoot, meet over 200 of the most memorable and best-loved Muppet characters from the 1970s to the present day. […] The Muppets Character Encyclopaedia is a must-have for new fans eager for background on their new favourite Muppets as well as older fans wanting to relive the original TV series.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Mānawatia a Matariki!

“Mānawa maiea te putanga o Matariki
Mānawa maiea te ariki o te Rangi
Mānawa maiea te mātahi o te tau

Celebrate the rising of Matariki
Celebrate the rising of the lord of the sky
Celebrate the rising of the New Year

For the first time in Aotearoa, Matariki will officially be celebrated as a rā whakatā ā-ture (public holiday) on Friday 24 June 2022.

It is an opportunity for all people of Aotearoa to come together and reflect on the year that has passed, celebrate the present, and plan for the future.”(Mānawatia a Matariki)

In Aotearoa, the Matariki star cluster can be seen for most of the year, but in May the stars set below the horizon and during June or July each year, they rise again. The rising of Matariki marks the start of the Māori new year and is a time of remembrance, peace, and celebration. Traditionally nine stars were visible. These are named individually with each star signifying an important aspect of Te Ao Māori. Tohunga (skilled experts) would observe how the stars looked in the sky and make predictions on the coming year according to their appearance.

Celebrating Puanga

Many Māori in the west of New Zealand observe the rise of Puanga about two weeks earlier than Matariki. Puanga can be seen in the eastern sky and it signals the approach of dawn as if “the sun itself is pushing it from behind”. Puanga is celebrated by our Wellington mana whenua, Te Āti Awa as well as other Taranaki Iwi, Whanganui Iwi, Ngāpuhi, Rēkohu/Wharekauri and Moriori from the Chatham Islands. “Puanga kai rau” means Puanga of abundant food and gives credit to the fruits which Puanga brings.

The Matariki cluster is known throughout the world by many names including the Pleiades star cluster. In Greek ancient mythology, the Pleiades were seven sisters. The sisters’ names were Alcyone, Celaeno, Electra, Maia, Merope, Sterope (or Asterope), and Taygete. Puanga is known by some other cultures as Rigel.


Te Iwa o Matariki (The Nine Stars of Matariki)

Matariki – signifies reflection, hope and our connection to the environment

Pōhutukawa – connects with those who have passed on

Waitī – ties to bodies of fresh water and the food within it

Waitā – ties to the ocean and the food within it

Waipuna-ā-rangi – associated with the rain

Tupuānuku – is for food that grows within the soil

Tupuārangi – is for food that grows up in the trees

Ururangi – is the star associated with the winds

Hiwa-i-te-rangi – the youngest, is the wishing star that also ties into our aspirations for the coming year


Matariki Connections

Competition for Ages 512

Matariki is a good time to reflect on our lives and the world around us, celebrate the present, and think about the future.

In this competition, discover and draw what one star connection means to you! Use the above descriptions to choose an aspect of life associated with a star, and then illsutrate what it means to you!

The competition runs from 21–30 June.

Find out about the star connections here, or on the entry form at libraries and community centres. You can enter online at wcl.govt.nz/matarikiconnections

Win some lovely pukapuka!




Hot off the press!

The Astromancer: The Rising of Matariki. / Ihimaera, Witi
“The Astromancer is looking for four new apprentices to learn about Matariki and the Maramataka calendar. She chooses three boys and an orphan girl, Aria, who will come only if she can bring her smelly dog. Aria, though, is bored by the lessons, and she doesn’t want to be told what to do. But these are dangerous times, and Ruatapu the Ravenous is about to threaten the safety of the whole tribe. Will Aria step up to save them? Also available in te reo Maori as Te Kokorangi.” (Catalogue)
Te Kokorangi: Te Aranga o Matariki. / Ihimaera, Witi
“E kimi ana a Te Kokorangi i etahi pia hou tokowha hei ako i nga korero o Matariki me te maramataka. Kowhiria ana etahi tama tokotoru, me tetahi kotiro, he pani, ko Aria te ingoa. Tohe ana a Aria kia haere ano ko tana kuri haunga i tona taha. Ka ahua hoha a Aria i nga akoranga, kaore hoki ia e pai kia tohutohungia ia. Engari kua noho morearea te iwi. Taihoa pea ratou ka tino raru i a Ruatapu Te Pukurua. Ae ranei ma Aria ano te iwi e whakaora?” (Catalogue)

Want to find out more to help you celebrate Matariki?

