27 June, 2016

Whose beak is this? by Gillian Candler

Gillian Candler is an award-winning writer whose previous children's books, like this one, focus on the beauty of nature and the great outdoors. It is no surprise that this fantastic picture book has been shortlisted for this year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children.

Candler invites the reader to guess the bird from an illustration of its beak. The names of the birds are all given in English and Maori. The favourites are all here – Kiwi and Tui and others – but also some lesser known birds like the Toroa. The text accompanying the images is short but informative and consistently interesting.

Where the book is so clever is that it teaches science almost without you realising, introducing the concept of adaptation. Children not only see the bird in its natural environment but also gain an understanding of its evolution. It is rare to see science blended so successfully into a picture book aimed at such a young audience.

This is Candler’s first collaboration with the artist and illustrator Fraser Williamson, and Williamson’s illustrations are simply delightful, sharp and vivid and jumping out at the reader. They provide the perfect counterpoint to the text and Candler’s inviting questions.

This book is a real pleasure for any adult to read with their young child and one you will want to pick up again and again. You may be surprised at how many beaks your child knows, and how few you recognise!

Author: Gillian Candler

Reviewed by Nick K, Ranui Library

Nick K enjoys reading crime fiction, demonological adult and young adult fiction, classic children’s fiction like Arthur Ransome and picture books, especially those illustrated by Quentin Blake. He hates reality TV. 

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