Let’s just take a moment to adore this gorgeous and intricate illustration. Its warm colours and that pohutukawa!!
The tree you see depicted on the left and the branch I collected from our beach walk—this is New Zealand’s Christmas tree, the red flower is Nature’s tinsel. These stunning pohutukawa’s line our beaches and are coming into bloom. They’re a feature in this tale, because this vibrant book is an NZ creation—Tiny Owl on the Ramshackle Farm, by Lotte Wotherspoon.
Tiny Owl snoozes with his mum and dad, when “snap, crack, snuffle and sneeze, five baby pigs crash through the trees.” These playful pigs are harmless, but Tiny Owl imagines their snuffles belonging to a snaggle-toothed monster. “Stomp, snort…cluck-cluck cheep…mewl and yowl,” every one of these noises make Tiny Owl flutter with fear.
It can be like that for our little ones too. The moaning of the wind, scratching of tree branches, the creaking of an old house. Fear can transform these into scary things. Papa and Mama Owl take Tiny Owl on a nighttime adventure. He returns home as the sun begins to rise, feeling brave.
Lotte Wotherspoon’s work is imaginative, with a touch of the surreal and a dash of sweet.
It’s Christmastime—kiwi style—Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track. The Sanderson kids are home from school. It’s sunny and warm. They play cricket out in the paddock. Dad chops down a pine for their Christmas tree and kids decorate it on the front deck, while mum and baby relax in a hammock. Other preparations are being made, by pukeko parents.
Rose pukeko gathers swamp rushes, barley and rye. Planning the nest where her new eggs will lie. “FLIP-FLAP, YIKIDDY-YAK! There’s a pukeko dancing on the old dirt track.” The two stories are intertwined by spirited rhyme. Repetition of the above quoted sentences and the pace of rhyme makes this an enjoyable read aloud. Considered placement of limited colour allows the eye to glide across each page and spot details sometimes missed in overwhelming illustrations. The nighttime spread sparkles, and reminds us of Wotherspoon’s Tiny Owl on the Ramshackle Farm above.
If you were wondering, that is a pukeko in the background of our photo. Spotted on our daily walk. Some fun facts—they’re also known as Australasian swamphen, they have a strut, and when they fly, take-offs and landings can be a little clumsy.