Parrots and paintings, Tom Fitzgibbon

The Story of the Kakapo: Parrot of the night
Philip Temple and Chris Gaskin,
Hodder and Stoughton, Auckland, $9.95

Matarawa House
Rhondda Greig,
Hazard Press, Christchurch, 1991, $21.50

For the many summertime trampers such as myself, the name of Philip Temple immediately reminds us of that splendid set of guides to walking tracks such as the Heaphy, Copeland and the Tongariro. But these take up only one little segment of his output which comprises volumes of photographs, film, descriptions of expeditions he has taken part in and novels of which the best known is Beak of the Moon. Perhaps less familiar, but very valuable, are three works for children, each illustrated by Chris Gaskin.

The Story of the Kakapo follows a book on the Moa and the Kea. It combines in an exciting way a detailed description of the large flightless night parrot with illustrations which are rich and powerful images in a tense tale of survival against predators. The concise story tells of the life of one male Kakapo, ‘Kairaki’, as he explores his home range for his favourite food plants, his ‘booms’ to attract females in the mating season, his parachuting from the danger of the wild cat and his rescue and removal to the safety of Little Barrier.

Chris Gaskin has portrayed the landscapes and seasons of Stewart Island, mountain, storm, sea, rock and bush with rich and sombre colour. Danger is never far away as the predator cat moves in on its prey. This is a fine and rewarding study.

Matarawa House is a picture book which is completely different in theme and style. Rhondda Greig has used a method of cutting and pasting water colour paintings, and the result is a set of illustrations which are brilliant in colour and convey an effect of glowing good humourThe text which describes the children exploring the old house and rousing all the creatures which inhabit its recesses, climaxing with an invasion of magpies on the longest day of the year, does not, unfortunately, quite measure up to the imaginative power of the pictures.

 

Tom Fitzgibbon, formerly of Auckland College of Education, is, at present, Chairman of the New Zealand Children’s Book Foundation.

 

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