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  • Published: 2 October 2017
  • ISBN: 9780143770350
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 64
  • RRP: $40.00


The New Zealand Story

Discover the story of New Zealand through this multiple-award-winning, richly illustrated visual history by Gavin Bishop.

Over a thousand years ago, the wind, sea currents and stars brought people to the islands that became known as Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud.

Navigate your way through this sumptuously illustrated story of New Zealand. Explore the defining moments of our history, captured by celebrated children's book creator Gavin Bishop, from the Big Bang right through to what might happen tomorrow. Discover Maori legends, layers of meaning and lesser-known facts.

A truly special book, Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story deserves a space on every bookshelf, to be taken off and pored over, thumbed and treasured, time and again.

Margaret Mahy Book of the Year,
New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2018
Elsie Locke Award for Non-fiction,
New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2018
Storylines Notable Non-Fiction Award 2018
Best Children's Book, PANZ Book Design Awards 2018
NZ Listener 50 Best Books for Kids 2017
The Sapling Best Books List 2017

  • Published: 2 October 2017
  • ISBN: 9780143770350
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 64
  • RRP: $40.00

About the author

Gavin Bishop

Gavin Bishop (Tainui, Ngāti Awa) is a highly acclaimed children’s book author and illustrator of more than 70 books, whose work ranges from original stories to retellings of Māori myths, European fairy stories, and nursery rhymes.

Born in Invercargill, he spent his childhood in the remote railway settlement of Kingston on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Studying under Russell Clark and Rudi Gopas, Gavin graduated from the Canterbury University School of Fine Arts with an honours degree in painting. He taught art at Linwood High School and at Christ’s College in Christchurch.

Among the numerous fellowships and national book prizes that have been awarded to Gavin throughout his career, highlights are his Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement - Non-fiction in 2019; his Te Waka Toi Ngā Tohu ā Tā Kingi Ihaka/Sir Kingi Ihaka Award in 2018 recognising lifetime contribution to strengthening Māori art and culture through his children’s books; The Arts Foundation’s Mallinson Rendel Illustrators Award in 2013; and the 2000 Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal for lifetime achievement and his distinguished contribution to children’s literature in New Zealand. Gavin was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2013, and President of Honour of the NZ Society of Authors.

He has won the supreme Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award a record five times - and most recently in 2022 with his ATUA: Māori Gods and Heroes, which also won the Elsie Locke Award for Non-fiction and the Russell Clark Award for Illustration. It was described as "an instant classic, a ‘must have’ for every Kiwi household and library" and “much more than a list of gods and legendary heroes – it’s a family tree, presented with power and simplicity. The text is never overstated, with the glory of the illustrations as the primary mode of storytelling, rewarding the reader who closely examines them.”

In 2018, his pictorial history through maps, Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story, won the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award and the Elsie Locke Award for Non-fiction at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The judges praised it as being ‘masterful in its execution – a work of art that bears repeated and thoughtful viewing and reading of its vibrant and informative illustrations. It is also a book of enduring significance in the canon of New Zealand children’s literature – a landmark title which will stand the test of time.’ That same year, Aotearoa won a Storylines Notable Non-Fiction Award and Best Children’s Book at the PANZ Design Awards.

A companion volume, Wildlife of Aotearoa, was published in 2019. It won NZ Booklovers Best Children's Book Award and a Storylines Notable Non-fiction Award in 2020 and in 2022 was made an IBBY Honour Book for the quality of its illustrations.

In 2008 Snake and Lizard won both the Book of the Year Award and the Junior Fiction Award. It was written by the beloved author Joy Cowley and with the series of books that followed, was one of Gavin Bishop's most successful author-illustrator partnerships.

In 2003 Weaving Earth and Sky, a collaboration with writer Robert Sullivan, won the Book of the Year as well as the Best Non-fiction awards and was shortlisted for the LIANZA Elsie Locke Medal.

Gavin has won the LIANZA Russell Clark Medal for Illustration four times: Mrs McGinty and the Bizarre Plant (1981); Kiwi Moon (2006); Rats! (2008); and There was a Crooked Man (2010). The judges of the 2006 Russell Clark Award said, ‘Kiwi Moon has all the appeal and promise of a future folktale classic. It is an outstanding example of how text and illustrations can be interwoven to produce a marvellous whole.’