Mānawatia a Matariki

Matariki at Te Papa

Matariki ki Pōneke

Matariki | AnyQuestions 

Te Wānanga o Aotearoa

Matariki: Te Tau Hou Māori

Te Aka Māori Dictionary

Wellington City Libraries: Matariki

 

Ngā mihi o te tau hou Māori!

Book Endings: The Way You Want Them to Be!

Apples and Oranges - Kids Environment Kids Health - National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Which would you choose?

Is the way a book ends important to you? Do you sometimes wish that you could write the ending so that the book finishes just the way you want it to? Or do you sometimes wonder what would happen to the story if the main character chose a different path to the one they did choose?

You sound like a perfect candidate for reading ‘choose your own ending’ books. These books give you alternatives.  They might say something like: “If you think this happens, turn to page XX, but if you want this to happen, turn to page XXX”.

Then everyone’s happy! You get the ending you want, and the hero or heroine gets to fight another day (or not, depending on what you choose!).

Oh the power! So… let’s get started:


If you like adventure non-fiction books with a you-choose ending, try these:

You Choose book series

Here are a couple of examples of action adventure books from this nail-biting series:

Could you escape a deserted island? : an interactive survival adventure / Hoena, B. A
“When an adventure at sea goes awry, the reader’s choices determine if survival is possible for two friends marooned on a desert island with a deflated raft and few supplies.” (Catalogue)

Surviving Mount Everest : an interactive extreme sports adventure / Hoena, B. A
“Since the beginning of time, we have been fascinated with heights. Mount Everest, therefore, is at the tip top of our fascination. In this tale, you call the shots in trying to conquer dizzying heights. Each decision becomes more important than the last as you climb higher and higher. Will you make it? Will you fall? Will you survive at all? YOU CHOOSE how this adventure ends. — back cover.” (Catalogue)


If you like adventure fiction, try these:

Choose Your Own Adventure book series

Here’s a couple of adventures you won’t want to miss the ending/s of:

House of danger / Montgomery, R. A
“You are a successful young detective, and the creepy Marsden residence and its missing owner have haunted you more than any other case. Maybe this is a sign you shouldn’t continue? Do you call in your best friends for support? Or perhaps you should turn to the police for help? Are you ready to take on mutant chimpanzees, time travel, and a counterfeiting ring to solve the case? House of Danger takes YOU on a thrilling adventure investigating criminal activity and a dark history in your town!” (Catalogue)

Journey under the sea / Montgomery, R. A
“Did the lost city of Atlantis really exist? Or is it just a myth? You are a highly experienced deep sea explorer, buut your search for the lost city of Atlantis is the trip of a lifetime. You must make choices necessary to go deeper, hoping one will lead you to your quarry, the mythical lost continent of Atlantis. Choose from forty-two possible endings.” (Catalogue)


Or maybe Sci-fi and fantasy is your jam?

Fighting Fantasy gamebooks

Starship Traveller / Jackson, Steve
“Sucked through the nightmare of the Seltsian Void, the starship Traveller emerges at the other side of the black hole into an unknown universe. You are the captain of the Traveller and her fate depends on you. Will you be able to discover the way back to Earth from the alien peoples and planets you encounter?” (Catalogue)

Spellbreaker / Green, Jonathan
“Rassin Abbey has guarded its arcane treasures for centuries. But when their Black Grimoire spellbook is stolen, the land of Ruddlestone is plunged into a crisis of epic proportions. Should the legendary Casket of Shadows be opened, the Infernal Beast will be unleashed to wreak its terrible carnage across the Old World.” (Catalogue)


Are you into your sports? These extreme sport adventures might be just for you:

You Choose: Surviving Extreme Sports

Surviving the Iditarod : an interactive extreme sports adventure / Jacobsmeyer, Nicki
“Set in the Alaskan wilds, the Iditarod is one of the most extreme races on the planet. As the musher and leader of a high-powered dog sledding team, choosing the right lead dog is just the first of your important decisions. From there, each choice you make will affect whether you come in first, fifth, last, or not at all. You choose how this adventure ends.” (Catalogue)

Surviving the Le Mans auto race : an interactive extreme sports adventure / Hoena, B. A
“The Le Mans auto race in France is a true test of endurance, and as you sit behind the wheel of a high-powered racecar, you’re in control. The decisions you make may take you across the finish line as a champion–or send you careening off course. Will you find a way to win–or even survive? YOU CHOOSE how this adventure story ends.” (Catalogue)

Cuddle your Teddy Bear in Troubling Times!

