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Moa subject of award-winning popular science book

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

New Zealand’s extinct moa and the historical characters who strove to solve the mysteries of this flightless giant are the engaging subjects of the winning book for the Royal Society of New Zealand’s 2013 Science Book Prize, announced tonight in Auckland.

The book, ‘Moa - the Life and Death of New Zealand’s Legendary Bird’, is the first book by documentary film-maker and photographer Quinn Berentson, published by Nelson-based Craig Potton Publishing.

The judges, Professor Michael Corballis, The University of Auckland, Professor Shaun Hendy, Victoria University of Wellington and Alison Ballance, Radio New Zealand, describe it as a "big book about a giant bird and larger-than-life historical characters".

"Berentson has a flair for story-telling, and he’s crafted dramatic tales of professional jealousy and rivalry that bring two centuries of scientific discovery, tales of Māori exploration and settlement, and even an extinct bird, to life on the page.

"He deftly weaves together compelling narratives about science history, archaeology, natural history and palaeontology that flesh out a flightless bird we know largely from bones.

"This is an exceptional first book, in which Berentson has put his experience in television writing and directing to good use. He has a fine eye for detail and a lively turn of phrase that makes the book a real page turner.

"A wide range of well-chosen archival pictures also produce a visual treat."

The judges were highly impressed with the calibre and diversity of books entered in the 2013 Science Book Prize.

The other two books shortlisted for the prize were ‘Science on Ice: Discovering the Secrets of Antarctica’ by Veronika Meduna (Auckland University Press) and a book of poetry called ‘Graft’ by Helen Heath (Victoria University Press).

"The many fine examples of creative science writing in a range of genres made the task of choosing the single winner a challenging task.

"We hope that people will seek out all three finalists for stimulating and horizon-expanding reads," the judges said.

The Royal Society of New Zealand established the prize for popular science books in 2009 to celebrate the very best in this genre.

It aims to encourage the writing, publishing and reading of good and accessible popular science books.

This is the third time the Science Book Prize has been awarded. The winner of the inaugural Science Book Prize in 2009 was Rebecca Priestley for her book ‘The Awa Book of New Zealand Science’ (Awa Press) and the winner of the prize in 2011 was ‘Kakapo: Rescued from the Brink of Extinction’ (Craig Potton Publishing) by Alison Ballance.

Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, announced the winner and presented the $5,000 prize at an event in Auckland as part of the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival.

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