Inspiring stories of courage, resilience and determination in the face of disaster.
New Zealanders have endured phenomenal natural and human disasters throughout the ages. This inspiring book documents some of these key moments in our history and, more importantly, how we responded and grew stronger; what changes/improvements were made as a result.
Cyclones, tornadoes, earthquakes, landslides, floods, volcanic eruptions, fires, aeroplane crashes, pandemics, and other disasters are just some of the many themes covered in this comprehensive account. The vibrant illustrations are by Marco Ivancic.
Notes on outcomes and safety tips are included in each section as appropriate.
It is so easy for young people these days to access the internet when researching. There are some who rarely open a book, and when they do they often lack the concentration to seek out the facts that they need. But there is a strong case for good quality reference books which are readily available. The content does not suddenly disappear, leaving the student panicking as he or she tries to access whatever had been thrown up previously via a Google search. The device (the book!) does not crash if too many pages are consulted at once. And, most important, the information is reliable: it is likely to have been peer reviewed several times over, by proof-readers, publishers, and reviewers!
"New Zealand Disasters" is just such a resource - a book that can be consulted over many years, because, although further disasters may occur in the future, those that are already documented remain part of our history. It is as up to date as a book of its kind can be, and as such it has perennial value as a reference book for young people. Having said that, I read it right through before passing it on to Miss Nine for her comments, and we were in full agreement that it was one of the most interesting history books we had ever seen. Although the language is straightforward enough for a child as young as eight years old, it is never patronising or too simplistic. It strikes that happy medium between informative and entertaining, due in no small part to the compelling graphics by Marco Ivancic which are fully integrated with the text.
One of the reasons for the book's success is the way the disasters are grouped by type, with each being confined to two pages or less. This enables the author to avoid overkill; only relevant information is included, with just enough anecdotal material to help the young reader relate to the event. Included on some pages are information panels explaining what should be done when an emergency occurs. There are also details about what has been learned from previous disasters so that first responders are better equipped to cope next time round.
At the end of the book is a glossary of technical and/or disaster specific words that a young reader may not be familiar with. There is also an article on first responders, and another providing survival tips - with a space for the child to record his or her own emergency contacts. There is even a section on mental health and PTSD, something children may not normally think about, but which is a very real possibility for anyone who has lived through a devastating experience. When I was a teacher, I had several young people in my classes who had lost their homes in the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, and saw the effects for myself.
I think this book should be in every school library and students encouraged to consult it. Even those at secondary school will find it interesting reading, and it will no doubt fill in a few gaps in some people's knowledge. I learned quite a lot myself, like the difference between a landslide and a lahar, and the ways that tectonic plates can move - I had not realised there was more than one! I also liked the map at the start of the book with each disaster pinned to a location. A geography lesson as an extra bonus!
To conclude, some comments on the format. As someone who is visually impaired, I had approached this book with reservations because I frequently have difficulty reading white text on a coloured background â" especially if the page itself is glossy. To my delight, the font used (Crimson Text) was user friendly to the point that I had no problem at all. Clearly there had been some research into the effectiveness of various script and colour combinations. And lastly, I appreciated the strong binding. This is a book which will be consulted regularly, so it is reassuring to know that it will withstand plenty of handling. I have to say, I tried to find something negative to add to this review, but I gave up. For both of us, it surpassed expectations for what makes a child-friendly reference book.
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