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Reviewed by Daniel Lovewell
Opening sentence
A unique story about commitment to the environment, reviewed by Daniel Lovewell
October 11, 2022

As a committed fan of and fundraiser for kākāpō recovery, I was excited to read this story. Anything that highlights the plight of the kākāpō is likely to be a favourite for me, and I was not disappointed.  Kākāpō Keeper by Gay Buckingham is a unique book that is based on a true story. It follows the experience of a boy who works as an assistant to the Chief Conservator, who is working to save birds such as kiwi and kākāpō from extinction.

Based in the isolated West Coast region of Dusky Sound, I could totally understand why Andrew, age 14, was not exactly thrilled at being assigned to this task.  The area is harsh: cold, wet, and infested with mosquitoes. There are no other people, just the birds for company. I love native birds, but I think I would struggle to live the life Andrew had to without my creature comforts and friends around me.  Although the story is based over 100 years ago, so the world was a bit different.

I think that’s one of the things I liked about this book because Andrew and I are the same age, I could relate to his thoughts and feelings, but his world and perspective were quite different from mine. I like the way the book is written like a diary, so you really get to know what he is thinking as he suffers through challenges and dangerous situations. You can see the change in him as he becomes increasingly committed to the birds and the environment.

Another great aspect of the book is the field guides. There are pictures and diagrams throughout the pages which give extra information about some of the birds like kākāpō, tākāhe, and kiwi. There are also recipes and maps and other information. This breaks up the text and makes it feel like you are actually reading someone’s diary. And you learn a lot of extra information as well. The author uses the images cleverly to give readers the background to the birds, without making it feel like a non-fiction book or losing the flow of the story.

This story is easy to read, with well-spaced text that makes it appealing for younger readers, right through to adults. I think it would suit ages eight and above, and anyone who loves native birds, the wilderness, or true stories. Non-New Zealanders would also enjoy reading this to learn more about New Zealand and its native species. I have read it twice and used some of the information in it to inspire a speech I did for school.  So, I highly recommend picking this one up!

-  Daniel is 14 and lives in Masterton
Author & Illustrator: Gay Buckingham
Publisher: OneTree House