NZ Good reads for Kids
NZ books suitable for ECC & Primary school aged children
The lost penguin: The story of a wayward emperor penguin in New Zealand
A Penguin, author and illustrator. (2015). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
In 2011, a juvenile emperor penguin was found eating sand on a beach in New Zealand, some 2,000 miles from his home in Antarctica. He was taken to a local zoo where he was placed in a cold room to recover. With charming illustrations made with his flipper, "Happy Feet" (as he was known) recounts his ordeal. When he left for home later that year with a GPS tracker glued to his feathery bum, over quarter of a million people followed his release on the tracker's website.
Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas
Lynne Cox and Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator Brian Floca. (2014). Schwartz & Wade.
The story of Elizabeth, a real-life elephant seal who made her home in the Avon River in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. When Elizabeth decides to stretch out across a two-lane road, the citizens worry she might get hurt or cause traffic accidents, so a group of volunteers tows her out to sea. But Elizabeth swims all the way back to Christchurch. The volunteers catch her again and again – each time towing her farther, even hundreds of miles away – but, still, Elizabeth finds her way back home. Includes back matter with information about elephant seals.
To find out more about the book, please see the following news item.
Child of Aotearoa
Melanie Drewery, author and illustrator. (2004). Raupo Publishing (NZ) Ltd.
Melanie Drewery spins a magical tale, weaving together the ties from the past that bind us all to this land called Aotearoa. Across the years we have all formed links and connections to the land we call home and no matter where we are in the world we will always feel that pull back to this special place. Link to NZ Book Council author biography can be found here.
Nanny Mihi and the Bellbird
Melanie Drewery and Illustrator Tracy Duncan. (2018). Oratia Publishing.
Every school holidays the kids go and stay with their nanny in her house by the sea. One morning Nanny Mihi gets the kids up early and they sit on the porch whistling a song until the sun comes up. Then they find out why –a bellbird appears and joins in the song. Whenever they come to stay after that, the bellbird is there to whistle the kids' song. But in spring, there is no bellbird! What has happened? Nanny Mihi and the Bellbird is a charming story about love for family and nature. Link to publishers website here which includes a factsheet for the classroom here. Link to NZ Book Council author biography can be found here.
Nanny Mihi's garden
Melanie Drewery and Illustrator Tracy Duncan. (2002). Raupo Publishing (NZ) Ltd.
For young readers this is another story about the grandchildren visiting Nanny Mihi for the holidays. Together they plant a garden, but the hungry chickens and snails are keeping a watchful eye and it's just a matter of time before havoc breaks loose. Link to NZ Book Council author biography found here.
Melanie Drewery and Illustrator Bruce Potter. (2016). Penguin.
"Tonight we have to go to bed really early" said Mum. "Tomorrow morning we are going to have a surprise." But what event would be so special to get you up in the middle of a cold New Zealand winter? Matariki is rising and the New Year is on its way. Publisher's website can be found here and link to NZ Book Council author biography can be found here.
Te Huihui o Matariki / The Seven Stars of Matariki
Toni Rolleston-Cummins as the Seven Stars of Matariki, translated into te reo Māori by Hone Morris. (2008). Huia.
An adventurous young man called Mitai lives with his seven handsome brothers in the village of Maketu. He watches his brothers become bewitched by seven beautiful women. Realising the women are patupaiarehe, fairy women, he knows they must be cast far away. They are given to Urutengangana, the god of the stars, and he places the patupaiarehe in the heavens farthest from the earth. Yet once a year, at winter solstice, he allows their beauty to shine in the eastern sky. Publishers website can be found here, along with a video made by Wellington City Libraries, in association with Huia Publishers.
Timo te Kaihī Ika / Timo and the Kingfish
Mokena Potae Reedy and illustrator Jim Byrat. (2012). Huia.
Timo sets off to catch a big fish to prove to his father and brothers that he is a real fisherman, but the adventure that he and his dog Pou have at sea is more than Timo was expecting. Timo’s fishing trip starts to unravel when he doesn’t follow the custom of throwing back the first fish caught. For the publisher’s website, visit here.
The stolen stars of Matariki
Miriama Kamo and Illustrator Zak Waipara. (2018). Scholastic NZ.
Written by television presenter, producer and journalist Miriama Kamo inspired by her upbringing. She hopes this book will not only bring happiness and uplift Matariki but also highlight issues relating to Lake Wairewa. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book is donated to the restoration of the Te Roto o Wairewa (Lake Forsyth) which features in the book. The book has been published in both English and te reo Māori, and the English version has te reo throughout. Read a review on The Reader Blog here.
Māui – Sun Catcher
Tim Tipene and Illustrated by Zak Waipara with translations by Rob Ruha. (2016). Oratia Media.
In this modern retelling of the beloved myth, Māui is a schoolboy who lives with his mother and four older brothers in a city where the day is never long enough to get things done. Māui grasps the mantle to catch the sun. The sun who’s always on the run. With their woven flax net, the brothers drive to the pit where the sun lives and make their play to slow the day. This bilingual book, in English and te reo Māori, brings Māui into the 21st century in a fun and colourful retelling. For the publisher’s website please visit here and to read a review by Constable Bryan and the library group for the Mental Health Foundation, please visit here.
Te Pā Kaha kei tō Tātou Iāri / The castle in our backyard
Malcolm Paterson and Illustrator: Leah Mulgrew. (2010). Huia.
Tui and his cousin Jennifer are much too busy playing a video game to want to visit Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill. But then Nanny Marei tells them the mountain’s got giants and fortresses, just like their game. Explore Maungakiekie with Tui and Jennifer as they travel back into its history – meeting the Goddess of Fire, Māori tribes, Chinese gardeners, Sir John Logan Campbell, and the tourists of today. For the publisher’s website, please click here.
Welcome to New Zealand: A nature journal
Sandra Morris, author and illustrator. (2015). Candlewick Press.
Kids love to be outside, but it’s easy to miss all the astounding wonders of nature, unless you look closely. Have you ever noticed that ladybugs have different numbers of spots? When you look at a leaf, what do you see: is it pointed or round, long or short, soft or hard? In this idea book, Morris shares her love for the flora and fauna of her native New Zealand and encourages budding scientists to record their own discoveries in creative ways, no matter where they live.
Birdbrain CD by Fatcat & Fishface (CD)
Fatcat & Fishface for the Department of Conservation.
Fatcat & Fishface’s cheeky style and offbeat humour have been compared to Spike Milligan, Roald Dahl and Flight of the Conchords. The CD features 13 original songs in honour of our feathered friends. Meet the smartest bird in the world (kea), the nest invading shining cuckoo, the lonely albatross at sea, dancing penguins on the ice, and the nightclub of kākāpō, morepork and kiwi. The dawn chorus will never sound the same again. The Department of Conservation education resources website can be found here and the producer’s website here.
He kanehe, he manatunatu / Wishes and worries
Sarina Dickson, illustrated by Jenny Cooper. (2015). Kotuku Creative.
This book was produced after the 2011 earthquakes in response to anxiety felt by young Canterberians. Dan is always listening for the sounds of danger. He is listening so hard that sometimes he doesn’t hear the people around him. A tree plays a part in Dan’s solution to working on his feeling of anxiety. This book is designed for 4–8 year olds to be read aloud in the classroom, and then used in conjunction with the exercises included to address mild to moderate anxiety in children. The exercises, aligned with the National Curriculum, will help children identify their worries, find ways to talk about them, and provide strategies for managing them. Publisher’s website and Mental Health Foundation review.