A bilingual children's book telling the story of Mauao has been named a finalist in the 2019 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

Ko Mauao te Maunga: Legend of Mauao is the sixth bilingual book for children by Tauranga author and indie publisher Debbie McCauley and illustrator Debbie Tipuna.

A legend of heartbreak and compassion, the story of the sacred mountain reveals the connections between Māori myth, landscape and history.

The book is one of the finalists in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.


In 2015 McCauley won the best non-fiction category in the Elsie Locke Non-Fiction Award for her book Mōtītī Blue and the Oil Spill: A Story from the Rena Disaster.

Tipuna has illustrated several books for children in her lively, vibrant style and finds much of her artistic inspiration at the Opopoti Marae, a short walk from her home.

But the pair did not bring this book together alone and the text was translated to Māori by Tamati Waaka (Ngāti Pūkeko, Te Whānau ā Apanui, Tūhoe).

Waaka, a certified interpreter and translator, has a background in Māori radio, television and kapa haka.

That team included designer Sarah Elworthy and kaumātua of Ngāi Tamarāwaho hapū, Des Tata.

Ko Mauao te Maunga: Legend of Mauao went beyond storytelling and includes a glossary and pronunciation guide, Mauao facts, a Mauao timeline, maps, important places on Mauao, activities for children, karakia, waiata and whakatauki.

The concept of creating a picture book for children started in 2012 when McCauley wrote a version to use during school visits to the library.

It has been supported by kaumātua from Tauranga Moana iwi; Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Pūkenga.


Awards in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are made in six categories: picture book, junior fiction, young adult fiction, non-fiction, illustration, and te reo Māori.