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Children’s Book Launching With Bonus Animal Drawing Class

Local author Michael Botur is releasing a children’s book which is being launched with interactive drawing classes and book readings in Northland across summer, beginning Saturday December 11 in Whangarei.

The book ‘My Animal Family’ teaches children about their place in the natural world through rhymes which deliver scientific facts about how animals are related on the phylogenetic tree, with a core message that humans are equal to all other living creatures.

Botur says he first began writing My Animal Family three years ago to entertain his two children, Abraham and Violet, now aged 10 and 8.

“The book was inspired by an debate with my daughter when she was five about whether or not humans are animals. It reminded me when I was in primary school being told that people are part of the animal kingdom and it blew my mind. I think few things are more important for kids than understanding your place in the universe and gaining joy from scientific discovery.”

Wellington illustrator Emma Weakley began work on the book’s illustrations in November 2019 and the book went through “a huge amount of back and forth” before the pictures and text were finalised in time for printing in late November 2021.

“There were so many complications, it’s amazing we’ve got the book perfect in the end,” Botur says. “First my budget for illustrations ran out. Then lots of people said the illustrations and the words needed a lot more work - but that was hard because I had to adjust the script to fit the illustrations. You couldn’t improve one without the other. The number of revisions we went through was a big surprise - but we’ve ended up with an extremely high-quality product that’s fun to cuddle up with your kid and read.”

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Botur says the book was declined assistance from the Creative Communities Scheme because the assessors felt it was “too educational” and he had to bootstrap the costs of the book himself.

“The ‘Too educational’ feedback had me despairing for Northland’s intelligence, especially when our schools were shut down for months,” Botur says. “Meanwhile one of the best-selling children’s books right now is about a kid’s butt. We can do better. I reckon what kids need are books which teach new words and scientific concepts through humorous rhyme. The science part is delivered through art, too – kids coming to buy the book at the launch get the book read and explained to them and get talented local comic book illustrators helping them draw a poster to take away. Plus you get to find our your favourite animal’s scientific name and what it means.”

The poster-drawing workshop and book readings will take place in Northland libraries, book stores and toy stores beginning December 11 at Craniums, Whangarei, where local comic book artists Shane Evans and Rico Searle will help kids create a free, original poster. Botur will help each attendee find the genus and species name of an animal they are passionate about - real or imaginary.

The stars of ‘My Animal Family’ – local kids Abraham and Violet Botur, who narrate the book - will be in attendance.

“Part of the original intent of the book was to make them proud,” Botur says. “Years from now, maybe they can write their own books with their own children.”

“Hopefully you can bring your kids and combine art, education and entertainment. We’ll talk about our favourite animals and talk through the surprising ways many species are related.”

My Animal Family is available to buy from Wheelers and launch venues including Craniums and The Piggery.

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