A story of survival and grief is the latest offering from Northland author Liz Van der Laarse, her first to be published in 15 years.

Cuz is about two 14-year-old cousins forced to fend for themselves in the West Coast wilderness.

The cousins, Huia and River, rely on traditional methods of tikanga Māori methods of survival Huia has learnt from her whānau. Van der Laarse decided to write stories with Māori characters after discovering just how few were available.

Cuz not only features main characters who are Māori, but also "quite a bit" of te reo and also tikanga Māori.


"I'd like to see more te reo just in everyday use, and also to make people more aware of tikanga Māori. Those two things are important to me."

Van der Laarse, who has lived in the Far North for more than 40 years, has already written two junior fiction books - Trouble Patch and Not Even.

Both books, like Cuz, feature main characters who are Māori.

Not Even was placed on the Storylines Notable Book List in 2003 in the Junior Fiction category.

Van der Laarse has taught throughout the district, starting as a first-year teacher in Kāeo.

All her books were initially written with intermediate-age kids in mind - the age group she taught - although the characters are slightly older and her books have been read by children aged 10 to 15.

15 May, 2018 6:00am
3 minutes to read

All three of her books are written to keep kids' attention.

"I wanted to write books that were fast-paced, with lots of action. All three books are like that."

Van der Laarse was bitten by the writing bug early - she remembers a writing exercise given to her class in Form One that she enjoyed much more than her classmates.

"I had a teacher who gave us an exercise book and told us to write a novel."

The idea for her latest novel came about largely because of Van der Laarse's hobby - tramping.

"I've had over 20 years tramping experience. My husband and I go to the South Island every year, really."

When Van der Laarse's husband pointed out an edible plant on one of their tramping trips, it sparked the idea for a survival story.

Fellow Northlander Karen Hinge has also just published a children's book (her first), Of Course You Can, a bilingual picture book about a boy who uses a wheelchair starting school.