Saturday, October 17, 2020

Exhibition of Italian children's book illustrators open in Auckland

The Illustrators for Gianni Rodari exhibition is now on in Auckland. 

From today until Sunday 25 September, drop in between 10.00 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The Oratia Books team joined a preview event last night, along with guests from the local Italian and publishing communities.

The Oratia crew with Lindsey Jones (third from right), Honorary Consul for Italy, Auckland. From left: Belinda Cooke (sales & marketing consultant), Frances Chan (editor), Peter Dowling (publisher), Alessandra Zecchini (media director), Lindsey Jones, Carolyn Lagahetau (editorial director), Ross Kinnaird (illustrator)

Brought together to mark the centenary of the birth of the great Italian children's writer Gianni Rodari, the exhibition showcases illustrations from 21 leading artists who have illustrated his books.

Professor Bruno Ferraro (left) will join a presentation about Rodari on Sunday 18 October

A selection of the Rodari books on display from Edizione E/L, Italy

Congratulations to exhibition curator Nicoletta Benella, and all who have made the exhibition possible.

Tomorrow morning (18 October) at 9.30 a.m., Nicoletta will join Professor Bruno Ferraro in a discussion about Rodari's life and work, and the artists who have accompanied him.

Our thanks to NEWMARKET and the Dante Alighieri Society of Auckland for hosting the preview, including some tasty piadine and San Pellegrino soft drinks.

For more about this unique exhibition, click on
this link. Ci vediamo lì!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

New book ensures the Musket Wars will not be forgotten

The Forgotten Wars: Why the Musket Wars matter today

Ron Crosby

Distinguished author outlines why this crucial phase of New Zealand history matters and should be taught today


Ron Crosby couldn’t believe his eyes when the Ministry of Education released its draft curriculum for compulsory teaching of New Zealand history. 


Subjects to be covered included initial contacts between Māori and Europeans, and early colonial history — but not the Musket Wars. 

In The Forgotten Wars, Crosby sets out to ensure that readers will be able to appreciate just how much of an omission that was.


For, as he describes in the book, these conflicts between 1806 and 1845 were the longest period of continuous warfare in Aotearoa, and laid the basis of relationships between iwi and hapū ever since — not to mention featuring endless cycles of utu and feats of bravery, including the campaigns of Hongi Hika and Te Rauparaha.

Muskets, potatoes and other introductions fundamentally altered the balance of power in 19th-century Aotearoa, leading to inter-iwi conflicts that claimed tens of thousands of lives (killing, wounding or displacing up to half of the Māori population).


Drawing on his seminal The Musket Wars, this concise work breaks the wars down by region and tribe, with stunningly detailed maps and illustrations that will help to ensure these epochal conflicts are no longer forgotten.


The author

Ron Crosby with his wife Margy

Ron Crosby burst onto the New Zealand book scene in 1999 with The Musket Wars (still in print through Oratia Books), and has followed that with a range of other titles including NZSAS: The First Fifty Years. Formerly a barrister specialising in resource management and iwi claims, Ron was appointed to the Waitangi Tribunal in 2011. He lives in Blenheim with his wife Margy (Te Rarawa, Te Aupouri). A keen tramper and hunter, Ron and family  have walked and visited many of the sites and trails featured in this new book.

Publication: 14 October 2020  |  ISBN: 978-0-947506-79-7  | RRP $39.99

Paperback, 240 x 160 mm portrait, 208 pages, b&w with 16-pp colour


Monday, October 5, 2020

New biography sheds light on the private side of the legendary Bernard Freyberg

Freyberg: A Life’s Journey

Matthew Wright

Biography out tomorrow (6 October) focuses on Bernard Freyberg the man to reveal 
the reality behind a towering 20th-century hero

The name Freyberg appears all across New Zealand, in streets, parks, schools, buildings, public spaces, pools and more. 

For much of the 20th century Bernard Freyberg was a household name: a swimming champion, an action-hero, military commander and Governor-General —a physically imposing figure known to most Kiwis as ‘Tiny’, following his childhood nickname. 


Freyberg receiving support as he attempts to swim the English Channel

Now in this new, concise biography, prolific author Matthew Wright reveals the complex man behind the myth for 21st-century readers less familiar with Freyberg — tracking his personal journey from lower middle-class Wellington to his death in London as Lieutenant General The Right Hon. Lord Freyberg. 

Bernard Freyberg with son Paul during the Allied advance in Italy, 1944 

Who was this man, who presented initially as innocent and vague, yet showed a sharp intellect to those who knew him? How much of his action-hero status came from an effort to validate himself? 

Being sworn in as Governor-General, 1946

Why was he so ferociously private he did not even have a photographer at his own wedding? Why did he try to keep his 1914 adventures during the Mexico Revolution secret to the point of having his biographies censored?

