With whiskers like a cat and soft feathers that make it flightless, the kakapo may be considered the world’s strangest parrot. Once ubiquitous, the kakapo has struggled for many years to remain present in this world. It has been hunted by indigenous groups, killed by predators introduced by humans, and struggled with the birth of unhealthy offspring. Today, only around ninety remain. Luckily for them, they have a group of highly dedicated volunteers and scientists by their side helping to ensure their existence in this world and a government that cares enough to fund this effort. In her book Kakapo Rescue, Sy Montgomery and the New Zealand National Kakapo Recovery Team work to discover the mysteries of these rare flightless parrots. Why are the breeding seasons and behavior of the kakapo so rare and irregular? What triggers the mating season? Could it be food or possibly something else? Read the book to get answers to these questions and go on an emotional journal with each volunteer as he/she triumphs when new information is discovered and is broken-hearted when sad news is heard.
One of the most striking elements of the book, besides the well-written text, is the colorful, crystal clear photographs. Each photograph is well placed and tells the story of the volunteers who tirelessly work to save the Kakapo. Photographs include striking images of Codfish Island’s kakapos in their natural habitat, volunteers doing their work, and kakapo/human interactions. In April of 2010, Booklist wrote, “Bishop’s photos of the creatures and their habitat are stunning; an awe-inspiring, closing image of the world’s eighty-seventh known Kakapo emerging from its shell captures the miracle of birth, for any species.”
As the inside back cover of the book tells readers, research and data collected and presented in the book was done through the authors’ own means. Research conducted in this form is likely the most accurate, so readers can be certain that the information is true. A list of helpful books in the form of a biography is also provided. Kakapo Rescue was published in 2010. For readers wishing to stay updated on the kakapo and human struggles to combat extinction, updates can be found at www.kakporecovery.org.nz.
Quotes and commentary from the rescuers add a personal touch and help set the book apart as not just an informational book, but literature as well. For example, on page twenty-seven, rescuer Jeff comments about his first time holding a kakapo chick saying, “To be holding something there’s eighty-seven in the world of … it’s really, really great!” On page forty-four, Jeff later expresses sadness after realizing the chick he once helped has died, saying “Everything looked so promising last night.” The presence of emotions in the volunteer rescuer’s speech as well as Montgomery’s obvious delight in the subject combines to present an enthusiastic text that will grasp reader’s attention from the start.
This book would be enjoyed to the fullest if read from cover to cover in one sitting. Unlike most informational texts that allow readers to peruse through different headings to choose what to read and what to skip, Kakapo Rescue reads more like literature with characters, a plot, a setting, and multiple problems and solutions. As Booklist astutely states, Montgomery “nimbly blends scientific and historical facts with immediate, sensory descriptions of fieldwork.” Generally speaking, this text would be most appropriate for late elementary to middle school aged children and young adults. Enough factual information is available for children of this age to complete a research project.
Kakapo’s Rescue would be an excellent addition to a public library book club. After giving children and young adults an appropriate amount of time to read the book in its entirety, the librarian could lead a discussion about what they believe the author’s intent was in writing this text. The librarian could then use the website teachingbooks.net where a recorded “meet the author” book recording is available to allow children to listen to the author’s explanation. Additional activities could include drawing a kakapo using chalk, writing letters to The Kakapo Recovery Programme to offer support, or organizing a fundraising activity to help support Kakapo Rescue financially.
Kakapo Rescue was nominated for a Young Hoosier Book Award in 2012 and won a Robert F. Silbert Informational Book Award in 2011 and an American Library Association Notable Books for Children Award in 2011. Additionally, it has received starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal and is ranked number twenty-seven in the category “children’s books > art, music, and photography” on amazon.com.
Amazon.com. 1996 – 2013. “Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot (Scientists in the Field Series)” http://www.amazon.com/Kakapo-Rescue-Saving-Strangest-Scientists/dp/ 0618494170 /ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1382834904&sr=8-1&keywords=kakapo+rescue (Accessed October 26, 2013).
Books in Print. Texas Woman’s University. Accessed October 26, 2013.
Montgomery, Sy. 2010. Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot. Photographs by Nic Bishop. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0618494170
Teachingbooks.net. 2001-2013. “Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot Meet-the-Author Book Reading” http://www.teachingbooks.net/book_reading.cgi?id=4893&a=1 (Accessed October 26, 2013).