The Indigo Bird by Helen Taylor
Inspired by the history of our takahē, who, both in reality and myth, has had the tendency to go missing, The Indigo Bird is the latest offering from Helen Taylor.
The bird infamously ‘disappeared’ during the first half of the twentieth century, with many thinking the takahē was extinct. It took Dr Geoffrey Orbell’s relentless determination to rediscover the bird. In 1948, mysterious footprints were found in the snow in Fiordland, and the takahē wandered back into reality.
Interestingly, the bird is also almost entirely absent from Māori poetry and tradition, despite its unusual appearance and stunning colour.
Taylor draws on these facts to create an enchanting picture board book, introducing little Kiwis to one of our most mysterious birds.
It is, once again, a bit disappointing that the correct spelling of the bird is missing from the book. While a macron may seem insignificant, using the correct spelling ensures our younger generation are pronouncing our remarkable and special bird’s names correctly.
Regardless, Taylor has created a wonderful story about the takahē. She expertly weaves fact and fiction together, with the help of a cheeky little fantail that mimics Orbell’s curiosity. Takahē keeps disappearing throughout the book, offering just flashes and the briefest of glimpses. Fantail turns to the other birds of the forests for help, including doppelgänger pūkeko.
Despite being a board book, older children will enjoy the intricate and intriguing illustrations, done in Taylor’s trademark style.
Takahē appears tantalisingly close – in the wings of a dragonfly, in a raindrop, made from branches, and peering through leaves. It becomes an almost hide and seek game, alongside a fun story.
Taylor is a master at rendering New Zealand’s unique flora and fauna in beautiful, delicate, yet richly detailed, watercolour.
The Indigo Bird is no different. Each bird is distinct, with its characteristics and personality shining through.
It was lovely to read about a bird that often gets overlooked in our stories. Taylor has done a fantastic job of bringing a bit of our history to life with this bright and interactive picture book.
Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser
Penguin Random House NZ, RRP $15.99