A series of children's books is bringing Wairarapa history, places and animals to life.

Kiwi, taniwha, butterflies and hawks are just some of the creatures inhabiting a new collection of bilingual books produced by Rangitane o Wairarapa.

The books, written by Joseph Potangaroa and illustrated by Mikis van Geffen, were commissioned by the Ministry of Education and will be provided to all the early childhood centres in the area.

They will also be for sale at Aratoi and Pukaha Mount Bruce, with proceeds being retained by each organisation.


The stories feature familiar places and characters such as Castlepoint, Lake Ferry and Double Bridges, and Pukaha's celebrity kiwi, Manukura.

Potangaroa said incorporating Wairarapa stories and locations into early childhood education was important.

"They are largely based on local people and stories ... local people will recognise what's in the photos, and that's part of it too, those places are kind of special to Rangitane - but you can't do a big long blurb to teach a child about that.

"But if they pick up on a word, or a Maori word that is new, then they learn a bit about the place."

Some of the books are written mainly in English with te reo words incorporated, but there are also full te reo versions available.

The books are targeted at children under five, but the te reo versions may also be suited to older children and teachers.

Translation was done by Astee Karaitiana and Mike Kawana.

Potangaroa has written several books about history and the environment, but this is his first serious foray into writing children's books.


Writing for children was an opportunity to present traditional and more conceptual stories in a creative way, Potangaroa said.

"You can take some bit of history or something that you want to share for people to learn but you can do it in a more fun, visually appealing way.

"You can't sort of blab on in paragraphs to try and teach a child but you can produce these things they understand."

His passion for history began in childhood.

"I've had an interest in history since I was little and was taken places with my dad and I was lucky enough to spend time with kaumatua - so seeing all this stuff and all these places is something that would be quite neat to pass on - old traditions and things."

When not writing, Potangaroa can be found pursuing his other passion - researching the lifecycle of the longfin eel.