The best books by New Zealand authors to read at your centre

A teacher reading a group of young children seated n the floor.

Consider adding these eight books by New Zealand authors to your centre’s collection. 

Running a childcare centre in New Zealand, you’re likely always looking for ways to teach your tamariki about Kiwi culture and values. What better way to do so than by introducing them to books by New Zealand authors that showcase the country’s heritage and traditions? Here are some of the best books by New Zealand authors that your centre can consider adding to its library. 

The Kuia and the Spider (Patricia Grace)

In this beloved Māori folktale, a kuia (elderly woman) helps a spider in need. The spider repays the kindness by teaching the kuia how to weave beautiful patterns. This charming story is beautifully illustrated and introduces children to the art of weaving and the Māori culture’s values of respect for elders and kindness towards animals. 

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy (Lynley Dodd)

One of the most beloved children’s books in New Zealand, this classic tale follows the adventures of Hairy Maclary and his friends as they explore their neighbourhood. The playful rhymes and whimsical illustrations capture the joy and energy of childhood, and the story is perfect for teaching young children about friendship and community. 

Te Poti Rō Pōtae: The Cat in the Hat Comes Back—by Dr. Seuss (translated by Ngamaru Raerino)

This new version of Te Poti Rō Pōtae is a Te Reo Mōari translation of Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat, a beloved children’s book. There is no bilingual edition available as it is entirely written in Te Reo Māori on both the front cover and inside. Ngamaru Raerino, a Māori language lecturer at Auckland University of Technology and a TVNZ Māori language consultant, recently translated the story. When translating, he focused on keeping the same pace and whimsical sense of “fun” as the original. Te Poti Rō Pōtae follows the same structure as the classic English edition and features the same black, blue and red illustrations. 

A mother reads a book with three children, with one child sitting in her lap

Whale Rider (Witi Ihimaera)

This is the story of a young Māori girl named Kahu, who dreams of becoming the chief of her tribe. But her grandfather, the current chief, refuses to consider a female successor. Kahu must prove herself and show her tribe that gender doesn’t matter when it comes to leadership. The book is a powerful tale of perseverance, courage and the importance of respecting traditions while also challenging them. 

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch (Ronda Armitage)

Set in a small fishing village in New Zealand, this charming picture book tells the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who work hard to keep their community fed. When the local seagulls begin to steal their lunches, the couple hatches a clever plan to outsmart the birds. The book is perfect for teaching young children about problem-solving and the importance of community. 

Aroha’s Way (Craig Philips)

This bestselling picture book explores how to manage uncomfortable emotions, including fear, apprehension, worrying thoughts and nervousness. In this book, children learn about the feelings that come with anxiety and how to deal with them in a healthy way. For each emotion, Aroha shows children a tool she uses, such as exercising or moving. The book teaches that you can get rid of anxiety by breathing into your belly, being mindful and spending time with others. Children can use this book to normalise, understand and even develop their own coping skills. 

A smiling father reads a book with his young son and daugher

The Wonky Donkey (Craig Smith)

A hilarious and silly picture book that will have both children and adults laughing out loud. The book follows a donkey with a rather unique physical attribute and the many other animals he meets along the way. The rhymes and illustrations are delightful, and the story is perfect for teaching children about humour and the joy of being a little bit different. 

Marmaduke Duck and Bernadette Bear (Juliette Maclver)

The children’s book “Marmaduke Duck and Bernadette Bear” tells the story of a duck and her beloved marmalade shop, which was visited by creatures from all over the world to taste her masterful marmalade jam. However, when Bernadette Bear opens a honey store next door, it causes Marmaduke Duck’s customers to flock to the new store instead. Eventually, Marmaduke Duck is forced to close her shop and trudges away in sadness. But when a wild bull destroys Bernadette’s honey boutique, Mama Duke realises that sharing is better than competing, and the two decide to build a new shop together. The story ends with Mama Duke and Bernadette becoming friends and opening a one-stop Sticky Licky Sweet Treat Shop on top of Holly Hawk Hill. 

The examples above are just a few of the fantastic books by New Zealand authors that your childcare centre can consider for its library. Whether you’re looking to teach children about the Māori culture, the importance of community or the power of literature, there’s a book out there that can help. 

Be sure to use a teacher app, like Playground, to share the books you’re reading at your centre with families so they can continue discussions about the material at home.

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Zeus Martinez

Marketing Content Specialist

Wordsmith and storyteller at heart. Writing professionally since 2005. Living and breathing in the childcare education sector as a marketing copywriter for Discover by Xplor.

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