Norwood House Press, 2022
(with André Ngāpō, consultant)
Series: Voices from around the world: Pacific Islands
This title is part of a series of non-fiction, 48-page children’s books about Pacific nations. The others in the series are about Fiji, Sāmoa, Tonga and Hawai’i, all written by people from those islands. Each book is crammed full of interesting information, factboxes, photos and a glossary and index. You can see the whole series here and view the book trailer here.
In writing this, I was paired with André Ngāpō who acted as consultant to authentically speak to the Māori history and culture in the book.The publishers and I were both very grateful to have him on board.
This is an American publication, so there was a lot of to and fro-ing of emails and zoom calls across time zones, and many more fascinating facts that I couldn’t quite fit into the word-count. Thinking about how to describe our country’s history, geography and culture for a worldwide audience was something I haven’t done before – most of my books are written for a New Zealand audience – so trying to figure out what children in other countries might want to know, what they would easily understand and what might need more explaining made for a really interesting challenge.
The publishers wanted to shape each book around a particular heritage item (for example, the nifo’oti or ceremonial knife for Samoa, the tabua or whale tooth for Fiji) as a focal point for telling the country’s history from past to present day. For New Zealand, we canvassed several options and settled on pounamu (greenstone) which is seen as a taonga (treasure). I loved learning more about pounamu, its geology and cultural history and the legends and tikanga (custom) that are associated with it.
Another of my favourite pieces of research for this book was finding out about Christina Jefferson, an intrepid explorer who went to Rēkohu Chatham Islands six times from the 1940s on to look for tree carvings, or rākau momori (the scientific name for them is dendroglyphs) which are pictures carved into the bark of trees. Christina found and drew pictures of hundreds of them. Rēkohu is fairly remote even now and must have been even more so back then. You can see her photo and read more about her amazing travels here.
Teacher notes for New Zealand and the other books in this series are available here.