KATRINA WARD
New Zealand Artist, Textile Designer & Educator

Journal

If You Were A Kowhai - Notes for Book Lovers and Educators

This week my new book 'If You Were A Kowhai' has been published in soft cover and it is the first book I've written that represents all of my interests in art, textile design and education.

It has three levels to enjoy so let me give you a walk through:

On the surface it's a love story. Kids love the pictures and they love the word pairings as they are introduced to new metaphors for expressing love by matching things that go together.

It's more than just a love story for kids in picture book format...

It's more than just a love story for kids in picture book format...

The book begins with 'If you were a Kowhai, I'd be your Tui' and was inspired by wanting to write a love poem for my daughter for her third birthday. Her middle name is Kowhai and if I see a Kowhai tree, I always wait to see a Tui - because they belong together. In its own magical way the book gets more quirky as you read (you can see a preview of the full text in my shop listing) and 'If you were a chip, I'd be your dip' is my favourite page.

Each word pairing is chosen because they belong together. They are also mostly kiwi-inspired as well as a beautifully abstract way of saying 'I love you' for kids.

Our experiences in Northland farming also informed some imagery - 'If you were a creek, I'd be your eel' for example - because all farming kids in New Zealand know that creeks and eels belong together - just like Kowhai flowers and Tuis and chips and dip do.

If you were a chip, I'd be your dip. 

If you were a chip, I'd be your dip. 

Why is it more than a picture book?

On another level this book is also an educational tool to teach kids about art (before we get to the computational thinking stuff which I will get to in a minute). Each page has an element of colour abstraction or an abstraction or simplification of form on it to encourage kids to think differently about visual representation. I'm originally an Art History (English and Art too) teacher by trade and I think it's important for kids to think about concepts behind drawing, behind composition and choices of colour, scale, shapes and lines and there are several opportunities to begin to talk to kids about pretty complex things like how feelings can be inspired by colour or how to make things look like they are far away. I've added teaching notes at the back to help you because I really don't believe that it could ever be too early a time to begin some fun visual analysis...

Then, this is the level that is most exciting for me, this book also offers an insight into computational thinking and computer science. The kind of thinking that is required to write code for computers is vital for kids growing up, so why not start playing now?

I introduce how you can think about algorithms, repetition, mathematics, formulas and pattern all within this little picture book. Each illustration comes with teaching notes at the back about how your child might follow an algorithm to devise their own illustration, how they might write their own formula - and even, because this should be just the beginning for growing minds - how to write their own book like this one!

So there you have it, the three fun levels of my new book explained! This is all in addition to being a bright and colourful picture book. If you don't want to use the teaching notes at the back, you don't even have to. But if you feel curious about computational thinking or abstraction, or if your kids want to try something new, then they are there for you, waiting for the right cuddle-filled moment (because this book ends with a huggable opportunity).

I'm really proud of this little project - it's brought together all of my loves - art, textiles, words and education... and I am so pleased to share it with you. It's already a favourite in our house and I can't wait to see what your kids think too!

It's already a favourite - it even has to come in the car!

It's already a favourite - it even has to come in the car!

If you want a copy, head here and I will send you one. Easy as pie.

Thanks for your support!

-Katrina