NZ wildlife on show in three gorgeous new books for children

Potton and Burton are the New Zealand publishers who really showcase the beautiful country that we live in.  Not only do they produce wonderful coffee table books full of stunning photographs of our country, they also produce some of the best children’s books in the country.  Their children’s nonfiction and picture books are top quality and introduce kiwi kids to our native wildlife.

Three wonderful new children’s books have just been released from Potton and Burton – Up the River: Explore and discover New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and wetlands, Watch Out for the Weka, and It’s my egg (and you can’t have it!).


Up the River is the latest book by Gillian Candler and Ned Barraud in their popular Explore and Discover series.  I love this series because it gives children a perfect introduction to different parts of our land and sea and the wildlife that make these environments their home.  Like the other books in the series, Up the River uses simple language, small chunks of text and realistic illustrations to engage young readers.  In this book children are introduced to creeks, rivers, lakes and wetlands and the wildlife that they will find living there.  For most children these environments will be familiar but they may not have thought about what lies beneath the water or who nests in the reeds. Up the River is a fantastic addition to the series and is a book that children will come back to again and again, whether just out of curiosity or for school work.


As well as illustrating nonfiction books, Ned Barraud also writes and illustrates his own picture books.  Watch Out for the Weka is Ned’s latest picture book and it tells the story of a mischievous weka who steals a DOC hut warden’s watch as he is taking a swim.  Ned takes us to Awaroa Inlet in Abel Tasman National Park, a gorgeous part of the country that lots of birds call home, including herons, oystercatchers and weka.  Weka are always on the lookout for food and something shiny, and one hot, sunny day, while Alf, the hut warden is cooling off in the stream, a weka steals his watch.  Alf gives chase in the nude but quickly loses the weka in the thick bush.  That night Alf comes up with a plan to tempt the weka and get his watch back.  Ned’s style of illustration is quite different from the Explore and Discover books, but the cartoony style matches the humour of the story.  Ned has made the weka look very cheeky indeed and he is sure to make kids laugh.  It is a fun picture book that is based on a true story.  Ned even includes weka facts in the back of the book.


Heather Hunt’s stunning illustrations of kiwi have featured in several books, including the award-winning Kiwi: the real story.  Her illustrations jump right off the page in her latest book, written by Kennedy Warne, It’s my egg (and you can’t have it!).  This gorgeous picture book highlights the reality of life for a kiwi trying to hatch an egg in the wild.  After laying the egg the female leaves the nest to go and build up her strength, leaving the male to look after the egg until it hatches.  It is not just a lot of sitting around for the kiwi dad though as he has to fend off attacks from predators, including cats, dogs and stoats.  The cat and the stoat look especially menacing as they creep up to the nest in the hope of a meal.  The kiwi fends off each attack though, repeating the line ‘It’s my egg, and you can’t have it!’  I love Heather’s illustrations, especially the way that she creates texture, making the kiwi look fluffy.  This is another picture book that is ideal to share with preschoolers through to the upper end of primary school.

Each of these wonderful books from Potton and Burton are available now in all good bookshops.


The Looky Book by Donovan Bixley

All kids love a good puzzle book.  When I was a kid I loved Where’s Wally, I-Spy and those pick-a-path maze books.  There have never been any great New Zealand themed puzzle books, until now.  New Zealand author and illustrator, Donovan Bixley, has just published his awesome puzzle book, The Looky Book.  Donovan is my favourite New Zealand illustrator and his illustrations for The Looky Book are wonderful.

The Looky Book is a puzzle book with 11 different puzzles, all with colourful New Zealand landscapes, birds and animals.  There are heaps of things to find in each picture, like find the numbers with the crazy All Black lambs, spot the difference with the mischievous keas, find the animals hidden deep in the bush, and match the farmers to their animals.  My favourite pictures are the ones where you have to spot what’s wrong in the scene.  In the beach scene on the first page, you can find a shark in a paddling pool and a man watching TV in the bath.  There are hours of fun for kids and adults, and when you’ve solved all the puzzles, you can go back and find the tui and the grumpy garden gnome on each page.

I love Donovan’s illustrations and The Looky Book just shows how versatile he is.  Not only does he give each human or animal it’s own personality, but he can make these a small part of a large scene.  He makes every little detail count, and these little details are hilarious (sheep holding up a ‘Lamb Carter’ banner or a penguin wearing a tie).  The reason I love Donovan’s illustrations is because they are always so colourful and they seem to glow.  He seems to use this effect that makes certain objects or characters shine.  Just look at the front cover and you’ll see what I mean (the eyes, the telescope and the kea’s beak).  I would love to know how long it took Donovan to create each spread.

There is an incredible amount to see on each page, and some things you won’t see the first time. Donovan his given the book a real Kiwi feel too, with lots of local wildlife and some Kiwi icons like Hokey Pokey ice cream.  If you have a very keen eye you might even spot a reference to one of Margaret Mahy’s stories on the first page.

Christmas is only weeks away and The Looky Book will make a perfect present for kids young and old.

5 out of 5 stars