This is a delightful treasure trove of a story, which I enjoyed enormously. The gorgeous illustrations by Nicola Kinnear complement the story perfectly.
Ariki is an apprentice Star Walker living on Turtle Island (having washed ashore as a toddler) with her Guardian, Arohaka and her mischievous pet pig, Bad Boy. She is a wonderfully carefree young girl who wants nothing more than to have fun and explore the ocean, for which she has a deep affinity.
Adventurous and strong-willed, she decides to ‘borrow’ a boat so that she can go exploring with her best friend, Ipo and Bad Boy. Unknowingly, they sail into the eye of a storm, cast adrift for many days, until they eventually come ashore on an island.
It is not long before she meets a castaway who has been living on the island with only the company of its incredible native species, including the wondrous Giant Bowerbirds who are vital to the survival of the island. Crusoe McRobinson is a fantastic character whose deep-rooted love of, and respect for, nature is obvious.
However, the idyllic, peaceful island is being threatened by something non-native, and rather scary, which has the power to destroy the island. Can Ariki and her friends save the island?
I loved Ariki! She is adventurous, quick-thinking and courageous with a wonderfully exuberant personality, and a real affinity and empathy for nature, with the incredible ability to communicate with animals through her thoughts.
Whilst the story is a real celebration of the beauty and awe of nature, there is a timely warning that we cannot take it for granted. The underlying themes offer an excellent opportunity to explore what happens when non-native species are introduced to an environment and the impact this can have on the natural ecosystem, including threats to habitat and the danger of the extinction of native species.
This is Ariki’s second adventure, with Ariki and the Giant Shark being published in 2018. I can’t wait to find out more about where Ariki has come from, and join her on further adventures. This is a perfect read for children of 7+.