Kiwi: The real story by Annemarie Florian, illustrated by Heather Hunt (published by New Holland Publishers)
I help organise kiwi releases for the Department of Conservation so I was quite excited about receiving this book to review - and it doesn't disappoint.
This beautifully produced children's non-fiction book operates on two levels. Across the middle of the page interacting with the illustrations is a verb-driven poem. "muckracker, stem-shaker,/ nosy parker, mud-larker, dashing darter /cricket-cruncher, mantis-muncher/ eavesdropper, clodhopper, show-stopper!..." Each page also has a paragraph explaining kiwi information. We learn about how kiwi came to New Zealand; how they are different to other birds; information about what they eat, their senses, voice, breeding, egg formation and how predators are a problem for kiwi.
Teachers could read the poem aloud to junior and middle school-aged children. Senior Primary and Intermediate-aged children would use the interesting facts for research for projects. A middle-grade teacher I showed the book to said she would pick out the difficult words such as monogamous, conspicuous, functioning ovary etc - and investigate them more fully. Independent readers would probably have liked a glossary so they could find out what these words mean on their own. Read to children 6-8 years, read poem independently 8-10, read facts independently 11 years plus.
Heather Hunt's artwork is quite unique. It has been drawn on the computer and is a mix of black and white 'loose slightly wild feel' lines for the kiwi, and definite colour shapes for the environment. The artwork and text draws your eye across the page like a 'musical score'. John McIntyre on National Radio said that it has a real beautiful luminosity to it - and that explains it well. I believe illustrator/designers often produce books that are quite stunning - and Heather Hunt has certainly done that. The book was inspired by the character developed by Heather for the Whangarei Heads Landcare Trust.
Author Annemarie Florian is a bookseller and educational librarian. Annemarie and Heather have collaborated on books for babies in the past.
Hardback $29.99, ISBN 978-1-86966-378-0
Reviewed by Maria Gill