Wednesday, October 19, 2016

RIP Len Gale

It is sad to report that artist, author, left-wing activist and teacher Len Gale passed away on Saturday at the age of 89.

Len and I met in 1997 not long after his book Greenstone Carving was published. I had the privilege of becoming his editor at Reed Publishing, and we formed a strong friendship as we brought to publication  three further books – Wood Carving, Creative Metal and Technology Basics

Len matched a deep knowledge of all these crafts with a rare ability to communicate them in words and his inimitable drawings. 

These were far from his only literary productions, too – until the end of his life he was writing about craft for magazines and publishing booklets about his family and his early days growing up in Grafton, maintaining a link to his early days when he had covertly printed pamphlets to support the 1951 Waterfront Strike.

He led a colourful life, and one characterised by a generous concern for others. As a craftsman he was noted especially for his work in metal, and he gave back much to the community of West Auckland. 

Len, you will be missed. I do hope that we can carry through on our discussions to bring some of your books back into print before too long.

Rest in peace, mate.

- Peter Dowling

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Squeakopotamus about to make a huge entrance

Squeakopotamus will make a big impact on bookshelves from 6 October.

The giant pet, a perplexing cross between a hippopotamus and a mouse, is the latest creation from Thames-based author Dawn McMillan and Auckland illustrator Ross Kinnaird.

The pair have created some of New Zealand's most-loved and maddest picture books over the years, including Why Do Dogs Sniff Bottoms?, Woolly Wally, I Need a New Bum!  and Doctor Grundy's Undies.

Squeakopotamus tells the story of this oversized creature that comes to stay with a normal-sized family:
Is he a hippo that 
looks like a mouse?
Or is he a mouse
too big for this house? 

Squeakopotamus is a fun pet, but his size means that Mum wants him to go. How can the kids get him to stay?

On sale from tomorrow at good booksellers everywhere, Squeakopotamus (ISBN 978-0-947506-11-7) is a full-colour 32-page picture book suitable for readers aged four and over. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

12 Huia Birds takes flight tomorrow

A new book that celebrates the life and disappearance of one of New Zealand’s most distinctive birds hits the bookstores tomorrow.

12 Huia Birds uses gentle rhyme and striking imagery to track the bird’s story, counting down from 12 birds playing in the forest, through a steady decline caused by humans and pests, until the last huia flies off into the sky.

Writer and animator Julian Stokoe and illustrator Stacy Eyles originally created the story as an app for Yoozoo Books, aiming to could teach children the huia’s story and help them understand something of New Zealand’s delicate ecology.

The book subtly conveys an environmental message, and is a celebration rather than a lament – for as it concludes, huia birds are
alive and well
in paintings, songs
and stories we tell.

And although it has now vanished, the huia is by no means forgotten – witness a recent cameo appearance in the hit film Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

12 Huia Birds comes in a lovely hardback edition suitable for children of all ages.
            With orange cheeks and funny-shaped beaks
            They were a beautiful sight to be heard …
Author Julian Stokoe with his tribute to the huia

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Tunnel in Going West

Thanks to the Going West Books and Writers Festival for featuring Malcolm Paterson, author of The Tunnel in our Backyard, in the opening session today.
Malcolm on stage with son Davin
Malcolm, supported by his very well-behaved son Davin, told the audience the genesis of the Sharing our Stories books published by Oratia, and outlined some of the connections to local heritage and landscape that the book conveys.

The first book in the series, The Castle in our Backyard (2010), takes kids into the history of Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill, while The Tunnel in our Backyard (published this June) links to Owairaka/Mount Albert and localities in Te Atatū, Waterview and Point Chevalier.

A great morning for books in Titirangi
Going West continues throughout this weekend, offering up a cornucopia of words and ideas at the Titirangi War Memorial Hall.

Unity Books has books from Malcolm and the other featured writers and artists on sale at the festival.

Click on this link for more information about The Tunnel in our Backyard.

