The Whale Rider

Written by Witi Ihimaera

Illustrated by Bruce Potter

Published by Reed

ISBN: 978-0-14-350327-9

NZC activities for this picture book here.

This story is set in Whangara, East Coast New Zealand, where a young girl called Kahu is born as a descendent of Paikea who according to legend, rode a whale from Hawaiiki to New Zealand. As the first born to the eldest son of the whanau, Kahu has broken the male line of descent – the first since before Paikea lived many years ago. The story tells of her struggle with her grandfather, Koro Apirana to be recognised as the new leader of the people of Whangara. Koro Apirana cannot accept that a female could be leader. As things start to go wrong for the villagers, Koro Apirana blames the problems on Kahu and sets out to find a suitable male to take over leadership of the whanau. It is almost too late when after the stranding of whales on their home beach, he finally realises that Kahu is indeed the rightful heir to lead the people. The detailed text is divided into four chapters, making it best suited to older children. The life-like illustrations show huge emotion and support the story beautifully. Central to the story is the idea that whilst it is important to remember and respect our heritage, it is also important to keep progressing forwards and not be afraid of change.

Summary written by Marion McKoy

Book cover used with permission of publisher

The Trolley

Written by Patricia Grace

Illustrated by Kerry Gemmill

Published by Viking

ISBN:

NZC activities for this picture book here

On Christmas Eve, a mother looks in her wallet and realises that she has no money to buy Christmas presents for her two children, Miria and Hoani. She comes up with a plan to build a trolley out of old bits and pieces she finds lying around her house. She worries that they won’t like it, however she need not worry as the kids are delighted when they wake up on Christmas morning. In fact the whole neighbourhood seems impressed when they tell Miria and Hoani that they’ve got a “neat trolley” and a “neat mum”. A heartwarming story, which sends the message that it’s ‘the thought that counts’. New Zealand themes can be seen throughout – pohutukawa trees, washing lines, fantails, flax kete and jandals can be seen in the colourful watercolour illustrations.

Summary written by Marion McKoy

Book cover used with permission of publisher

The Kuia and the Spider

Written by Patricia Grace

Illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa

Published by Puffin, 1983

ISBN: 0-14-050.387-0

A Maori language version of this book has also been published.

NZC activities  for this picture book here.

An old kuia (grandmother) continually fights with a spider living in her house, about whose weaving is the best. The kuia weaves mats for sleeping on, and baskets and kits for collecting kaimoana, kumara and coffee in. The spider weaves to collect food, as well as provide a safe place for his grandchildren to sleep. When both the kuia and the spider’s grandchildren come to stay, they agree that the children will decide for them whose weaving is the best, however instead of this, the reader gets an insight into the purpose and necessity of both types of weaving. In this book, Grace shows the reader the importance of inter-generational bonds, and the importance of elders teaching traditions to their young. The illustrations support this idea and clearly show New Zealand themes – flax mats and kete, beach  and marae scenes and kowhaiwhai designs.

Summary written by Marion McKoy

Book cover used with permission of publisher

Watercress Tuna and the Children of Champion Street

Written by Patricia Grace

Illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa

Published by Puffin, 1984

ISBN: 0-140-50492-3

NZC activities for this picture book here.

A tuna (eel) with a magic throat travels to Champion Street, a typical inner city New Zealand street with compact state housing and power lines. There the tuna presents gifts to the children who live there. The gifts all represent the children’s own cultural heritages – a kie for Kelehia and a hau for Kava (Tokelauan), a piupiu for Hirini and a poi for Roimata (New Zealand Maori), a pate for Tuaine and a pareu for Nga (Cook Island Maori), and an ula for Losa and an ailao afi for Fa’afetai (Samoan). The theme of this story is Pasifica, with  four key Pacific cultures being represented within the story. Grace also alludes to gender roles within each culture, by assigning gender specific ‘gifts’ from the tuna.

Summary written by Marion McKoy

Book cover used with permission of publisher

Battle of the Mountains

Written by Peter Gossage

Illustrated by Peter Gossage

Published by Reed, 2005

ISBN: 978-0-14-350338-5

NZC activities for this picture book here.

In this book Gossage tells the traditional Maori myth of the battle between the mighty Tongariro mountain and three smaller mountains in the central North Island for the love of the beautiful female mountain Pihanga. Incorporating traditional Maori illustration featuring moko designs in his brightly coloured illustrations, Gossage shows the battle raging with volcanic lava and hurling rocks as weapons. Battle over, and Tongariro victorious, the myth explains to the reader why the geography of the central North Island is as it remains today, with the conquered mountains Taranaki, Tauhara and Putauaki retreating to where they stand now.

