In keeping with my travel through Aotearoa this week I thought I would share this Legend told in picture book with you…


Retold and illustrated by:  Robyn Kahukiwa

Published by:  Puffin Books   the Penquin Group  NZ

Ages:  4 – 8 years

Theme:   Legend of Courage, Traditions,

Opening line:   Paikea rode on a whale.  The whale was big and strong.

Synopsis:  (as recorded by Wheelers)  Tells the story of Paikea’s legendary journey across the sea from Hawaiki to Aotearoa. It shows how Paikea’s mystical prowess could transform him into a taniwha, a tipua or a man. The author’s version of the story of Paikea, an ancestor well-known throughout Polynesia, comes from Wiremu PoI tae, of Tokomaru Bay, who told it to William Colenso. Suggested level: junior, primary

Why I like it:  This particular book while I now believe to be out of print was originally printed back in 1994, tells the story page after page in rich maori design. Not the normal colourful pictures you would come to expect for children but rich in true patterns that would be found in costumes or mats and carvings of ancestors that one would find carved into meeting houses or maori pa’s (buildings).   This story inspired the NZ film “Whale Rider”  and if you haven’t seen it, you should. Whale Rider tells the story of a young Maori girl who wants to continue the line of her ancestors , the Paikea’s by becoming a Maori Chief, which is normally handed down through the line of men. She learns the story of the Paikea.

Robyn presents this story in short, statement like text, usually only one or two lines per page.  The illustrations in teal of the sea, orange wood colour of the carvings/faces set in black and white maori design is against a black background, tends to lend this book also for older children if interested in looking at artistic traditional designs.

Resources/Findings:   This excellent website    http://folksong.org.nz/paikea/index.html   has material for teachers, discussion topics and origins of this story and the variations of storytelling, as well as a couple of action song videos for you to see school kids performing.

This website Te Ara New Zealand Encyclopedia  is fabulous for reading up on New Zealand Maori Legends    http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/canoe-navigation/3/3/2

Here Lisa Gerrard’s  presentation of Whale Rider…   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yonNVO1vrH0&feature=related

Here are some wonderful Maori craft ideas for kids, such as drawing the coiled fern shape.  Something that is found in many Maori designs.

Lovely Maori Bookmark designs and how tos at activity village..…. http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/maori_art_bookmark.htm

For more books with resources please visit the lovely author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books.    Her blog is full of resources links and activities associated with the books reviewed by many authors.

About Diane Tulloch

Known also as the Patientdreamer I am a writer who loves to dream, and is passionate about writing stories for the young so that they may join me in the wonders of adventure in countries and cultures afar, and in special moments to remember.
This entry was posted in Aotearoa, Folklore / multicultural, Picture Book Review. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. I’m particularly intrigued by the illustrations! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  2. Joanna says:

    Super. I would love to see “Whale Rider” too. The authentic nature of the illustrations sound wonderful.

  3. Catherine Johnson says:

    Sounds great Diane and I still haven’t seen Whale Rider but I have seen interviews with the heroines.

  4. Darshana says:

    I saw the Whale Rider and loved it. Might need to find this book just to see the illustrations.

  5. Darlene says:

    This is a book I would love. I have seen the Whale Rider a number of times and have shown it in my leadership workshops for youth at risk. There are many similarities betwen the Maori and First Nations People of Canada. BTW my grandson loved Herbert the Brave Sea Dog. Your recommendations are excellent. Thanks.

  6. Wow! So you have seen it a few times, so happy about that. So happy to hear your grandson loved Herbert the Brave Sea Dog. thankyou for your kind words Darlene.
    Warning regarding this book, it is more design than story, and there are variations of the story.

  7. I love the Maori-inspired illustrations. I sure hope our library has this one!

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