Archive for School

Our encyclopedias get a makeover!

Using computers to help with homework is pretty normal these days. Yet the information we find may not always be helpful or true. That is when you need us! Your local librarians consider themselves pretty good at providing quality information that will speed up your homework while getting you good results.

When I was younger all you had at the local library were heavy print encyclopedias to help with homework, but now from the comfort of your home you can get all that help online from the library with these two resources:

All you need is your library card number and PIN/Password and you will be guaranteed to find all the correct answers and enjoy yourself in the process! Learning fun? It can happen!

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Making school work an online breeze

All good things must come to an end and school holidays is one of them! Luckily the library likes to make your life as fun as possible! How? Well over the years we have learned that there are certain themes that schools like to concentrate on. So we have gathered lots of information in one place at Homework help.

If you can’t find what you are looking for there then are other places to go such as World Book Kids and also Britannica Junior which are easy to use online encyclopedias with articles, games, science projects and interactive tools to help you get your homework out of the way so you can get outside.

There are also online games and books to help you with your reading and maths if you want to improve these skills. Literacy Planet through numerous games can have you moving up groups in reading and maths at school. While TumbleBooks provide animated books which you can read or have read to you. Hours of free entertainment that help you learn! To use these online resources all you need is your library card and password/PIN.  

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What’s your school survival tip?

I’m sure some of you don’t want to be reminded that school starts back next week (or maybe the week after).  It’s the start of a new year, with a new teacher, a new classroom, and possibly a new school.  I was one of those weird kids that got bored after a couple of weeks of holidays and was dying to go back to school.  For some of you though school might be one of those things that you just want to survive, and your favourite part of the day is either lunch time or 3 o’clock.

We want to know what is your best school survival tip?  What helps you get through the school year?  Leave a comment on this post and let us know.

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Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

Elise never really knew her parents.  Her mum died after her birth and her dad got sick and died of cancer a few years later.  Her Uncle Hugh and Aunt Bessie promised to look after her and she has lived with them ever since.  She’s been best friends with Franklin for years and they’ve always loved playing games like Knights together.  When they start middle school Elise starts to get embarrassed by Franklin and doesn’t want to hang around with him anymore.  Then there’s her locker buddy, Amanda who nicknames her Scabula and squashes her lunch every morning.  Elise starts to hate school and is afraid to go because of Amanda’s bullying.  Just when she needs it a special surprise comes along.  Her father leaves her a mystery to unlock and with each discovery a new key arrives.

Eight Keys is about a girl discovering who she is and learning about the parents she didn’t know.  When Elise is feeling lost and worried, the mystery that her father left for her comes along and helps her choose who she wants to be.  It helps her see who her mum and dad were and how much they loved her, even before she was born.  You see a real change in Elise, from the worried, confused girl at the start to the confident, happy girl at the end.  I really liked the character of Franklin because he’s funny, loyal and will do anything to help his friend.  Eight Keys is the perfect book for girls who like Jacqueline Wilson and Cathy Cassidy.  It will make you laugh and cry, but leave a smile on your face.   Recommended for 9+    8 out of 10


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Test Your Book Knowledge

Hi again Christchurch and other kids (and adult and teen readers too!)

It’s almost the end of August. My second-last chance to blog as Star Author.

Tonight I have some book questions for you. They are the questions I wrote for Twizel Area School students last week for our ‘Win a Book Competition’ that I organised as part of Book Week. We also had some awesome quotes about reading, shared storytime, bedtime stories in the library, a book character dress-up day, quiz questions about books for our general knowledge quiz, a parent reading display … and every kid was given a fun bookmark.

Here’s the questions. Test yourselves, or test someone younger or older than you! I’m not going to post the answers. I reckon you can find out the ones you don’t know all by yourself, or else blog the wonderful Zac! Or you could ask your teacher!


What is the name of Kanga’s baby?

Is Schnitzel von Krumm a dog or a cat?

What colour is Thomas the Tank Engine?

Finish the name of this book by Kyle Mewburn: Hill and ___ 

What sea mammal did the Little Yellow Digger help to save?

 Who tried to catch the sun using ropes?


 What does Finnigan want to be?

 How many books are in the Narnia series?

 Who wrote George’s Marvellous Medicine?

 Who is God of the Sea in Maori legends?

 What country does the writer Micheal Morpurgo live in?

What does fantasy mean?


Who wrote ‘The Mummy with No Name’?

Are these writers New Zealanders?

