Little book has big message

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Book author Angela Cushnie and painter Barbara Jaine have worked together on a special project.

A bittern called Boomer is the star of a small book with a big message written by Ashburton author Angela Cushnie and illustrated by her friend and well-known painter Barbara Jaine.

Boomer’s official name is Bernard Raupo Bittern III and he’s the self-appointed mayor of the Waipuna wetlands. He’s worried for his community, which includes other endangered birds, lizards, eels, frogs and mudfish.

Luckily for Boomer, Jack and his human family on Boundary Farm want to help make the wetlands bigger, better and safer.

The children’s book, entitled A Change is Gonna Come, is being launched at the Ashburton Art Gallery on November 4.

Angela said 1000 copies had been printed initially and she hoped the book would be given by parents and grandparents to their children, and find a place in school libraries.

She said talking about wetlands through the eyes of an endangered bird, especially one as full of character as a bittern, was an ideal way for her to shine a light on native plants and wildlife.

“I wanted to celebrate all the good work being done around conservation while at the same time educate and raise awareness so more people can find out what they can do to help in their local community.”

Boomer is an Australasian Bittern and fewer than 1000 remain; they are at high risk of extinction if more is not done to help protect and restore their habitat. A bittern’s call sounds like a boom and they camouflage themselves by adopting a freeze stance.

Angela is a member of the Ashburton Water Zone Committee, founder of the Kanuka Mid Canterbury Regeneration Trust and says individuals and groups are working together around the district to restore wetlands that had been drained for urban or rural development.

“Granted, some change is happening too fast for some and not fast enough for others, which is causing a great deal of stress and tension. For me, storytelling is a respectful way to bring people together to work on solutions for the benefit of future generations.”

Angela has used her backyard has a source of inspiration and the characters have personal connections for her. Bernard Raupo Bittern III has been named after Bernie Davidson and there are other links to whanau and favourite places in the book.

She said friend and fellow zone committee member Peter Ramsden had also made a significant contribution to the mahi of the book.

Barbara remembers coming across bitterns in her younger years. my first bittern when I was about 10 years old. My father had dug a pond and planted rushes and flax around it and he called me down one day to point one out.

When she married and lived at Eiffelton, the Parakanoi drain ran through their property and her own children enjoyed the natural wildlife. “Bitterns were rare but they were around.”

Barbara was hooked on the book when she saw the script and it didn’t take long before Boomer emerged from her imagination in a mix of watercolour and pen. different from the fine art I usually do, but it has been so much fun and has given me a freedom to create characters that are now personal friends.

Bookmarks featuring images from the book will be given away at the launch.

Angela has created a Facebook page to promote the book, which costs $20, and people can also order a copy there: www.facebook.com/A-Change-is-Gonna-Come