Takahē Trouble! by Sally Sutton and Jenny Cooper

The real-life antics of animals often inspire fictional stories. The escape of a pair of takahē from a predator-free sanctuary in Auckland inspired Sally Sutton and Jenny Cooper to create a picture book about their adventures, called Takahē Trouble. No-one really knows what the takahē got up to in the ten days that they were missing, but Sally and Jenny have woven a hugely entertaining and beautifully illustrated story about what might have happened.

Walter and Manaaki are teenage takahē who are the best of friends. They live behind a fence and life is pretty boring. Manaaki dreams of adventure. She wants to see a rat and a car, and she wants to nibble foreign food. Walter just wants to stay at home, with the smell of salt and the sweet-eating grass. The two friends escape and have the adventure that Manaaki dreamt of. However, now that they’ve experienced some of those things, Manaaki has changed her mind, and it’s Walter that loves the adventure. They decide to let themselves be caught and go back home…until next time.

Takahē Trouble is a funny tale of two friends toddling off on an adventure. The combination of Sally Sutton’s rich language and dialogue and Jenny Cooper’s delightful illustrations that are bursting with personality, make Takahē Trouble a perfect picture book. This is a picture book that children will be asking you to read again and again (I’ve read it half a dozen times already because my daughter keeps asking for it). Sally uses her signature onomatopoeia style throughout the book (my favourite is ‘munch-crunch-scrunch’) and lots of repetition, which makes the story a whole lot of fun to read aloud.

The thing I love the most about this book is the personalities that Sally gives Walter and Manaaki and the way that Jenny highlights their personalities in her illustrations. Manaaki has a very distinctive voice and I found my voice instinctively taking on her personality as I read the story. I especially love Jenny’s illustration of Manaaki standing at the fence, ready to break out. She has perfectly captured Manaaki’s mischievousness. At the start of the story Manaaki is really confident and is desperate for adventure, while Walter would rather stay home than seek adventure. However, as the story progresses, and they experience life outside the fence, their perspectives change. I also really like how Jenny has given Walter and Manaaki different hairstyles, which looks natural, but means that you can tell them apart easily.

The bonus section at the back of the book, The Truth About Takahē, taught me some things that I didn’t know about takahē, and it is sure to inspire young readers to want to find out more.

Grab a copy of Takahē Trouble and go on an adventure with Walter and Manaaki.