Teddy twins reading in the library. Image: Sue Jane

Why are teddy bears so popular with children and adults alike? Is it because they can be your softest, most huggable companions?! You can hug them for as long as you want, and in return get the best ‘cuddly’ feel ever. Their soft fur and smooth textures make you feel better and immediately cheers you up. Psychologists refer to them as “comfort objects,” and they can help us feel a greater sense of security when moving from one life stage to another, or when things get a little sad and scary.

We love our teddy bears so much that there’s even a Teddy Bears’ Picnic Day to help celebrate your special friend.


Some of our best loved bear stories are based on real events, and, sadly, these events are often about war and conflict. Here are just a few that will make you want to cuddle up with your own teddy and get reading:

Winnie the Pooh

Everyone knows about Winnie the Pooh, but did you know that these stories came about because of a real bear called Winnie? The real Winnie was a black bear who was brought to England from Canada with a vet on his way to World War 1.

Finding Winnie : the story of the real bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh / Mattick, Lindsay
“Before there was Winnie-the-Pooh, there was a real bear named Winnie. Here begins the moving true story of the real bear named Winnie adopted by soldiers during World War 1, and the inspiration behind the nation’s best-loved bear, Winnie-the-Pooh. In 1914, Harry Colebourn, a vet on his way to tend horses in World War 1, followed his heart and rescued a baby bear. He named her Winnie, and he took her to war. Harry Colebourn’s real-life great-granddaughter tells the true story of a remarkable friendship and an even more remarkable journey – from the fields of Canada to an army base in England …and finally to London Zoo, where Winnie made another new friend – a boy named Christopher Robin Milne” (Catalogue)

This amazing story has also been published as a chapter book:

Winnie’s Great War / Mattick, Lindsay
“Everyone has heard of Winnie-the-Pooh, but not everyone knows about the real Canadian bear who lent him her name. This is a wonderful tale of courage and friendship, for fans of Michael Morpurgo. Come on a heart-warming adventure, inspired by the journey undertaken by an extraordinary bear called Winnie during World War One.” (Catalogue)

 Anzac Ted

Anzac Ted, tells the story of a teddy bear, that was taken to the front line in World War 1 and then passed through the generations. Although this book is fictional, many ANZAC soldiers did in fact take treasured toys to the front line as a reminder of home and happier times.

Anzac Ted / Landsberry, Belinda
“Anzac Ted is the powerful, poignant story of a little boy’s teddy bear that was passed down to him from his grandfather. Battered, torn, missing an eye and an ear, he might look scary but he’s got a great story to tell. For Anzac Ted went to war, keeping soldiers company and giving them comfort. And while he never won a medal, and now doesn’t even attract a single vote at classroom Toy Shows, if only everyone looked a little deeper: ‘They’d see a hero, plain as day who sits upon my bed. A hero, who saved me and you. His name …is Anzac Ted.’ While several children’s picture books cover the world wars, none has ever made the conflict so accessible to children by telling the story of a bear who went to war. Belinda’s exquisite watercolour illustrations combine with her rhyming text to create a book that, while perfect for parents and teachers to share with children, is also guaranteed to touch the heart of every adult.” (Catalogue)

Josef’s Bear

Josef’s bear is a little wooden bear that was his father’s. This story is set in Germany just after World War 2…

Josef’s bear / Beames, Margaret
“It is Germany in 1948 and the war is over, but 11-year-old Josef still dreams of finding his father. All he has to remember him by is a little wooden bear. When Josef’s home in Berlin was destroyed during the war, he was rescued by Helga, a farmer’s wife, but now Josef is driven from the farm by Helga’s husband. With the bear in his pocket and a pistol in his pack, he heads for Berlin. In the war-ravaged city, now in the throes of the Russian blockade, he is befriended by Elsa and 6-year-old Trudi. Survival is a daily struggle, made possible by the Allied airlift. Josef tries to find work, while continuing to search for his father, and is drawn into an attempt to smuggle a German scientist, wanted by the Russians, out of Berlin. When he meets the Professor and sees a collection of hand-carved animals in his room he realises his search is over – but the house is burning, the Russians are closing in and the only way out is over the roof-tops” (Catalogue)

Pink Rabbit

You couldn’t call Pink Rabbit a teddy Bear, but it is still a cuddly and much-loved soft toy. The book “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” is also set in World War 2 and is based on the true story of the book’s author, Judith Kerr. In the book Anna has to choose which toy she wishes to take with her when her family flee their home. She opts to take her new woolly dog, and leave behind her pink rabbit toy, believing she will return to Berlin after a short time. It is from this that the title is derived as she considers that Hitler and the Nazis have “stolen” her much-loved toy.

