A book written by two Whangarei women to help young New Zealand readers get the real story about kiwi has been shortlisted in the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards.
Kiwi: the real story, written by Annemarie Florian and illustrated by Heather Hunt, uses delightful, playful rhyming prose to describe how unique the kiwi is, the environment in which they feed and breed, and the things that endanger them.
Against nighttime backdrops as lush, deep and ambient as the birds' bush and coastal habitats, the kiwi characters live out their lives on each colourful page. Ms Hunt's illustrations expand on her "Backyard Kiwi" images that played a major part in raising the profile of the Whangarei Heads community's kiwi protection project.
The attention to detail, the lovely text and drawings and the book's novelty value are among reasons it a finalist in this year's prestigious book awards.
"We did follow through from go to whoa," Ms Florian said about the process of conceiving and creating the book.
Ms Hunt, who designed the book, said they were grateful New Holland Publishers NZ allowed them to retain such integral input.
"It's unusual for the illustrator and designer and the author to be collaborating so closely every step of the way, and we've valued the control that has given us. The book is just what we wanted it to be," Ms Hunt said.
The authors say while they hoped to endear the feisty, unique birds to readers, they did not try to turn them into fictitious creatures.
"These kiwi are literally in my backyard, they are real," Ms Hunt said.
"I was talking to a class at Whangarei Heads School last week telling them that these kiwi are so real they're actually just out there right now sitting on their nest, looking for a girlfriend, eating that cricket. I know each one by their call..."
The NZ Post awards chief judge Bernard Beckett said the 19 finalists showed a diverse range of themes and styles across the four categories: Best picture book, junior fiction, young adult and non-fiction.
The finalists were chosen from hundreds of entries read by three judges - Eirlys Hunter, Lynn Freeman and Mr Beckett.
The judges raised concerns over the many entries that had great potential but did not meet the standard required to become a finalist.
"A large number of books were crying out for a more considered editing or design process - books with clear potential that needed only another careful draft; delightful children's stories let down by the illustrations or design layout. To see such possibilities unrealised was a clear frustration for us," Mr Beckett said.
The winners from each category will be announced in June. School-aged children and young adults can now vote for their favourite finalist for the coveted Children's Choice Award.