Book Review – Waata the Weta

By Josephine Carson Barr, illustrated by Simon Barr

Review by Donna Blaber
Donna holds a Masters degree in Creative Writing, specialising in children’s literature. She is a manuscript editor and assessor, and is working on her next novel for tweens. 
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Waata the Weta has a wild mop of funky red hair, the hugest teethy grin, an adventurous spirit, and more facial expressions than you could ever imagine in one so small.

Except Waata is not small, he is tall. What’s more, he’s brave not scared, he likes eating strange food, and he wants to have fun. Bored with the woodpile, he flies away in a bubble to find a new home, all the while asking himself, what could possibly go wrong? Plenty it would seem for an adventurous weta!

This is great story with short snappy text and lots of imagination. After the first read-through, it’s easy to retell Waata’s adventures in your own words, following the illustrations. Young children will also be able to relay the story, once they learn to follow the pictures in the right order.

There’s a lot of value in this book; it punches well above its 42 pages, courtesy of its illustrations. A quick count reveals 120 pictures; the vast majority comprising complex scenes. There’s hours worth of exploring and learning to be enjoyed (with a little person on your knee), discovering all the fine detailing. Five and six year olds will gobble this book up, and it will be popular with reluctant readers. 

This is a Kiwi story through and through. I love the cool names like Sticky Beak (the chicken), and the quirky expressions we can all relate to like “finger licking good”. The author uses onomatopoeia throughout, and it works really well to draw the reader in.

The rural scenes are spot on: the woodpile, the chicken coop, the tractor shed, as well as the larger landscapes and finer details such as flaxes and ferns, grass growing in the gutter (LOL!), jandals and work boots, and even red socks. Nice.

I gravitate towards maps and info graphics, so the inside front cover, which features the pictures and names of the main characters, is instantly appealing. Even better it doubles as a size guide of sorts comparing Waata the Weta with the likes of Banjo the dog. Constant layering is a highlight of this book; the more you look, the more you see.

There’s also a page showing the layout of the farm, and at the back there’s a nifty blackboard of facts, an age-appropriate everything-you-need-to-know about New Zealand weta, providing further opportunities for learning.

I would happily purchase this story for pre-schoolers, and primary school children aged 5-7 years. As previously mentioned it’s also a valuable resource for older, reluctant readers. At home, this book will become a firm favourite, and it deserves space in every library, pre-school and primary school.


Find out more about Josephine Carson-Barr, the author of Waata the Weta and her other books by visiting her author page.

Our sincere thanks to Donna for this book review which will help you decide if Waata the Weta is a good book to add to your home or school bookshelves.

Donna’s books are also available in the Kiwi Kids Read Kiwi Books online bookstore. You can find out more about Donna and her books by visiting her author page.