Book Review: Pioneer Women, edited by Sarah Ell

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_pioneer_womenPioneer Women is the first title in The New Zealand Series. These books aim to support Intermediate and Secondary students, following the Social Studies Curriculum. This first book looks at the lives of 18 European women as they lived and travelled in the early days of settlement. The book explains that while there are no Māori women included, they too were pioneers in the settlement and survival in a new land.

The greatest blessing of the book is the light editorial hand of Sarah Ell. She has used letters, journals, sketches and photos from a variety of sources. After a short introduction about each writer, Ell lets the women tell of their experiences first hand with very little editing. The voices are varied and authentic. Each Chapter deals with a different aspect of early life from The Voyage, A New Life, Adventure and Exploration, Disaster and War, to Work. Three or four women are included in each chapter. The very first writer, known only as Maggie, succinctly summarises the sort of people who should or should not take the offer of a new life. This is honest, heartfelt advice and would be a brilliant starter for a classroom discussion on who should go and who should stay.

However, my favourite story comes from Jane Maria Richmond who arrived in Auckland in 1853. It is subtitled, “In my element”. She writes about the joy of hard work, the freedom from social constraints and the delight she feels in coming to New Zealand. In her words, “I can say most emphatically that I am disappointed in no single particular, that as far as I can see we acted most wisely in coming here”. Hers is a story of the success many women made of the terrible conditions through hard work and a dogged persistence.

As a short read, this book is a window into the world of our early New Zealand pioneering women. It shows fortitude in the face of hardship and delight in the comfort and happiness of families. For students it provides material to begin the search into their own journey to New Zealand.

reviewed by Kathy Watson

Pioneer Women
Edited by Sarah Ell
Published by Oratia Books
ISBN 9780947506599

Book Review: The Taniwha in Our Backyard, by Malcolm Paterson, illustrated by Martin Bailey

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_taniwha_in_our_backyard.jpgMost New Zealand children are familiar with going on a road trip to visit family and friends so they will enjoy the adventures of Tui and Jennifer and their families when they visit their Uncle and Aunt in south Kaipara.

Exploring the area down to Muriwai, they learn about moa, kauri dieback, Maui dolphins, kaitiakitanga (stewardship), geology as well as the history of the area.

The children also experienced freshly cooked seafood and heard some local tales about the taniwha.

Malcolm Paterson has included te reo Māori throughout the text with translations at the bottom of each page while a few Malay words are highlighted in a different colour.

This new work in the Sharing Our Stories series includes a map of the area as well as information about kauri dieback, a disease which is causing great concern in New Zealand with the death of many large trees.

Most suitable for the 7-9 age group this beautifully illustrated picture book will be a wonderful teaching tool in the classroom as well as being a great book to send overseas. I loved the book and feel very envious of today’s children who can learn history and environmental issues with such a colourful publication.

Malcolm Paterson belongs to Ngati Whatua of Auckland and the Kaipara, and represents his iwi in heritage and environmental issues. He is author of the previous Sharing our Stories books The Castle in our Backyard (2010) and The Tunnel in our Backyard (2016)

Martin Bailey is a well-known illustrator living in Muriwai, who has created numerous children’s books over a long career.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

The Taniwha in Our Backyard
by Malcolm Paterson, illustrated by Martin Bailey
Oratia Books
ISBN 9780947506469

Book Review:  Nanny Mihi and the Bellbird, by Melanie Drewery, illustrated by Tracy Duncan

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_nanny_mihi_and_the_bellbirdNanny Mihi and her grandchildren make friends with a bellbird in the garden, but then in spring the bellbird disappears. They’re puzzled by the disappearance, and try to entice the bird back. Then in the summer, they get a lovely surprise…

Nanny Mihi and the Bellbird is a gentle story about appreciating nature and whānau. The illustrations are beautiful, particularly of our native birds and plant life, vivid and almost hyper-realistic. It’s a great read-aloud story, and my class of 6-year-olds enjoyed it very much, and enjoyed predicting where the bellbird might have disappeared to.

