Wednesday 21 February 2024

Book Spotlight: Peter Little Wing by Canadian Children's Author Regan W. H. Macaulay...

I recently released my first ever middle-grade novel. I’m so incredibly excited and was about 20 years in the making.

I wrote Peter Little Wing (book one of an upcoming series of four novels for readers 8 and up) shortly after my first visit to Aotearoa New Zealand. I went there as a pre-wedding honeymoon with my then fiancé, now husband, Kevin. To say this place was inspiring—the gorgeous landscape that one can only attempt to capture in photographs and video, the wildly fascinating creatures (mostly birds!), and warm, friendly people (who often call themselves kiwi—after their national icon, the kiwi bird)—it had my imagination bursting with possibilities. The characters came first, and their locations: the New Zealand National Aquarium in Napier, Hawke’s Bay’s art deco town, and the facility next door called Marineland (which I called Marine Rescue in the book). These were to be critters from captivity, but their quest would see them stranded in the wilderness, that much I knew. 

I crafted a story of adventure—a quest to save the grandfather of a kiwi named Peter, but I also infused the book with truths about a real place. And the characters were all real and very unique animals, often endemic to New Zealand. I want readers to find out about this wonderful place and the creatures who inhabit it, while they’re whisked away on a journey that these uncommon and endangered creatures take—an adventure not dissimilar to the one Kevin and I embarked on all the way back in November of 2003.

And so, it came to be that a story about Peter, a captive Southern Fiordland tokoeka kiwi, and his friends from the National Aquarium and Marine Rescue—Onion, a little blue penguin with an inner-ear imbalance; Tim, a tuatara with Generalized Anxiety Disorder; and Rangi, a kea with clipped wings—and their quest through the unfamiliar wilderness of New Zealand in search of three ingredients needed to create an elixir to cure Peter’s ailing grandfather, Nandy Enzo, flowed out onto my laptop screen. After years of rewrites, submissions, notes from editors, publishers, and beta readers, more revisions, and lots more rejections, I found a home for Peter Little Wing, and the book is out in the wild!

Together, this unusually diverse group of friends traverse the length of the South Island of Aotearoa, all the way across the Cook Strait and back home to the North Island. They learn what they are all capable of in the wild of the wop wops, and what the world beyond the "Walls of Shadows" of Peter’s habitat is all about. And I finally had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs—the digressions, and the main but multiple paths—of taking a book from inspiration through to publication, and now beyond.

Allow me to share a bit of the story with you now…specifically, the second half of Chapter 1. It should give you an idea of where the story goes from there. 

An excerpt from the second half of Chapter 1:

"We can't expect much help from the humans. They just don't know what's wrong" Nandy Enzo sneezed and a shiver like ice ran along Peter's spine. Nandy's brown, wilting feathers swelled, then fell again as he heaved a sigh.

Peter swayed on the spot. He opened his beak as he searched his mind for words. Nothing came out.

"I'm just a bit knackered is all, don't fret. Come back later and we will sing some stories..." And his grandfather was asleep.

Peter turned and climbed out of the burrow, his cheeks burning and his insides churning. As he breached the den hole,

Peter was met by the rest of his kiwi family. They circled around and watched him closely. He explored the expressions on their faces—their collective gaze was heavy.

Peter opened his beak. "I...I didn't know what to say to him."

Bess rushed up and put her neck around his in an embrace. "You didn't have to say anything." Her voice shook.

Peter pulled away. "I should have said something while he was still awake."

"It's all right, Peter." Uncle Lloyd took a step towards him. Peter did not find his uncle's hesitant tone reassuring.

"I thought I could be braver than all our kiwi ancestors from Nandy's stories." Worry ate at the edges of Peter's skin. "When it really mattered, I couldn't say anything." Shame drizzled from the top of his head to the tips of his toes like an electric sweat.

"Hmph!" Ms. Elsa sniffed, interrupting whatever reply Bess might have given. "I doubt the humans' foul medicines jammed into the side of his beak or injected into his thigh, or anything fancy like that will cure Enzo. No, no! It didn't work for Louis, so it won't work miracles now."

Peter bristled upon Ms. Elsa's mention of his father. "But there must be something we can do." Peter held back a glare as an anxious pick stabbed at his heart.

"Us? A heap of captive kiwi? I suppose a young upstart like you will succeed where even our human caretakers have failed. Ha!" Ms. Elsa snorted, dislodging a bit of dirt from her nostril, sending it through the air towards the burrow. It landed neatly along the top rim of the entranceway.

Peter couldn't help but peek at it with a sideways glance. Normally, he would have to stifle a chortle, but this time the mood felt too somber. "But you just said their human medicines aren't going to work!" Heat inflamed Peter's face. He struggled to keep his voice even.

"The boy's right, on that count." Ms. Elsa was apparently oblivious to her dirt-booger projectile. "The humans are ignorant. We're going to have to figure out a way to tell them what Nandy Enzo requires."

"How in the name of Nature are you going to do that?" Lloyd's voice rose with every word he spoke. "You going to walk up to a human when they come in to do maintenance and just natter at them? Think they'll know what you're on about?"

"What do you suggest?" Ms. Elsa puffed out her aging feathers. They vibrated with hostility.

"It's just silly is all. I don't have any idea what we should do."

Aunt Myrtle joined in, a hint of sarcasm tainting her voice. "That's very useful." She then turned her attention to the fussing and grooming of Uncle Lloyd's feathers, despite his protests.

Peter sighed loudly. "Do you know what he needs?" There was a significant pause while Peter waited. "What would you tell the humans to do, if you could?"

Ms. Elsa cocked her head. She scratched at the ground with two of her toes, making circular patterns in the earth, while Peter's patience grew thinner. Then she hummed a tune. Peter thought he might have recognized it. Had he heard this tune while inside his egg? Did Nandy Enzo used to sing him to sleep this way? Ms. Elsa snapped her head back up, and her beak wagged. "It's a matter of ingredients."

"What ingredients?" Peter took a quick step forward.

"That's the difficult part. The song is from the time of our ancestors from the wop wops. It's been going
round and round in my head for days, now. It must have the answers we need! But none of you have ever seen or smelled the items mentioned in this song. You were all born in captivity. I haven't likely, either. So, I do not know the names for these ingredients, boy."

Peter's gizzard rose at Ms. Elsa's mention of never having smelled or seen items from the wild. Peter's secret surfaced in his mind, but his heart sank. "What good is that to us, then?"

"Now, now, boy, try to be patient! Patience is a virtue every winged creature on the islands should have in abundance. Patience and caution. Caution and precaution. Precaution and prudence and vigilance. Constant vigilance!"

Peter felt his eyes roll and quickly stared back at the ground. He lifted his face to Ms. Elsa again. "Is there anything you can tell us about the ingredients? Any clues?"

"Yes, yes, of course, boy! Now, let me's a rhyme in three verses. We've all heard it. Haven't the foggiest what it means, but I'm sure it's important:"

Remember kiwi, when under the weather,
Take this mixture in perfect measure:
Meal from the dust of the oily wood tree, Gold-banded stabber-folk make remedy
Bid farewell to the germs on your insides,
Say goodbye to the bugs on your outsides.

Peter was dumbfounded by the sing-song lullaby.

Suddenly, Bess chimed in. "Yes, I've heard this! You used to sing it to me, Mum." She nuzzled against Aunt Myrtle's side and proceeded to sing the second verse.

Add the muscle of this animal chest,
With colours bright as sunset in the west. Grind its stone armour and extract you'll find, And salt from the ocean for gizzard to grind. With vitamins, you'll be rejuvenated,
From lethargy, you'll be liberated.

Aunt Myrtle picked up the tune:

Gather the petals of the crimson bloom, Collect its dust 'fore the stabber-folk consume. Petals like star bursts stem the bleeding,

Fine powder dust gives pain no feeling. Stir and warm each item overnight,

And then you will find that all is put right. "And that's all."

"That's more like a riddle than a nursery rhyme," Peter muttered. Might as well just retell old history tales to Nandy and see if that does him any good. "How is anyone supposed to figure that out?"

"Don't be a hard case, boy. You've far too much bitterroot in your blood for such a young one." Ms. Elsa snorted.

