NZ Shore and Sea and NZ Plants, by Dave Gunson, are two books part of a series of native flora and fauna for the youngest readers. Presented as colourful board books, each animal or plant is illustrated in a simple and effective way.
The 24 animals and plants featured in each book are, for the most part, the ones most commonly seen. I was a little surprised to see that NZ Shore and Sea includes a deep water sea star when we have so many shoreline sea stars that can be, and often are, seen and handled by young shore explorers. I was also a little amused to see the shark illustrated with wide-open jaws, perpetuating the myth that these fish are man-eaters. I was also a little disappointed to see all of the shellfish presented in their dead state, not as living creatures. But the young audience at which these books are aimed will not notice these details – they will like the simple illustrations, and the translation of most into Te Reo Maori is a nice addition.
In the NZ Plants book, the illustrations of the full size trees lack any detail – particularly in contrast to other illustrations in the book – and I’m not sure why this is the case. They are almost cartoonish in quality, which is a shame since the close up detail of the flowers and leaves and seeds is wonderful.
I remember buying my own children board books like these with generic objects from overseas publishers. It is fantastic that we now have some locally produced equivalents with useful content. The young budding readers will still chew them, but the words they hear in association with these books will be thoroughly kiwi. And the colourful images they are stimulated by are ones that are embedded in our culture.