Up the River: explore and discover New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and wetlands is the latest addition  to the ‘explore and discover’ books, following on from books about the seashore, ocean, garden, and forest habitats.

Up the River is the sixth book in the series

Six years ago I would have wondered how many people might be interested enough in our freshwater habitats to buy a book about them for their children or grandchildren, but now as we release this book, there is broad public interest. There’s been much publicity about whether our rivers are swimmable, about polluted drinking water and about the loss of rivers to irrigation schemes.

As a nation we’ve woken up to the facts – that clean freshwater matters and that our freshwater is not as clean as we would like it to be. 

All of these events and debates were going on while I was researching and writing Up the River. The more I researched, the more I realised that the state of our freshwater was worse than I had imagined. I had to work hard to resist the temptation to make the dire findings and debates centre stage in the book. Why?

Partly because I want the book to endure for ten years or more, and I hope as a society we’ll act quickly now to make a difference to water quality. But mainly, because a focus on negative facts can make children feel powerless. After all this is a mess not of their making.

Pages 20-21 what lives in the wetland?

Instead I wanted to show children (and the adults who read the book with them) the diverse and intriguing wildlife that healthy freshwater systems support. In Up the River the reader discovers animals that are little known because they are hidden or out of sight, or rare because of habitat loss. Children learn about the amazing journeys that fish make, and the extraordinary life-cycles of aquatic insects. In this way, they get to understand how special these habitats are.

The rivers needed to be recognisable to children who may not get to experience mountain streams or braided rivers, so Ned’s illustrations show a modified habitat on pages 10-13.

Part of the image showing a modified habitat

I hope that this leads to discussion about what impact the farms and towns along the river will have on the animals and plants that live there.

The text about lakes on pages 16-17 also raises the issue of the particular problems that affect lakes. For older children, there is discussion at the end of the book about algal blooms and freshwater problems. Here, the “What can you do?” text empowers children (and adults) to take action for freshwater.

You might be wondering just how bad is the state of our freshwater really. Click on this image for a simple summary of facts from the Ministry of the Environment and down load ‘New Zealand’s fresh water at a glance 2017’.

Infographic from the Ministry of the Environment

Bought the book and want tips and ideas to follow up?

As I write, I note down interesting websites or activities and compile these to share with parents and teachers. See “ideas for children, parents and educators to explore and discover New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and wetlands” on the Potton & Burton website.  I also continue to update my Pinterest board with links to websites, documents, and tips for craft and science activities.

Did you know?

My books are available in hardback as well as paperback. Often bookstores just stock the paperback version, but many people prefer hardbacks, either because they are more robust or because they make nice gifts. Ask your bookstore to order the hardback for you or order it online direct from my publisher, Potton & Burton. http://www.pottonandburton.co.nz/store/up-the-river