NZ Pacific Picture Book Collection

The NZ Pacific Picture Book Collection and website have been put together as an educational resource featuring activities and links to the NZ school curriculum. The creators selected the titles from nominations collected from nine librarians who have a specific interest in Pasifika communities. They believe in the power of picture books to shine a light on world views to both validate and introduce culture to others.

Here is a selection of some of the books from the collection held by Wellington Libraries.

Syndetics book coverTulevai and the sea / by Joy Cowley ; illustrated by Manu Smith.
“A story for young readers with full-page colour illustrations by Manu Smith. Tulevai is such a good fisher from his canoe, the sea decides to make him its slave, and captures him. However, Tulevai’s mother decides her love is stronger than all the power of the sea, and rescues him by rolling the sea aside.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLegends of the Cook Islands / Shona Hopkins ; illustrated by Bruce Potter.
Collection of eight illustrated legends from the Cook Islands. Set in a mythological time known as Avaiki, these stories tell of brave men and women, mystical mountains, powerful gods and majestic sea creatures. Suggested level: primary, intermediate.

Syndetics book coverThe Shark God / story by Rafe Martin ; pictures by David Shannon.
“Because they freed a shark caught in a net, the fearsome Shark God rescues a brother and sister from the cruel king’s imprisonment and helps them find a new, peaceful kingdom across the sea.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGrandad / Janet Pereira ; illustrated by Bruce Potter.
A young girl relates how her family respond to her grandfather’s illness and death and bring to the funeral responses from a variety of cultures. Includes a glossary of words related to death and funerals. Suggested level: primary.

Syndetics book coverTane steals the show / [text] Lino Nelisi ; [illustrations] Gus Hunter.
Uncle Kokela is getting married on Saturday and everyone is practising singing and dancing. Because Tane is too small, no one will let him join in. But Tane has a surprise for them. Suggested level: junior.

Syndetics book coverTwo cans of corned beef and a manulele in a mango tree : a Pacific Christmas / Sarona Aiono-losefa ; illustrated by Steven Dunn.
A Pacific version of the popular Christmas song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, with such gifts as four rolls of tapa, three frangipanis, two cans of corned beef and a manulele in a mango tree. Suggested level: junior, primary.

Syndetics book coverThe stuck there forever boat / Gillian Torckler ; illustrated by Bruce Potter.
Tama’s idyllic island life is changing. The surrounding sea is slowly flooding their land, the coral is dying and the fish have disappeared. Tama’s family must move to a higher island, but his nanny won’t listen. What can Tama do to convince his nanny to leave? A story inspired by the Tuvaluan people, whose low-lying island nation is under threat of non-existence due to the rising seas associated with global warming.

Syndetics book coverSione’s talo / by Lino Nelisi ; illustrated by Elspeth Williamson.
Sione finds a huge talo growing on his plantation and calls his family to help him pull it up, but they are only successful with the help of an ant. Suggested level: juniors

Syndetics book coverPapa’s jandals / Kate Moetaua ; illustrated by Bruce Potter.
“Papa loves his great big jandals but so does Junior. When Junior loses Papa’s jandals the hunt is on to find them but no one would ever have guessed where they turn up”–Back cover. Suggested level: junior.

Syndetics book coverTalia / by Catherine Hannken ; illustrated by Trish Bowles.
Talia’s dad is taking her to Samoa to meet her family and she is excited, but her excitement quickly turns to confusion when she steps off the plane. She can’t understand what anyone is saying and she feels scared and alone. With help from her family, Talia begins to forget her fear and shyness and enjoy being in Samoa. Suggested level: junior.

Syndetics book coverA book of Pacific lullabies / edited by Tessa Duder ; illustrated by Anton Petrov.
Collection of poems for children inspired by the natural images and rhythms of the Pacific on the themes of night and sleep. Contains brief biographical information about each of the contributing authors. Suggested level: junior, primary.

Fishing with spider webs / Lino Nelisi ; illustrations by! Elspeth Alix Batt.
“A story for children with full-page colour illustrations. Aiani was born in Auckland. When she is 10, she flies to Nuie to visit her family. Uncle Tuki takes her out fishing, using spider webs! They get a good feed of fish. Next day they’re going to catch a coconut crab without being bitten.” (Syndetics summary)

The pipi swing / Sarona Aiono-Iosefa ; illustrated by Bruce Potter.
A story of a Samoan girl whose grandparents teach her how to have fun again after her father, their son dies, in spite of their own grief. Suggested level: junior, primary.

He Hononga : the launching of “Once were Pacific” by Alice Te Punga-Somerville

Last Thursday I headed across to Waiwhetu Marae, to attend a new phenomenon – a “launch without a book”.

Alice’s book – “Once were Pacific : Māori connections to Oceania” has already sold out both here in New Zealand and also in Australia. What an achievement, Alice!

