New Zealand Nature Heroes by Gillian Candler (Published by Potton and Burton) is a book I would have loved to have received as a child. Intended for an 8-14 years age group, it is pitched as ‘inspiration and activities for young conservationists’ and the book is exactly that.
Each section begins with an interesting, easily read biography of a key New Zealand conservationist – sometimes an historic figure (Richard Henry, Betty Batham, Lance Richdale), sometimes present-day scientists working with wildlife (Ingrid Visser, Orcas), along with kaitiaki, wildlife advocates and conservation volunteers.
Rangitahi – youth nature heroes – are included too. Children can and do make a difference too and this book shows how. Not all of the historic figures were people I’d heard of – but all were interesting, inspiring and deserving of their place in the pages. I wanted to find out more.
Tenacity, overcoming obstacles, passion for wildlife – the biographies are inspirational and show that people of all ages and from all walks of life can help threatened wildlife if they care enough. Each personal story is then followed by the stories of the species themselves – their discovery, how to care for them and interesting facts. Finally, there are useful tips and activities that the reader can engage in now – simple, practical things that can benefit nature in a child’s own, everyday environment – make a seed bomb, tips for counting garden birds, make a nestbox, how to understand your local waterway…
The inspiration and encouragement go beyond the pages of the book with a comprehensive ‘resources’ section at the end of the book listing information websites, YouTube videos, directories of local volunteer groups and online databases where readers can contribute their own wildlife observations. When you’ve made your tracking tunnel, the resources section will tell you where to find a website to help identify the footprints.
Overall the book design is colourful, richly illustrated with photographs and diagrams and attractively laid out in a way that encourages you to keep digging in. Even the paper that the pages are printed on is lovely – thick, matt finish and cream – sturdy enough to stand up to multiple browsing by eager, outdoorsy children; sturdy enough to stand up to classroom use even. This book will also make an excellent classroom resource and a practical lesson-planning resource for teachers. It retails for $29.99.
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