Wednesday, July 14, 2021

New team members bolster Oratia Books

Oratia Media is delighted to welcome three part-time staff to the Oratia Books team, reflecting the growth of our business and our commitment to diverse and inclusive publishing.

Long-time freelance contributor Frances Chan has taken on a part-time role as Senior Editor, working alongside Editorial Director Carolyn Lagahetau to manage editorial projects and the manuscript submission process. 

Frances Chan

Frances has over 30 years’ editorial experience in book and magazine publishing, having worked for Scholastic, Pearson, Weldon Owen and Bauer Media, among others. In her spare time she hosts the 95bFM Jazz Show, DJs around town, bakes and ebikes. 

Annie Martin has taken up the role of South Island Sales Representative. Originally from Toms River, New Jersey, Annie is now resident in Lyttelton and will represent Oratia Books around Te Waipounamu while continuing her employment as a sales and production manager for Smith's Bookshop and Cadsonbury Publications, Christchurch. 

Annie Martin

A graduate of John Cabot University, Rome, Annie speaks basic Italian, is a keen photographer in her spare time and is enjoying getting to know more of New Zealand. She replaces long-time sales agent Jeremy Bliss, who has retired.

Arantxa Zecchini Dowling has begun supporting Oratia in the casual role of Marketing Assistant while she completes her double degree at the University of Auckland this year, studying towards a BA (majoring in politics) and BCom (international business and marketing).

Arantxa Zecchini Dowling

Resident in central Auckland, Arantxa also works as a retail manager for specialist magazine store Mag Nation, and is a keen cook, reader and music fan. She is trilingual in English, Italian and Spanish.

"We're really fortunate to have these three dynamic and talented women contributing to the growth of Oratia Books,"commented Publisher and Founder Peter Dowling.

"Each brings a strong suite of skills within our flexible working set-up. 

"Special thanks to Tony Murdoch at Smith's Bookshop for encouraging Annie to collaborate with Oratia and develop both of our lists." 

Contact details for the new staff are:

Frances Chan –

Annie Martin –

Arantxa Zecchini Dowling – 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Concise introduction to the New Zealand Wars adds a further dimension to The NZ Series

The New Zealand Wars  

Matthew Wright

Respected historian Matthew Wright has condensed his years of research and writing on the New Zealand Wars into this concise guide for readers of all ages. 


Building on his major works on the subject including the masterful Two Peoples, One Land (2006), Wright here consolidates his analysis into one introductory book full of illustrations, sidebars, boxes and maps. 

At 100 pages, The New Zealand Wars has over 70 images, many in colour, showing historical paintings as well as modern photos that can help direct visitors to battle sites today.


Why did the New Zealand Wars occur? Who fought them and how did they proceed? Where were these battles fought?

The New Zealand Wars answers these questions in probing text.

It introduces the wars’ major incidents, movements and people — including the Battle of Gate Pa and Pai Marire, and figures such as Colonel G.S. Whitmore and Te Kooti. 

Wright shows that the wars, which pitted British settlers and allied Māori against other Māori from 1845 to 1872, really ended up as a civil war fanning flames in many regions.

The New Zealand Wars is the fifth in The NZ Series, for a general and school readership, and tailored to the new Aotearoa New Zealand Histories curriculum.

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

The author

Matthew Wright is the author of over 60 books on a wide range of topics for all ages, principally New Zealand history. A highly respected historian, he is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. His other books with Oratia are Freyberg — A Life’s Journey and The New Zealand Experience at Gallipoli and the Western Front. He lives in Wellington.

Publication: 8 July 2021  |  RRP $29.99  |  ISBN:  978-0-947506-93-3
Paperback, 240 x 160 mm, 100 pages, colour

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Oratia Media wins BOP Bologna Prize as Best Children’s Publisher of the Year 2021

MEDIA RELEASE — 15 June 2021

Independent Kiwi publisher garners international award at the world’s largest children’s book fair

West Auckland publishing house Oratia Media has won the BOP Bologna Prize as Best Children’s Publisher of the Year 2021, Oceania at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy. 


