Theatremaker, performer, director, improviser and WeekendSpecial writer Megan Furniss has just released a fabulous new children’s book, The Big Bird Battle. She tells us more:
So what is The Big Bird Battle all about?
The Big Bird Battle is set in one of Cape Town’s parks, and it is the story of two gangs of birds, The Hard Hadedas and The Foul Guinea Fowl, who erupt in a massive squabble one day. The fight spreads to the jungle gym and swings before another bigger bird, an Egyptian Goose, and his wife lay down the law and stop the park riot.
What gave you the idea to write this story?
I walk my dogs, Frieda and Linus, every day, and on the weekends we usually go to Keurboom Park, home to hadedas, guinea fowl, the occasional owl, Egyptian geese and tons of other birds. The idea for the book took shape one day when it seemed like there was a shouting competition between the rudely loud hadedas, the jabbering guinea fowl and the honking geese. I had a “what if?” moment, went home and started writing.
Are there actually gangsta birds in your neighbourhood – like the characters in the book?
I love this question! There really are gangsta birds in my neck of the woods, and they aren’t just the hadedas! There are the little, cheeky starlings who tease my cat and fight, jostle and push, then hang out on the telephone lines. The pigeons operate in huge gangs, begging for left overs, and there’s even the occasional seagull who comes to check out the action. It’s very bird busy in my ‘hood.
Who is your favourite character? And why?
My favourite favourite is the Egyptian goose wife. She is so beautiful and glamorous, and she is definitely the strongest, clearest voice of reason. She puts everyone in their place and manages to restore peace.
Is there a message to the story?
There isn’t a “heavy” message. It’s more observational and fantastical. Although, when I think about it, it does point out that fighting and gangs are ridiculous.
After you wrote the story, how did the illustration side work out?
I was so lucky that Penguin Struik loved the story and assigned an illustrator to the book. Tanja Dunstan, the illustrator, got it instantly, and her drawings are genius. The birds have such character and the little gang details are my best.
What ages will enjoy the book most?
The publishers have recommended it for 5 to 8 year olds, but I think it could be stretched both down to 3 and up to my age.
Have you had any feedback?
I have had a great review from Moesida, 9, who found the gang fight ridiculous, but she loved the bling! Hadi, almost 5, loves the story, especially the hadedas, and children at The Reading Gym are using the book as a reading tool. They love it.
What: The Big Bird Battle by Megan Furniss, illustrations by Tanja Dunstan
How to find it: Online on Loot, Takealot, EB online, or at most bookstores in CT and Jozi