Reo Pepi Board Books

  • Kitty Brown
  • Animals
  • My face
  • Kākahu. Getting Dressed
  • Kirsten Parkinson
  • Translator- n/a
  • Dunedin, Reo Pepi Tapui, 2015, 18pp
  • 9780473331511 (Kararehe)
  • 9780473331504 (Kānohi)
  • 9780473331528 (Kākahu)
  • Concept board books, 0-2 years (and all early language learners)

These three beautifully illustrated bilingual board books are the first series from Reo Pepi and have been written for parents wanting to bring te reo Māori (the indigenous language of New Zealand) into their home. The author and illustrator are cousins who found themselves looking for resources to connect their young children with their heritage language, and at the same time learn Māori themselves. The text for each book by Kitty Brown uses repetitive phrases all caregivers use with young children, ’Kei hea tō ihu? Where is your nose?’ (in Kākahu) and ‘Whakamaua ō tōkena. Put on your socks.’ (in Kākahu). In Kararehe the phrases follow this pattern: ‘He kurī tēnei. This is a dog’. Because each phrase is repeated eight times in each book with different nouns inserted, both reader and listener will leave the reading with the phrase firmly embedded for use in the real world.  Each phrase is presented first in larger Māori text, and underneath in smaller English text, with a pronunciation guide at the end of each book to assist. These are beautifully made board books with durable and chewable construction, including rounded edges. The pencil and watercolour illustrations by Kirsten Parkinson are just stunning, filling each page with beautiful big faces and animals who stare directly into your eyes, and we all know that eye contact is fundamental in communication.

  • Nicola Daly

The Singing Dolphin. Te Aihe i Waiata

  • The Singing Dolphin. Te Aihe i Waiata
  • Mere Whaanga
  • Translator- N/A
  • Auckland, Scholastic, 2017, 32
  • ISBN: 9781775434023
  • Myth, 4-7 years

Potiki is the youngest son of three who loved to sing. His eldest brother Tahi is good at working the land, and the second brother has skills in fishing. They never want Potiki to accompany them on their hunting and fishing trips because they said his singing will disturb them. One day Potiki hides away under the nets in their canoe and they find him and are so annoyed that they throw him into the sea. When their grandmother asks Tahi and Rua where Potiki is, they deny any knowledge, but she speaks with the whales who tell her of a new dolphin swimming in the region, and she knows the older brothers are lying. As punishment, she turns them into rocks in the Pathway of the Whales. The text tells us that occasionally on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand, a dolphin will come and play with people in the sea. Mere Whaanga’s first picturebook Te Koha a Tangarooa. Tangaroa’s gift in 1990 broke new ground, bringing Māori mythology to New Zealand children in a bilingual format, and here we have another gift from Whaanga in The Singing Dolphin. Te Aihei i Waiata, a finalist in the 2017 New Zealand Children and Young Adult Picture Book category. Whaanga not only delivers the story in both Māori and English, but also creates the accompanying beautiful ink and watercolour illustrations.



Māui- Sun Catcher

  • Tim Tipene
  • Māui-Sun Catcher
  • Zak Waipara
  • Rob Ruha
  • Auckland, Oratia Books, 2016, number of pages
  • 9780947506148
  • Myth, 2-8 years

The striking cover of Māui- Sun Catcher showing a young boy in blue super hero stockings and mask leaping upwards against a fiery yellow sun, indicates we are in for a contemporary rendition of a myth well known to most New Zealanders. Māui (yes, the same Māui as in the recent Disney film Moana) is a demigod in traditional Polynesian mythology who, among many other feats, ties ropes around the sun to slow it down and lengthen the day. But this story, in bilingual (Māori and English) text and brilliant cartoon-like illustration, shows us Māui, his mother and his brothers in a contemporary dark industrial world. Adding to the charm of this little superhero is that he speaks in rhyme, both in English and Māori, as he tries to convince his brothers to help him in his endeavours: “Taha,’ he said, “I know you have dreams, I know you have hopes. Let’s work together. Let’s make some ropes.’” Complementing the contemporary feel of the illustrations are the colloquialisms in the brothers’ speech: “‘What are you talking about, bro?’ Taha frowned, ‘We don’t have enough sunscreen for that. That sun will burn our butts.’”.  This is beautifully produced hard cover picturebook, worthy of its inclusion in the 2017 Storylines New Zealand Children’s Literature Trust Notable Book list.

  • Nicola Daly


That’s Not a Hippopotamus!

  • Juliette MacIver
  • That’s Not a Hippopotamus!
  • Sarah Davis
  • Translator (if any)- n/a
  • Wellington, Gecko Press, 2016, 30pp
  • 9781927271971
  • Rhyming picturebooks, 2-7 years


A class of children on a day-trip in a safari park with a missing hippopotamus provides a wonderful setting for this rhyming romp.  The class arrives at Don’s Safari Park and one observant child notes there is no hippopotamus listed at the gate. The park owner assures them there is a hippopotamus, but when they go down to the lake to see it, it is not there. Thus starts the hunt for the hippopotamus by the children, many of whom patently do not know what a hippopotamus looks like. Juliette MacIver’s rhyming text has perfect metre when read aloud, and comes back to the refrain from the class ‘That’s not a hippopotamus!” with balanced regularity, allowing for a young audience to join in. The detailed and humorous illustrations from Sarah Davis allow young viewers to spot the hippopotamus on the periphery of illustrations while everyone in the class except for young Liam does not see it. Underneath all the fun of the story is a theme about not following the crowd, and listening to the quiet ones. This was a well-deserved winner of the 2017 Best Picturebook Award from the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

  • Nicola Daly


Picturebook Reviews

This is a new area for 2018 where we will post picturebook reviews. I will start off with a few which I recently wrote, and I hope to encourage my 100 and 200 level children’s literature students to contribute a few more as the year progresses.