"But the humans won't recognize these ingredients." Bess glanced at Peter with a glint in her eye that told him arguing would do no good. "Humans aren't in touch with The Deep Understanding. They've drifted away from it."

"Oh, she's right," said Uncle Lloyd after a prolonged but not unusual absence from the conversation. "They never see what's right in front of them."

"I'm not sure we'd do better. How would we recognize anything outside of our habitat?" When Bess glanced at Peter again, he thought of his adventures she was helping him keep secret. A song he often heard playing throughout the Aquarium during the nights of his escapes jumped to mind.

Hit the trail, down an old dirt road.

"That's just fine. I've always said it's too dangerous out there, anyway. Best to stay in here where we belong." Ms. Elsa's eyes flashed over Peter. He felt a sting in her stare. Did she know about his nighttime escapes?

"Look now, how does any of this help my Da? We can't just let him cark it..." Lloyd's voice trailed off.

The rest of the family continued to squawk on about the terrors of the world outside and all the fearful things they'd find if they were out among the non-captive creatures of the wop wops— the ingredients Nandy Enzo required surely being just as dangerous in some unknown way.

Peter stalked off, allowing the dilemma to sink in without the pressure of the family. He knew that there was no way to communicate these needs to the staff at the Aquarium. Even if they could, the humans wouldn't make any sense out of these clues. They were only human beings, after all. An idea gnawed at him, returning him to his memories as a chick.


"I should like to go outside on a real adventure to the wop wops—out into the middle of nowhere." Young Peter quickly suppressed a yawn.

"Perhaps someday you shall, Peter Little Wing," replied Nandy Enzo. "But remember this—captivity is not a bad place. Inside can be good in some ways and bad in others, but so can the wop wops. Whether you are captive or wild, always listen to the voice inside you with an unfettered heart. It will tell you what you need to know with a clarity that Ms. Elsa's tall tales never will!"

Peter watched his Nandy Enzo chortle and sigh between drooping eyelids. Nandy pushed in more warm feathers and twigs around him, then he whispered to Peter one last time before sleep sped him away to the land of dreams.

"Ah, little one. If only your parents had lived to see what a brave and intelligent kiwi you are growing up to be."

...Shoved off, the song continued to play in Peter's mind…on my own.

l have to unriddle the riddles. l'll go into the wop wops and

find the ingredients. But l won't go alone. 

Get your copy of Peter Little Wing directly from my website (especially if you want a signed copy!):

…from Pandamonium Publishing House:

 …and anywhere online, including Amazon:

Regan W. H. Macaulay
is a multi-award-winning author of novels, short stories, children's literature, and scripts.

Writing is her passion, but she's also a producer and director of theatre, film, and television (Triple Take Productions). She is an animal enthusiast as well, which led her to become a Certified Canine and Feline Massage Therapist (Kuri K9 Massage).

As an author, Regan spins fun-filled tales with whimsical characters that charm and delight readersHer carefully crafted narratives, filled with enchanting characters, offer new vocabulary and gentle wisdom.

Each adventure portrays unique animal characters and weaves in teachable moments.

Regan hails from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she lives with her husband, Kevin, Chihuahua Raxl, Siamese cat Jacobi (Jack), and an assortment of amphibians and fish. 

Her award-winning picture books include Mixter Twizzle’s BreakfastBeverlee Beaz the Brown Burmese (and Beverlee la chatte de Birmanie), Sloth the Lazy Dragon, and Libby the Lobivia Jajoiana (all from Mirror World Publishing), Merry Myrrh the Christmas BatTamara Turtle’s Life So Far, and Chloe the Unfeathered Parrot (Pandamonium Publishing House), and Dog Band (Iguana Books).

She also writes books and short stories for adult readers, including her Trilogy of Horrifically Half-baked HamSpace Zombies! (based on the feature film Space Zombies: 13 Months of Brain-Spinning Mayhem! available on DVD and Amazon Prime), They Suck, and Horror at Terror Creek.

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  1. Welcome to my virtual bookstore, Regan, and thanks for sharing your middle grade adventure with us today! All the best in all you do, my friend!

    1. Thank you so, so much for hosting me!

    2. You're very welcome, Regan, and wishing you all the best!