Other award-winning titles include: Mrs McGinty and the Bizarre Plant (Russell Clark Medal 1981); The Year of the Yelvertons (illustrator; the 1981 Esther Glen Medal); Mr Fox (Noma Concours 1984 Grand Prize); Hinepau (New Zealand Picture Book of the Year 1993); The House that Jack Built (Book of the Year and Best Picture Book at the 2000 NZ Post Book Awards); Friends: Snake and Lizard (with Joy Cowley, Children’s Choice Junior Fiction, 2010 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards); and Mister Whistler (written by Margaret Mahy, winning Best Picture Book at the 2013 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards).

Books that have been shortlisted for the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards include: Stay Awake, Bear! in 2000; Tom Thumb in 2001 (picture book category); Taming the Sun in 2005 (also a finalist for the Russell Clark Award in 2005); Riding the Waves in 2007; Rats! in 2008; Piano Rock in 2009 (which won the 2009 PANZ Book Design Award in the children’s category); and Cowshed Christmas in 2010.

Many of Gavin’s works have been listed as Storylines Notable Books, most recently Atua: Māori Gods and Heroes in 2022, Wildlife of Aotearoa in 2020; Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story in 2018; also Tom Thumb (2002); The Three Billy Goats Gruff (2004); Taming the Sun: Four Maori Myths (2005); Kiwi Moon (2006); The Waka (2006); Te Waka (2006); Riding the Waves: Four Maori Myths (2007); Snake & Lizard (2008); Rats! (2008); Piano Rock: A 1950s Childhood (2009); There Was a Crooked Man (2010); Cowshed Christmas (2010); Friends: Snake & Lizard (2010); Counting the Stars: Four Māori Myths (2010); and Teddy One Eye: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear (2015).

Gavin’s artwork has featured in exhibitions internationally, including Japan and Czechoslovakia. He has written and designed two ballets for the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company: Terrible Tom and Te Maia and the Sea Devil. In 2003 he shared the Ursula Bethell Residency with Catherine Chidgey.

The Storylines Gavin Bishop Award for Picture Book Illustration was established in 2009 to encourage emergent illustrators and to acknowledge Gavin’s contribution to the writing and illustrating of children’s picture books.

Gavin lives and works in Christchurch, New Zealand. See more about him and his work at www.gavinbishop.com.

Also by Gavin Bishop

See all

Praise for Aotearoa

a tour de force . . . every page is a treasure box.

Kate De Goldi, Saturday Morning with Kim Hill

Like all great picture books, it’s a book for adults too; one to read with tamariki. It’s a work of tremendous research and wisdom. ... Aotearoa is a history of us, right now, where we stand and just how far we’ve come. It’s a history which introduces our kids to important issues to look back on as they step into the future. Everyone should read it with their kids. It’ll send them leaping off on their own voyages of discovery.

Donovan Bixley, Weekend Herald / The Sapling

A monumental achievement, this, to sum up our history in 65 pages. Bishop has laid this out in a kid-friendly format that effortlessly integrates te reo, and his attention to detail is mindboggling. The wide-ranging scope includes cyber-bullying, the homeless … and baristas. My pick for NZ book of the year – make that the decade.

Ann Packer, NZ Listener

Wow! A book for the ages— literally. Aotearoa’s social history is charted here from Kupe through settlement, wars, social upheaval, Kate Sheppard, Edmund Hillary and Lorde. With neat sketches looking at the food we ate, the way we dressed, what we fought over and what we’ve become, this fantastic study of NZ society has a talking point on every page. There’s a place for this on every bookshelf. The coolest kids’ book I’ve seen all year.

Winston Aldworth, Weekend Herald

One of the kaumatua of Kiwi kids’ books writes and illustrates our nation’s history from Big Bang to baristas in just over 60 pages. Rooted in cosmology and myth, yet vividly contemporary (street people and online bullying), it’s rich with te reo and with Bishop’s sumptuous art. Is anyone else so good at getting grand effects into a small space, at showing the minutiae and sweep of sky, sea, shore? Stirring legends and episodes alternate with splendid trivia; one of the year’s most handsome local publishing efforts.

David Hill, Weekend Herald

A spectacular book!

