Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Adventurous life of an original Pākehā-Māori reveals a strong Danish–NZ connection

First contact between Europeans and Māori was a haphazard affair that often led to misunderstanding and conflict, but also laid the basis for a nation. There at the outset was a man who had remade himself from Danish origins into a 

Phillip Tapsell’s story is a global series of adventures that features a ‘who’s who’ of the nineteenth century including Napoleon Bonaparte, Horatio Nelson and Hongi Hika, with dramatic events such as the bombardment of Copenhagen, the massacre on the Boyd and the recapture of the Wellington. 

Born in 1790 in Copenhagen, Hans Falk took to the sea as a lad, changed his name to Tapsell, and after many voyages settled at Maketū in the Bay of Plenty. There he became the key trader for local iwi and married into the highest levels of Te Arawa, while helping other tribes to defend themselves against invasion from northern tribes. 


Pages from the original manuscript, written by Edward Little

Celebrated in books like James Cowan’s A Trader in Cannibal Land, Tapsell’s life of daring is not well known today, and the memoir he dictated to Edward Little shortly before his death was only ever published in newspaper form. 


Denmark-based academic Dr Jonathan Adams reproduces Little’s manuscript along with broad commentary and numerous illustrations — homing in on issues of culture and trade, war and peace, and Tapsell’s  pivotal role in relations between the countries of his birth and death. 


The book includes a foreword by Professor Paora Tapsell, one of the more than 3000 New Zealanders descended from Phillip Tapsell. Paora is also available for interview or comment.


Events in the Life of Phillip Tapsell represents the first in a new series from Oratia, New Zealand Classics. The series makes available important works of national history that have been long out of print, or manuscripts that may never have been published, which hold real relevance for readers today. 

The author

Jonathan Adams is a researcher in the Department of Historical Studies (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and senior editor at the Society for Danish Language and Literature (Copenhagen, Denmark). Originally from Dorset, UK, he lives with his family in the countryside near Copenhagen.

The foreword author

Paora Tapsell (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Raukawa) is Honorary Professorial Fellow in the Centre of Heirage and Museum Studies at the Australian National University. An academic, researcher and museum curator, he has published three other books with Oratia: Whāriki. with Merata Kawharu;Te Ara, with Krzysztof Pfeiffer; and Pūkaki, translated by Scotty Morrison.

Publication: 6 May 2021  |  RRP $45.00  |  ISBN:  978-0-947506-92-6
Paperback, 240 x 160 mm, 252 pages, b&w

Friday, April 30, 2021

Oratia Books Catalogue 2021 now available in print or PDF

It's a pleasure to share the Oratia Books Catalogue 2021, which is now out in print and digital form. 

This year's catalogue presents the 15 new titles we will publish this year across children's and non-fiction genres.

Thanks to our dedicated authors who have worked so hard to create these books, our team and partners who edit, design and print them, and in particular to Cheryl Smith for the catalogue design. 

The catalogue introduction follows; click here to view the whole thing. To request a print copy, please email info@oratia.co.nz

On with the books!

Every cloud has a silver lining, as the saying goes. Covid-19 has cast a cloud over the world, and meant we’ve had more time than usual at our office in Oratia to admire the clouds. The silver lining has shone through in the upsurge of reader support for local booksellers and publishers. That has given us the confidence to publish 15 new titles and various new editions in this, Oratia’s biggest year yet.

Sayings and figures of speech start off 2021 for Oratia Books with He Iti te Kupu: Māori Metaphors and Similes, a fully bilingual reference by Hona Black. Another work of substantial mana is He Atua, He Tangata, Ross Calman’s revision of A.W. Reed’s landmark treasury of Māori mythology. Pā Henare Tate’s He Puna Iti i te Ao Mārama is back in an updated edition, while for younger readers, Blimmin’ Koro and There’s a Moa in the Moonlight provide bilingual fun and learning.

Fun is the key to Dawn McMillan and Ross Kinnaird’s hit ‘Bum’ books. The third in the series, My Bum is SO NOISY!, published worldwide early in the year, and a bindup of three of the team’s books will be out ahead of Christmas. More laughs come via the mischievous Fluff and Scout in Captain Cat, while Bedtime, Not Playtime! and Early One Morning provide early childhood stories featuring same-sex parents.

There’s more in the way of series, too. Events in the Life of Phillip Tapsell inaugurates the New Zealand Classics series, bringing unpublished or out-of-print works back into circulation. Meanwhile the NZ Series grows to five books with First Encounters and Matthew Wright’s The New Zealand Wars. Matthew also contributes a stunning ‘biography’ of HMS New Zealand.

Cover Story is Steve Braunias’ brilliant take on 100 of the best and worst New Zealand LP covers, and Voices of Aotearoa brings together the finest oratory from 25 years of Titirangi’s Going West Writers Festival. We’re grateful to Creative New Zealand and local supporters for enabling us to publish these more literary works.

