Planet Picture Book


I knew very little about Samoa before I started on this picture book journey, and even less about the picture books I might find there.

This small island nation is situated in the South Pacific about half way between Hawaii and New Zealand. It comprises the main island of Upolu, home to three quarters of the Samoan population, Savai’i and four smaller islands. According to the Samoa Bureau of Statistics, Samoa is currently (2017) home to some 196,315 people.

Early on in my search for picture books from Samoa, I happened on this wonderful resource for Pasifika stories: The NZ Pacific Picture Book Collection. The site was created in 2011-2012 by Nicola Daly, Senior Lecturer at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, and Marion McKoy, a primary school teacher.  One of the key aims of the project was “to make the limited number of books representing Pasifika stories and knowledge easily accessible to classroom teachers …” but, of course, you don’t need to be a classroom teacher to access the wealth of information they have made available online.

I eagerly noted about ten picture book titles for Samoa of which five were particularly appealing. The real challenge lay in trying to find my own copies for purchase. Many of the books listed in the Pacific Picture Book Collection are at least ten years old; as a result, titles are out of print, or only available from specialist booksellers. My copy of The Magic Seashell by Samoan-born writer, playwright and documentary film director Makerita Urale came all the way from the UK. I have been fortunate to receive another title Fiapule by New Zealand children’s author Catherine Hannken on interlibrary loan from Blacktown library, NSW. Thanks to the wonderful team at Lake Macquarie libraries for your detective work in tracking down this picture book for me!

For additional titles featuring Samoa, or other Pasifika stories, I highly recommend the The NZ Pacific Picture Book Collection as a starting point. You may have more luck than I did at finding the titles featured on the site. Additionally, if you are interested in stories documenting the daily life of children in six different Pacific islands in text and photographs, the Children of the Pacific series by Jill McGregor looks fabulous.

I have two titles to share with you on our stopover in Samoa. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

The Magic Seashell, by Makerita Urale, illustrated by Samuel Sakaria (Steele Roberts Ltd for the Pacific Education Resources Trust, 1999)

Fiapule, by Catherine Hannken, illustrated by Trish Bowles (Mallinson Rendel Publishers Ltd, 2007)

If you have recommendations for more recent titles by Samoan authors, or picture books featuring Samoan life and/or culture, I’d love to hear from you.

[Image: Tropical Paradise Beauty in Nature; source:]

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