Of Bush and Birds: New Zealand As 'fairyland'

Where: Te Ahumairangi Ground Floor, National Library, cnr Molesworth & Aitken Streets, Thorndon, Wellington

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Admission: Free

Listed by: Joan McCracken

The Dorothy Neal White Collection is a research collection of children’s books that were enjoyed by young New Zealanders before 1940. The Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection support the work of this and other children’s literature collections held in the National Library of New Zealand.

A gold coin donation from non-members is appreciated.

Celebrate with us and hear from Kay Hancock
Join the Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection for festive drinks and nibbles, followed by a talk from Kay Hancock, on her research into New Zealand picture books of the 1940s and 1950s. Kay will share her discoveries of stories of a 'fairyland' New Zealand, populated with creatures of the bush, both real and imagined.

How where New Zealand children portrayed in picture books prior to the 1960s?
Kay’s investigation of mid-twentieth century New Zealand picture books arose as an offshoot of her doctoral research into the Ready to Read instructional reading series.
Supported by a research grant from the Friends of the Dorothy Neal White collection, Kay wanted to find out how New Zealand children had been portrayed in picture books prior to the 1960s.
Her investigation revealed that very few of these books in fact include New Zealand children as characters. Instead the books are overwhelmingly focused on the natural world of New Zealand, in particular, the creatures of the New Zealand bush.
Gilderdale (1982) had recognised the earnest desire within New Zealand writing “to tell children about the Maoris, the settlers, the bush, the native birds, and the hazards of rising tides and fast-swelling rivers”.

Bush and birds
'Bush and birds' are indeed key features of picture books of this period. Information about the natural world is woven into the fantastical adventures of birds, insects, and 'flower fairies' in a New Zealand 'fairyland', often accompanied by detailed, engaging illustrations. Kay will describe some of the more intriguing examples.

About the speaker
Kay Hancock is a literacy consultant and a children’s literature researcher.
Her background is in primary school teaching and educational publishing, in particular the development of early reading materials for New Zealand students.
She has recently completed her doctoral thesis, which explores the Ready to Read instructional reading series 1963-1988 as New Zealand children’s literature.

Image: Frontispiece and title page of Richard Bird in the bush by Mollie Miller Atkinson (Reed, 1944)

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