Sunday, 8 March 2015

Little Hoiho: book review


Little Hoiho

Book review by Trevor Agnew 

Little Hoiho (2015) Stephanie Thatcher , Scholastic NZ, 32 pages, paperback

ISBN  978 1 77543  249 4

This cheerful picture book follows a young penguin on its first foray out of the nest. Little Hoiho can’t help comparing herself unfavourably to the other birds she meets.  

I wish I had legs like that,” says Hoiho as she looks at elegant Kotuku (the white heron). She is also impressed by the great wings of Toroa (royal albatross) and the beautiful song of Tui. All Hoiho’s attempts to emulate these role models end in disaster and humiliation. Her attempt at flight is particularly poignant.

Then Hoiho slips from a rock and plunges into the ocean. Instantly everything changes. “Water was wonderful…she was graceful and agile” The pictures reflect Hoiho’s delight in discovery of the special abilities of her body. Hoiho’s return to her nest is a firm declaration of triumph, “she was perfect just the way she was.”

Young readers may not spot the parallel to Hans Christian Andersen’s Ugly Duckling story, but they will certainly relish its identical message.  The author’s illustrations are gracefully done, with subtle colours and elegantly curved shapes, especially when Hoiho gets into her true element – the ocean. A nice touch for young readers is the little green gecko which loyally follows Hoiho through her day’s adventures.

Note: The Hoiho is also known as the Yellow-eyed penguin, an endangered species, and the author-artist has included a guide to further Hoiho penguin information.

Trevor Agnew 

5 Feb 2015




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