Award winning author Melanie Drewery brings us another lovely visit to Nanny Mihi’s house. A very welcome addition to the Nanny Mihi series of stories (last added to in 2006), Nanny Mihi and the Bellbird is the perfect sort of picture book for a child of New Zealand – a blend of both English and Te Reo Māori language with a focus on our native bird life. Readers who are unfamiliar with the Te Reo Māori phrases in the story will find a translation at the bottom of each page to help them.

The perfect gift for Christmas, I’ll be buying copies to send overseas as well.  It’s a lovely showcase of the things that make New Zealand special.  Recommended for children 3-8 years.  There’s also a fact sheet about bellbirds available for curious children or classroom use on the publisher’s website – a lovely touch!

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Nanny Mihi and the Bellbird
by Melanie Drewery, illustrated by Tracy Duncan
Published by Oratia Books
ISBN 9780947506360

Book Review: Urban Māori, The Second Great Migration, by Bradford Haami

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_urban_maori.jpgUrban Māori, The Second Great Migration describes how over a short time, many Māori moved from iwi homelands to predominantly Pākehā urban spaces. It also examines the creation of new social structures to create a familiar space in this new environment. Haami’s work is unusual among New Zealand histories not only because it focuses solely on this migration, but also because it grounds each chapter of this history in personal and whānau experiences.

Haami details each phase of the journey from papakāinga (settlements on ancestral lands) to urban areas, the economic and social impact for the migrants, the response of towns and cities to their new residents, and the reaction from government and mana whenua iwi. By illustrating each phase of this move with whānau memories, Haami transforms this history from a faceless, passive response to unstoppable historic forces into a conscious decision in the lives of whānau and individuals. Unlike a more distant approach, these stories also show the long-term outcomes of this decision for individuals and whānau, their descendants and their new communities.

These stories help the reader understand that migrants did not necessarily leave in despair and ruin, although the book recognises a reduced land and resource base and a lack of work were important drivers especially at the early stages. The personal accounts reveal that for many, the departure was a promising and hopeful time, and others were relieved to leave behind oppressive belief and social structures, such as the restrictions of tapu or local kehua (spirits).

Their stories of the towns and cities where they arrived evoke a New Zealand difficult to imagine now. A New Zealand where some Māori learnt English on the factory line, where recent arrivals gathered eels and store Māori delicacies like kānga pirau (fermented corn) and kina in the streams of central Auckland, where the streets were lined not with the million-dollar villas of today, but decrepit relics of the city’s Victorian past.

In the early days of this migration, relatives living in these crumbling houses welcomed new arrivals to the city. While the former poverty of Central Auckland is well-known, the stories of those who lived there are not. Despite the dire conditions, Urban Māori reveals that this area was home to a supportive (if tightly-packed) Māori community, torn apart when these inner-city suburbs were demolished. Their residents made a further migration south to the new suburbs of Ōtara and Māngere, poorly designed and lacking the community of Central Auckland, or State houses where Māori families were “pepper-potted” amongst Pākehā to ensure assimilation, as long as they met Pākehā norms.

The book highlights the strong networks built by each wave of newcomers, from the trailblazers who later helped their relatives to find work and their feet in the city, to later initiatives such as the Māori hostels that recreated a whānau environment for young Māori women and men. The newcomers began to forge familiar spaces in these mostly Pākehā cities, and many well-known leaders rose from their ranks. Even so, the pull of the identities they had left behind, the idea of someday returning home and the lack of a true tūrangawaewae meant a reluctance to symbolically cutting ties with ancestral homelands by gestures such as burial in their new homes. Haami tells of improvised returns to papakāinga, with tūpāpaku (bodies) returning to marae for tangi sat at the back of a bus for lack of any other means of return “back-home”.

Urban Māori traces the emergence of urban interpretations of traditional Māori forms of organisation and socialisation. Haami documents the creation of community and cultural groups, the first discussions about urban marae and their meaning in an urban setting, new expressions of traditional authority structures such as Māori wardens, and new expressions of whānau, including workplaces, neighbourhoods, church groups, political or cultural groups, or even gangs. Through the memories of their founding members, the reader learns how these diverse expressions reflected a search by Māori for a way to live as Māori in a new place.

