I am in the odd position of having to deliver yet another rave review of a NZ non-fiction title. Odd, simply because it has been years since there has been such a wonderful range of high-quality NZ non-fiction titles being published!
And this one made it all the way to the cover of the Booksellers NZ Summer Reading Catalogue, thanks to patient #78129 on the front cover & the high quality graphics and design throughout. The ultra-talented Janet Hunt did the design of the book, as well as choosing the case-studies and writing it. It is the first children’s book that Massey University Press has published, and it is based around the happenings at Wildbase Hospital, which is on the Massey campus in Palmerston North.
Once she has introduced Wildbase and what it exists for, Hunt takes us through what happens when a patient is admitted. The book has a pleasing shape, from the broad strokes about how the hospital runs, right through to the specific case studies, and finishing with simple snapshots showing the range of reasons that see animals admitted to Wildbase.
Throughout the book, it is made clear that the birds (and other animals) admitted to Wildbase are wild, and they are treated as such. This means allowing them their own space, where they can hide when they need to. It also means they don’t have names, just numbers for the sake of tracking them through their processes. The brief moments where Hunt enters the birds’ skin to tell a piece of their story are done with respect and a deep understanding of the behaviour of birds.
Another aspect I was impressed with in this book was the ability that Hunt has to write young, without writing down. A break-out box explains the way in which wild animals must feel upon going to hospital as like ‘being abducted by aliens.’ Perfect! And the use of illustrations and x-rays to explain the goings-on during processes are well-judged and perfectly placed.
In the third section, which takes you through ‘how to de-oil a penguin’ – telling the story of the Rena disaster – ‘how to repair kiwi’, ‘how to medicate mollymawk’ and more, Hunt tells the story of each of these incidents without sparing the details or medical language, but without putting it out of reach of a child who wishes to understand.
The final section of snapshots is a great reminder to kids and adults alike, about the simple things we could do to reduce the likelihood of wildlife being admitted to Wildbase. These included putting special stickers on windows so that birds know they are there, collaring your cat, keeping your dog on a lead, and stopping the use of plastic bags.
I’d recommend this wonderful book for kids and adults to share from age 7 up – some of the language will be unfamiliar, but it is a fascinating read for all future eco-warriors. I remember joining Greenpeace at around that age, so it’s the perfect time to start them.
Reviewed by Sarah Forster
How to Mend a Kea
by Janet Hunt
Published by Massey University Press