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Fantastic Blue Moa Oversees Latest Reed Gallery Exhibition

Fantastic Blue Moa Oversees Latest Reed Gallery Exhibition

Dunedin, 12 March 2014 – Representations of the flora and fauna of a new land are one of the striking aspects of New Zealand children’s literature explored in the latest Reed Gallery exhibition at the Dunedin City Library.

The exhibition, which opens next week, showcases a wonderful array of stories, illustrations and book covers from the Library’s collection of pre-1960s books for children. In a nod to these often fantastical images, a large, blue, decorative moa on the wall will be watching over the exhibition.

Heritage Librarian Lorraine Johnston says Tales From a Long, Bright Land: Books for New Zealand Children Before 1960 explores the evolution of children’s literature from the earliest days of settlement, when literature was dominated by stories from ‘home’ that bore little relation to life in the southern hemisphere.

Initially, and for many decades to follow, the only reading material available to young New Zealanders were tales set in landscapes far removed from their own, both geographically and culturally. Publishing was difficult for New Zealand writers because the smaller population meant limited print runs, and the outbreak of World War I did little to ease the problem. Writers in New Zealand often started out writing for magazines, and had to avoid stories with an overly New Zealand focus, to ensure they appealed to overseas publishers.

Over time there was an increasing appetite among publishers in this country for adapting stories to appeal to the New Zealand market. Stories by Edith Howes are an example, where tales from ‘home’ were mixed with Maori legend and ideas unique to the New Zealand experience.

By the 1960s, New Zealand’s literature for children had firmly established its own identity, as can be seen in the ‘George and Albert’ stories of Yvonne Adams, featuring cigar-smoking cats swigging from bottles (we hope its ginger beer?!) at familiar New Zealand scenic spots.

Among the many examples of children’s literature on display are early drawings by Frances Hodgkins, created for the New Zealand Illustrated Magazine in 1900.

Tales From a Long, Bright Land opens on 21 March and runs until 15 June.


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