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 Events in the Life of Phillip Tapsell inaugurates the New Zealand Classics series, bringing unpublished or out-of-print works back into circulation.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.

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