The pandemic has offered a chance to pause and re-examine business as usual. As a result Oratia is advancing a policy of diversity and inclusion, renovating our ebook offering, and entering the audiobook space. Here’s to the silver lining.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

First Encounters memorably records the first impressions of Europeans in New Zealand

First Encounters: New Zealand 1642–1840 

Edited by Gordon Ell and Sarah Ell

Father-and-daughter authors Gordon Ell and Sarah Ell build on their impressive legacy of New Zealand books with First Encounters — the fourth in Oratia Book’s growing NZ Series.

This collaboration samples some of the amazing first impressions that Europeans formed when they landed in Aotearoa. 


They had no idea what they would find, and their journals are filled with wonder, curiosity and inevitable misunderstandings. 

First Encounters selects some of the key writings from these early traders, missionaries, explorers and surveyors. 


It covers nearly 200 years from Abel Tasman in 1642 and Joseph Banks in 1769, to early settlers such as John Logan Campbell in 1840 —in first-person accounts that preserve the English of the times.

The text is well illustrated with two-colour imagery and photos, alongside fact boxes explaining historical language, places and events.


The NZ Series now counts four titles, with the fifth, Matthew Wright’s The New Zealand Wars, to publish in July 2021. 

The series introduces New Zealand society, history, science and geography to general readers and students.

Click on these links to read about other titles in the series — Rush to Riches and Pioneer Women, and Volcanoes and Earthquakes.

The authors

Gordon Ell was a writer and publisher with a life-long interest in New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage. He wrote more than 30 books for adults and children during his distinguished career. He passed away last week, having just seen advance copies of his last book.

His daughter, Sarah Ell, is an editor, writer and journalist, who has written ten books, and inherited her father’s love of New Zealand history and the environment.

Publication: 8 April 2021  |  RRP $29.99  |  ISBN:  978-0-947506-90-2
Paperback, 240 x 160 mm, 108 pages, 2 colour

Vale Gordon Ell

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of author, publisher and environmentalist Gordon Ell last Thursday after a short illness. 

Gordon was a noted writer and photographer on natural and human history, founder and publisher of the Bush Press, and recipient of an Order of New Zealand Merit for services to journalism and conservation.

Gordon had been a key contributor to Oratia's books in The NZ Series, together with his daughter Sarah — providing introductions to New Zealand history and geography for general and student readers. 

Their latest book in the series, First Encounters, will be published this Thursday 8 April, helping Gordon's legacy to live on in print. 

Everyone at Oratia extends their deepest sympathies to Gordon's family and friends.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Celebrating a new book in Māori and Samoan for Auckland Libraries

I was delighted to meet up with the Auckland Libraries whānau last week to celebrate the launch of two children's books that help fill a need for resources in languages other than English.

Oratia worked with the Libraries team led by Anne-Marie Shepherd (Publishing Partnerships Lead) to prepare the books for use in libraries across Auckland.
Written by Māori librarian Teri Ta'ala, Māmā e hiakai ana mātou! tells the delightful story of three kids who are hungry and can't work out what to eat, until their super mum steps in to dish up a delicious meal. 

Celebrating the new publications, from left: No'roa Te Hira Anguna, Teri Ta'ala, Anne-Marie Shepherd, Veronica Ligaliga and Peter Dowling

Veronica Ligaliga, Senior Librarian Pacific Content Development Specialist, stepped in to translate the work into Gaganā Samoa as Tinā ua mātou fia'a'ai!

Both books are colourfully illustrated by Waiheke Island-based artist No'oroa Te Hira Anguna. 

It was a pleasure to work with Anne-Marie and her team to help get these great resources into the hands of young readers. 

Check in at your local library in Auckland or go online to access the books.

Auckland Libraries staff and guests at the books' launch

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

New book in the 'Bum series' makes a big noise globally

New book in the laugh-out-loud ‘Bum Series’ of picture books is on the shelves across the English-speaking world

After discovering a crack in his bum, then breaking his bum while out on his bike, the boy at the centre of this international bestselling series is back with a new problem. 

This time he’s in a fix because strange noises unpredictably issue from his behind! 

There’s tooting and hooting, burping and slurping, and popping and squeaking when Auntie is speaking. But Mum and Dad love their boy and they refuse to make a fuss. 

And see what happens when he is talent-spotted (or talent-heard) by movie scouts … 

Join the beloved character from hit books I Need a New Bum! and I’ve Broken my Bum! when he discovers he has the loudest, and proudest, the most uproarious, victorious, sound-system backside!

Out in all good bookstores across New Zealand now, this bright and boisterous picture book is also for sale from Oratia in Australia.

Scholastic UK has published for the UK and Ireland, while Dover Publications has My Butt is SO NOISY! on sale in the US and Canada. 

The title page of Dover's My Butt is SO NOISY!