Oratia had been shortlisted in the Oceania section alongside four outstanding Australian publishers at this year’s virtual fair.


The prestigious BOP prize is awarded each year to publishers from six regions ‘for the creative nature of the editorial choices they have made during the previous year.’


      Elena Pasoli announces Oratia Media as winner of the BOP Bologna Prize, Oceania section

The prize was announced this morning 15 June NZ time in an online ceremony hosted in Bologna by the fair’s Exhibition Manager Elena Pasoli, President of the International Publishers Association Bodour Al Qasimi, and Italian Publishers Association President Ricardo Franco Levi. 

Oratia was cited as ‘an eclectic publishing house from New Zealand with a strong focus on high-quality editing, design, and printing.’


'We are honoured to receive the BOP Bologna Prize, which is a great tribute to our team, authors, illustrators, editors, designers and other partners, and especially to Editorial Director Carolyn Lagahetau,' commented Oratia Books publisher Peter Dowling. 


'New Zealand publishes amazing children’s books and this award can only raise international awareness of the creative talent here.' 


Click here to view the awards ceremony on Youtube, and here for the winner profile on the Bologna Children's Book Fair website.

About Oratia Media –

Oratia Media is an independent publisher of mostly New Zealand authors, with a focus on children’s, Māori, history and illustrated books. In 2021 Oratia Books brings 15 new titles to publication, half of which are children’s (mostly picture books). Our publishing reflects a multicultural, inclusive outlook, with many bilingual books in English and te reo Māori.

                          Oratia’s core team (L–R): Alessandra Zecchini, Belinda Cooke, Carolyn Lagahetau and Peter Dowling

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Fun tale for kids and cat lovers hits the shelves on Thursday

Curious cats, a forgetful Dad and a drifting boat get all 
at sea in a new ‘Kiwi-as’ picture book

Mr Jones is probably not the only bloke who has forgotten to tie up the boat properly of late. But he may be the only one who has then had his boat commandeered by a pair of cats!


Captain Cat is the outcome of a real bit of misadventure that Joan Joass’ moggies got up to when husband Paul had to hurry from his dinghy to the wharf behind their house on Herald Island. 

In the book, Fluff and Scout’s love of fish gets the better of them as they leap into the dinghy, and find it floating out into the estuary.


The boat’s owner might not be onto it, but the neighbourhood kids are! Spying the cats afloat, one posts on social media: ‘Do you know whose cats are these? Get in touch and HURRY please!’


Following on from their successful 2020 outing The Longdrop — which reprinted only a month after its launch — Joan teams up again with Bob Darroch for a tale of typical Kiwi warmth and fun.

Bob’s vibrant, jam-packed illustrations hilariously depict Fluff and Scout’s adventures at sea, in a story that kids and fishing dads will relate to.

The authors

Joan Joass is a retired primary school teacher with science degrees in geology and chemistry.  She lives on Herald Island, West Auckland, close to the water with her husband Paul and a pair of cats.   

Bob Darroch has written and illustrated numerous children’s books over a long career, including his bestselling Little Kiwi series. He lives in Temuka, South Canterbury. 

Publication: 3 June 2021  |  RRP $19.99  |  ISBN:  978-0-947506-86-5
Paperback, 230 x 215 mm, 32 pages, colour

Friday, May 28, 2021

Oratia Books the sole NZ publisher shortlisted for BOP Bologna Prize for Best Children's Publishers of the Year

Oratia Books is honoured to be among the 30 world finalists for the 2021 BOP — Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publishers of the Year.

Oratia is the only New Zealand publisher to make the shortlist for the Oceania section of the award this year, alongside four Australian publishers.

Congratulations to all the other finalists — the full list is on the Bologna Children's Book Fair website

The BOP Prize is described as “an extraordinary occasion to highlight publishers at the forefront of innovation in their activity for the creative nature of the editorial choices they have made during the previous year.”

Exhibitors who participate in the online edition of the Bologna Children's Book Fair are eligible to vote for their preferred publisher over the coming two weeks. 

Winners will be announced during the fair, which this year runs from 14–17 June.


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

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


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