Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fantastic non fiction for kids

Really Really Big Questions (by Stephen Law) and My First Classical Music Book ( by Genevieve Helsby and Jason Chapman) are two non fiction books for children that have really struck a chord with me.  They both provide information on relatively complex subjects, and they both do it in such a fun accessible way.

Really Really Big Questions is a fun introduction to some of those big philosophical questions - did someone design the universe? Is my mind my brain? Is it OK to eat animals? Do fairies exist?  These are the sort of questions that aren't normally covered in children's non fiction - maybe because they are so hard to answer.  But as any parent will know, they are the sort of questions that get asked quite regularly, and we are often left floundering for an answer.  "Just because" doesn't really cut it!

Really Really Big Questions is a delightfully accessible, full of quirky illustrations, and is perfect for dipping into.  It is written in a conversational manner, encouraging the reader to think on the question themselves, and formulate their own opinion.

My First Classical Music Book is aimed at a younger age group (I'd suggest 5 years and upwards).  It is accompanied by a CD with snippets of great classical pieces, such as Mozart's The Magic Flute, Saint-Saens The Carnival of the Animals and Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf.

The book encourages readers to think of what the composer was saying with a piece of music and how it makes them feel.  It goes on to introduce the different instruments that make up the orchestra, and how these instruments are used by a composer to tell their story.  All of this is achieved in an easy going, fun, storytelling manner.  The illustrations are bright and playful with lots of action for young readers.  A real joy to share.

Both books are available through your local independent bookshop, as well as through Fishpond and Book Depository.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Aftershocks and afterwards

Forgive me - it has been many months since my last post.

Over these last few months I have experienced the whole range of emotions - from fear starting at 12.51pm on 22 February, when the 6.3 aftershock struck, to absolute overwhelming relief one and a half hours later when I finally saw my two children...and they were OK. Through to grief and pain as we saw the damage that mother nature had wreaked on our city and our friends.

I was relaxing and chatting to the wonderful Michelle at Kudos Hair Salon when the quake hit.  In the first few seconds we all thought it was just another largish aftershock.  It soon became apparent it was so much more than that.  The back wall of the building partially collapsed, and in the strong aftershock that hit 10 minutes later the front of the building across the road collapsed in terrifying style.  We all knew that Christchurch wasn't going to get away from this unscathed.

Kudos Hair Salon on the left,
Quinns (minus its front wall) across the road.
People rushed to help each other - to check that everyone was able to get out of the buildings they were in, helping those who needed help.

 Everyone had the same look on their face - shock, disbelief, and fear.  Nearly everyone held a cell phone - desperately trying to reach loved ones.  None of the calls or texts were going through.  I couldn't contact my children, their school, or their father.  I was desperate to find my children.

I eventually made my way home, a journey which earlier that day had taken 10 minutes, but that afternoon took an hour.  I was amazed that Christchurch drivers - usually renowned for their singular lack of road manners - were polite, outwardly calm, and considerate.

I arrived home to find that my ex had collected the children from school.  I am not ashamed to say I sobbed with relief.

Ten weeks have now passed.  Along with the rest of Christchurch we are slowly adjusting to the new normal.  We are still experiencing aftershocks, and will continue to do so for some time.  The chairs are back in their place around the dining table (I always knew there was a reason I'd insisted on a good solid table), but we are yet to put up a lot of the stuff that fell down (I'm using the very effective Floor Storage System).  We are yet to go into a multi storey carpark; and when we go into a large shop we make a quick plan and agree where we will meet should we be separated. We all have torches by our beds, and there is always a clear path to the nearest doorframe when we go to bed at night.  (This is a real achievement for Miss 9, who has perfected the art of the Floor Storage System.)

However, there are still nights when I wake up in the early hours.  Listening.  Waiting.  I am sure that given time, this too will pass.  I hope so.

Everyone has their stories to tell.  "Where were you?" is a common greeting when seeing people you haven't seen in a while - and we listen while they share their tale.

Twitter has been a real boon - it is great to feel in touch with your fellow Christchurchians late at night when there is an aftershock.  Then play a quick game of guess the magnitude, and for bonus points, pick which faultline was the culprit.   Many companies are using Twitter as a tool for getting vital information out there fast, with a personal touch.

Throughout this whole experience, I have seen the amazing spirit of Canterbury people - helping each other, and doing what it takes to fix our city and help its people. And when I took the kids south for a few days, to get away from the aftershocks for a bit - we were welcomed everywhere we went. I have always been proud to be from Christchurch and to be a Cantabrian.  But I am even prouder to be a Kiwi - we really do have a beautiful country, and wonderful caring people.