12 Huia Birds tells the sad tale of the decline of NZ’s gorgeous huia, from the arrival of the first people in New Zealand to their eventual decimation by predators, habitat loss, fashion and museum collecting. It’s an important story of the human impact on New Zealand’s native flora and fauna, and the destruction that has been, and continues to be wreaked.
My book reading friend Rosa, 8, was really interested in the book, and wondered how much of it was true. I told her the stories of them being collected for museums and collectors once their decline became more rapid. It made her quite sad.
The class of five-year-olds to whom I read the story were also captivated, particularly by the illustrations. Stacy Eyles has done a great job of making the “bad guys” look shifty and menacing – which of course they were.
The countdown to the last huia in the text tells the story quite accurately from a historical perspective, in rhyme. My only hesitation in wholeheartedly recommending the book is that the rhyme doesn’t always scan well; sometimes it’s a bit clunky and laboured. It’s a small criticism, and I doubt most children would notice it, it’s just something that would be notice as you try to maintain the rhythm while reading aloud.
There is an apple/android app that goes with this book, which looks quite good, and adds an extra dimension that I think is valuable, as it offers more information and underlines the environmental lessons to be learned. It’s free and has no in-app purchases, so is bound to be popular with parents and teachers alike.
Reviewed by Rachel Moore
12 Huia Birds
by Julian Stokoe, illustrated by Stacy Eyles
Published by Oratia Books