However, all is not lost – come to Wellington City Libraries – hooray – we have two copies, but only one for lending.

A large crowd of Te Punga whānau renewed their turangawaewae, friends, whānau, fellow-workers from Victoria University, and students of Alice came to support and farewell her, and right there in the mix was a group of overseas students (passers-by who came to experience a ‘marae visit”).

Ka nui ngā mihi atu ki te hau kāinga mō te pō whakangahau. – he kahurangi nō mātou a Alice, hei uri o tēnei marae.

So we gathered to tautoko Alice and her overview of indigenous literature –“ texts of poetry, fiction, theatre, film and music” , alongside “instances of performance, journalism and scholarship” (back cover), which build on the connections of Māori as indigenous people, not only to the land, but, also (here’s a new thought) to the sea – the Pacific Ocean, and hence the connections to the Pacific people, both overseas, and in New Zealand.

(Aha – note that subtle play on words – “Once were Pacific” v. “Once were warriors”).

It was fitting that Tupaia has a place in this book.  It was he who guided Captain Cook to the Pacific Ocean for the Transit of Venus, in 1769, and became a unique interface – a Pacific connection –between Māori and European.

Included in this book are Pacific-based writers such as Vernice Wineera, and Evelyn Patuawa-Nathan, and Aotearoa-based works, writers, collaborations and connections with – Whale Rider, Hinewirangi, Ihimaera, Chantal Spitz, Apirana Taylor, Patricia Grace, Karlo Mila, Alistair Campbell, Rongo (newspaper), concepts of Nesians, Polynation.

On the night of the launch, strands of hononga, resting safely in the skilful hands of Rawinia Higgins and Hugh Karena were extended by the skilful kōrero of Rachel Buchanan and Alice, herself.

Aspects of Alice’s strong personality were revealed in kōrero from Lydia Weavers, the Mafileo boys brought us to attention with a passionate haka, Megan, sister of Alice, read a taster from the book, and Michel Tuffrey described his artwork on the cover.

I was swept along on Alice’s journey, and sorry when she eventually finished her presentation, but wish her well as she departs (shortly) in the footsteps of (“Na to hoa aroha”) Peter Buck, across the Pacific to the University of Hawai’i, Manoa.

Go well, Alice.

Whaia e koe ki te iti kahurangi : ki te tuohu koe, me maunga teitei

Seek the treasure you value most dearly : if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.

Ann Reweti


(Photographs by Nick Sevian)

Ten Books: Pacific Fiction

From magic- to gritty realism, poetry to epic prose, the minutiae of family life to the historical impact of political machinations, here are ten books written by Pacific writers, or with a Pacific setting and flavour.

  1. The adventures of Vela, Albert Wendt (2009, Samoan) – a novel in verse form “where everyday matters intermingle with the chronicles of the immortal song-maker and other divine figures.” (Paula Green in the New Zealand Listener)
  2. The marriage proposal, Célestine Hitiura Vaite (2007, Samoan) – also published as Breadfruit – Materena would quite like to be married but Pito isn’t so keen, then one night he drunkenly proposes and Materena finds herself in the throes of wedding preparations while keeping Pito on track.
  3. Island of shattered dreams, Chantal Spitz, translated by Jean Anderson (2007, Tahitian) – the first novel published by an indigenous Tahitian writer. The story of a Tahitian family in the foreground, with the troubled political history of Tahiti and French nuclear testing as backdrop.
  4. Where we once belonged, by Sia Figiel (1996, Samoan) – a coming of age novel featuring Alofa, growing up in an environment where Western and Samoan traditions and values clash.
  5. Carpentaria, Alexis Wright (2006, Carpentaria – Australian) – described sometimes with reference to James Joyce’s Ulysses, Carpentaria is an epic, magic-realist tale set in the town of Desperance in the very north of Queensland.
  6. The smell of the moon, Lemanatele M. Kneubuhl (2006, American Samoa) – a man seeking a complete change in his life packs up his family and moves to a South Pacific Island, whose inhabitants are a quirky and varied bunch.
  7. Dark paradise, Lono Waiwaiole (2009, Hawaii) – a different sort of Hawaii from one you might expect, this one involving the methamphetamine trade and warring wannabe druglords.
  8. Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones (2006, Bougainville) – the multi award winning coming of age story of Matilda, who is inspired by her teacher’s reading of Great Expectations during a time of violence and turmoil in Bougainville in the early 1990s.
  9. Easter Island: a novel, Jennifer Vanderbes (2003) – the story of two women who travel to Easter Island sixty years apart, one with her scientist husband in 1913 and the other as a scientist herself in 1973, both women becoming engaged with the island and its mysterious past.
  10. Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut (1985) – a group of people take a tour to the Galapagos Islands while the world is in chaos and ruins around them.