The book is also a study of the political and economic circumstances that were the dramatic backdrop to individual and whanau experiences, including economic upheaval and shifts in the State’s approach to Māori from paternalism, including housing schemes and trade training to ease the transition into the cities, to the free market and the end of many stable and well-paid local manufacturing jobs. While Urban Māori describes the well-known shock of these reforms and the social devastation that followed, the voices it contains also tell of how whānau were able to recover thanks to the tightening strands of the new support networks they had been weaving.

Neoliberalism also brought devolution of some government functions to Māori, especially iwi. Haami describes how “retribalisation” galvanised nascent urban Māori authorities to ensure urban Māori (who lived away from their iwi and were now the majority of Māori) were not left out of the new economic and power structures being forged. This was the spark for the political awakening of urban Māori and recognition by State and traditional iwi.

By linking historical events with personal and whānau experience, Urban Māori describes not only the rise of these authorities, but the impact of a strong, urban Māori voice on the lives of whānau who had made cities their homes for generations, who no longer knew their iwi or felt alienated when they returned to their grandparents’ papakāinga. It describes how new organisations such as Te Whānau o Waipareira (the West Auckland Urban Māori Authority) cared for those most left behind by the removal of government support structures, providing a path out of the dire circumstances that shocked the country in films and books, but that were otherwise ignored.

This is the strength of a history where individuals and whānau reflect on their own stories: we know the statistics, but now we also learn what it was like to live as one of these statistics, to be welcomed into a new whānau, and to build new lives with this support from what might otherwise merely seem to be a corporate service provider. The book traces the emergence of something new, not an iwi or a corporation, not a cultural centre, but a new expression of the urban fabric, its people and their way of living as Māori. This new voice has also made this new world a more Māori place, since, as Haami’s study shows, much of the bicultural landscape we take for granted today is thanks to the work of urban Māori. These new expressions of Māori community are also absorbing non- Māori and becoming a central part of the wider urban community.

Haami likens the situation of urban Māori to that of the first arrivals to Aotearoa, and the adaption of their customs to a strange new environment, while holding tight to the iti oneone i kapua mai Hawaiki, grain of sand from Hawaiki. Weaving together his study of political and economic context with an understanding of its impact on whānau and individual life paths, Haami maps a path to carry this grain of sand forward, where urban Māori know and connect to their iwi roots, but also to their urban tūrangawaewae, and move forward confident in their urban identity.

Reviewed by Paul Moenboyd

Urban Māori, The Second Great Migration
by Bradford Haami
Published by Oratia Books
ISBN 9780947506285

Book Review: The Camera in the Crowd, by Christopher Pugsley

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_camera_in_the_CrowdI was amazed to find that the first films reached New Zealand in 1896 – I knew it had been around in the early 20th century, but hadn’t realised it went that far back.

The Camera in the Crowd focuses on the 25-year period that followed film’s introduction, using footage from Nga Taonga Sound & Vision, our national film archive. (An organisation I have a great deal of admiration for after they sent me the link to a documentary my late mother appeared in about 30 years ago.)

The book talks about the early days of film and of the cameramen and theatre owners who brought the world to life for New Zealanders. When I was a young child, friends of my parents had their own home theatre and we used to enjoy going there to see movies – something we took for granted in the 1960s but which looking back was something pretty amazing for a time when not every home had a television.

Reading about the early pioneers of film was fascinating – for a start, I had no idea the Salvation Army had been heavily involved in filming New Zealand’s history.

Christopher Pugsley is a leading historian with many titles under his belt and this book is meticulously researched. It’s the type of book you will dip in and out of as the mood takes you rather than one you’ll read from start to finish. It focuses on New Zealand’s history, both at home and during our many military campaigns overseas.

Some items have a little movie camera icon next to them and that indicates the footage can be found online by going to Nga Taonga’s website and entering the title number. I urge you to take the time to look at these videos as they bring our past to life in a way the book on its own is unable to do.

