I think the biggest growth in New Zealand publishing for children has been in nonfiction. There have been some outstanding nonfiction books published by both big and small publishers in New Zealand in recent years, including Anzac Heroes by Maria Gill and Marco Ivancic and the ‘Beginner’s Guide to’ series published by Penguin Random House. Gavin Bishop’s latest book, Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story, has blown all of these out of the water. I don’t think there has been another book for children about our history and culture that is as important as this book, and every home, school and library in New Zealand needs to have a copy.
Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story is a huge book, not just in size but also in the content that Gavin Bishop covers. Just about anything that a New Zealand kid has ever wanted to know about our country is here in this book, from the asteroid that destroyed most of the life on earth, to the first Polynesian explorers who visited and gave our land the name of Aotearoa, the birds and creatures that first lived here, the arrival of the Pakeha, and the development of transport, education, food and clothing. Gavin introduces children to famous New Zealanders, famous places, natural attractions and disasters that shook our country. Not only does Gavin take children in to the past, he also deals with the threats to our future, including pests, pollution and politicians (who don’t listen). The book is a large format hardback, so it is perfect for opening out on the floor and poring over.
This book is a taonga, a book to be treasured and read until it falls apart. It is a book that will keep children and adults occupied for hours and you are sure to notice something new every time you look at it. Every time I open this book I am amazed at the information and illustrations that fill every page. It must have taken Gavin Bishop years to create this book but you can really tell that it has been a labour of love. So much care and attention to detail has gone in to making this book the taonga that it is. It is a book that the whole family will enjoy as the information is in small chunks and the layout is visually appealing. Every classroom in every school in the country should have a copy because each age group will get something different from the book. Gavin explains the history and culture of our country so that anyone who picks it up will be able to understand and absorb it. All New Zealand children will be able to see themselves and something familiar in this book, from the famous New Zealanders to the food and famous landmarks.
Penguin Random House New Zealand should be applauded for publishing Gavin’s book and for the care that they have taken to ensure the high standard of production. Not only does the book look stunning, it also feels and smells like nothing has been spared to publish this important book.
Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story is certain to win the coveted Margaret Mahy Award for New Zealand’s best children’s book next year. If you buy one book for your children this Christmas make sure that it is this one.