Catherine Robertson, author

There is a cat called Pearl whose story is whirling across Hawke’s Bay as local businesses, communities, schools, libraries and charitable foundations get in behind her.

Pearl’s stoic survival during Cyclone Gabrielle, perched on the top of a desk in the now red-stickered home of the Bowkett’s at Puketapu, is at the centre of a children’s book written by local author Catherine Robertson and published by Penguin Random House New Zealand. 

Pearl in a Whirl: How one fluffy cat braved the floods is a read-a-long picture book with illustrations by Fiji Colston, aimed at two- to six-year-olds, but it is also a delightful souvenir for all ages and a small, perfectly-formed treasure to come out of the flood devastation at Puketapu.

The book was to be launched in HB at a special fundraising event at Puketapu Pub on Thursday, June 22, with support from Black Barn Winery and the Pub, but due to ‘flooding’ the launch has been postponed.  

But that hasn’t stopped Pearl’s story quickly jumping to the top of lists of best-selling books in New Zealand today.

The book’s publication was turned around in record speed, with the initial idea conceived about the third week of February and then local print company Brebner Print used for production.

It is now available in libraries and in book shops across the Bay with proceeds going to the Hawke’s Bay Foundation’s Cyclone Relief Fund, where Pearl’s mum Amy Bowkett, is the executive officer. Author Robertson is donating all her royalties to the fund and illustrator Colston and Wardini Books are also donating a percentage of their royalties to the cause.

The New Zealand PWC Foundation has got in behind Pearl too, buying $5,000 worth of the books, about 200 copies, from Wardini Books, to distribute to Hawke’s Bay Schools. The Foundation has a community objective of improving literacy among NZ children. Says Vicky Lawson from PWC’s HB office. “We hope the story of Pearl will help with building the resilience of children, especially those who went through the Cyclone personally.”  

A number of school visits with Pearl in a Whirl’s author and illustrator are planned, and the book is already flying off local shelves.

For Amy Bowkett, who is now living with her family in Napier (Pearl curled up asleep as we speak), the book is a “ray of light”.  

“It is something positive to come out of the Cyclone for us and so nice to know that every time someone  buys a book, every dollar raised is going to the Cyclone Relief Fund.”

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Credit  photo to Mark Henderson, Hastings District Council




Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *