A is for Aotearoa, by Diane Newcombe & Melissa Anderson Scott

Discover our beautiful country with this fun lift-the-flap treasure hunt, celebrating Aotearoa. Girl and Bird head off on an adventure around New Zealand and need help to follow the clues to find out where they will be heading next. From city to shore, north to south and east to west, there’ll be some familiar places and some that will be new to the reader.

The story begins with a bottle containing a secret message, washed up on a beach in Auckland. The bottle begins a trail of clues, and at each letter the reader must life the flap to reveal the clue as to where the head to next. It’s a unique twist on the traditional ABC books.

A is for Aotearoa is author Diane Newcombe and artist Melissa Scott Anderson’s second collaboration. The pair created A is for Auckland back in 2013 and teamed up again to create this book celebrating the entire nation.

The illustrations are charming and quirky mixed media art, although sadly they are not as bright and bubbly as one would expect of a children’s book. Some pages were cluttered and hard to take in, while others were sparse and a little bit dull.

It’s refreshing to see a picture book with very little text, relying more on the pictures to tell the story. Other than the clues, the reader is invited to ‘read’ the story using the pictures. Aimed more at older children, a couple of the places Girl and Bird visited has me stumped. However, a solution section at the end of the book, offered up interesting facts and tidbits about each location.

While it is nice to have a uniquely Kiwi book on our shelves, I can’t help but feel it could have done with a bit of a polish. Despite this, the rich cultural history, diversity and physical beauty of our wonderful country does shine through. This would make a lovely gift for any Kiwi kid living overseas, to remind them of their unique heritage.

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Rebekah is an Otago-based mother of two young girls. The former journalist and primary school teacher has a soft spot for New Zealand authors and young adult fiction. Follow her on Twitter.

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