Hutu and Kawa

Hutu and Kawa

'"We must be cousins!", said Hutu' – an illustration from Hutu and Kawa find an island (1957), by Avis Acres.

Pohutukawa fairies

According to Jill Holt, who wrote about Avis Acres for the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography:

‘After seeing the book Gumnut babies, by Australian May Gibbs, Avis produced a comic strip featuring two pohutukawa fairies called Hutu and Kawa, who lived in the bush with friends such as Willy Weka and various pixies and elves. The strip was accepted for the New Zealand Herald's children's page and appeared weekly from September 1950 until July 1960. Between 1955 and 1957 three popular Hutu and Kawa books, notable for their accurate rendering of New Zealand fauna and flora, were published by A.H. & A.W. Reed, the second in 1956 appearing at the same time as another of Avis's books, Opo, the gay dolphin. She also wrote several nature study booklets, which Reeds published for schools.

Despite their fantasy, the Hutu and Kawa books conveyed an understanding of ecology and a strong conservationist ethos. In Hutu and Kawa find an island, Acres described the terrible impact of the possum on native trees and birds. In the same book she incorporated traditional Maori knowledge on making the sail for a canoe. To ensure that the details in her books were accurate, she undertook research in museums and libraries, and in the field. Her first three books sold extremely well, but sales of the fourth were disappointing. Although children loved the fairies, sections of the education and publishing worlds were ambivalent toward the mixture of fantastical narrative with accurate illustrations and information. Reeds decided against publishing further stories and her work was subsequently turned down by other publishers. However, in 1990 Heinemann Reed republished the Hutu and Kawa books.’

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Posted: 30 Dec 2015


Posted: 06 May 2015

As a child I used to listen to a wonderful vinyl recording of Huta and Kawa's adventures. Does anyone know where I could find these now? Are they digitalised?