Cat on the island by Gary Crew; illustrated by Gillian Warden (2008)

[Published by Angus & Robertson]

catLast week I shared this bird-conservation themed picture book. What I didn’t realise is that in New Zealand’s murky past we had our own similar bird conservation disaster.*

Our wee narrator requests a story from his grandfather. Gramps tells of his father, a drifter who got a job as Lighthouse keeper on Stephens Island in Cook Strait, New Zealand. It was a beautiful island, full to overflowing with birds.

In order to build the lighthouse, workers on the island chopped down trees and ripped out ferns, places in which the island’s wrens sheltered. A pet cat was introduced to the island, a cat who had kittens and developed a taste for hunting. When a couple of years later, a naturalist visited the island to see the only flightless wrens in the world, there wasn’t a living wren to be on

“Wiped out paradise, we did. And all the wildlife that lived there. All the birds gone. Not one left. Not one.”

The illustrations match the feel of this story perfectly, with the serene blues and greens of the island invaded by the violent blood-red of the cats. Gary Crew has written some amazing sophisticated picture books, and this is no exception. Another wonderful book to share in the classroom.

*(Oh dear, I should probably add the moa to this list as well!)

Check out Cat on the island at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Cat on the island from Fishpond.


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