When so many of our local Christmas books are just Kiwi versions of Christmas carols or The Night Before Christmas it is really refreshing to read a book about Christmas in New Zealand that is fresh and fun. Lotte Wotherspoon has just released her new picture book, Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track, which blends the story of a family Christmas in New Zealand with the story of a Pukeko family.
Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track follows the Sandersons, a Kiwi family, as they prepare for Christmas. They chop down a pine for their Christmas tree, decorate it, sing Christmas songs, and wrap presents. The Pukeko family, Spike and Rose, are also making preparations. They are gathering materials to build their nest and dreaming of ‘fleet-footed chicks.’ Just as Christmas Day arrives, with presents and yummy food to share, six fluffy chicks hatch out of their eggs and the celebrations kick off.
This is a wee gem of a book. The story is delightful and the rhyming text bounces along, following the two families as they make their preparations. Children will love joining in with the refrain that repeats throughout the book, ‘Flip-flap, yikkidy-yak! There’s a pukeko dancing on the old dirt track.’ The main reason I love this book though is because of the gorgeous, quirky illustrations. The family are all wearing bright clothes and the Pukeko are even wearing little hats. Lotte has given the book a real Kiwi feel with Pohutukawa, toitoi and ferns throughout the book and the Summer activities that the family are all doing. My favourite page is the very last spread where the Pukekos are having a party. You can tell that a lot of love has gone into this book, just by looking at the beautiful production of it, from the hard cover and the feel of the pages, to the quality of the illustrations and the wonderful Pohutukawa end papers. I hope to see more books from Lotte and Clay Press.
We had an event in Christchurch recently called the Pukeko Stomp, which was a walk around the Travis Wetland for pre-schoolers and their families, with stories and snacks. I shared this book at the event and the children loved it. It is a great book to read aloud to a group or one-on-one.
Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track is the perfect New Zealand picture book to share with your family this Christmas or to send overseas to relatives. You can purchase Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track from the Clay Press website or at your local bookshop.