In this gorgeous new picture book by Kate Preece, a cheeky young weka goes for a wander around the Chatham Islands hoping to make new friends and meets eleven precious endangered birds.
In the rhyming text she has captured one aspect of each bird’s appearance or behaviour that makes it special e.g. a plump Chathams’ Island pigeon eats its fill of hoho fruit, an assertive tiny black robin puffs out its chest, a mollymawk skims effortlessly over the water with its wide-stretching wings, and the tomtit’s song is repetitive and melodious.
On each facing page the realistic full page watercolour illustrations by Pippa Ensor of each bird are just beautiful, capturing its body shape, colours and feathery textures . Here and there the background is alluded to by a loosely drawn sketch in black ink: floating leaves, a mountain, or a tree bending over in the wind. Far below this an inky black line meanders along on which a miniature image of the weka continues on its walk.
And at the very bottom of each page there is a fun fact in smaller print which provides more background information for older children such as
Fact : The parea is among the world’s largest pigeons. Weighing more than a loaf of bread, the Chatham Island pigeon is a packet of biscuits heavier than the New Zealad wood pigeon/kereru.
At both the front and the back of the book there is also a double page spread which shows each bird featured in the book and its current conservation status.
The weka is the odd one out. He is the only bird in this book which is not native or endangered. Tens of thousands do live there and they are so abundant that Chatham islanders are allowed to hunt and eat them. But he was the obvious choice to go walkabout around the island as he is flightless and is very curious.
And there is an additional reason which we discover towards the end of the book when there is a fun fact which shows that wekas have become such an integral part of the Chatham Island identity that, while mainland New Zealanders are known as Kiwis, Chatham Islanders call themselves Wekas.
The human wekas, like Kate Preece, are justly proud of the special birds who make their home there. The Chathams are home to 20% of New Zealand’s threatened birds including two very special ones, the black robin (how it was saved from extinction is a global conservation sucess story) and the Chatham Island Taiko, one of the world’s rarest seabirds which is critically endangered.
I think One Weka Went Walking would be a very welcome addition to the bookshelf of any bird loving family.
Reviewer: Lyn Potter