Monday, August 22, 2016

IBBY Congress celebrates the best of world children's books

It has been an amazing opportunity for supporters of children's reading and writing to have the 35th IBBY Congress here in New Zealand.

The congress of the International Board on Books for Young People brought the cream of international literacy experts, authors, illustrators, librarians, teachers and publishers to Auckland's Aotea Centre for a four-day event that concluded with the Storylines Family Day yesterday.

The New Zealand Publishers stand (above), which benefited
from the enthusiastic presence of IBBY volunteer
Coline Rouge (right)

Oratia was privileged to be a part of proceedings, taking our place alongside seven other publishers on the Publishers Association of New Zealand stand to showcase local books. A number of other publishers also had their own stands.

The congress gave an opportunity to meet with delegates from around the world, as well as the strong contingent of local children's books advocates.

A highlight for us was escorting renowned Brazilian illustrator Roger Mello on behalf of the congress organisers, and seeing Roger in a session on book illustration with Australian illustrator Bronwyn Bancroft and local illustrator Zak Waipara.

Top: Zak Waipara (right) with Bronwyn Bancroft
Below: an image from Māui - Sun Catcher
In his talk Zak featured imagery from our forthcoming publication Māui - Sun Catcher, a picture book retelling of the myth of Māui catching the sun, written by Tim Tipene.

Saturday evening's gala dinner included presentation of the biennial Hans Christian Andersen Awards, the most prestigious awards inchildren's literature.
Cao Wenxuan delivered a brilliant acceptance speech
China's Cao Wenxuan was present to receive the writer's award; Germany's Rotraut Susanne Berner, who was unable to attend, created a delightful video to acknowledge receipt of the illustrator's award.
Oratia publisher Peter Dowling (right) with legendary US educational publisher Kent Brown at the gala dinner
The congress has been a massive, largely voluntary undertaking by the New Zealand IBBY chapter, Storylines. It was great to see congress directors Libby Limbrick and Rosemary Tisdall receive due acknowledgement for their efforts - and to hear unanimous praise from the over 500 delegates.
MC Miriama Kamo (left) toasts congress directors Rosemary Tisdall (centre) and Dr Libby Limbrick

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

New edition of Te Arawa profiled in the Rotorua Daily Post

It's now a week until the launch of Te Arawa, our new edition of Don Stafford's classic history of the Arawa people of Rotorua and the central Bay of Plenty.

The launch at the Rotorua Museum will be presided over by Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick, with representatives of local iwi and Don's family among the distinguished guests.

Don, who passed away in 2010, was a much-loved and respected figure in Rotorua - as evidenced by an article in the Daily Post on Monday.

The article, which you can see via this link, conveys the sense of anticipation ahead of the book's release.

For more about Te Arawa, see the book's page on the Oratia website.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

IBBY Congress brings the world of children's books to Auckland

One of the world's major gatherings for children's books, reading and writing is barely two weeks away from New Zealand shores.

The 35th IBBY International Congress - and the first ever in Oceania - takes place at Auckland's Aotea Centre from 18 - 21 August.

IBBY, the International Board on Books for Young People, is a non-profit organisation that represents a global network of people committed to bringing books and children together.

The Congress features an impressive array of international speakers and over 500 delegates, including authors, illustrators, literacy specialists, academics and teachers.

Oratia is going to be there as an exhibitor alongside seven other New Zealand publishers, on the Publishers Association of New Zealand stand at the Aotea. 

We're looking forward to showing our children's books to the gathering, meeting with colleagues from around the world, and sharing in an exciting few days.

The Congress has been a major undertaking for the Storylines Children’s Literature Charitable Trust of New Zealand (the New Zealand section for IBBY), with organisation led by Libby Limbrick and Rosemary Tisdall.

More information is on the IBBY Congress 2016 website.

'The Children's Nobel'
A highlight of the Congress will be the awarding of the biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award, the children's literature equivalent of the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

This year, China's Cao Wenxuan is the winner of the Author Award, and Germany's Rotraut Susanne Berner receives the Illustrator Award.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Kura Toa stays the distance

The new Oratia Books edition of Tim Tipene's young adult novel Kura Toa Warrior School is out today.
The book was first published by Reed Books; in 2009 we reissued it under our Libro International imprint, and it has reprinted regularly ever since.