While this is not a complete history of the period in time The Camera in the Crowd covers, it does feature some very interesting and important events, including royal visits and New Zealanders at war. There’s everything from whaling to sports to culture.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this book will only appeal to history buffs because it deserves a much wider audience that that. Those with an interest in early movie making will find it illuminating (pardon the pun), while those with an interest in society and how it evolved will enjoy reading the historical reports and items from newspapers of the time.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

The Camera in the Crowd
by Christopher Pugsley
Published by Oratia Books
ISBN  9780947506346

Book Review: Regions of New Zealand, by Peter Dowling

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_regions_of_new_zealandTaking readers on a north to south journey through New Zealand’s regions, including off shore islands and territories, Regions of New Zealand blends historic events with current statistics and interesting facts and photos. It is a very current resource (it even includes the 2016 Kaikoura earthquakes), that is likely to find a home in every school and public library, but deserves a much wider audience. There’ll be new information for plenty of readers, regardless of age.

The book starts with an explanation of what constitutes a region, New Zealand’s regions from both a historical Māori perspective, and current local government arrangements. Then each region gets a double page spread, with a map, colour photos, facts and statistics (including when they were sourced and where from, allowing readers to check for updates). There is some Māori content; personally I would have liked more, but the book is an introduction, and there are plenty of places readers can find further information.

Aside from that, the only concern I had about the book is that it might date quickly, but by including the sources of statistical information there’s a level of future-proofing inbuilt into the book. I shared the book with a curious and avid 7 year old reader in my class, James, who enjoyed it a lot, and particularly loved discovering new facts. James is probably at the younger end of the market for Regions of New Zealand, and it would be a good research starting point for readers right into high school. Don’t overlook it as a gift for visitors and migrants, either!

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Regions of New Zealand
by Peter Dowling
Published by Oratia Books
ISBN 9780947506353

Book Review: Ngā Atua Māori Gods, by Robyn Kahukiwa

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_nga_atua_maori_godsThe blurb on the back of this large picture book reads: Aotearoa is home to many marvellous gods. They are special. They are unique. They are awesome. It’s a pretty good description of the book itself – special, unique and awesome.

Many New Zealanders will be familiar with some of the Māori Gods such as Tāne, Papatūānuku and Ranginui. There are many more (not all covered in the book), and even people well-versed in Māori lore may discover new information in Kahukiwa’s book. Gods are introduced to the reader with their realm of influence, and a small amount of additional information to add flavour and interest. The amount of information is well balanced for a picture book – there was enough there to keep my class of 6 years engaged and interested without overwhelming them, and for older readers who want to find out more, it gives you a starting point.

The star of the book is Robyn Kahukiwa’s illustrations. They are just as stunning as you would expect from one of New Zealand’s top artists. They are colourful, powerful and vibrant, and convey the mana and fierceness of the gods.

This is one of those essential books that every New Zealand home, school and public library should have. Whether or not you’re Māori, it speaks to our shared heritage as New Zealanders, the stories that underpin our special part of the world. It would make a great gift for children up to the age of about 9 or 10 (Kahukiwa has dedicated it to her six year old grandson), and as a teacher I can definitely recommend it as a gift for an early childhood or primary teacher or library. Go buy it.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Ngā Atua Māori Gods
by Robyn Kahukiwa
Published by Oratia Books
ISBN 9780947506261


Maui Sun Catcher, by Tim Tipene, illustrated by Zak Waipara, translated by Rob Ruha

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_maui_sun_catcher.jpgRe-working a traditional and much loved myth is a big challenge and requires ensuring the familiar story features are finely balanced with new ideas and fresh imagery to retain the essence of the original while engaging new audiences. Award winning New Zealand author Tim Tipene took up this challenge with Maui – Sun Catcher and has hit that balance perfectly, delivering a Maui who is both mischief-maker and cheeky fella.

Bringing Maui into the 21st century sees him cajoling his brothers to help him capture Tama Nui Te Ra, the Sun, and force him to slow down so that all can get their work done and enjoy a full day. The brothers are modern day blokes and the dialogue between them is as Kiwi as it gets: ‘You think too much, said Roto, rolling his eyes and turning on the television. ‘Sit down and watch the rugby, man.’ The striking cartoon like illustrations depicting them in familiar clothing (jeans, mechanic’s overalls and school uniform), coupled with mentions of sunscreen and gassing up the car brings the myth well and truly into modern day.