When Hitler stole pink rabbit / Kerr, Judith
“Suppose your country began to change. Suppose that without your noticing, it became dangerous for some people to live in Germany any longer. Suppose you found, to your complete surprise, that your own father was one of those people. That is what happened to Anna in 1933. She was nine years old when it began, too busy with her schoolwork and toboganning to take much notice of political posters, but out of them glared the face of Adolf Hitler, the man who would soon change the whole of Europe — starting with her own small life. Anna suddenly found things moving too fast for her to understand. One day, her father was unaccountably missing. Then she herself and her brother Max were being rushed by their mother, in alarming secrecy, away from everything they knew — home and schoolmates and well-loved toys — right out of Germany!” (Catalogue)


Leave a poppy

Online Cenotaph of the Auckland War Memorial

image courtesy of rsa.co.nzIf you want to do some searching for family members who fought for New Zealand in World War I or World War II, the Online Cenotaph of the Auckland War Memorial is a great resource. You can even lay a virtual poppy on the wall of a loved one, or the UNKNOWN WARRIOR



And some of our furry friends have overcome scary times to give their humans comfort:

Edward Tulane

The miraculous journey of Edward Tulane / DiCamillo, Kate
“Edward Tulane, a cold-hearted and proud toy rabbit, loves only himself until he is separated from the little girl who adores him and travels across the country, acquiring new owners and listening to their hopes, dreams, and histories.” (Catalogue)

Lockdown Bear

There’s a bear in the window / Pitman-Hayes, June
“There’s a bear in the window of the house across the street. It’s tall and round, with great big feet! I wonder what I would see if I were that bear, and that bear were me? From singer-songwriter June Pitman-Hayes comes a story told in both English and Māori that celebrates the great teddy bear hunt, that entertained thousands of children during lockdown in 2020” (Catalogue)

Feel the Beat with World Piano Day!

File:Cartoon Piano Keyboard.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday 29 March is World Piano Day! Interesting… why today you ask? It’s because 29 March is 88 days into the year, and the humble piano has 88 keys – 52 white keys and 36 black keys.

brown piano interior keys

Hammers inside a piano. Image: Unsplash

A Brief History

The piano was invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) of Italy. Cristofori was unsatisfied by the lack of control that musicians had over the volume level of the harpsichord. He is credited for switching out the plucking mechanism with a hammer to create the modern piano in around the year 1700. By using hammers to hit the piano strings, he could create a loud or soft sound depending on how hard he hit the keys. This method is still used today and is called “the action” of the piano.

How did the piano get its name?

The instrument was actually first named “clavicembalo col piano e forte” (literally, a harpsichord that can play soft and loud noises). This was shortened to the now common name, “piano.”

What’s the difference between an upright and grand piano?

Upright or Grand: What Type of Piano Is Right For You? - Merriam Music - Toronto's Top Piano Store & Music SchoolGrand piano strings lie horizontal to the ground. Once a hammer has struck the string, gravity does the work of resetting the hammer. The quicker you can reset a hammer, the faster you can play that note again. So yes, on average, grands play faster than uprights.

Upright strings lie, well… upright! So once a hammer strikes a string, it relies on a series of complex mechanisms to reset the hammer.

Fun Piano Facts

  • By the time a piano is put together it can be quite heavy. A Steinway Concert Grand can weigh up to 500 kg – about the same weight as an adult horse!
  • The largest piano is the ‘Alexander Piano’ is  5.7 metres long, and weighs around one tonne. That’s over twice the length of your usual concert grand piano, and weighs almost as much as a small car.
  • Piano playing is sometimes referred to as “tickling the ivories”. That’s because originally the white piano keys were made from ivory. but this has changed since the ivory trade has been banned to save elephants and rhinos from extinction. Black keys were originally made from the black hardwood ebony. These days modern piano keys are coated in a hard plastic.

Becoming a Concert Pianist

Becoming a concert pianist requires loads of dedication and hard work. On average, it takes most concert pianists 15+ years, 3-5 hours a day of  practice, and quite a bit of study to achieve their goals!

Check out this video of New Zealand pianist Richard Farrell performing in 1952. He was widely thought of as one of the most talented pianists in the world when his life was tragically cut short in a car accident in 1958, when he was only 31 years old.

