Fantail's quilt by Gay Hay and Margaret Tolland

cover image

Starfish Bay Children's Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781760360719.
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Themes: Birds, Fantails, New Zealand, Survival. When a pair of Fantails, a common New Zealand bird, build a nest and deposit three eggs in there ready to hatch into new chicks, the forest is alive with danger. The pair must protect their eggs at all cost, but a marauding rat spies the eggs and eats them. Undeterred, the pair tries again, building a nest of grass and leaves, soft moss and spiders' webs.
The three new eggs are burrowed into the soft feathers of the nest, and the Fantails are watchful.
A rat can be spied coming towards the nest again, but this time an owl has spotted the rat, so the nest is left unsullied. Readers will breathe a sigh of relief that this time, the Fantails are able to raise their chicks without losing them.
This neat story, well rounded and telling of danger and survival in the forest, will intrigue younger readers as they spy the various things within the forest, alluded to on the endpapers. The strong environmental message is reiterated in the glorious illustrations. Eager eyes will watch out for the ferns that grow in the forest, the Totara, Kowhaie and Waterfall fern, and the owl, butterflies, and Weta, along with the fuschias, nightshade, and Lancewood. The last few pages give more information about the Fantail, as well as images of the two other books published by this pair, Go green gecko and Watch out snail, strikingly illustrated and telling an environmental story easily read and understood by children.
The bold illustrations are delightful, markedly different from the soft edged, pink and romantic drawings seen in many recent picture books. This boldness using just a few colours, makes the forest a striking place and invites inquisitive eyes to look more closely at what is hidden in the undergrowth. A real pleasure to see a differently presented illustrative technique which pushes the reader to think about and question what they are seeing.
Fran Knight