The zany illustrations and rhymes will also be finding their way into Mandarin when CITIC Press publishes in China later in 2021.

The authors

Dawn McMillan 
is the much-loved author of numerous children’s books including I Need a New Bum! Doctor Grundy’s Undies and the 2020 release Sir Singlet. She lives in Waiomu, north of Thames. 

Ross Kinnaird is an illustrator and designer whose books have been published around the world, many of them in collaboration with Dawn. He lives close to the water on Auckland’s North Shore.

Out now  |  ISBN: 978-0-947506-81-0 | RRP $19.99

Paperback, 230 x 215 mm portrait, 32 pages, colour



Monday, February 15, 2021

Same Same but Different - New Zealand's LGBTQI+ readers and writers festival


Oratia Books attended the Same Same but Different Festival last weekend, where speakers shared experiences from intersecting spaces in their lives such as being queer, being a writer, being a scientist, and positioned from an underlying theme of At Home. All were amazing ambassadors for the creative talent in the LGBTQI+ community. Oratia Books is committed to continued patronage of this very fabulous festival. Visit this Same Same Facebook page for recordings of all the sessions. 

Crime and Punishment, from left: Hilary Lapsley and Lois Cox who write as Jennifer Palgrave, M. Darusha Wehm, host Jen Shieff, Aroha Awarau. Session link: https://fb.watch/3Fs9GL5RaZ/

Queer Bodies from left: Elyssia Ra’nee Wilson-Heti, Jackson Nieuwland, Jesse Bering, host George Parker, Henrietta (Etta) Bollinger. The group were subsequently joined by Ria Hiroki. Session link: https://fb.watch/3Fs7A2Cz-l/

Photos by Carolyn Legahetau

Monday, February 8, 2021

New book by Hona Black will be a valuable reference for writing and speaking te reo Māori

Years of research into kupu whakarite (metaphors and similes) have borne fruit for young Massey University scholar, Hona Black. 

In He Iti te Kupu, he brings together nearly 500 figures of speech into a ready resource for speakers and students of te reo — and anyone who wishes to deepen their language use in New Zealand.

Hona wrote this, his first book, in te reo. That text is printed on the left-hand pages of the book, with his translation into English on the facing right-hand pages.

That lets all readers access the use, meaning and context of the main metaphors and similes in Māori. 

The contents are arranged in chapters such as Ngā manu o uta, o tai – Birds of the land and sea, and Te Moana – The ocean. 


He Iti te Kupu extends Oratia’s popular programme of language reference books, including Māori Place Names and Te Reo Māori: The Basics Explained.

As the new book’s title suggests, ‘Iti te kupu, nui te kōrero’ — ‘Words are small, yet their meanings are substantial’.

Click here for Hona's Facebook post announcing his pukapuka. 

Ka nui ngā mihi ki a koe e Hona mō tō mahi whakamīharo, ki a Darryn Joseph hoki mō tana tautoko i te kaupapa nei. 

The author

Hona Black (Ngāi Tūhoe, Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) lectures on the post-graduate diploma in teaching for Māori medium schools at Te Pūtahi a Toi: School of Māori Knowledge at Massey University in Palmerston North. He has worked as the Senior Māori Adviser on Massey’s Wellington campus, and been Head of Te Reo Māori at Hato Pāora College in Feilding. 

Publication: early February 2021  |  ISBN: 978-0-947506-91-9 | RRP $39.99

Paperback, 210 x 148 mm portrait, 232 pages, b&w


Monday, January 18, 2021

Oratia makes commitment to diversity and inclusion through new policy

Oratia Media is starting off 2021 by making a firm commitment to representing diversity in its publishing, personnel and vision.

That is embodied in this policy statement.


Diversity Policy


To be a diverse and inclusive publisher with no barriers to entry for anyone regardless of their background or identity.


Oratia will respect:

·      the central role of the Treaty of Waitangi, respecting Māori as tangata whenua

·      the role of Pacific peoples in Aotearoa

·      the diverse cultures of Aotearoa New Zealand

·      the principle of equal access and opportunity for people of all cultures, ages, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, abilities and religions

This initiative follows our participation in a series of Diversity and Publishing workshops organised by the Publishers Association of New Zealand (PANZ) between September and December 2020. 

Diversity specialist Anton Blank of Oranui led those workshops and helped participants to develop policy and tools that will help book publishers to give equal access and value to all sectors of society in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Anton Blank of Oranui, which focuses on generating debate about diversity and giving people skills to deal with a diverse range of population groups

Along with Anton, and Alex Collins and Mish Wickremesekera of Lift Education, Carolyn Lagahetau and Peter Dowling of Oratia sit on PANZ's diversity subcommittee. 

Together they have developed policy and training for PANZ, and this is now extending to members.

We are firmly committed to books and workplaces that represent people of all backgrounds, and aim to carry that through into our future publishing, starting from respect for the Treaty of Waitangi. 


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