In keeping with the magical capabilities of Maui the trickster, he is depicted in what looks suspiciously like a superhero outfit, complete with emblem on his top, fish hook slung low across his hips, and… is that a cape or a hoodie? Also setting him apart and adding to his mystery, is Maui’s speech which, in rhyming couplets, is the only rhyme found in the text; a feature acknowledged by one of his brothers: “Maui the poet, eh, always out to be the hero,’ Waho grumbled.”

When he and his brothers find the sun’s pit, they prepare to trap the Sun in a net made of magic flax. Maui steps up to challenge the Sun to slow down and, in this version, beats the Sun not with his fists but with his words – tricking the Sun into slowing down using flattery: ‘The Sun was quiet, He looked around. He liked Maui’s words of magnificence and greatness. They made him feel special.’

Presented in both te Reo Maori and English this bi-lingual modern retelling of a myth unique to Aotearoa is equally accessible to all young readers. It is beautifully presented in hardback with bright colours and bold illustrations and I do hope it is the first of many such re-workings presented by the Tipene, Waipara and Oratia Books team.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

Maui: Sun Catcher
by Tim Tipene, illustrated by Zak Waipara, translated by Rob Ruha
Published by Oratia Books, 2016
ISBN 9780947506148

Book Review: Squeakopotamus, by Dawn McMillan, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_squeakopotamusWho’s this in our house, munching toast and cheese? Squeakopotamus! Is he a hippo that looks like a mouse? Or is he a mouse too big for this house?

What will Squeakopotamus do when he has run out of things to eat – will he eat us? Is he a hippo? Or is he a mouse? And will the children be able to keep him?

This is such a gorgeous book with stunning illustrations. Quinn, my youngest granddaughter is 2 ½ years old. I read this to her before she had her mid-morning nap. Her eyes got wider and wider at Squeakopotamus’s reactions and of course she wanted one just like him. No such luck – she’ll have to be content with her dog Mini, a rescue greyhound and her cats, Gus and Rocky.

Dawn McMillan as the author and Ross Kinnaird as the illustrator of this book are already know to our family through their wonderful collaboration in, I need a New Bum, Doctor Grundy’s Undies and Mister Spears and his Hairy Ears –all great favourites.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

by Dawn McMillan Illustrated by Ross Kinnaird
Oratia Books
ISBN 9780947506117

Book Review: 12 Huia Birds, by Julian Stokoe, illustrated by Stacy Eyles

Available now in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_12_huia_birds12 Huia Birds tells the sad tale of the decline of NZ’s gorgeous huia, from the arrival of the first people in New Zealand to their eventual decimation by predators, habitat loss, fashion and museum collecting. It’s an important story of the human impact on New Zealand’s native flora and fauna, and the destruction that has been, and continues to be wreaked.

My book reading friend Rosa, 8, was really interested in the book, and wondered how much of it was true. I told her the stories of them being collected for museums and collectors once their decline became more rapid. It made her quite sad.

The class of five-year-olds to whom I read the story were also captivated, particularly by the illustrations. Stacy Eyles has done a great job of making the “bad guys” look shifty and menacing – which of course they were.

The countdown to the last huia in the text tells the story quite accurately from a historical perspective, in rhyme. My only hesitation in wholeheartedly recommending the book is that the rhyme doesn’t always scan well; sometimes it’s a bit clunky and laboured. It’s a small criticism, and I doubt most children would notice it, it’s just something that would be notice as you try to maintain the rhythm while reading aloud.

There is an apple/android app that goes with this book, which looks quite good, and adds an extra dimension that I think is valuable, as it offers more information and underlines the environmental lessons to be learned. It’s free and has no in-app purchases, so is bound to be popular with parents and teachers alike.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

12 Huia Birds
by Julian Stokoe, illustrated by Stacy Eyles
Published by Oratia Books
ISBN 9780947506124