Kōwhai Kids by Marion Day
Spring has arrived and the kowhai girls are ablaze with delight, while the boys are full of mischief and fun. The birds appear, flashing their wings. But wait, what do the kowhai kids want other children to know?
Kōwhai Kids is author Marion Day’s fifth book in a series about nature. The creative non-fiction children’s picture book tells the story of our native kowhai tree through the eyes of its flowers.
The kowhai kids banter and play amongst the branches, receiving visitors and teaching readers all about the tree.
It includes an information page about the tree, and finishes with a guide on how families can grow their own kowhai trees from seed.
At first I was a little put off by the ‘stereotype’ of girls and boys, until I learned something from the book too. Kōwhai trees are dioecious – meaning you must have one boy tree and one female tree to make another. In this case, the gender stereotype helps advance reader’s knowledge.
Day does a fantastic job of not only entertaining the reader, but ensuring they are learning too. The story follows the kōwhai tree from blossom to seed to seedling, and the challenges the tree faces on the way.
She has also respectfully and seamlessly including te reo Māori in the book, including ensuring macrons are used correctly. Matauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) is also included, with reference to the blooms appearance signalling the start of kūmara planting.
Illustrator Anna Evans expertly mixes the personified kowhai flower characters with exquisitely rendered native animals. Her native birds in particular are an absolute delight – rich in detail and colour.
Day’s books embrace our New Zealand flora and fauna. Her love for nature, the environment and its relationship to our land and sea, is evident for any reader.
Kōwhai Kids is a unique retelling of one of our most beautiful trees and a wonderful addition to her educational picture book series.
Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser
AM Publishing, RRP $19.99