Book Review: The Song of Kauri, by Melinda Szymanik & Dominique Ford


Available now in bookstores nationwide. 

Cloaked in mist, warmed by the sun and stirred by a whirling wind, Kauri grows tall and wise through passing years and changing times. This is his song.

Melinda Szymanik is a writer for children and young adults, inspired by TV, world events, history, periodicals and the complex process of ‘growing-up’. She’s had stories published in multiple journals, behind the wonderful Jack the Viking. She’s been twice been short-listed for the Joy Cowley Award, in 2003 and 2006, and recently won the LIANZA Librarian’s Choice award for A Winter’s Day in 1939. 

She grew up in Auckland and gained a Master of Science in Zoology at Auckland, a Diploma in Business Studies and a then Bachelor of Arts in English at Massey University. She’s one brainy lady. Her current day job is as co-director with her husband, of their own communications and marketing business but on the side she’s famous for some very quirky kid’s books including The Were-Nana.

Her latest is a semi-traditional tale in an oratory style. It has a lyrical, old world flavour and feels like an ancient tale. It’s hard to know exactly who the audience is because many of the words are often quite complex and challenging. But read out load all kids of any age will enjoy this. The illustrations are a forest fire: intense, energetic and arresting.

Sometimes the illustrations are a little too complicated, other pages they are to simple. For myself, I prefer realist to surrealistic. Many seem blurry in moments and reminiscent of the early School Journal art in the 1960’s. None the less, for the right audience this will make a great book. The gentle references to Maori traditions and iconography linger, without being patronising. It’s a brave move and pays off.

by Tim Gruar

The Song of Kauri
by Melinda Szymanik & Dominique Ford
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775432289

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