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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Five Wee Pūteketeke by Nicola Toki

Five Wee Pūteketeke, a delightful new Picture Book, was written by Nicola Toki, the CEO of Forest & Bird. She based it on that famous old nursery rhyme Five little ducks went swimming one day, over the hills and far away.

Although wee Pūteketeke do look like adorable little grey ducklings, with their black and white striped necks and heads, they are more closely related to albatrosses and penguins than to ducks. When they grow up they will have burnt orange mullets and striking plumage just like their parents.

Like the five little ducks the wee Pūteketeke swam away one by one . The first didn’t like being growled at, the second failed its diving lessons, the third was being chased by a deadly predator, the fourth one refused to eat a yukky snack of regurgitated fish and feathers, and the last one wanted to find a place of its own to do some dancing practice.


So Māmā pūteketeke was left all alone and she didn’t know where her babies had gone and if they were safe. But there is a happy ending. She discovered a floating nest on a wooden raft, a perfect place for all of her family to live, so all five wee pūteketeke came home again.


Five Wee Pūteketeke is a great book to share with the whole whanau. Preschoolers will love hearing the story, enjoy its rhymes and rhythm, and the cute brightly coloured illustrations of the pūteketeke family in their lakeside environment by Jo Pearson.


But for older children, as well as little facts woven throughout the story, there is page full of fascinating information about pūteketeke at the end of the book. This makes it an interesting read for them too.


Nicola tells how the pūteketeke won New Zealand’s Bird of the Century competition, and beat iconic birds like kiwi or kākapo, because of a campaign run by American-British talk show host John Oliver. He loved what he called those ‘weird puking birds’ and built enormous puppets to celebrate them. He inspired 300,000 people in almost 200 countries around the world to vote for his favourite bird.


Yes, you could call it American interference, writes Nicola, but pūteketeke are actually an amazing species that needs a lot more attention, so it was a worthy winner.

She goes on to tell how when there was only one breeding pair of pūteketeke left in Lake Wanaka in 2012. John Darby, a retired zoologist and ardent conservationist, had the brilliant idea of building wooden nesting platforms for them to safely lay their eggs and raise their chicks. The pūteketeke loved them and moved onto them straigthaway. Since then over 450 chicks have been raised  on these nesting platforms in Lake Wanaka. And it was one of them that Māmā pūteketeke found at the end of the story.

It just goes to show how one man’s efforts can make a huge difference in helping to save one of our rare birds! It is very heartwarming to read such a good news story, as so many of our native birds continue to be endangered.

Reviewer: Lyn Potter

Allen & Unwin


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