Project Huia is shortlisted in the Junior Fiction category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
In Project Huia, Des Hunt has once again found a winning formula that appeals to both young readers and his own conservation interests. In this book, Logan, the young male protagonist, is thrust back in history as his grandfather Jim recalls a period of unusual excitement and shenanigans from his own young life.
Jim and Logan travel back to the origins of the story and Logan is transported back in time as his grandfather relates the story of what is presumed to be the slaying of the last known huia. Throughout the book there is an air of expectation that the remains of that bird may be found. This is spurred on by a conservation scientist named Ana, who has her own secret mission, which is only partly revealed to Jim and Logan. She needs Jim to lead her to the site where the huia was last seen. She needs Logan to convince Jim to share his story. Jim needs to revisit his past for reasons that slowly reveal themselves.
Thwarting their efforts are two local louts. It soon transpires these two troublemakers are descendants of the Carson family, a family as notorious as the Huia’s extinction is in these parts. Jim had quarrelled badly with them as a boy, and the ill feeling and heartache is still palpable today. Logan is fated to re-enact some of the tension himself.
This is the story of adventure, revenge, bullying, and pointless extinction (of the huia). It is a thoroughly New Zealand story and the modern day action is well woven into historical and conservation aspects. It’s no surprise to me that this book is a finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Within the pages of the book, the huia, one of our most loved but now extinct birds, is brought back to life but it is also a compelling adventure and whodunit story.
Reviewed by Gillian Torckler
by Des Hunt
Published by Scholastic NZ