Want to dig deeper into the piano world?

Blog: What are piano keys made of and why?

Johnsonville Library’s Lockdown 2020 Quarantunes (with library staff playing the piano and other instruments)

Piano sheet music for kids

Britannica Kids – the piano

New Zealand Pianists

Kids’ Blog: Reaching for the Stars – What Makes a Champion?


Want to read more piano books?

My first piano book / Helsby, Genevieve
“Following the success of “My First Classical Music Book,” author Genevieve Helsby and illustrator Jason Chapman return with “My First Piano Book.” Bursting with life and humour, this is a uniquely comprehensive introduction to the piano, designed first and foremost to inspire. Text and illustrations are so perfectly in tune with each other that every page is a treat to explore. With a cast of animal characters showing what they know (and what they don’t!), this truly is both informative and great fun. Book and two CDs, with online music, and narration. Part 1: “Why is the Piano So Special?” How the piano works and sounds. 23 music tracks including: Bach – Prelude in C; Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 21; Joplin – The Entertainer; Debussy – Clair de lune; Faure – Berceuse; John Cage – Perilous Night No. 6; Satie – Gymnopedie No. 1 Part 2: “How Do I Play It?” A clear introduction to playing the piano. Play along with 12 specially written pieces with “Guide Me” narration option.” (Catalogue)

The bear and the piano / Litchfield, David
“One day, a young bear stumbles upon something he has never seen before in the forest. As time passes, he teaches himself how to play the strange instrument, and eventually the beautiful sounds are heard by a father and son who are picnicking in the woods. The bear goes with them on an incredible journey to New York, where his piano playing makes him a huge star. He has fame, fortune and all the music in the world, but he misses the friends and family he has left behind. A moving tale of exploration and belonging.” (Catalogue)

Easy piano pieces for children.
“The compositions in Easy Piano Pieces for Children have all been carefully selected for the beginner pianist. Over 100 selections in this songbook are progressively graded, with editorial markings and suggested fingering, allowing beginner children to learn with specially selected songs that they will enjoy playing. This large songbook includes classic favorites by Mozart, Debussy and Grieg, piano miniatures by Schumann, Arensky and Turk, as well as selections from Bartok’s For Children, among many others. Each piece is graded with a star to indicate difficulty, while a glossary of music symbols and a keyboard chart are included to help early students with note and key recognition.” (Catalogue)

The piano and other keyboard instruments / Storey, Rita
“Introduces children to groups of musical instruments and how they make music with them.” (Catalogue)

The piano recital / Miyakoshi, Akiko
“It’s the day of Momo’s very first piano recital, and she is terribly nervous. Today is the day of a little mouseling’s very first performance, too, and she’s just as nervous as Momo. The mouseling invites Mom to watch her performance. Momo follows the mouseling through a small door backstage, where she’s met with an amazing sight: an elaborate miniature theatre, and an audience of finely dressed mice! When the Grand Mouse-ter takes the stage, a hush falls over the crowd and a magical show unfolds – a circus, a magic act, acrobats! Momo is delighted. And when it’s the mouseling’s turn to take the stage, Momo soothes her little friend’s nerves – her own now long forgotten – and accompanies her on piano. As Momo finishes her piece and gives a bow, she’s surprised to see that her audience isn’t furry and miniature, but human! And they’re all clapping – for her! A proud Momo is quite sure she can hear mouse paw-clapping, too…” (Catalogue)

Elton John / Sánchez Vegara, Ma Isabel
“As a child, Elton started playing his grandmothers piano in Harrow, London. He could pick tunes out by ear and was soon attending lessons at the Royal Academy. After answering an advertisement in a newspaper, Elton teamed up with a lyric-writing buddy: Bernie Taupin. The rest was history. Elton’s songwriting talent, musical skill and dazzling outfits have made him one of the all-time greats. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the musician’s life.” (Catalogue)

Children’s songs : a superfast way to learn awesome songs on your piano or keyboard / Kemmeter, Jennifer
“A fun and easy way to learn to play the piano or keyboard, with helpful instruction on classic and favorite songs. Written by the author of the best-selling Build It! series in collaboration with an experienced piano teacher, the Play It! books teach how to play the piano or keyboard in a simple, effective way. Using color-coded notes and character icons, the books include piano sheets of popular and favorite songs as well as a primer on how to read sheet music and some basic techniques. For beginners ages 5 and up, Play It! is the perfect companion on your musical journey.” (Catalogue)