Saturday, 25 November 2006

Have You Ever Seen a Kiwi? Ian Watt, Bruce Potter, 2006

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A KIWI? Ian Watt & Bruce Potter [ill.], Reed, Auckland, New Zealand, 2006, 30 pages, paperback, NZ$19.99
ISBN 1-86948-572-6

A BOOMING IN THE NIGHT, Ben Brown & Helen Taylor [ill.] Reed, Auckland, New Zealand, 2006, 25 pages, paperback, NZ$16.99
ISBN 1-86948-586-6

LAST TREE ON THE ISLAND, Bob Darroch [text & ill] Reed, Auckland, New Zealand, 2006, 25 pages, paperback, NZ$14.99
ISBN 1-86948-593-9

New Zealand Picture Books for Young Readers

Three of the five writers and illustrators who created these lively picture books live in Canterbury. Ben Brown and Helen Taylor are a husband and wife team from Lyttelton, whose latest book about Pukeko, A Booming in the Night, has been shortlisted for this year’s NZ Post Book Awards. Disturbed by the booming love-calls of Kakapo, Pukeko begins a quest to find a companion for the lonely night-parrot. Despite visiting a wide range of beautifully-illustrated creatures, Pukeko fails, only to encounter a delightful and witty conclusion. Ben Brown’s text carries subtle jokes and Helen Taylor’s striking watercolours reward careful scrutiny.

The artistic talents of Temuka’s Bob Darroch are seen at their best in exaggerated situations. Thus his cartoonist’s flair is shown fully in The Last Tree on the Island, where events rapidly run out of control after Mr Smitt casually cuts down the last tree on the small island where he and his wife live. When Mrs Smitt points out all the advantages of the ex-tree, Mr Smitt - a true Kiwi bloke - creates a series of elaborate No. 8 wire mechanisms to provide the missing shade, shelter for birds, erosion control, fuel, and somewhere for his wife to swing. Soon the tiny island is buried under pounding machinery. The environmental message is nicely matched by the humour of the situation, especially Mrs Smitt’s unexpected solution. This is a charming companion volume to Darroch’s Tree.

Have you ever seen a Kiwi? is the question asked by Ian Watt, and his answer, transmitted through a clever arrangement of flaps and holes, is that there are many types of Kiwi, ranging from boot polish to the reverse side of the dollar coin. (“Have you ever seen a Kiwi…sitting pretty on a cake?” refers to kiwifruit) The question is repeated with variations, and culminates in the appearance of the real Kiwi. The colour paintings are by Bruce Potter and the design is by Cheryl Rowe.

Trevor Agnew

First published in The Press, Christchurch, on March 11th 2006.

Kakapo - New Zealand nocturnal parrot
Kiwi - New Zealand flightless bird and national symbol
Kiwifruit - New Zealand fruit, also known as Chinese Gooseberry
Pukeko - New Zealand swamphen

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