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Interview: Peter Millett talks about Moa's Ark

Moa’s Ark is based on the classic story of Noah’s Ark – but with a humorous Kiwi twist! Noah’s on the hunt for dry land for all the animals, with two impatient Moa in tow. The two pesky moa are wondering when they will be able to get off the boat. After the lions? Before the penguins? Follow Noah and the two pestering moa as they search for their ideal home. Peter Millett talks to NZ Booklovers about Moa's Ark.

What inspired you to write this book?

I read an article in the NZ Herald about what Aotearoa looked like before humans arrived. We were basically a country chock a block full of birds! I’d love to go back in a time machine and see what that looked like. This book is a celebration of the beauty of our unique flora and fauna.

What was it like adapting a classic story like this?

A light went off in my head and I decided the best way for flightless birds to arrive to NZ was via Noah’s Ark! I took it a step further and created a scenario where two perky moa were essentially asking Noah ‘Are we there yet?’ until he found the right home for them. I wanted to see some of our most famous kiwi creatures mixing and mingling with iconic African, Artic, Asian and Australian creatures. There are hundreds of kid’s books about Noah’s Ark, but this will be one of the only ones in the world with NZ animals on board.

Who is this book for?

All kiwi families. Both living in NZ and abroad. I know that many grandparents would have read the original Noah’s Ark stories when they were youngsters. This is a celebration of those famous stories along with some laid-back kiwi charm and familiar ‘down under’ scenery.

What was it like working with the illustrator?

Amazing. Shaun Yeo is a highly accomplished illustrator and a proud kiwi. He famously created the iconic crying kiwi image which touched the hearts of so many in NZ and around the world. I was thrilled to have Shaun jump on board Moa’s Ark. He has a terrific feel for this story and he is a natural born children’s illustrator. I hope he wins awards for his work in the future.

What did you enjoy the most about writing this picture book?

The late nights writing it! I was staying in a friend’s bach in Rotoiti and they had a very worn copy of Joy Cowley’s book The Mouse Bride lying around. The combination of Joy’s beautiful words and the calm beautiful quietness of the lake location sent me off on many wonderful late night writing sessions. I was able to capture the beauty of our country in my rhyming stanzas and the unique inspiration to be highly creative was unbeatable. It’s a writing experience I’ll never forget and I’m extremely grateful that it happened.

2020 marks your 20th year of being a children’s author. Name your favourite books if you dare!

Normally I dodge these questions. But the answer is very simple. The two most special books that Scholastic have produced for me are The Anzac Puppy and Moa’s Ark. I can’t believe that they have both come to fruition. So there it is, these two are my absolute most favourite books that have been published. Interestingly, both books were drafted around the same time, but published in different decades

What’s next on the agenda for you?

As a writer I’m constantly looking for sources of inspiration. I believe I have found some inspiration care of my favourite childhood writer Spike Milligan. Watch this space. Some absurd humour is being crafted in my comedy laboratory!

Moa's Ark is published by Scholastic NZ


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