Freyberg Beach, Wellington – one of many places named after the man

Freyberg: A Life’s Journey is the most accessible and revealing  Freyberg biography yet, with numerous photos. 


The author

Matthew Wright is one of New Zealand’s most published historians and writers. His work includes more than 600 articles, papers and reviews, and over 60 books on topics from biography to military and social history. His other Oratia books are The New Zealand Wars (2014) and The New Zealand Experience at Gallipoli and the Western Front (2017) (see

Publication: 6 October 2020  |  ISBN: 978-0-947506-72-8  | RRP $45.00

Paperback with flaps, 234 x 153 mm portrait, 232 pages, b&w


Thursday, October 1, 2020

Sir Singlet wins the battle for comfy underwear

An hilarious new tale about following your heart, from the authors of international bestseller I Need a New Bum!, is out now.

Zany rhymes and crazy illustrations have become the staple diet for fans of Thames author Dawn McMillan and Birkenhead illustrator Ross Kinnaird. 


Their newest collaboration, Sir Singlet, continues in that funny vein with its colourfully illustrated story of a knight who can’t stand the sloppy underwear he wears under his armour.


Narrated by his nephew, the story celebrates special talents:


Sir Singlet is clever with needle and thread.

See all the cushions he’s made for his bed?

Sir Singlet’s solution to his problem is to design his own line of comfortable, and colourful ‘knightwear’. But before he can launch the product, the king gets in the way by declaring war.


Wearing his new undergarments, Sir Singlet wins the battle, not using hand-to-hand combat — but by scaring his enemies away when he displays his wonderful wearable creations!


The king is so pleased that he … well, you’ll have to read the story to find out how it all ends up. 

The authors

Dawn McMillan 
is an internationally recognised writer of children’s books who lives north of Thames. Among her many popular works are 
I Need a New Bum! and Dr Grundy’s UndiesRoss Kinnaird is an illustrator and graphic designer whose books have been published in many countries, often in collaboration with Dawn. He lives near the sea on Auckland’s North Shore.  

Publication: 2 October 2020  |  RRP $19.99  |  ISBN:  978-0-947506-75-9
Paperback, 230 x 215 mm, 32 pages, colour

Monday, September 14, 2020

Rona Moon lands for Te Wiki o te Reo Māori

Modern version of the Rona and the Moon myth appears in vividly illustrated, bilingual picture book

Rona Moon, an imaginative retelling of the Rona and the Moon myth, hits the bookstores of Aotearoa during Te Wiki o te Reo Māori/Māori Language Week 2020. 

Award-winning writer and youth counsellor Tim Tipene recasts the myth in a modern setting. 

Rona is a young girl who gets angry with everyone — her brother, her Nana and Papa — until one night she calls the moon stupid!


Taken to meet her ancestor Whaea Rona on the moon, she learns a lesson in how to control her temper:

‘Everything looks so small from up here,’ said Rona. 

‘I know,’ Whaea beamed. ‘Even the reasons we felt angry seem so little.’


‘Hanga nohinohi te ao katoa atu i konei,’ tā Rona. 

‘E mea ana koe,’ te mene atu a Whaea. ‘Kua hanga nohinohi hoki ngā take i pupū ai ō tāua riri.’

Stephanie Huriana Fong has translated Tim’s sensitive telling, and Tai Tokerau artist Theresa Reihana makes her first foray into children’s books with striking, luminescent illustrations.


Rona Moon is ideal for primary school readers, students of te Reo and anyone who loves a traditional story. 

The authors

Tim Tipene (Ngāti Kurī, Ngāti Whātua) is the award-winning author of over 12 children’s books, and a pioneering youth counsellor. He lives with his children in Rānui, West Auckland. Theresa Reihana (Ngāti Hine) is a visual artist who has exhibited worldwide, and is now venturing into book illustration; she lives near Kaitaia. Stephanie Huriana Fong (Te Rarawa) is a registered translator of te Reo who also works in television and other media; she lives in Te Atatū, Auckland.


Publication: 16 September 2020  |  ISBN: 978-0-947506-73-5  | RRP $25.99

Hardback, 270 x 210 mm portrait, 32 pages, colour



Monday, August 31, 2020

Oratia Media Celebrates 20 Years Today

Today marks 20 years since Peter Dowling and Alessandra Zecchini incorporated Oratia Media as a company.

Still going strong two decades on, our small company has changed and grown, while remaining grounded in the ngahere (forest) near the upper end of West Coast Road, Oratia, in the mighty Waitakere Ranges west of Auckland. 

Above all today offers the chance to thank our many clients, readers, collaborators, staff, contractors, family and supporters.  

The original logo: image designed by Alessandra, text by Myong-ok Kim

While publishing has been a core part of what we’ve always done, we chose the name ‘Media’ to reflect our pursuit of different activities (it also sounded good alongside ‘Oratia’!).

