Poetry Box review: Julie Ellis’s Takahē Maths

Poetry Box November challenge – using poetry forms

Takahē Maths, Julie Ellis, illus. Isobel Te Aho-White, OneTree House, 2021

Takahē Maths is a very cool book. It tells the story of the takahē through numbers and equations. Before the Pākehā arrived there were over ten thousand takahē, but as birds were hunted, land was cleared, and pests such as rats and stoats arrived, the numbers dwindled. And then, between 1800 and 1900, only four takahē were spotted. The big beautiful blue bird, with its distinctive red beak, was no more. Extinct. Then one surprising day, Dr Orbell was walking in an isolated valley and he spotted unusual bird prints. Bird experts recognised the footprints and were dumbstruck.

Yet here is where the story gets sad. Dr Obell and others found 250 takehē. A cause for celebration but the birds were not protected well enough and the numbers dwindled again.

The answers to the takahē equations on each page go up and down, up and down, because people struggled to protect the takahē. I feel such sadness as I read this but I love how a sequence of maths equations nails the need to protect our endangered species.

In 2021 the takahē are still vulnerable – there are 450 and counting. Young birds are hatched in Aotearoa’s longest running endangered species programme, and readied for release into the mountains and to safe islands that are predator free.

To structure the narrative of an endangered bird around a series of maths equations is genius. You get to add and subtract as you read, and to grasp how important conservation is in Aotearoa.

Excellent illustrations that give the birds and scenes life. Takahē Maths is a brilliant book.

You can hear the takahē birdsong here courtesy of Department of Conversation

OneTree House page

About the Author: Julie Ellis is a very experienced writer in the field of education Julie has a number of works published by Learning Media, New Holland, Reed Education and others. 

About the Illustrator: Izzy Joy is a young but experienced illustrator. “My personal artwork is definitely about connecting people with each other and with nature … uplifting people, especially young women, and raising understanding and compassion toward people that are struggling in life” Izzy remarks. Izzy’s works include The Story of Rangi and Papa (Zine) and Io Wahine (Zine).

Department of Conversation info:

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