Summary written by Marion McKoy

Book cover used with permission of publisher

Tahi, One Lucky Kiwi

Written by Melanie Drewery
Designed and Illustrated by John O’Reilly and Ali Teo
Published by Random House
ISBN: 978-1-86941-930-1

NZC activities for this picture book here

This is the true story of Tahi the kiwi, who needed to have a leg amputated after getting caught in a spring jaw trap. It tells how the people at Weta Workshop built an artificial leg for him, so that he could live effectively as a kiwi and be able to forage for food. The main text in the book tells the story through the voice of a young boy sharing news with his classmates and teacher. The book ends with the class visiting the kiwi at the zoo. In addition to this main text, there is a sub-text, in notebook form, which provides the reader with facts about the kiwi and its protection. There is a strong conservation theme throughout the book, reminding the reader that we need to protect our endangered native birds. Illustrations are presented in a variety of ways – a combination of cartoon, painting and photographs help to make the story attractive and interesting for the reader.

Summary written by Marion McKoy

Book cover used with permission of publisher

Dad’s Takeaways

Written by Melanie Drewery
Illustrated by Christopher White
Published by Mallinson Rendel
ISBN: 978-0-9582626-5-1

NZC activities for this picture book here.

While on holiday at the beach, a family decides to have takeaways for dinner. The children try to guess what kind of takeaway it will be – fish and chips, burgers, pizza? It is eventually revealed that they will be digging for their own kaimoana (seafood) for dinner. This story conjures up classic kiwi images of summer holidays at the beach, playing and digging for shellfish, freedom and fresh air, with an environmental theme of only taking food for yourself, and leaving some for others. The illustrations support the New Zealand beach theme and New Zealand images can be seen throughout the watercolour pictures – a tyre swing, a couch on the deck, a flax kete, pohutukawa trees, grasses and driftwood.

Summary written by Marion McKoy

Book cover used with permission of publisher

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy

Written by Lynley Dodd
Illustrated by Lynley Dodd
First published by Mallinson Rendel, 1983

Reissued by Puffin, 2005
ISBN: 978 0 140 50531 3

NZC activities for this picture book here.

This is Hairy Maclary’s first adventure by Lynley Dodd. It describes a little black Scottish Terrier’s walk from his home at Donaldson’s Dairy through a small town one morning. Along the way he picks up his doggy friends from their houses – Hercules Morse, Bottomley Potts, Muffin McLay, Bitzer Maloney and Schnitzel von Krumm. Illustrations show New Zealand house scenes, with fences, gardens and letterboxes all representing New Zealand living. The text is simple and rhythmical with inbuilt rhyme, making it suitable and enjoyable for younger audiences.

Summary written by Marion McKoy

Book cover used with permission of publisher

The House that Jack Built

Written by Gavin Bishop
Illustrated by Gavin Bishop
Published by Scholastic, 1999

ISBN:1-86943-434

  • Book of the Year: NZ Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults (2000)
  • Best Picture Book: NZ Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults (2000)

NZC activities for this picture book here.

The House that Jack Built is a book with two strands. The main rhythmic text based on the well-known rhyme, This is the House that Jack Built, tells the story of Jack Bull, who travels to New Zealand from London as a new settler in 1798. As the story goes on we see that his dream of beginning a new life as a trader is devastated by war between the new settlers and the native Maori, who want to protect their land. The detailed contemporary illustrations using traditional Maori form tell the story from a Maori perspective – beginning with the myth of creation: Papatuanuku, the earth mother, Ranginui the sky father and their children as guardians of the land. As the story goes on and Jack’s house grows, Papuatanuku is shown in the illustrations to weaken and fade. This story holds a poignant environmental as well as cultural message and is a thought-provoking insight into the founding of New Zealand by the Europeans.

Summary written by Marion McKoy

Book cover used with permission of publisher

The Terrible Taniwha of Timberditch

Written by Joy Cowley
Illustrated by Rodney MacRae
Published by Puffin, 2009
ISBN: 978 0 14 350388 0

NZC activities for this picture book here.

Josephine wants to play at Timberditch lake, but her dad warns her of the taniwha there. Her mum says there is no such thing as a taniwha, so Josephine sets off to set a taniwha trap and find out for herself. As she collects what she needs to make a taniwha trap, Josephine meets New Zealander’s with different heritages. Each person tells Josephine about a mythical creature which exists in their own country of heritage. As well as reflecting the multicultural nature of New Zealand, the illustrations show clear images of New Zealand landscapes – the lake, with mountains in the background, punga and ferns and insect life. And the taniwha illustration at the end of the book is a visual symphony.

Summary written by Marion McKoy

Book cover used with permission of publisher