Book Review: The Kitchen Science Cookbook, by Nanogirl Dr Michelle Dickinson

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_kitchen_science_cookbook.jpgI was absolutely delighted to receive a copy of this beautifully designed book by Dr Michelle Dickinson. As soon as I tweeted about it though, I had a school librarian wondering if it was designed for kids – understandable, as it is Nanogirl herself on the cover, with no sign of kids.

The contents of the book itself though, are superb. There are 49 experiments, utilising science concepts from transpiration, to capillary action; thrust, to solar energy, to chemical reaction. Each experiment is laid out with a cute title, a list of equipment and ingredients, detailed instructions, then ‘the science behind’, then an explore further segment. There is a brief explanation of which principle it is proving at the top right corner, and at the bottom left there are icons giving you more information on what type of experiment you are undertaking.

The initial information is very thorough and provides a good grounding for what is to come, though the audience for this section a bit muddy – I think it is assumed that an adult will be involved for this part of the reading. That is fair!

I did a few of the experiments with my kids, and the Static Powered Dancing Ghost worked beautifully. One thing I felt was missing was – and perhaps this could be in a link to online – tricks for fixing experiments that haven’t quite worked. While there are leading questions about them on each segment, I would have liked to know what the most likely causes of failure were. My 7yo was put off the book entirely by the semi-failure of two experiments. (TBH with his current feeling towards failure, he’s probably not going to be a scientist!)

I would very much like to have seen a larger font size used throughout, and less emphasis on the big photos used throughout the book. It’s very beautiful, but the font size and light grey colour is not friendly for either kids who are only just learning to read well or parents with poor eyesight.

The photos are great though, with lots of kids from all types of cultural backgrounds having fun with experiments with their parents. I look forward to trying some more of these experiments as my kids get less afraid of failure.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

The Kitchen Science Cookbook
by Dr Michelle Dickinson
nanogirl labs
ISBN 978473425975




Book Review: Maea te Toi Ora Māori health transformations, by Simon Bennett, Mason Durie, Hinemoa Elder, Te Kani Kingi, Mark Lawrence and Rees Tapsel

cv_maori_health_transformationsAvailable in selected bookshops nationwide.

Maea te Toi Ora Māori Health Transformations is an introduction to a framework for thinking about and transforming Māori mental health based on Māori values, and a strong case for the transformative potential of practice guided by this framework. It is a history of the assessment and treatment of mental illness in Aotearoa, and the policy transformations that have arisen from the realisation that a Māori response may be best suited for Māori mental health needs.

Although oriented towards Māori mental health, the text is absorbing for anyone with an interest in mental health, health policy-making, indigenous conceptions of health and treatment models, or the use of case studies in research. Although six authors collaborate in this work, their shared commitment to this framework means the text is a cohesive whole. Some of the authors are architects of this framework, and all are recognised practitioners.

From their respective disciplines, the authors analyse the impact of alienation from and reconciliation with identity on different dimensions of well-being. Some areas are addressed by several authors from their respective disciplinary backgrounds, and this iteration helps to ground concepts unfamiliar to the non-specialist reader.

The text can also be read as a handbook for steering policy change, and provides an insight into the philosophy behind the Whānau Ora policy. One of the authors, Mason Durie, chaired the Whānau Ora taskforce.

Before they illustrate their application of the framework with individual cases, the authors trace the whakapapa of this philosophy grounded in Māori values with its roots in traditional practice. They acknowledge the trailblazing practitioners who have ensured this model’s long-term viability, despite changes in government policy.

Durie’s Te Whare Tapa Whā, or four cornerstones of wairua (spirit), hinengaro (mind), tinana (body), and whānau, is the conceptual heart of the book and its unifying thread. In this framework, mental illness is not isolated dysfunction, but an imbalance between emotions, relationships, spirituality and body. The ultimate goal is mauri ora –a life force flourishing spiritually, mentally, physically and socially.

An example of a model presented in the text is Hinemoa Elder’s Waka Oranga/ Waka Kuaka, presented in a chapter solely in te reo. Combining metaphors of waka and flocking godwits (kuaka), practitioners and whanau work together towards health goals and provide mutual support to reach the destination: the well-being of patient and whānau. To translate (and paraphrase) some of the principles behind the model: The whole whānau is the patient, mātauranga Māori is a source of remedies, identity is at the heart of well-being, making contact with a person’s roots is medicinal.

