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  • Published: 31 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143775690
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 64
  • RRP: $40.00


Māori Gods and Heroes

Gavin Bishop's stunning, once-in-a-generation compendium introduces readers to the pantheon of Māori gods, demigods and heroes, and explores Aotearoa's most exciting legends from the Creation to the Migration.

Meet the gods, demigods and heroes of the Māori people of Aotearoa in this breathtaking, large-scale illustrated book for children.

Margaret Mahy Book of the Year 2022
Elsie Locke Award for Non-fiction 2022
Russell Clark Award for Illustration 2022

Before the beginning there was nothing.
No sound, no air, no colour – nothing.
No one knows how long this nothing lasted because there was no time.
However, in this great nothing there was a sense of waiting.
Something was about to happen.

Meet the gods, demigods and heroes of the Māori world, and explore Aotearoa’s exciting legends from the Creation to the Migration. Fascinating, beautiful and informative, this once-in-a-generation compendium deserves a place on every bookshelf.

  • Published: 31 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143775690
  • 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

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Praise for Atua

Atua is Bishop’s best ever, which is saying something for a guy who’s put out more than 60 books...But what’s really exciting about Atua, and about this point in Bishop’s career, is the energy – each page practically crackles with it, and you put the book down knowing there just have to be more, so many more beautiful stories to come.

Catherine Woulfe, The Spinoff

Bishop's gorgeous illustrations are the true heroes here, with a dreamy quality that breathes fresh life into stories that deserve this retelling on such a grand stage.

Joanna Wane, Weekend Herald - Canvas

[A] splendid cloak of knowledge, to be worn proudly by any New Zealander

Trevor Agnew, agnewreading.blogspot.com

With gatefold spreads and extraordinary artwork, the stories build our knowledge of te ao Maori whilst also being entertaining, with a big dose of humour and poetry. A treasure for the whole family to share. Reading aloud recommended.

Crissi Blair, Family Times

Gavin Bishop’s Atua: Maori Gods and Heroes is one of those special books I imagine the author has germinated and carried for a long time...The book is a treasure house, a gift, a kete stocked with an abundance of knowledge and wisdom in both the narrative and the artwork. ...I picture this book in the arms of a parent as they read to youngsters, as teachers hold it up to a class. It is a book of Maori gods but it is also a handbook for life. How to be kind to earth, how to be kind to ourselves, and to those near us. I am reminded how stories have resonant, necessary and enduring power, and can be sung, whispered or rendered in paint. How we pass stories along, and as Gavin suggests, adding this and that. I hold this book out to you, hoping you will hold it out to someone else, young or old. It has earned a place upon our shelves of book taonga.

Paula Green, Poetry Box

...a wonderful keepsake book for both families and educators alike...Highly recommended.

Sue's Reviews, Wairarapa Times-Age

This book sits perfectly alongside the new Histories Document. It is a collection of te ao Maori myth and legend and covers all the stories that underpin tikanga. Gavin includes the tales we all know and introduces us to the Atua wahine whose stories we may never have learned of before. Interwoven in the stories are many facts to support the reader to develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between tikanga, science and the environment...Highly recommended.

Leanne Nathan, Clendon Park School, The School Library, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura

For every whanau and whare. Like Peter Gossage’s retellings of the exploits of Maui, or Stacey Morrison’s My First Words in Maori, Atua is an essential book that happens to be targeted at tamariki - But should actually be grabbed and cherished and learned from by everyone who lives in Aotearoa.

Sarah Forster, Newsroom

Atua tells the tale of Aotearoa's creation in a wondrous pukapuka (book of purakau (myth). Extraordinary illustrations punctuate each korero (story), a glossary is dotted throughout, to grow your knowledge of te reo kupu (words) and facts. A companion in style and size to Aotearoa, Atua is a must for every bookshelf.

Jenna Todd, The Dominion Post Weekend

This story begins slowly with nothing but darkness. It was a brilliant beginning, capturing my interest immediately. Without looking through it, I had imagined this book to show Maori gods and heroes in a kind of list format, introducing them to non Maori like myself. I was really looking forward to learning more about them. Beginning to read, I quickly realised ATUA: Maori Gods and Heroes was so much more than that, following a family tree of gods through their lives in a true story format. Each page not only only follows their growth and journey, it has snippets of information about Maori life, tools, customs, clothing and much more. I learnt about wildlife, navigation skills, and the meaning of Maori sayings and words, all the while as a story was told in a way that I could make connections to the world around me. Why do earthquakes happen? Why do men have an Adam’s apple? Where did sandflies come from?

What Book Next?

Awards & recognition

New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

Winner  •  2022  •  Elsie Locke Award for Non-fiction

New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

Winner  •  2022  •  Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award

New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

Winner  •  2022  •  Russell Clark Award for Illustration

Storylines Notable Book Award

Awarded  •  2022  •  A Storylines Notable Non-Fiction Book

New Zealand Booklovers Awards

Finalist  •  2022  •  NZ Booklovers Best Children's Book Award

Discover more

Atua by Gavin Bishop

Gavin Bishop's stunning illustrated book for children introduces readers to the pantheon of Maori gods, demigods, and heroes, and explores Aotearoa's most exciting legends from the Creation to the Migration. Learn more here: https://www.penguin.co.nz/books/atua-9780143775690

Teachers' notes