Micheal Morpurgo

Enid Blyton

Robert Louis Stevenson

Fleur Beale

Craig Smith

David Hill

Sherryl Jordan

Roald Dahl

Margaret Mahy

Joy Cowley

 Is ‘Bow Down Shadrach’ about a horse or a dog or a lion?

Who wrote ‘The Runaway Settlers’

Who wrote ‘Under the Mountain’

Finish this book title by Patricia Grace: ‘The Kuia and the ___’



Who wrote and illustrated the picture book ‘Hill and Hole?’

Finish this book title by Maurice Gee: ‘Under the ___’

Which New Zealand writer won two major writing awards this year for her book for teenagers ‘Fierce September?’

Ken Catran has written a book with the name ‘Smiling ___’

Which new New Zealand author from Napier wrote ‘Too Many Secrets’ and ‘Just Jack’?

Which wizard in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ lives in the Black Tower in Isengard?

Are (or were) these writers New Zealanders?

C.S. Lewis

Jackie French

Jackie Rutherford

William Taylor

Which mythical creature is half lion / half eagle?

 In Greek mythology, who was the God of War?

 Which is the shortest of Shakespeare’s plays?

 In Maori legend, who is the Sky Father?

 Which dwarf could turn straw into gold?

 Mmm, did I get you thinking? Do you need to go to the library to do some research, or go online?

Hey – today we looked in our dog’s vet book and found out that we missed her birthday. It was last Sunday. Kim is one year old and cuter than ever! If you missed it, there’s a photo of her on one of my posts earlier this month.

Here’s a link to my class blog. We’re just learning how to blog. Blogging for the wonderful Christchurch Children’s Library blog has helped me improve my skills.

Here’s another photo of the landscape near where I live – a land of big blue skies and feathery clouds (and maybe some more snow later this week!)Just one more thing for today: Have you heard the story of Mackenzie and his dog? Mackenzie was an early settler in New Zealand, a shepherd from Scotland. He was imprisoned for stealing sheep and taking them through the Mackenzie Country to sell them in Otago. Mackenzie had a dog named Friday. Well, the area where I live is the Mackenzie Country. I love it here!

Take care out there!

From your August Star Author, Sandy Nelson

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Some of my Favourite War Stories

Tena koutou to anyone who is reading this.

It is a funny feeling writing to anybody and everybody, but I am getting used to it. I do love getting your comments, and I am sad that my month as Star Author is almost over.

Here’s a picture of the view of Aoraki Mount Cook from just up the road from where I live – aren’t I lucky! I took this photo from the Kettle Hole walking track at the southern end of Lake Pukaki. The Kettle Hole is a large hole in the ground that was created by a large hunk of melting ice leftover from when the Tasman Glacier was huge.

Here’s a link to some Department of Conservation information about the Kettle Hole track and other short walks in the amazing area where I live:

Today, in my home town of Twizel (a little town with a population of only about 1200 and no traffic lights), we have had the basketball finals. I watched 2 games, one in which my son Josh played for the Twizel Schoolboys team, and one in which my husband played. It was a very exciting afternoon!

Now they are at the prizegiving, and I am writing to you … about some of my favourite children’s war stories. Many, but not all, are about World War Two.

Here goes:

1. My favourite children’s war story still has to be The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier. That’s because that is the book that got me hooked on history. I posted about it earlier this month.

2. Micheal Morpurgo is one of my favourite authors, and one that is quickly becoming the favourite of many students at Twizel Area School where I teach. That’s partly because I keep recommending his books to them, and reading his stories aloud too. Michael is an English writer who has written lots of books. Two of his recurring themes are war and animals.  I especially love Kensuke’s Kingdom, An Elephant in the Garden, War Horse, private peaceful, Shadow, Toro! Toro! and The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips.

Cover: Shadow

A librarian once told me that I write like Michael Morpurgo! What highly valued praise but totally undeserved. Michael Murpurgo is a definetly a writer to try if you haven’t already. Here is a link to his website:

3. I equally love the writing of Australian writer Jackie French. Some of my favourite war stories by Jackie are Macbeth and Son ( a truly enjoyable and clever story), Hitler’s Daughter, Pharoah, and The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded. Here’s a link to Jackie’s website:

cover pic

4. I also love how Susan Brocker writes. Susan is a New Zealand writer, whom I have been lucky enough to meet at a couple of writer’s meetings. Susan and I share a love of animals, except that I am wary of horses and she loves them. Two of my favourite war stories are written by Susan and are about horses. They are Brave Bess and the ANZAC Horses and Dreams of Warriors(which is set in N.Z. during World War Two). Susan is published by HarperCollins NZ, just like me!  

