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Reviewed by Cassidy Grace, Assistant HOD of English, Hamilton Girls' High, Hamilton
Opening sentence
New Zealand wildlife has a problem: the better an animal looks, the more people want to save it.
Critters of Aotearoa is a beautifully illustrated piece of work that explores lesser known creatures in Aotearoa. All critters featured are in some way a bit strange and quirky. The critters range from a dog vomit slime mould to Kaeo (the sea squirt or sea tulip) and the robust grasshopper. The book is based on Nicola Toki’s and Jesse Mulligan’s podcast with RNZ “Critter of the week” where they bring light to some of the critters in Aotearoa that may not be recognised on our money or on big billboard ads and campaigns but are just as endangered and just as important to Aotearoa’s whenua.

The illustrations are well designed and help to enhance the information provided. On each page there is also a critter attractiveness scale that judges how cute these creatures are. For example, the Smeagol gravel maggot is a one on this scale whereas the mantis shrimp is an 8 due to the fact that they can change colours. At the end of the book, there are activities which students can complete. It has a few fun and engaging tasks such as a word find, crossword and quiz. This can help to consolidate key learnings from the text and provides some fun.

Overall, Critters of Aotearoa is cleverly designed and the content is engaging. It attracts people of all ages to care for all creatures big, weird and small. They want us to protect what is in our own backyard and show the readers the importance of all creatures that call Aotearoa home.
Author & Illustrator: Nicola Toki, Illustrator: Lily Duval
Publisher: Penguin Random House
ISBN: 9781776958023
Format: Harback
Publication: Sept 2023
Ages: 8 - 12 years
Themes: Creatures in Aotearoa, conservation