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Drawings by Nancy Parker.

Cardcover. 48 pages. Fifth edition 1958. Good second-hand condition.

The Book of Wiremu is exceptional. It is a good story, a children's book that is a children's book, and a New Zealand book that is New Zealand. Would it be rash for a reviewer to suggest that here we have a New Zealand child's classic?

It tells of a small Maori boy, Wiremu, who lived in a whare with his Uncle Hori; of their peaceful day-to-day life, highlighted by planting kumera, catching a large trout (which a visiting sportsman buys for fishy evidence), and by riding off to collect flour and sugar (and bringing back instead lobster, yellow satin and pink-iced cake); also of young pakeha Antony, town-bred and spoilt, who plays with Wiremu, copies his games and his attitudes and becomes more aware, more spontaneous, and much more pleasant. The story ... is subtle, humorous, amazing vivid and yet as familiar as a cup of tea.

The book isn't consciously "indigenous", patched with local colour but as satisfyingly native to the place as manuka, and as good to look at. The artist, Nancy Parker, by getting the feeling of the book so successfully, has shown herself an excellent illustrator - sensitive and exact in detail without loss in design.

Wiremu almost looks as though it may do the impossible. It should satisfy children between the ages of seven and 12 who like a good story; it should satisfy those who like good craftsmanship in prose and book-production. And it may do another useful job by giving the pakeha children some understanding of Maori life and a necessary knowledge of those Maori words which should be part of the ABC of language for every New Zealand child.

Please see our other listings for more books.
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  • Seller location: Gisborne, Gisborne, NZ

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