Over a thousand years ago, the wind, sea currents and stars brought people to the island that became known as Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud. Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story is a richly illustrated visual history of this country we call home.
This creative non-fiction story of New Zealand explores defining moments of our past, captured by celebrated children’s author Gavin Bishop. From Gondwana right through to what might happen tomorrow, this book has layers of meaning and lesser-known facts about our country.
Bishop’s storytelling starts right from the beginning of the book – the end papers and contents page form part of the journey. His huge illustrations draw the reader in, with an economical use of text to state facts. Each page is rich in history, yet each two-page spread succinctly tells that ‘segment’ of history.
While you’re drawn along a swirling eddy of history told in chronological time, Bishop has page ‘anchors’ where a specific topic is covered; think famous people, transport, and food. The final pages, where Bishop highlights some of the challenges facing us, are thought provoking and an inspiring call to action.
It’s also lovely to see Māori such a huge part of the book. Too often it is set aside in its own category, but it is interwoven throughout Aotearoa. Bishop included one of his ancestors, Te Wairua o Hinepau, the spirit of Hinepau, on each page, as well as other family members, like his parents on their honeymoon.
It is incredibly well researched and will become a well-thumbed resource in our house. Our three-year-old is learning about her pepeha and we’ve had great fun hunting for our waka and maunga within the pages. Like any good picture book, it’s perfect for adults too. I’ve found myself re-reading the pages on Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a refresher for my current tertiary study.
The only downside to Aotearoa is its sheer physical size. It is a big book. While the idea was to replicate old maps, it is a little unwieldily and awkward for little bodies to control and hard to find a bookshelf that will fit it.
This is a book both children and adults will pore over this for hours. The knowledge within it serves as a great ‘jumping off’ point, bound to inspire self-directed learning. It is a wonderful, bold and unique telling of our history that will be a treasure for years to come.
REVIEWER: Rebekah Fraser
TITLE: Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story
AUTHOR(S): Gavin Bishop