Book Review: It’s My Egg (and you can’t have it!), by Heather Hunt and Kennedy Warne

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_its_my_egg.jpgFrom the very first picture on the cover of this lovely new picture book, you are left in no doubt as to the hero of our story. It’s my egg (and you can’t have it!) is the tale of one brave kiwi’s fight to protect his unborn chick from all manner of two and four-legged predators in the bush.

I had the perfect audience to test out this new New Zealand picture book: my visiting 5-year-old Australian niece who knew little about the threats facing our native bird. The book led to a lot of questions and a very educational discussion with other visiting relatives whose dog had recently graduated from kiwi-aversion training.

It is clear that a great deal of thought and care has gone into the design of this book. Kennedy Warne’s bright white prose stands out beautifully on the moodily dark pages. Heather Hunt’s bright colourful (“neon” piped up my nine year old) illustrations of the dangerous predators contrast starkly with the dark background and the softer colours of our protective kiwi dad. The scratchy sketchy style of the drawings gives extra menace and edge to the stoat with his viciously sharp teeth. The five year old squealed with glee as the stoat met his sudden demise. (More sensitively-minded children might require some extra explanation about trapping and its benefits.)

This book will be a fantastic resource for early childhood education centres and families wishing to educate their young ones about the risks to and resilience of our wonderful kiwi.

Reviewed by Tiffany Matsis

it’s my egg (and you can’t have it!)
by Heather Hunt and Kennedy Warne
Published by Potton & Burton
ISBN 9780947503567

Book Review: The Cuckoo and the Warbler, by Kennedy Warne and Heather Hunt

Available now in bookshops nationwide. 

The Cuckoo and the Warbler is a finalist in this year’s Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

cv_the_cuckoo_and_the_warbler.jpgNew Zealand is home to many unique native birds, and The Cuckoo and the Warbler introduces readers to two of them that are probably not as well-known as their more famous cousins the kiwi, piwakawaka, pukeko and others. Riroriro, the Grey Warbler, flits about Aotearoa’s forests chasing insects and preparing for spring by building a nest ready for its eggs. Far away in the Pacific, Pipiwharauroa, the Shining Cuckoo, is also preparing for spring by setting off on a very long journey across the ocean, back to New Zealand.

When mother Pipiwharauroa arrives, she sets about finding somewhere safe to lay her egg in. Instead of building a nest, she hijacks a Grey Warbler nest, and sneakily replaces one of the Grey Warbler eggs with her own. The unsuspecting Grey Warbler cares for the imposter egg and when it hatches first, the new bird removes the other eggs and takes advantage of being the single mouth to feed. Again, the Grey Warbler does its duty to another’s chick and works hard to provide all the insects the hungry young Shining Cuckoo begs for. As autumn comes, all the Shining Cuckoos prepare once more to return to the warmer climes of their Pacific winter homes.

This beautiful non-fiction book is full of richly detailed illustrations of New Zealand’s forest and birds, full of luscious greens and familiar bush-scapes. The information about the two native birds is presented in an easy to read, almost storylike fashion which keeps it interesting, and is pitched at the right level for its young audience (although ‘older’ readers can also learn something from it too – I had no idea we have a native cuckoo).

The two birds share a unique bond, with the Shining Cuckoo relying on the Grey Warbler to raise its own chick; a concept that children may not have come across before. While it may seem to be one of those harsh realities of nature, the book handles it in a gentle, matter of fact manner. The two fact pages at the end of the book provide more detail on both birds and here I feel (as wonderful as the coloured illustrations are) it would have been good to include a real-life photo of each. The Grey Warbler is one of our most common natives and can be spotted not only in forest and scrub, but also in urban areas – I will certainly be on the lookout for it (bright red eyes, olive-grey on top, pale grey underneath).

Warne and Hunt have created a wonderful resource for exploring our country’s natural beauty; one with accessible text and engaging illustrations that will appeal to children. Both creators have much experience in their craft – Hunt is the creator of Backyard Kiwi and Warne the co-founder of National Geographic New Zealand and is a regular reporter on outdoors and environment on Radio New Zealand.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

The Cuckoo and the Warbler
by Kennedy Warne and illustrated by Heather Hunt
Potton & Burton, 2016
ISBN 9780947503048 (Paperback)
ISBN 9780947503055 (Hardback)