Tim's story of troubled high-school student Haki as he struggles to defend the rights of his tribe and grow into a warrior has really struck a chord with teenage readers. It's in demand as a set text in a number of high schools, as well as for general readers.

Long may Kura Toa remain available! For more detail, see the books page on the Oratia website.

Tim Tipene will be appearing the Storylines Northland Family Day in Kaitaia on Saturday 27 August; follow this link for more information.

Tim Tipene

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The meaning of Kaitangata, from A.W. Reed’s classic Māori Place Names

The South Otago town of Kaitangata has been in the news of late after a massive global response to its efforts to attract new residents with an offer of cheap housing, plentiful jobs and a friendly community. 

What about its name? In a literal translation 'kai' means food and 'tangata' means people, so an origin that has to do with cannibalism is likely. One version is that after a battle fought over eeling rights in the vicinity, the chief Mokomoko was killed an eaten by the victors. A more savoury (if that's the right word) explanation is that it was named after an ancestor who travelled on the Arai-te-uru canoe. 

Discover the Māori names and their meaning in the fully revised edition of A.W. Reed’s classic Māori Place Names.

Friday, July 8, 2016

From the book Māori Place Names: the meaning of Whangaparāoa and Whāngārei

Whales were an important resource to pre-European Māori, and that’s reflected in several well-known names.

Whangaparāoa, the peninsula north of Auckland city, means Bay or harbour of sperm whales; whanga (harbour); parāoa (sperm whale).

Among the many explanations for the name Whāngārei is that it’s a shortened form of Whāngārei-terenga-parāoa: whanga (harbour); rei (rushing); terenga (place of swimming); parāoa (sperm whale).

Find these and many more definitions in Māori Place Names. For more about the book go to

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A.W. Reed, author of Māori Place Names

A.W. Reed, author of Māori Place Names, played upon his surname when designing the logo for his publishing company, A.H. & A.W. Reed. The logo features the raupō, New Zealand’s native reed.

Raupō is also a place name – there are settlements of this name near Ruawai in Northland and inland from Greymouth – and the definition is included in the fourth edition. Revising editor Peter Dowling was himself a former publishing manager at Reed Publishing.

The late A.W. Reed

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

‪‎Māori Language Week‬ /‎Te Wiki o te Reo Māori‬ - Māori word of the day: te

The word te stands as a separate part of many place names – think Te Aroha, Te Kauwhata or Te Waipounamu. That’s no surprise when you understand that it means ‘the’ in Māori. So:

Te Aroha – ‘The love’, referring to the emotion felt here by the early traveller Kahumatamomoe
Te Mata – ‘The headland’
Te Waipounamu‘The greenstone waters’, the Māori name for the South Island

[IMAGE – Te Waipounamu]

Te Waipounamu, from the map featured in Māori Place Names

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The fourth edition of Māori Place Names is out in good bookstores today

The book contains a list of words that commonly form part of Māori place names – among them manga, which means ‘stream, creek’.

Manga is found in names all over the country. One combination is Mangaweka, a place just south of Taihape. The weka is the New Zealand wood-hen – so Mangaweka means ‘Creek of the wood hens’.

This and other illustrations by celebrated artist James Berry featured in the early editions of the book, and have been brought back for the 2016 edition.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Māori Place Names marking Māori Language Week

Māori Language Week/Te Wiki o te Reo Māori is underway – and Oratia Books is marking the week by publishing the fully revised edition of A.W. Reed’s classic Māori Place Names tomorrow.

This fourth edition gives meanings and origins of over 2300 of the most important and widespread Māori names.

Each day this week we’ll explain one name or feature. Today’s is one of the most common – Wainui.

Wai means water; nui means big. So Wainui means ‘Big river, bay or expanse of water’.

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