Rachel Eadie, Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan Children's Book Review

This book is like a treasure house of New Zealand history with text and illustrations from one of our very best children’s authors – Gavin Bishop. Penguin Random House have produced a gorgeous hardback book (it is very big and very beautiful!) that celebrates such a wonderful labour of love through publishing care. Gavin shines a reading searchlight in all directions. History is like a prism – it has many ways of being viewed. Aotearoa should be in every home and in every school because it is a book where you can lose yourself meandering and you can discover all kinds of things. You have to peer closely into each page to find things in the words and the images. Magnificent!

Paula Green, Poetry Box

A treasure trove of history and amazing facts, adults are going to want to steal this book from the kids on Christmas Day. It tells this country’s story in short bites of text alongside big, beautiful illustrations. From how New Zealand was settled, to the wars fought on our land, times of hardship and progress, even the ways we’ve built our houses, the foods we eat and the clothes we have worn, this manages to convey an enormous amount of knowledge in a way that’s both unique and vibrant.

Nicky Pellegrino, New Zealand Woman's Weekly

This beautifully illustrated visual history of New Zealand is one of those books all homes should have. Richly textured with scenes from the beginning of Aotearoa to urban life today, it presents our country's character with a gloriously colourful, playful hand, in compelling detail. Clever, award-winning illustrator Gavin Bishop has created a classic.

AA Directions

As an adult, this book makes for a great peruse through the decades and will be fun to share with children to show them how we lived in the "old days". For children, this book is a great source of entertainment and a fount of knowledge about our great country.

Gisborne Herald

This is a book both children and adults will pore over 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.

Rebekah Fraser, Good Reads

...this is top of my list of delights! A large size with vivid illustrations from Gavin Bishop will make a perfect family gift and become one to be treasured through the years . . . in all my years of bookselling I haven’t seen a book quite like it!

Sue's Reviews, Wairarapa Times-Age Weekend

Bishop does bring a far more balanced and detailed account of our country’s past. His large-format, hard-covered book is packed with gorgeous illustrations, defining moments and lesser-known facts that will engage and fascinate for hours any child lucky enough to have it. The award-winning Christchurch writer and illustrator uses a broad-brush approach, keeps it simple, and refreshingly gives at least as much attention to the Maori story as the colonial one.

Peter Shand, Horowhenua Chronicle

...the type of book that will expand the way you think about New Zealand's past and its present; I had to prise my copy out of the hands of an enchanted adult. From Gondwanaland through to the future, the drawings under topics such as food, clothes, a land of birds and Maori land loss are so absorbing that at the end you will immediately want to go back to the beginning and start again. A children's book that adults will love.

Marianne Tremaine, Heritage NZ

An exciting large picture book for children and adults, packed full of fascinating facts and brilliant, detailed illustrations covering all aspects of Maori and Pakeha history.

Carole Beu, Ponsonby News

A richly illustrated, easy-to-follow history of New Zealand, from its prehistoric beginnings to today. More suited to older children but a wonderful gift, or addition to the bookshelf for when baby is bigger.

Little Treasures Magazine

The result is a delight, a personal vision of the history of our country in word and picture, a triumph of good design and a celebration of all those who have contributed to our national identity. Aotearoa is the book of the year, perhaps even the book of the decade. Best of all it attracts readers like a magnet. Aotearoa, with its richness of detail, has the same fascination for young readers as the Guinness Book of Records. They carry it around, reading bits out aloud. What better advertisement could there be for a book?

Trevor Agnew, Agnewreading.blogspot

Over 64 beautiful pages, Bishop explores the history of our land, beginning with a time-based structure, then moving into story pages. A must-have for every family in New Zealand.

Sarah Forster, The Sapling

Awards & recognition

New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults

Winner  •  2018  •  Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction

New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

Winner  •  2018  •  Margaret Mahy Book of the Year

PANZ Book Design Awards

Winner  •  2018  •  Scholastic New Zealand Award for Best Children's Book

Storylines Notable Non-fiction Award

Awarded  •  2018  •  A Storylines Notable Non-Fiction Book

Discover more

Top Penguin kids books that tie into the new history curriculum

Read on for book recommendations that tie into the new NZ school history curriculum

Amazing Aotearoa Competition

Be in to win the full set of Gavin Bishop's Aotearoa books!