Kererū by Glenda Kane and Lisa Allen is the tragic story of how two kererū chicks are killed by a stoat. But when some children set a trap in their backyard and manage to catch it, there is a brighter future ahead for the kererū family.
The beautiful watercolour illustrations are suffused with soft blues, greens and violets which echo the colours of a kererū’s plumage. And the story is written in a gentle and poetic way.
The brutal killing of the first chick by the stoat is alluded to but is not shown in gory detail. We just see him approaching. It is only when the Mother kererū returns to find the nest empty that we can see what had happened. This makes it a story that will not be too frightening to read with young children.
Another nest is quickly built from rickety twigs and a few spindly sticks (the kererū’s nest is one of the most casually constructed untidiest in the bird world!) And another egg is laid, but the second chick meets the same awful fate.
Sadly, this happens all too often in the real world. Introduced pests like stoats, weasels, rats and possums pose the biggest threats, not only to kererū but to many of our native birds.
In the following season, the kererū parents breed once again. But this time around the stoat has been caught in a wooden trap set by the children, and the kererū chick thrives and learns how to fly.
When it is grown it flies away to find a safe place to build its own nest. But many trees on private properties have been cut down due to housing intensification and far fewer green spaces are left.
So where will it find the new home that it needs, with lush, leafy forests and fat fruit and seeds? The answer may well come as a surprise to young readers and cause a bit of a giggle.
Since the extinction of the moa, the kererū is the only one of our native birds large enough to eat the fruits of native trees: karaka, tawa, tarairi, miro, kahikatea, pūriri and ngaio.
So, over time, having filled their bellies, kererū have flown over the landscape and pooped out the seeds, ingeniously encased in nutritious fertiliser. The seeds were dispersed across fields and yards and bushland and wetland. And some of those seeds found footholds and grew into trees where future generations of kererū youngsters can find a home to build their own nests and feed on ripe fruit whose seeds they, in turn, will help to distribute.
So by saving these birds, the children are also helping to save the trees which rely on kererū for regeneration and whose disappearance would be disastrous for our native forests.
Kererū opens up opportunities for families to talk together about the importance of being kaitiaki. It shows how young children, too, can make a difference by helping to set traps in their own backyard or nearby bush.
Many families are already doing this. But it will need many more to come on board and make an effort to save our native birds like kererū if we are to achieve the ambitious goal of a Predator Free NZ by 2050. And this book can help with that. Aimed at children four years and up, it should find a place in every early childhood centre and primary school library.
Reviewer: Lyn Potter