Heather Hunt is a children's writer and illustrator who currently lives at Whangārei Heads. She is famous for the creation of Backyard Kiwi, a character who features in several of her books, for example, It’s My Egg (and you can’t have it!) (2017) and Mr. Kiwi has an Important Job (2019). For both of these books she won the Storyline Notable Book Award in 2018 and 2020 respectively. Her books are also focused on kiwi conservation as the Backyard Kiwi is also the name of a project that is focused on community recovery and pest control at Whangārei Heads.
HUNT, Heather (1959- ) graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of Applied Arts from NorthTec Tai Tokerau Wananga in Whangārei.
Hunt collaborated with Annemarie Florian to create her first book Books for Babies (2010) which sold more than 23,000 copies. Dr. Brent Mawson of the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland said “their focus on warm, loving relationships have provided opportunities for rich mutual interactions between adults and young children”. Hunt and Florian would go on to produce Getting to Know You (2013) and Kiwi: the Real Story (2012).
Kiwi: the Real Story (2012) was inspired by a kiwi character she developed for a Kiwi recovery project at Whangārei Heads, the scratchy kiwi is the face of the Backyard Kiwi project. Hunt spent a large amount of time learning about the kiwi's behavior, habitat, and physiology from Todd Hamilton. From this, she created hundreds of drawings of kiwis, and eventually, the Backyard Kiwi was born. For this book, she won the 2013 Storylines Notable Book Award (non-fiction), was the 2013 Children’s Choice Non-Fiction Winner at the Post Children’s Book Awards and was a finalist for the 2013 LIANZA Russell Clark Award.
Hunt’s next book, The Cuckoo and the Warbler (2016) was published in collaboration with Kennedy Warne, who co-founded the NZ Geographic magazine. In 2017 it won the Storylines Notable Book Award and the Junior Non-Fiction shortlist at the New Zealand Children’s Book Awards. This book was initially inspired by cuckoo drawings she created for a ‘Spring Celebration’ with Kennedy and supporters of Oakley Creek in 2013. Hunt became intrigued by the complex relationship between the cuckoo and the warbler.
Hunt continues to support kiwi recovery and make books inspired by the Backyard Kiwi Project. Her extensive interest in the project meant she gained rare insight into New Zealand’s national bird, an indomitable creature. She remains passionate about sharing this insight through It’s My Egg (and you can’t have it!) (2017) and Mr. Kiwi has an Important Job (2019) which Rebekah Fraser has said “offers younger readers insights into the kiwi’s reproductive process, diet, habitat, and behaviour of our national bird,” and that it will “inspire and inform our youngest generation about our national treasure”. This book also won the Storylines Notable Book Award in 2020. Hunt also worked with a film crew to create the Backyard Kiwi pilot series.
Hunt also enjoys drawing humans and other wildlife, especially elephants. In Whangārei Heads, the image of the Backyard Kiwi is instantly recognisable. Images of the Backyard Kiwi are used on various road signs around Whangārei to gain awareness of the rising kiwi population in the area.
Updated July 2020.