These principles recur throughout the text, as does the outcome of healing wounds in the psyche by reconnecting the patient with their identity. This process is nurtured through bonding with the professional, applying the wisdom transmitted through whakataukī (traditional knowledge encapsulated in sayings) and healing rituals. Case studies are the preferred analytical tool and methodological foundation, and ensure the reader does not lose sight of the purpose of this framework: the well-being of people and their communities.

The case studies emphasise positive outcomes and transformative potential. They are either direct adaptations of an individual interaction or the merging of several cases to create an archetypical patient. This knowledge arises from whakawhanaungatanga with the tangata whaiora (identification of common ground between practitioner and patient). Elder even extends the application of case studies to geographical places, incorporating the impact of historical scars on the landscape on the mental health of those who live nearby.

Some make for fascinating reading, such as one case in which mental illness coexisted with deeply held Māori spirituality. In this case, the guiding philosophy described in this text facilitated a treatment able to secure the patient’s well-being without undermining their beliefs.

The authors prefer tangata whaiora, literally “health seeker,” over patient or consumer. However, the authors recognise that the purchasing model of health has enabled Māori providers to flourish and means government can contractually require health providers to incorporate Māori priorities, such as whānau engagement, te reo and tikanga, karakia, rongoā (medicinal herbs and therapies), and access to tohunga or healers.

A central theme is that Māori well-being can be achieved by considering a Māori worldview, which the text broadly conceptualisies as one in which personal identity makes sense beyond the individual. The authors stress that not all Māori have or wish for the same connection with te ao Māori, which is why the text does not advocate for a universal approach for all Māori.

Although the overall tone is optimistic and inspiring, the authors acknowledge the challenges of implementing a Māori framework for Māori mental health. Rees Tapsell speaks of the burden Māori practitioners can bear if they are an institution’s sole source of mātauranga Māori. He recognises the benefits of cultural programmes, but highlights that often only a few knowledgeable staff can implement them. He also warns of treating these programmes solely as a didactic tool rather than a guiding treatment philosophy.

Similarly, Elder meditates on the challenges of meeting legislative provisions to engage whanau, hapū and iwi, and observes that they can only bear fruit if the practitioner has the knowledge and commitment to engage with these groups on their own terms. She poses questions for practitioners that help them understand tangata whaiora and their communities, and her case studies demonstrate the rewards for both practitioner and patient when these provisions are fulfilled in the true spirit of the concepts they invoke.

This text is compelling because it puts its philosophy into practice: it acknowledges history of people and place, it is built on dialogue, and its recommendations are guided by mātauranga and supported by whakataukī. Encouragingly, it shows even timid steps towards biculturalism in service provision can support and empower giant leaps by visionary practitioners towards a more responsive framework for Māori.

Reviewed by Paul Moenboyd

Maea te Toi Ora – Māori health transformations
by Simon Bennett, Mason Durie, Hinemoa Elder, Te Kani Kingi, Mark Lawrence and Rees Tapsel
Published by Huia Publishers
ISBN 9781775502975

Book Review: Go Girl – A Storybook of Epic New Zealand Women, by Barbara Else

Available now in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_go_girl.jpgIn the vein of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls comes Go Girl: A Storybook of Epic New Zealand Women. It is written by well-regarded New Zealand author Barbara Else and illustrations are provided by nine New Zealand artists. This hardback edition is boldly coloured and the contemporary illustrations further enhance this attractive book. In what I hope becomes standard practice in kiwi publishing, macrons are correctly used for words written in Māori.

My daughters (aged seven and eleven) jumped on this book. They then searched the book to see if their favourite high profile women were included. Having completed that, they then searched out stories of women they were unfamiliar with.

Beatrice Tinsley was a profile that particularly resonated with the girls, I had not heard of her astrophysics achievements prior to reading this book. Hūria Mātenga, the famous rescuer of the shipwrecked boat Delaware was an amazing story of strength and bravery.

