Wednesday, 22 July 2015

New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2015



Waitangi Day: The New Zealand Story

Children chose Philippa Werry’s book Waitangi Day: The New Zealand Story as a finalist on the Children’s Choice list. Her book Anzac Day was a finalist in the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards, and she is an experienced writer of both fiction and non-fiction for children.

Philippa lives in Wellington, and is a full-time writer. We asked her a few questions about her inspiration.
 Note: These questions were written by Sarah Forster Booksellers NZ

1.       How did the concept for Waitangi Day grow into a solid idea for you?

 It started off as a pretty scary idea, actually. Waitangi Day felt like a very big and challenging topic to take on. But then I started to read up on it, and I came across some fascinating stories, like the 1934 celebrations when the Governor-General, Lord Bledisloe, bought the Treaty House and gifted it to the nation. (He's the same person who also donated the Bledisloe Cup, by the way.) This was a huge event – thousands of people went to Waitangi – and I couldn't believe I'd never heard about it before. I also tried to keep in my head the distinction between Waitangi Day and the Treaty of Waitangi, which is an even bigger topic and one I didn't feel qualified to write about. The fact that I was writing about the history of Waitangi Day, not about the Treaty itself (which is why we didn't include the text of the Treaty because there are plenty of other places you can access that), helped me to get a focus on the material. But at the same time, I think finding out about the history of Waitangi Day does help you to understand a lot of Treaty issues more clearly. 

2.            What were the main resources you used to do your research? Which of these shaped the book the most?

I did a lot of reading – books, reports, old journals and newspapers - both in libraries and online, going off on all sorts of tangents, and I got lots of help from librarians and archivists and other people who were very generous with their time and knowledge. But going up to visit Waitangi was a big part of the research process. I'd been there two or three times before, but not for some years, and everything I'd been reading about suddenly made so much more sense when I was actually there. I also visited some places I'd never been to before, like Oihi Bay, which is an amazing and beautiful place.
Oihi Bay (photographer unknown)


3.            How did you tailor this book to the age-group it reaches?

Like the Anzac Day book, we wanted this one to be filled with lots of colourful and evocative images: photos, paintings, diaries, newspaper advertisements, stamps, maps, cartoons. Finding those and getting permission to use them took a long time, but it was worth it because I think the images make a big difference to the book. I also tried to find stories about people and events that were vivid and unusual, like Charles Kingsford-Smith taking people on joyrides up to Waitangi for the 1934 Treaty House celebrations,  or the "Stevie and Peewee" TV advertising campaign in 1990.

4.            Who have you dedicated this book to, and why?

I didn't put a written dedication in the book; it seemed like a very big topic to dedicate to one person. Writing the book had a big impact on me personally , it was very hard but very rewarding, and it prompted me to start learning te reo, partly because I wanted to be able to start my school visits with a mihi or pepeha. So I ended up spending a lot of time thinking about my family background (for the pepeha), and in my head I think that the book is dedicated to our tupuna, our ancestors. 

5.            Can you recommend any books for children/young adults who love this book?

Yes! I came across some great books set around the time of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, in particular Fleur Beale's  Mission girl, Anne De Roo's Jacky Nobody, Diana Menefy's Shadow of the Boyd and Paula Morris' Hene and the Burning Harbour.

6.            What is your favourite thing to do when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?

I like to clear my head (and get new ideas) by swimming or going for walks, and I like doing cryptic crosswords because they are all about using words in funny and unexpected  ways.

Philippa and Fleur Beale (see her interview on this Book Tour  by going to the search box) at one of their many book launches (whose was it?) in 2008

Check out Philippa Werry’s website for more information about her:

Philippa also blogs about children’s war-themed books:

And she has her own blog about her work:


This is the final day of the New Zealand Book Awards Children’s Choice Blog Tour, and we hope that you have enjoyed following us along the trail and learning a lot more about the authors in the meantime. NZ Booksellers will do a round-up of all of the bits of information we have found out from the authors, over on their blog tomorrow, Thursday 23 July. If you are going to vote for these awards, please remember to do so, before Friday 31 July at  or use the image below.

Sarah Forster NZ Booksellers 

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