Oturu School principal and new author Fraser Smith hopes young people around the country, but particularly Maori boys, will develop a love for reading from his debut children's book.

Mr Smith officially launched the book - Awatea's Treasure, on Huia Books - at Kaitaia's Marston Moor bookshop last Thursday, with more than 100 people, including many of the school's pupils, staff and parents, turning up.

He said the book is essentially about a boy's adventures in rural New Zealand and on the coast in the 1960s, well before the advent of cell phones, computers, WiFi and gaming consoles.

Mr Smith said he wanted to share his stories of growing up in the great outdoors with today's children who may have never experienced it.


It was while on sabbatical that he wrote the book - and re-wrote it many times until it was ready for publication. Some of the re-writes came after his manuscript was rejected by some publishers.

"This book grew from stories told to children in classrooms and on camps. It began around a campfire on a remote rocky shore on a school camp in the Far North with a class of year five and six students as a bedtime story," Mr Smith said.

"I was careful not to make it too frightening or the kids wouldn't go to sleep in their tents under the pohutukawa trees. The next night, the kids reminded me of the story from the night before and asked me to tell them what happened next."

He said as a principal he often struggled to find material suitable for rural Maori children, and boys especially so decided to do something about it.

"These stories suit reading aloud. There are ghost stories, humour and adventure. It's warm and spiritual and at times chilling," Mr Smith said.

"These stories have been shaped with children and have been told and read to children from many schools."

He said judging from the feedback he had received from other teachers 1960s' outdoor life was a captivating topic.

Huia Publishing executive director Brian Morris - himself an ex-principal - said the book was already proving a hit with primary and intermediate aged readers, especially boys.


Mr Morris said it was not easy to get a book published in New Zealand, but Awatea's Treasure stood out and it was great to be able to publish it.

He said Mr Smith already had several more books in the pipeline.