Pepe, a beautiful forest ringlet butterfly, lives for only four weeks so she lays her eggs and asks Tute the Tui to protect them. Then she flies away, never to be seen again.
But things don't go to plan. What happens when the eggs hatch? Why is Pepe one of New Zealand's rarest butterflies?
Illustrated by Anna Evans.
I love reading children's story's, especially when I actually learn something as well! 'Pepe & Tute' is a wonderful story about Pepe, a forest ringlet butterfly, also known as 'Helm's Butterfly' that is only found in New Zealand. It is a rare and endangered butterfly that risks becoming extinct and the story tells us how and why. Tute is a tui that is enlisted to look after Pepe's eggs after she lays them and flies off.
The illustrations are outstanding and although the butterfly has a comic like face, the tui looks extremely lifelike and it's vibrant colours are suitably captured. Each page is a visual feast and younger readers would be able to follow the story by the pictures alone.
I read this book to Year 4 students and they thoroughly enjoyed it. With the eggs 'disappearing', I was able to incorporate some math into the story; if there were 11 eggs to start with and the wasps got to 6, how many were left? They particularly liked that it was set in New Zealand with birds and fauna that was familiar to them. The book is entertaining whilst also teaching children about the life cycle of the forest ringlet butterfly. After reading the book, I had a discussion with the children about how pests can affect a species survival and what we could do about it, which lead to a lengthy discussion about wasps!
This is a fabulous book that would make a wonderful gift and would be great for any children that are interested in wildlife and the outdoors. The illustrations really help to bring this book to life and I highly recommend it.
Some children's books are so carefully designed that a child can follow the story purely by looking at the pictures and recognising what is going on. With very small children, this needs the assistance of an older person so that questions can be answered, explanations given, and time allowed to revisit the previous page because little ones do not always follow a story in linear fashion!
This was the case with Miss 18 Months when she first received this book. With a new baby in the house demanding lots of attention, she is very happy when she can snuggle up on her own on Dad's knee and read a book with him. Some of the text was a little too advanced for her, but she listened anyway, and it was clear that she was filling in the gaps for herself by looking at the pictures. Her smile said it all - she was thoroughly enjoying the book and it was not put away before she and Dad had read it several times through. Whenever Tute sang his repeated phrases, Miss 18 Months would echo his words - as though she were pretending to be a tui too.
The blues and greens of the illustrations are delightfully reminiscent of the New Zealand bush. Although they are stylised, it is easy to imagine that they are real images because the detail is so painstakingly done. Native trees and plants are recognisable so that when Miss 18 Months' parents take her for a bush walk they will be able to point out some of the local fauna and remind her of those she has seen in the book. There is also every chance that she will see a real-life tui or even a ruru, although it is less likely alas that she will encounter a forest ringlet butterfly.
I had just one reservation about the text, one which I shared with her parents. There is a reference to the fly's eggs hatching and eating the caterpillars from the inside out. This could be quite a disturbing image for a pre-schooler. Children of this age have vivid imaginations and they empathise with the protagonists in stories, so this is possibly a case of too much information. It is one thing for a child to learn of a predator eating eggs so that a species becomes endangered; it is quite another to visualise the effect in detail. I thought it best to gloss over the description on this page or rephrase it so it did not cause nightmares.
There is an extra educational component which will be valuable when Miss 18 Months is older and able to read the story for herself. At the end of the book there is a fact sheet on tui and forest ringlets which provides further information on these creatures. Children can learn about why these pepe (butterflies) are endangered, and how they can be helped to survive. As a much older person, I too learned something about our environment by reading this information; it is never possible to know everything about our country, but books like this provide an invaluable service for both young and old.
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