Here’s a link for you:

Brave Bess

And of course …

5. Once, Then, and Now by Morris Glietzman. These stories, set during World War Two, will make you cry and make you hug those you love. Warning: To be read with an adult close by.

Once cover

6. Not to be missed from my list, the well-known war story Goodnight Mr Tom, by Michelle Magorian, the story of a child evacuated from the London Blitz in World War Two. It’s a beautiful story but not for younger readers.

7. And, I could keep going forever … Boy Soldier by Cola Bilkuei … mmm this is probably one for the teenagers among you too. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s one of my 15-year-old Josh’s favourites.

 Boy Soldier: The Journey of a Child Soldier

8. I also totally love Chocolate Cake with Hitler by English writer Emma Craigie. I haven’t read any other books by this author but I love this one. I can’t get the link to copy but it’s a book worth searching for yourself.

9. The Boy in Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. I need to re-read this book because the main thing I can remember is a really sad part, but I know its a highly rated war story for children. It made Zac’s Top 5 War Stories list.


I hope this list of some of favourite war stories is useful and that you are finding  some books you would like to read. These are all books I recommend to kids in my class and at my school, but often for the more mature / older readers. I have copies of most of the books I have recommended on my bookshelf. I collect children’s and teenagers books like other people collect shells or Weet-bix cards or fancy clothes. For me it’s books! (and the human impact of war is something I am especially interested in). 

Here are a couple more recommendations for teenagers (in fact all of the books I have recommended would be enjoyed by teens and adults with a love of good stories mixed with history).

1. The Book Thief – by Markus Zusak (simply stunning, completly heart-breaking).

2. tamar – by Mal Peet

As I write this this I keep thinking about how few books there seem to be that have been written for children and teens about the events of World War Two in the Pacific – the war that was closest to us here in New Zealand and Australia. That’s one thing I wanted to do, to write about the war near us. I’m proud that the story of H.M.A.S. Canberra was told for young people in The Ghosts of Iron Bottom Sound. Here she is – I love this image.

A few years ago I read two books by an Australian writer about an Australian boy finding out at his Grandad’s war in the Pacific. I think his Grandad was involved in building the Kodoko Trail when he was a Japanese prisoner of war. I really want to read the books again but I didn’t write down the name of the books or the author. Does anyone out there know the books I might be thinking of? I’d love to hear from you.

Hey Zac – I think your libraries in Christchurch would have all of these books and that you’d have read most or all of them. How right am I?  And I think that you and the other librarians in Christchurch love helping kids find books, just like librarians everywhere do.

Zac, thank you so much for choosing me to be one of your Star Authors!

Before the end of the month, I’ll tell you more about the amazing Book Week we just had at Twizel Area School.

Take care everyone.

Ka kite Ano and Kia Kaha (I’ll write again soon and be strong, especially Shaky Town kids).

From your August Star Author

Sandy Nelson

Proud author of only one book …


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What is a writer?

Hi everyone,

Tonight I’ve been back to school. That’s because we’re having a Book Week at Twizel Area School and I’m organising it!  Tonight we had bedtime stories in the library. Kids came in their pyjamas and bought their teddies. We had 4 stories. I read ‘Who is Brian Bear?’ by Helen Taylor (one of my boys favourites when they were little) and First Snow by Kim Lewis (a story about a little girl who lives on a farm). Our Principal Mr Bill Feasey read one of Lynley Dodd’s wonderful books, Schnitzel von Krumm. Lastly Twizel’s doctor, Doctor Tim Gardner read Bad Jelly the Witch. He was fantastic at the character voices. After milo in the staffroom everyone went home to bed.

We’ve been doing lots of other wonderful Book Week things too. I might tell you some tomorrow. Anyway … 

I was going to write more about my fascination with old house but instead I’ve been thinking about what makes a person a writer. Here are some of my thoughts:

* A writer is a reader. You have to read to write. They go together.

* A writer has stories in his or her head. Stories that won’t go away. Stories that need a home.

* A writer loves words and wants to make them dance.

I’m a writer.

Are you?


I never knew that I could make words dance

Or make them walk through people’s heads.

I love it that I can!

Take care out there, especially you kids in Shaky Town. Sometimes life can be a bit tough. Remember the good times and look after the people that have a place in your heart (and other people too!).

From your August Star Author

Sandy Nelson

Oops: I nearly forgot:

Here is a link to some information about H.M.A.S. Canberra, the ship in my book. It has some pictures of her, including one of her sinking the day after the Battle of Savo Island. She was scuttled. That means she was sunk because she was beyond repair. Eightyfour Australian sailors died the night of the battle, including the Captain.


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