New Kuwi story help­ing wild kiwi

Havelock North Village Press - - News - BY LINDA HALL

Kat Merewether has cap­tured the heart of thou­sands of chil­dren, along with their par­ents and grand­par­ents, with Kuwi the Kiwi.

Her lat­est book Kuwi’s Rowdy Crowd con­tin­ues the bright and colour­ful se­ries with il­lus­tra­tions that make you want to smile.

Kat is the am­bas­sador of Ki­wis for Kiwi, a char­ity pro­tect­ing our na­tive birds.

A por­tion of the sales from her books goes to the char­ity. Kat will be launch­ing Kuwi’s Rowdy Crowd at War­dini Books in Napier on Satur­day. Oc­to­ber 20 from 11am and War­dini Books Have­lock North on Sun­day, Oc­to­ber 21 from 11am

I asked Kat some ques­tions.

■ What is it about the kiwi that made you fall in love with it?

Kiwi have al­ways fas­ci­nated me and I would spend hours as a child in the bush imag­in­ing I saw kiwi in the shrub­bery. There were none to be seen. So now I’m help­ing the only way I know how.

When the idea for the first book popped into my head, there was no ques­tion which na­tive bird she was go­ing to be.

I needed a cute and com­i­cal char­ac­ter, and the awk­ward, long-beaked, wing­less bird fit the bill, also an en­dan­gered na­tive bird, so I could do­nate a por­tion of the sale of each book. I wanted to in­spire chil­dren to be pas­sion­ate about con­ser­va­tion.

■ Did you think when you pub­lished your first Kuwi book that it would be so suc­cess­ful?

When I first em­barked on pub­lish­ing Kuwi’s First Egg ,my aim was to sell 5000 copies. At the time I was ad­vised that was overly am­bi­tious in New Zealand pub­lish­ing. The ini­tial print run sold out in the first few weeks, and to date, we have printed over 160,000 copies in the se­ries!

■ You are a busy mother of three girls. When do you find the time to write and do il­lus­tra­tions?

I have three gor­geous girls aged five to 16. My very sup­port­ive hus­band Kyle has the pri­mary role of care­giver, drop­ping and pick­ing them up from school and cook­ing most din­ners. When I have a dead­line, I wake up and work be­fore the kids gets up. I have a stu­dio in town where I and work a full day with my two staff. Later, af­ter the chil­dren have gone to bed, I work an­other three or four hours. I still strug­gle to find the right bal­ance of work and play, which I think can be an is­sue for many whose hob­bies and jobs blur. I am pas­sion­ate about what I do so I don’t mind the ex­treme hours, but I am hope­ful I am do­ing it in a way that fos­ters my daugh­ters’ cre­ativ­ity and in­de­pen­dence and also in­spires them in their fu­ture ca­reers.

■ When did you re­alise that you were a tal­ented il­lus­tra­tor?

Like many other il­lus­tra­tors, I grew up with a pen­cil in hand, draw­ing every­thing in sight. When I was 18, while deciding on what I wanted to study, I got a job at Te Wa¯ nanga o Aotearoa. Staff were re­quired to at­tend te reo Ma¯ ori cour­ses and while draw­ing info-graphic notes to help me re­tain the new words, my ka­iako (tu­tor) no­ticed what I was draw­ing. He asked me to il­lus­trate the re­sources for Te Ara Reo Ma¯ ori, Mahi Ora and Mauri Ora pro­grammes. I have been il­lus­trat­ing pro­fes­sion­ally ever since — 18 years now.

■ What do you think the av­er­age per­son can do to help pro­tect our na­tive birds?

Things that can make a huge dif­fer­ence to ar­eas with a wild kiwi pop­u­la­tion (and also, help other na­tive birds at the same time): Keep­ing dogs on a leash, es­pe­cially near the bush — one roam­ing dog can do a huge amount of dam­age to a kiwi pop­u­la­tion! Set­ting pos­sum/ fer­ret/rat traps in your own back­yard. An­other way is through do­na­tions. Ev­ery $100 can help pro­tect one kiwi for one whole year. There are more ways to help on ki­w­is­forkiwi.org

■ Tell us some­thing sur­pris­ing about your­self.

I can paint with both my left and right hands and I have a pho­bia of high-fives.

■ What do you like to do in your spare time (if you have any)?

We love walk­ing in our own back­yard sanc­tu­ary — Maun­gatau­tari Moun­tain. Bustling with na­tive crea­tures, it does tend to dou­ble as re­search. I also love fish­ing off the beach in Aotea Har­bour.

■ When you were young what did you like to read?

Richard Scarry, Mau­rice Sen­dak and May Gibbs were my favourites. Maybe it had some­thing to do with their in­cred­i­ble, de­tailed il­lus­tra­tion styles, and the fact that they both il­lus­trated and wrote their work.

■ What’s next for you.

One of my sto­ries — Ki­wicorn — has been pub­lished and re­leased in the UK, among other places. I am hop­ing to go to Lon­don for a small book tour in the New Year. I also have three sto­ries I’m work­ing on si­mul­ta­ne­ously, but they’re all top se­cret. All will be re­vealed in 2019!

Au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor Kat Merewether with her lat­est book

Paul O’Shea, Kat Merewether and Michelle Im­pey (Ki­wis for Kiwi) at Sanc­tu­ary Maun­gatau­tari.

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