It’s a principal’s nightmare. You have 30 children waiting for a teacher who calls in sick. StaffSync for Apple and Android is an app that connects relievers and schools seamlessly. It’s the Uber or Airbnb of relieving. Developed with the help of the Remuera School Cluster, it automates finding preferred relievers and communicating with them (as well as the production of SAA and SUE reports).


Banqer is a mock online banking system for classrooms. It takes class currency systems to a new level and gives students a go at managing their money first hand in a safe environment. Students set up accounts and learn how interest and tax works. They can watch their balances grow or use them to pay fines. Targeted (for now) at years 4-8.


Hello World by Paul Beavis

Mr and Mrs Mo are painting the outside of their house from white to red and so cannot amuse the monster, who announces that he’s “off to see the world”. Ages 4+

Haka/Whiti Te Ra! by Patricia Grace

Patricia Grace tells the story of the famous Ka Mate haka, originally performed by Ngāti Toa Chief Te Rauparaha, and now a standard at sports events. Te Reo and English editions. Age 5+

Quaky Cat Helps Out by Diana Noonan & Gavin Bishop

A sequel to the book created in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes, this one recognises that life has not returned to normal for many families. Tiger the Cat sets out to bring his friends together. Ages 3+

Changing Times by Bob Kerr

Great new graphic picture book that delivers the history of New Zealand through the big newspaper stories of the day. Then comes the Internet – where the story continues at mattsnewspaper. Ages 7-12

Nature vs nurture by John Boyne

Recently the New York Times conducted a readers’ poll asking if they would kill an infant Adolf Hitler if they thought it would save a million lives in the future (42% yes, 30% no, 28% unsure).

Coincidentally, this is the main premise of new books from two of the world’s best children’s authors.

Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpurgo is the story of a young boy and his mother in 1940 in a train carriage in a railway tunnel sheltering from an attack by German aircraft. As they sit in the dark, a stranger tells them about a young soldier at the end of WW1. He had ordered the remnants of a German troop to surrender their rifles. One of the captured men refused, and started to walk off in the night. After taking aim, the British soldier instead decided to let him walk away.

Fifteen years later, he is haunted to see that same face appearing in newsreels from Germany as leader of the Nazi Party (years 5-8).

John Boyne has written The Boy At the Top of the Mountain, for a slightly older audience (years 7-8). Pierrot is a Parisian orphan, the son of a French mother and German father, who is adopted by his paternal aunt. She has a job as housekeeper in a wealthy German household in the mountains. This is the Berghoff, the home of Hitler, and Pierrot is soon under his influence.

Both are excellent classroom read-alouds, compelling stories that raise issues of nurture versus nature, the ethics of revenge, and the effects of small events on the course of history.

John McIntyre is a children’s bookseller and commentator: