Book Review: Maori Art For Kids, by Julie Noanoa and Norm Heke

Available now in bookstores nationwide.cv_maori_art_for_kids

This is a fantastic book for children, parents and educators and I heartily recommend it.

This book is so thoughtfully created. There are fifteen art activities included (suitable for preschoolers and older, independent crafters). Each activity introduces the reader to an art form or image, an artist who has produced work in the relevant art form and then a simplified activity for children to follow. There are step by step photos and instructions, with good suggestions for personalising the projects. My children liked looking at the pictures and could understand well the steps involved in the projects. I really enjoyed the commentary from the artists.

My four-year-old really enjoyed the pou pou screen-printing project and has tried to make hei tiki using playdough. My eight-year-old also enjoyed the screen printing project and this lead to a dizzying array of further independent art using the same materials. We plan to make the kete and poi projects over summer.

Templates and a glossary of Te Reo and crafting terms are included at the back of the book.

Finally, I feel that the layout of the book deserves special mention. The book is modern, fun, with bright, well-taken photographs. It is a pleasure to look at as much as use.

My copy is being donated to my local kindergarten. If you need a gift for preschool or primary teachers I can’t recommend a better resource to add to their libraries.

Review by Emma Wong-Ming

Maori Art For Kids
by Julie Noanoa and Norm Heke
Published by Craig Potton Publishing
ISBN 9781927213131

Book Review: Te Ara Puoro – A journey into the world of Maori music, by Richard Nunns with Allan Thomas

Available in bookstores nationwide.

I was excited to rip into this book, which arrived at my house wrapped in cardboard due to its size and weight. Te Ara Puoro is large, stunning and hugely informative – an engaging read cv_te_ara_puoroand visually brilliant.

When wanting to discover more about taonga puoro (Maori musical instruments), Pakeha school teacher Richard Nunns asked Rose Pere what she knew, and it wasn’t until a year later she responded while he played the flute, “You make those instruments speak like people. You remember you asked me about our traditional instruments? Well, if you are meant to find out you will.”

Te Ara Puoro chronicles Nunns’ journey to rediscover his musical passion, and uncover and learn more about Maori instruments. Going through the instruments, Nunns covers all types of materials: bone, wood, stone, gourds, and even leaves and reeds. Nunns gathered knowledge from elders all over New Zealand over the last 40 years to help him to revive, understand, recreate and master taonga puoro.

Te Ara Puoro is wonderfully illustrated throughout with fantastic photography (I wouldn’t expect anything less from Craig Potton Publishing), and comes with a CD. The images and CD themselves tell a story, giving the reader a real insight in to what taonga puoro looks and feels like.

This book is far more than just a coffee table book. It is highly specialised, and as such may not appeal to everyone. I think the publisher says it well – “[this book] will undoubtedly be the most important written resource in existence on the subject.”

It should be in every school, and every library, allowing everyone with an interest in Maori culture access to taonga puoro and Richard Nunns’ substantial and invaluable work in this area.

Reviewed by Kimaya McIntosh

Te Ara Puoro
by Richard Nunns, with Arthur Thomas
Published by Craig Potton Publishing
ISBN 9781877517785

Book Review: Hometown New Zealand, by Derek Smith

cv_hometown_NZAvailable in bookstores nationwide. 

Derek Smith has worked as a meter reader for most of his adult life, travelling on his work-issue scooter in town and country to read the power meters of suburban and rural properties.

The job was a revelation – he found he was able to indulge his passion for photography while earning a living wage. For over 30 years, Derek Smith took photographs of the ordinary scenes around him and turned them into a wonderful social documentary of our community. Derek would take photos of seemingly mundane streets, buildings, cars and billboards and capture a moment in time that we can still appreciate whether current or from 1982.

His ability to visit all types of properties allows him a unique insight into a broad cross-section of New Zealand. He completed stints as a meter reader in Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, Coromandel, as well as rural Otago, Westland, Waikato among others. The pictures in Hometown New Zealand reflect his time in all of these places.

The foreword is definitely worth reading next time you are relaxing on the couch with a cuppa in hand. He writes a wonderful and charming introduction to his idyllic life, linking arms with New Zealand people and culture. He shares amusing stories from his time on the road, coining the work-issue scooter with brake problems “Certain Death”, and gaining sympathy for his daily confrontation with beasts unknown in yards around the country. Then there are the stories of chatting with hermits in back-country properties, tracking down the power meter through 12 farm gates, and then swapping gates for electric fences. His time in Wellington is familiar to all who have lived there; survival of cutting southerly icy storms and walks up and down 137 steps to domestic properties.

His inspiration is that he ‘recognises our place in time as transient and important to document’, and it’s wonderfully nostalgic to look through the photos, reviving your own memories of growing up in New Zealand. It is such a surprise when you look at the rural photo of Foxton from 2004 with old cars, worn signs and battered paintwork and recognise that this photo is similar to that from Raetihi in 1986. Heart-warmingly, New Zealand hasn’t changed much if you find the right spot.

Review by Amie Lightbourne

Hometown New Zealand
by Derek Smith
Published by Craig Potton Publishing
ISBN 9781927213117

Book Review: Molesworth: Stories from New Zealand’s Largest High-Country Station, by Harry Broad, photos by Rob Suisted

Moleswcv_molesworthorth won the Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award at the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards

This is yet another book from Craig Potton Publishing that you wouldn’t read in bed unless you were attempting to kill three birds with one stone: honing your intellect, bathing your senses, and toning your triceps.

Molesworth is the name of the book and of New Zealand’s largest high-country station. How large is large, how high is high? Situated inland from the Kaikoura Ranges, wedged between St. Arnaud in the north and Hanmer in the south, Molesworth occupies a land area greater in size than Stewart Island/Rakiura. Much of this land lies above 1000 metres; many of the peaks are closer to 2000 metres. ‘The overwhelming impression as you travel through it,’ writes Harry Broad in his introduction, ‘is one of hugely imposing landscapes that dwarf its rivers and dominate the horizons.’ Other writers have described Molesworth as a ‘sort of ghostly colossus, lurking in its mountain fastness.’

The station has long had considerable national recognition, for the above reasons, for its mystique — there was no public access until 1987 — and because of the transformation under inspired management from a ruined, rabbit-infested landscape in 1938 into a flourishing and profitable farm within a few decades, and so on into the present day.musterteam_w

Harry Broad has set himself the task of verbally mapping the history of Molesworth. His method of doing so, as the subtitle suggests, has been to present its history as a succession of stories, as told by the people who have created and contributed to the legend of Molesworth. Those whose stories he has recorded include the sometimes hapless buyers and sellers of Molesworth’s early history (1850-1938), the husband and wife teams who have successfully managed the place since the Government took over in 1938, the politicians, the stockmen and the environmentalists. To listen to their stories is to have no doubt which country you’re in:

‘“That’s where you were growing your tucker. I don’t think it will go a hell of a lot further.”’

‘“In response, he welded two crowbars together and told them to get on with it.”

“I was a bit in awe of him. He was one of those blokes you could put in some good days for and all you got in the end was a grunt and sometimes a bit of a grizzle.”’

‘“Thirty miles from the nearest telephone… the mountains around us and the stars, and there, I tell you, you know it’s New Zealand.”IMG_1161[1]

The central story of course is that of the land itself, the iconic high-country landscape of mountain and river valley, scree and tussock, snow, dust and willow. (image above is of the map included in the back of the book) Inevitably, the true sense of the vast, lonely, sometimes bleak environment and the people who live in it is captured best in pictures. This is certainly the case with Rob Suisted’s sensitive photographs, as he projects himself and his Canon into the action: riding the muster, getting up (too) close and personal with the beehives, astride the stockyard fences, up at dawn in the stockmen huts. From the cattle rises steam and dust. There is stormy light on the ranges, fire in the forge. There are dogs in motion and draught horses waiting patiently to be shod.

