No, the reason I couldn't wait to get my hands on it was because I'd heard it featured a chicken as one of the characters — and I love chickens! Thankfully, neither the book nor the chicken disappointed me …
It's time for the school play, and Miss Batts' class has decided to present the story of Captain Cook. As the play starts, there's the usual restlessness in the audience as families settle to watch their kids perform. An anxious teacher hurries actors to their places. And a live chicken makes its appearance amongst the props!
The play gets underway and we learn about James Cook's childhood, his decision to become a sailor, and his rise through the ranks of the British Navy. The dual storyline continues, however, as babies in the audience lose their soft toys, older kids call out for Mum … and that wily chicken continues to evade capture.
Cook heads off on more voyages, resulting in maps of New Zealand and the east coast of Australia. The chicken keeps exploring too! Until, finally, both of our stories conclude. The last spread of the book features some of the artefacts held by the National Library of Australia that relate to Captain Cook — artworks, maps and an extract from his journal.
This is very clever publishing. Younger readers will absorb a wonderful history lesson wrapped in a story about a school play. Older kids will enjoy the detail in the illustrations and will hopefully be inspired to dig deeper into Cook's life and maybe even visit the National Library's archives. As my seven-year-old daughter said, 'This is the best way to learn about Captain Cook ever!'
It also has the best endpapers — and yes, they feature that chicken!
Title: This is Captain Cook
Author: Tania McCartney
Illustrator: Christina Booth
Publisher: NLA Publishing, $24.99 RRP
Publication Date: March 2015
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture Book