At establishment, that involved Alessandra teaching language and culture at the Dante Alighieri Italian Society of Auckland, running cooking classes and contributing food and travel articles to publications in New Zealand, Italy and Japan. 

Food styling with models Patricia Greig and Arantxa Zecchini Dowling (top) and photographer Shaun Cato-Symonds (bottom left)

Peter was then editor-at-large for Tokyo publisher Kozo System, editor and correspondent for Reed Business Information of London, and senior editor on contact to Reed Publishing (NZ) in Birkenhead. 

In 2002 Peter joined Reed NZ full-time as managing editor, later becoming publishing manager until the company’s sale in late 2007.

Over that time Alessandra ramped up her recipe development and food-styling activities, became a regular contributor to magazines including Cuisine, NZ House and Garden and NZ Gardener, launched her first two cookbooks with New Holland Publishers, and created the Festival Italiano through the Dante Society.

Alessandra at the Festival Italiano 2018, received the Ordine della Stella D'Italian honour from Italian Ambassador Fabrizio Marcelli for her services to promoting Italian culture internationally

From 2008 we have worked exclusively through Oratia, with 2009 marking the launch of the company’s own book list, initially under the Libro International brand and since 2016 as Oratia Books. Over that time we’ve published close on 150 books (both our own and for others), while writing and editing several million words in articles, books and reports around the world. 

Our first major commissioned book, the late Graeme Hunt's history of St John in New Zealand, 2009

None of this would have been possible without our clients (for details see, or talented authors and illustrators (thank you to everyone listed at Then there are the brilliant booksellers, librarians and teachers who support us, and our fine team of regular and freelance professionals. 

Among the ‘Oratia family’ our heartfelt thanks to Editorial Director Carolyn Lagahetau, who has been a key player since 2008, and to Marketing Consultant Belinda Cooke for her exceptional contribution since 2015.

Taking life seriously with our dream team, from left: designer Cheryl Smith, marketing supremo Belinda Cooke, illustrator Ross Kinnaird, editorial director Carolyn Lagahetau, author Dawn McMillan and Peter

Without wishing to omit anyone, special appreciation to designer Cheryl Smith of Macarn Design and more recently Sarah Elworthy; former marketing manager Isabell Zitzelsberger; editors Mike Bradstock, Susan Brierley, Frances Chan and Patricia Greig; sales reps Jeremy Bliss, Peter Gray, Dennis Morgan and Gary Shannon; Marie Edwards, Toni Hayman, Sue Kellett and team at our distributors Publishers Distribution Ltd; and web designers Isra Salcedo (Humilde Servidor) and Daisuke Hirata (Box Media). 

Carolyn Lagahetau with the late Graeme Leather

And we remember those who are no longer with us: the beloved designer and editor Graeme Leather, sales supremo Paul Greenberg, and authors Trixie Harvey, Graeme Hunt, Gavin McLean, Don Stafford and Pā Henare Tate.

The late Pā Henare Tate (right) with Sister Magdalen Sheahan (centre) receiving the Māori Book Award for his He Puna Iti i te Ao Mārama in 2013

Author Malcolm Paterson with son Davin at the Going West Writers Festival 2016

Student volunteer Coline Rouge promoting our books at the IBBY World Congress in Auckland, 2016

Internationally we count on some fine distributors: thanks to Charles Goulding at John Reed Books (Australia), Joel Cosseboom and Royden Muranaka at University of Hawai’i Press (North America) and Melanie Warren and team at Gazelle Book Services in Lancaster (UK and Europe). Chris Shaw and the crew at Book Systems International get the books from our printers and out to book fairs.

Sub-agents like Fanny Yu at CA-Link in Beijing, Anna Spadolini and her agency in Milan, and Pablo de la Vega at Base Tres in Guadalajara help us reach many markets. 

Peter managing the first-ever New Zealand stand at the Guadalajara International Book Fair, 2017, with assistant Claudia Esqueda

Voluntary and community activities are an important part of Oratia’s culture, with long-standing commitments to the Dante Society, Slowfood Auckland, Te Potiki National Trust (Māori Maps), Oratia District School, Storylines Children’s Literature Foundation and the Publishers Association of New Zealand. 

Paora Tapsell, chair of Te Potiki National Trust, presenting the trust's annual Hawea Vercoe Memorial Scholarship to Ihaka Wilson at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Rotoiti, September 2019

And to mark the 20th anniversary, we’ve just agreed new, ongoing sponsorships of the Native Forest Restoration Trust and Outward Bound NZ.

It’s a privilege to be here still after two decades doing the work we love from a place we love. Ngā manaakitanga ki a koutou kātoa i tautoko I a Oratia i ēnei tau i mua, ā, ka mahi ngatahi tonu ā muri ake nei. Grazie e arrivederci al 2040!

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