Barbara Else provides tips at the end of the book for further research on the women covered and we had a fascinating time looking up the Te Ara website for further biographical information. There is a timeline at the back of the book with each woman plotted to show when she was born. This provides a great way of ‘re-ordering’ the stories, which are provided in alphabetical order in the text.

This is a wonderful book. The writing style is clear, and reads like a bedtime story, so is very appealing. Often, the writing style will further reflect the woman portrayed – I particularly enjoyed Margaret Mahy’s profile! I loved the wide range of subjects. With nearly 50 stories, and a range of historic and contemporary women across a variety of disciplines, this is a great book for New Zealand children.

I’m sure that this book will appeal widely in New Zealand homes and schools, quickly becoming a standard resource. It makes a fantastic gift.

Reviewed by Emma Rutherford

Go Girl – A Storybook of Epic New Zealand Women
by Barbara Else
Published by Penguin Random House
ISBN 9780143771609

Book Review: Aging for Beginners, by Doug Wilson

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_aging_for_beginners.jpgAs I’m fast approaching 60 myself, I was eager to check out Doug Wilson’s book, Aging for Beginners – getting older in today’s world – what it means for you.

Aimed at those aged 60 and above as well as those who have every intention of living to that age and older, the book is a sort of workshop manual for keeping things ticking along in good order. The difference is, it’s your body the information is about, not that of your car.

Wilson’s parents both lived until their late 90s, so he’s possibly got a head start as far as good genes go, but his advice will help everyone to make the best of however many years they have got left.

Some parts of the book are a tad depressing. Let’s face it, we all know things slow down or start to wear out as we age, and some things that will happen are unavoidable. But forewarned is forearmed and Wilson doesn’t pull any punches when discussing the things that will or may happen as we age, and what we can do to slow them down or make them more bearable.

All the bad stuff is in the health and aging section, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, arthritis, etc, but knowing what can happen means you won’t get any nasty surprises as 60 is left behind in the rear view mirror.

Not surprisingly, Wilson says exercise and a good diet are important, and stress isn’t ignored either, as he’s well versed in the effects stress can have even on healthy people.

There’s a section on adjusting to life for the over 65s as retirement can mean huge upheaval for many. The tough stuff isn’t forgotten either, with mentions of separation, divorce, elder abuse, and the dying phase.

The final section of the book is entitled ‘The Plan’ and in it there is advice on the things you need to be doing early if you want to live a long and healthy life – bearing in mind all the things you can’t change about your life.

The book isn’t intended to be a bible on getting old, but it’s a good launching pad for seeking more information and putting some of those good ideas (like exercise and a healthy diet) into action.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Aging for Beginners
by Doug Wilson
Published by Imagination Press
ISBN 9780995103221

Book Review: Pursuing Peace in Godzone: Christianity and the Peace Tradition in New Zealand, edited by Geoffrey Troughton & Philip Fountain

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_pursuing_peace_in_godzone.jpgThe active pursuit of peace is something we probably all aspire to. As New Zealanders, we might like to think we are a peaceful nation. But do we actually engage in peacemaking? This book looks closely at the activities involving a wide range of Christian groups, in the pursuit of peace. From a local to a national level, there are active groups working towards peace in our time since the Second World War.

This book follows Troughton’s earlier title, Saints and Stirrers: Christianity, Conflict and Peacemaking in New Zealand, 1814-1945. Most of the 16 chapters are developed from papers delivered at a conference in 2015. Perhaps this is what makes the book so readable. Each chapter looks at a different aspect of the issue and so varied styles, focus and passion are part of the writing. The book may be read in chapters to allow time to think and even discuss the ideas presented. I was so taken by the content that I read the whole thing over a day. My family have indulged my interest by joining in discussions about the ideas presented. My own family tradition is very much Catholic Social Justice and this book follows many of our experiences, from Springbok tour, to Nuclear free, from Parihaka to Quakers.

Elizabeth Duke writes about the ongoing work of the Quakers in the pursuit of peace. She outlines the background of the group and how healing the wounds since WW2 is part of their experience. Penal reform and an active part in the Defence inquiry are also included. She writes honestly and shows the personal experience as well as the group focus.

