ROBINSON, Nikki Slade Munkle Arvur and the Big Dry Scholastic (NZ), 2014 32pp NZ$19.50 pbk ISBN 9781775432135 SCIS 1647445
With the deft use of words and nonsense poetry reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, the author here has created a contemporary parable of the need for conservation of water. Water is essential for life and any misuse can have disastrous effects. That’s the serious message. But the joy of this book is in the visual and verbal telling. With a bold acknowledgement to all her fantabulicious family at the beginning, the author signals her passion for textual playfulness. Come along for the ride. ‘Tucked right away in the Tikaroo woods were the Tikaroo springs: water good-er than good.’ The image here is of a happy eco-system where pukekos, fantails, frogs and fish joyfully delight in the pristine woods. Dear Munkle Arvur is in charge of the precious town water supply and ‘He monitored, measured and metered the stream.’ But late that night, a Bod appears who, unknown to the townsfolk, has a dastardly plan to dig and divert, to tap into and take, to keep and control, to own that resounding resource, water.
If there is an eco- villain, you need an eco-warrior and Munkle is the man. ‘Munkle stormed down the hill and marched up to Bod. They came head to head, drip to drip, nod to nod.’ Now the next part is rather fun from an eco-critical perspective. There is a delightfully weird image of Bod, the self-indulgent capitalist enjoying the delights of a Jacuzzi, surrounded by his mates, the rats! There is also an interesting visual subtext here whereby the rats are chased out of the picture with their owner, the Bod when Munkle does what he needs to do. ‘The Bod fumed and fussed as he dripped out the door, hopped into his truck and drove off with a roar.’
This picture book is a delight to play with. Its visual and verbal playfulness invites lateral thinking: how can we, here in our home, respect that vital victual, water? Highly recommended.
reviewed by John McKenzie