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!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Cream of Italian children's book illustrators to go on show in Auckland

llustrators for Gianni Rodari – Italian Excellence

Free entry

17 – 25 Oct 2020, 10am – 4pm daily

Newmarket Station Studio, 1 Newmarket Station Square, Auckland

A prestigious and colourful exhibition of Italian children’s book illustrators will open on 17 October in Newmarket for Artweek Auckland and the Italian Language Week in the World.

Oratia Books is proud to be among the sponsors for the exhibition, which will coordinate with the Italian Festival Season 2020 (organised by our Media Director, Alessandra Zecchini). 


Travelling to New Zealand after launches in Bologna and San Francisco, Illustrators for Gianna Rodari will appeal to kids and adults alike. From a nation synonymous with art and style come these vibrant works brought together to celebrate the great children’s author Gianni Rodari on the centenary of his birth. 


Rodari, who bears comparison with Margaret Mahy, was the first Italian writer to receive the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award, in 1970 (Mahy also received this ‘Nobel Prize of children’s literature’, in 2006). Rodari’s work includes fairy stories, nursery rhymes, short stories and novels, as well as his famous essay The Grammar of Fantasy.

Gianni Rodari with young fans (credit: RaiPlay Radio)

Rodari’s work has been translated and reprinted the world over and remains an inexhaustible source of inspiration for numerous Italian illustrators, who down the years have put his words into pictures (see more at 


This exhibition showcases some of those artists who in the last fifty years have illustrated Rodari’s texts. From legends like Luzzati and Munari through to young contemporary artists, this exhibition gives a fascinating overview of Italian illustration excellence.


Featured artists: Bruno Munari, Emanuele Luzzati, Altan, Beatrice Alemagna, Gaia Stella, Olimpia Zagnoli, Manuel Fior, Alessandro Sanna, Valerio Vitali, Simona Mulazzani, Chiara Armellini, Anna Laura Cantone, Fulvio Testa, Maria Chiara Di Giorgio, Giulia Orecchia, Nicoletta Costa, Federico Maggioni, Francesca Ghermandi, Pia Valentinis, Vittoria Facchini, Elenia Beretta.


Organised internationally by: Fiera di Bologna, BCBF, Regione E-R, Regione E-R Cultura d’Europa, Einaudi Ragazzi, Vivere all’Italiana (MAECI).

Auckland edition in collaboration with: Italian Embassy in New Zealand, Dante Alighieri Society Auckland, Festival Italiano Auckland, Oratia Books, NEWMARKET.


Part of the Artweek Auckland 2020 Programme and the Italian Festival Season in Auckland


For more information contact: Alessandra Zecchini

  Tel.: 027 393 7821

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Support New Zealand Books

Books are essential!

We invite you to support New Zealand authors, illustrators, designers, editors and everyone one who works locally in the publishing business. Oratia Books is an independent New Zealand publisher, specialising in local children books, Māori books, history and more. Please check out our website or ask for our New Zealand-made books at your favourite bookstore.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Stunning illustrated guide to the universe and space exploration reaches New Zealand

There is no better way to fathom the immensity and mysteries of the universe than by following a map — and few space maps can compete in simplicity, colour and lucidity with those put together in this beautiful book. 

Originated in Italy with a true world outlook (the maps display views from the Southern Hemisphere as well as North), Space Maps is an irresistible invitation to outer space. 


This gorgeous English-language edition draws on the latest discoveries of astronomy to take children to the farthest reaches of the universe. It balances a mix of circular maps and flat maps of the Solar System and the galaxies beyond. 

The book is organised into five parts, answering key questions:

·       What do we see with our naked eye?

·       Where are we in the universe? 

·       What are the other planets like?

·       What do modern telescopes see?

·       Where is the sky studied from?


From ancient views of the sky to the International Space Station, Earth to Pluto and Crab Nebulae to space suits, Space Maps has the universe covered.

The authors

Lara Albanese is an award-winning author of over 20 books about science for children. She is professor of physics at the Università degli Studi di Parma, Italy. Tommaso Vidus Rosin is the illustrator of numerous books for children and adults. He also lives in Parma. 

Publication: 6 August 2020  |  RRP $39.99  |  ISBN:  978-0-947506-68-1
Hardback, 370 x 270 mm, 96 pages, colour
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