Perhaps most interesting for me, was the story of the Taranaki Cathedral by the former Dean Jamie Allen. New Plymouth is the site of much early Māori-Pākehā contact. The Taranaki Wars and the Parihaka conflict are on the doorstep. This chapter speaks of reconciliation between Māori and Pākehā in the establishment of the cathedral in 2010. It is a personal story that resonates with all New Zealanders. It moved me to tears.

Pursuing Peace in Godzone is a real treasure. The role of Christians in bringing peace to all is described beautifully in the 16 diverse chapters. Peace studies are an important part of the Senior School Curriculum and this book would support students in many ways. It also lends itself to wider community discussions about the role we each play in being peacemakers. Sometimes it is good to read something different, something that makes us look at or own lives and ask how we can be better. This is the book.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Pursuing Peace in Godzone: Christianity and the Peace Tradition in New Zealand
edited by Geoffrey Troughton & Philip Fountain
Published by VUP
ISBN 9781776561827





Book Review: A Way with Words – A Memoir of Writing & Publishing in New Zealand, by Chris MacLean

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_way_with_wordsChris MacLean is the author of some of our most successful non-fiction books. His foray into publishing came about in a roundabout way, though his family business was books – his mother being from the well-known Whitcombe family (of Whitcombe and Tombs fame).

In the 1950’s and 60’s New Zealand’s main publishers were A.H & A.A Reed and Whitcombe & Tombs. Improvements in technology changed how books were written – by hand to using typewriters, then computers. It was often a long and laborious process.  As technology progressed even further reproducing photos, drawings and paintings via scanning, made the process even easier.

Chris MacLean began his career as a writer in 1980 when as a designer of stained glass windows, he published a book in collaboration with his friend, historian Jock Phillips, called Stained Glass Windows in New Zealand Houses. This began a long publishing career.

I hadn’t realised until reading this book how many of Chris MacLean’s books that he went on to write and publish that I was familiar with – an interesting discovery.

A Way with Words lets the reader in on the extensive research and work that goes into writing and producing his wonderful non-fiction works.  From the biography of the climber and outdoor adventurer John Pascoe (I share the same family name) to the wonderful story  Tararau – The Story of a Mountain Range to Classic Tramping (I grew up tramping from an early age) and many more others.

For anybody interested in books, publishing or any of the subject matters Chris MacLean has written about, this book is a gem.  I loved it from the first chapter to the last.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

A Way with Words – A Memoir of Writing & Publishing in New Zealand
by Chris MacLean
Published by Potton & Burton
ISBN 9780947503604
readNZ logo red and black - final 1

Book Review: The Expatriates, by Martin Edmond

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_expatriates.jpgReading The Expatriates reminded me of my high school years and how I loved history because I had a teacher who made the subject come alive. Martin Edmond has that same talent and I found myself getting caught up in the stories he tells of four New Zealanders who achieved fame in Europe.

Some of the material Edmond based his book on came from the late James McNeish.

Although this book is closer to a textbook than anything else, Edmond writes well, apart from an annoying habit of referring alternately to people by their first and last names, which can be confusing.

The four profiled are Harold Williams, journalist and linguist; Ronald Syme, spy, libertarian, and historian of ancient Rome; John Platts-Mills, radical lawyer (he once defended notorious gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray) and political activist; and Joseph Burney Trapp, librarian, scholar and protector of culture.

The most interesting to me – and possibly Edmond too, as he devotes the largest section of the book to him – was Harold Williams.

The son of a Methodist preacher, Williams became fascinated by foreign languages and mastered a large number. After moving overseas he worked as a correspondent for various publications and reported on conflicts and politics, moving in exalted circles due to his incredible command of languages.

Williams lived and worked in Russia during the turbulent years of Lenin, Trotsky and Rasputin. He married a Russian woman, Ariadna Tyrkova, and devoted much of his life to researching and recording Russia’s history.

Each man has a fascinating life story, and in the case of Platts-Mills, an equally fascinating family. His mother was one of the few female registered doctors in New Zealand in the early 1900s. I’m hoping Edmond may turn his attention to writing a similar book about New Zealand women who achieved fame overseas last century.

This book is a great tribute to four men who went on to make a success of things overseas, and a great reminder that New Zealand has always produced brilliant and revolutionary people.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

The Expatriates
by Martin Edmond
Published by Bridget Williams Books
ISBN 9781988533179