Though Molesworth the book is essentially a verbal and pictorial history of the place and its people, there is a throughline that captures the tension central to Molesworth’s past, present and future. Put simply, Molesworth is a large chunk of New Zealand that has generated a correspondingly large number of opinions from a variegated cast of stakeholders. The Government, Landcorp, a steering committee, DOC, Kai Tahu, Te Tau Ihu, the wider farming fraternity, anglers and hunters, environmentalists and almost anyone in New Zealand who values public access to mountains and rivers have a stake in Molesworth. It is a lightning rod for opinions on the basic function and value of land, a subject which is at the heart of New Zealand’s colonial history and ongoing self-perception.

What then is the reader left with, having laid Molesworth down upon the kitchen table for the final time? A mindful of intangibles: a sense of a vast unvisited New Zealand; a whetted desire to perhaps visit this part of it next summer when the storms have eased. An insight into farming practice past and present; a faint self-disdain when considering the easy comfort of metropolitan life. But most significantly, a sincere respect for the writer, the photographer and the publisher whose keen senses, hard work and artistic sensibilities have unearthed a shining stone.

Reviewed by Aaron Blaker

Molesworth: Stories from New Zealand’s Largest High-Country Station
by Harry Broad, photographs by Rob Suisted
Published by Craig Potton Publishing
ISBN 9781877517167

Booksellers NZ conference from the pen of Jenna Todd

Jenna Todd from Time Out Bookstore was presenting her findings about the Kobo Scholarship this year at conference, but that didn’t stop us asking her to keep a note of what else happened!

Nielsen Book Data Presentationnevena_nikolic
Nevena Nikolic from Nielsen (left, first on left) reviewed the latest consumer trends in New Zealand book buying. The total market is still in decline, but the figures are not as dire looking as last year. Children’s books has the smallest drop in sales.

The Luminaries provided a huge boost in sales for NZ fiction – it has sold 40,000 copies in NZ to date and it’s at the top of both the general and indie booksellers charts for the year to date. (Hopefully we will have another New Zealand win the Booker this year – any takers?!)

Nevena also said that according to their statistics, 10% of New Zealanders currently own an e-reader, and are purchasing about 1 e-book a month.

What are our future readers reading? with speaker Wayne Mills
pp_wayne_millsWayne Mills (left), the founder of the Kid’s Lit Quiz gave an insightful presentation what our future readers are reading. In 2012, all participants in the Kid’s Lit Quiz were given a simple survey: They were to give their favourite book, their favourite author and also what they were currently reading.

Over 1500 children voted, who mentioned over 7300 book titles. The clear favourite was (unsurprisingly) the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Almost all of the favourite individual titles were part of a series, was a movie or both, such as The Hunger Games, The Lord of the Rings and Percy Jackson.

The idea of the Kid’s Lit Quiz is to increase the awareness of children reading for pleasure and to combat the mis-match between what children want to read to what they are required to read for school. The results of this survey will be published in a paper for teachers. Mills also indicated further plans to survey more countries, as well as questioning New Zealand children again in 2020.

There is a definite period of change in the way we read, but there is growth in the teen market and events such as The Kid’s Lit Quiz really enrich the way our young people interact with literature.

The Future of New Zealand Publishing
Tony Moores headed this panel of excellent publishers and it was great to hear where they’re at and what their plans are for the future.pp_nicola_legat

Nicola Legat (right) spoke of the changes that Random House has made since the downturn in book sales since 2008. They have put in a huge amount of work into their new website, book app and making ebooks as well as reducing their list. While Nicola admits that publishing is about money in the end, Random House are completely committed to producing high quality New Zealand stories that create a cultural conversation. Each book they publish is released with a strategy and they are feeling more committed to booksellers more than ever.

Robbie Burton from Craig Potton Publishing spoke of their shrinking print runs, especially with the loss of the Red Group in New Zealand. However, the good news is, they grew 1% last year. He believes now is the time to emphasise localism.

Melanie from Allen & Unwin focused on the acquisition of Murdoch Books and what positive outcomes this will bring. They will still be focused on non-illustrated non-fiction, but not exclusively. They have plans to double their NZ publishing programme in the next 24 months.

by Jenna Todd 

We have a piece by Megan Dunn on our website about Michael Williams’ presentation. In The Read next week, we will provide Greg Randall’s full presentation, as well as a full write-up about it, and an article by him related to his presentation and further questions. 

Assistant Publisher, Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson

cpp_textonly greyCraig Potton Publishing is New Zealand’s largest independent publisher, based in Nelson. We need an Assistant Publisher to help develop and expand our publishing programme.

They will be involved in all aspects of CPP’s diverse publishing activity, primarily the production of non-fiction books, but may also be required to assist in the publishing of calendars, gift stationery and maps. This is a new full-time position, reporting to the Publisher, Robbie Burton.

The Assistant Publisher’s role will focus around editorial management, production management and the preparation of marketing material. They will need to have proven editorial skills, be self-motivated and highly organised, be able to demonstrate excellent written and communication skills, and above all, have a genuine interest in publishing.

In the first instance, please provide a brief overview of your experience and interest in the position, via email, to Robbie Burton (, who will provide you with a Job Description.

Applications close on 9 March 2014.

Book Review: Dolphins of Aotearoa, by Raewyn Peart

When I first picked up this book, I was anticipating cv_dolphins_of_aotearoaa coffee-table book full of pictures with accompanying text, and much to my delight what I found was a compelling story of a community. A community of dolphins. The book almost doesn’t focus on the dolphins per sé – of course there is the obligatory scientific and identification stuff in the beginning – but rather the book focuses on our interaction with New Zealand dolphins. Our historical interaction; our current interaction; and the potential (or not) of future interaction.

The dolphins are the centre,  and focus, of this book, but the main characters seem to be those that interact and care and spend their energy protecting them. From the Cook Strait ship masters who enjoyed almost ritual interactions with Pelorus Jack in the early twentieth century; to the children who nearly half a century later played with Opo in the Hokianga Harbour. From treasure hunter and ecologist Wade Doak who spent years swimming and communicating with dolphins; to Dr Ingrid Visser who will jump on a plane after a single phone call to help a team of dedicated individual rescue beached Orca. Many people, like Ingrid, have dedicated a lifetime to helping  dolphins and this book is about them as much (maybe more) than the dolphins.

The human interaction with dolphins in Aotearoa started long before Europeans landed in Aotearoa – Maori have always respected and revered the dolphins. Interactions, of course, increase significantly as we take to the water; and the faster we go, the more likely we are to be accompanied by a dolphin riding the bow wave.  That we may have these interactions in the future is not necessarily a given and Raewyn challenges us to transfer our passion for these highly intelligent and social creatures into a call for action. It is hard to imagine that one of these species (Maui’s dolphin) is nearly extinct.

Although conservation is at the heart of this book, it never gets in the way of a captivating story.

Reviewed by Gillian Torckler

Dolphins of Aotearoa
By Raewyn Peart
Published by Craig Potton Publishing, RRP $59.99
ISBN 9781877517983

Selling the Dream: The Art of Early New Zealand Tourism

Selling the Dream 300dpiAvailable in bookshops now, shortlisted in the Illustrated Non-fiction category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards

An immediate side effect of opening this book in public is the conversations that it invites. People who see the massive, gorgeous artifact on my lap or flattened across a tabletop feel compelled to comment or ask questions, to make contact. A typical conversation, on this occasion with a man named Greg* in the Otago Museum foyer, went something like this.

“What’s that you’re reading, mate? Looks interesting.”

“Well” I began, only slightly resentful of the interruption, “This is a book about the art of early New Zealand tourism. You know, the posters that were commissioned by Tourism Departments and the like, designed to show off New Zealand and lure people to the country.”

“That right?” and Greg leaned right in, then sat down on the padded bench. I started flipping the thick, shiny pages. There was colour contrast and a blooming scent of newness, of quality. “Old school, are they?”

“Yep. Pre 1960s. Before photography and television. Look at this one.” There it is, Mitre Peak, symbol of all that is grand about New Zealand, one of many mountains and glaciers represented in these pages.

“Or this.” The mighty Rangitata, pride of the New Zealand Shipping Company, taking the shortest route to London. Men in white jackets and Panama hats wave from the canal’s banks to leave us in no doubt as to where the journey will take you.

“Then there’s this kind of thing.” And there she is, a Maori maiden with naked thigh and bare shoulders, gazing up in expectant adoration at a Pan American jet as it propels its cargo of tourists toward the jewel of the southern seas. Mt. Cook in the background, a pastoral scene to the fore, the Union Jack covering part of the thigh. This poster, also the book’s cover image, is magnificent. Published in 1940, how could it not have enticed war weary Europeans and war wary Americans?  Even Greg was having trouble tearing his eyes from the slopes and motifs.

Or it could have been the book altogether that was mildly stunning his sensibilities. Because that’s the other side effect of Selling the Dream. The actual art – each piece so skillfully rendered, originally on silk screens or as lithographs, by talented and meticulous artists – is exceptional. You could spend a long time admiring the simplification of form and swimming in the broad, flat areas of pure colour. To see them all together, contained (but only just) within these four hundred pristine and glorious pages, would be overwhelming, were it not for the careful curation of Alsop, Stewart and Bamford.

Arranged in sections with such titles as Unique Maoriland; Plains, Trains and Automobiles (and Ships); and Pastoral Paradise, the posters by themselves are a narrative of how a ‘young’ nation perhaps saw itself, or of how it wanted to be seen by the rest of the world.

“For those who like words with their pictures,” I said to Greg, “There are also a dozen essays on hand to further tease out the narrative and shed insight on the artistic process, the outrageous cultural appropriation, the role of publicity in shaping New Zealand’s identity.”

But I had lost him to the glossy pages, to Timaru by the sea, to Mt. Cook’s Hermitage, thousands of feet above worry level, to trout fishing in the Routeburn river. He was stopping to sniff the trout. I drew the line there. “Greg,” I said, “If you’re that keen, get yourself across the road to the University Book Shop right now.”

As he disappeared out the sliding doors I re-entered Selling the Dream, to bathe in splendour, to await the next enquiry.

*Not his real name

Reviewed by Aaron Blaker

Selling the Dream: The Art of Early New Zealand Tourism
Edited by Peter Alsop. Gary Stewart, Dave Bamford
Published by Craig Potton Publishing
ISBN 9781877517778

Behind the scenes At the Beach

At the Beach cvr 300dpi_websiteAuthor Gillian Candler describes how she came to write At the Beach, which last week was announced as a finalist in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.

“At the Beach: explore and discover the New Zealand seashore, is the book I always wished I’d had when my son was growing up. At that time the books around on the subject seemed to be for adults or older children. We spent a lot of time at the beach and had a lot of fun, I hope that this book will encourage other families to do the same.

When we were developing the idea of the book, we realised that it was important to show animals in the context of the ecosystem, so children could see how living things depend on their environment, and of course find out ‘who eats who?’. So we came up with the ‘cross-section’ pages, which show a rock pool, the mud flats and the sandy beach ecosystems.

Keeping things short and sweet, meant that some living things didn’t make it into the book, there were some hard choices to make about what was in and what was out. The team working on the book each had their particular animal that they lobbied for. Mine was the ray, I think they are beautiful animals. We see them at our beach in the late summer feeding around the rocks in the shallows.

Our publishers came up with the idea of the identification card in the inside backcover, this is such an inspired idea and has got a lot of praise from people using the book.”

At the Beach: Explore & discover the New Zealand seashore
by Ned Barraud & Gillian Candler
Published by Craig Potton Publishing
ISBN 9781877517747