Children's book one for the birds

20:32, May 23 2012
ROOST
COCKY CHARACTER: Robyn Murray's new picture book about a renegade rooster at Ambury Park is based on a true story.

The seed of an idea was planted in Robyn Murray's head when she spied a rooster strutting about a local farm with a flock of pukeko in tow.

By the time the accomplished storyteller got home from her daily walk at Ambury Farm Park in Mangere, it had become a full-grown tale about the life of the rooster who she'd nicknamed Roger.

Urban chicken-owners aren't allowed roosters because they annoy the neighbours with their crowing so they're often dumped at public parks in the dead of night.

That's probably how the swaggering cockerel found himself roaming free in Mangere Bridge, hanging out with a wild gang of native birds rather than in captivity with the farm's chooks.

Mrs Murray, who's lived in Mangere Bridge for seven years, is an old hand at telling animal stories.

"When I was a little girl in Ireland, I used to go into the henhouse and read the chickens a story – usually Henny-Penny, where the sky was falling."

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Mrs Murray told a local primary school class her version of Roger the Rooster's life.

A boy in the class piped up "When you get it published will you read it at our school?"

Under pressure from her writers' group, she decided to put the story in book form and got local artist Robina Adamson on board as illustrator.

Roger the Rooster of Ambury Park Farm is really two true stories woven together. Years ago Mrs Hirst rescued a lamb at the park, an episode which also appears in the book.

Pre-orders have been coming thick and fast from schools and libraries, she says, and her promise of giving $400 back to the farm for the first 400 books sold has already been fulfilled. She'll hand over the donation at the book launch.

The launch is set for June 16, 1.30pm to 4.30pm at Ambury Park. There'll be balloons, face painting, drawing and ice cream on for the kids and refreshments for adults.

The book will be for sale on the day – it retails for $25.

Park rangers will bring out the chickens and a rooster representing Roger will be released at the end of the launch.

Manukau Courier