The Cuckoo and the Warbler: A true New Zealand story by Heather Hunt and Kennedy Warne (Potton & Burton)
The Cuckoo and the Warbler is an excellent example of creative non-fiction writing. It tells the true story of the two species relationship in a way that will engage young readers. The language targets readers 4-8 years old, but could be used in the classroom for children up to 12 years. Teachers will be keen to use this resource for their native bird study, but the story is interesting enough for teachers and parents to use it as a read aloud story. It will lead to interesting discussions afterwards about why the cuckoo doesn’t incubate its own egg. The author has also included a Maori proverb and greetings that the teacher can use as a teaching point.
The story introduces us to a pair of warblers building their nest in a forest in Aotearoa. On another double page spread we meet a female cuckoo who is filling up with insects before it makes its long journey from Papua New Guinea to New Zealand. On the next page, we see a map outlining its trip and how the trade winds will help the cuckoo on its journey. From then on, we find out what happens when the cuckoo arrives in New Zealand. It finds a warbler’s nest and lays its own egg, chucking out one of the grey warbler’s eggs so that when the warbler returns it doesn’t notice it has an intruder in its midst. When the cuckoo chick hatches it gets rid of the other eggs and hungrily calls out for food. The warbler mother and father are kept busy feeding the greedy bird until it fledges to make its journey to the Pacific.
Children might feel outraged on behalf of the grey warblers but Kennedy Warne talks about the birds unique relationship in a way that helps them understand the bond between the two birds. On the last two pages, readers discover more information about the grey warbler and shining cuckoo.
Author Kennedy Warne co-founded the New Zealand Geographic magazine in 1988 and served as editor for 15 years. He now writes for the magazine and for National Geographic, as well as giving a fortnightly report on the environment on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon programme. He has written several books for the adult market before.
Heather Hunt is an illustrator and exhibiting artist. Her first book Kiwi: The Real Story shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Book Awards. She also developed the ‘Backyard Kiwi’ character for kiwi recovery projects.
A highly recommended buy for schools and for children who are fans of nature. It’s a beautiful book that invites children to read several times.