LITERATURE – FICTION
Fiction for Children
There is little New Zealand writing for children. In colonial days, the stories of Jules Verne, G. A. Henty and others exploiting adventure were intended for younger as well as older readers; titles such as The Boy Settler and The Young Adventurers appear in the early lists. First to be well known as a writer for children was Edith Howes, a teacher whose stories served the double purpose of entertainment and instruction. Most are fantasies woven about a nature theme, botanical or biological. The Cradle Ship, 1916, had a sentimental popular appeal. In Maoriland Fairy Tales, 1913, she pioneered the use for children of traditional Maori lore. Not until A. H. Reed's Myths and Legends of Maoriland, 1947, were young readers again adequately served in this field. Another popular writer, Isabel Maud Peacocke, set some of her many stories in this country.
In the 1920s, Esther Glen, a journalist working for the Australian and New Zealand market, did much to encourage the writing of fiction for children; among her stories are Six Little New Zealanders, 1917, Uncles Three at Kamahi, 1926, and Robin of Maoriland, 1929. Her name has been remembered in the Esther Glen Award, given by the New Zealand Library Association for the most distinguished contribution to New Zealand literature for children published in New Zealand. That the award has been made only four times since its founding in 1945 indicates the weakness of this section of our writing. Winners are Stella Morice, The Book of Wiremu, 1945, a delightful portrayal of a small Maori boy; A. H. Reed's Myths, already mentioned; Joan Smith's The Adventures of Nimble, Rumble and Tumble, 1950, a picture book; Maurice Duggan, Falter Tom and the Water Boy, 1960. This last, a notable little book, was, like much of the good work in the field today, originally commissioned by the Department of Education, which has a fine record in fostering local talent. The School Journal and the various special school bulletins consistently print high-quality work; writers include James Baxter, Roderick Finlayson, Barry Mitcalfe, Brian Sutton-Smith, and Alistair Campbell. Campbell's The Happy Summer, 1961, is one of several stories which deal with Maori themes. Others include The Hole in the Hill, by Ruth Park, 1961; The Boys of Puhawai, 1960, by “Kim”; and Kuma is a Maori Girl, by Pat Lawson, 1961. Roderick Finlayson has written much for the School Journal, but so far has not published these stories outside the educational market. The Polynesian voyages are the subject of Rangatira, 1959, by N. B. Tindale and H. A. Lindsay. Ronald Syme's historical novels include two with New Zealand backgrounds, Gipsy Michael, 1954, set in the period of the Maori Wars, and The Spaniards Came at Dawn, 1959, a seventeenth-century tale of excitement.
Life on a North Island sheep station is described well in Joyce West's Drover's Road, 1954; in The White Deer, 1961, John Tempest pictures country life in the South Island.
More routine stories introducing obvious local colour include Sally Becomes a New Zealander, 1960, by N. D. Thompson, and Gold at Kapai, 1960, by Phyllis Wardell.
Stories in Maori
Mention should be made also of the stories written in Maori for the Department of Education's School Bulletins. These, together with similar stories published in the Department of Maori Affairs' periodical, Te Ao Hou, may be the beginning of a revival of creative writing in Maori.
by Joan Stevens, M.A. (N.Z., OXON.), Associate Professor of English, Victoria University of Wellington.
- New Zealand Literature, A Survey, McCormick, E. H. (1959)
- The New Zealand Novel, 1860–1960, Stevens, J. (1961)
- A History of New Zealand Fiction from 1862 to the Present Time, With Some Account of its Relation to the National Life and Character, Smith, E. M. (1939)
- Landfall, No. 25, 1953, “Fiction and the Reading Public”, Chapman, Robert
- Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 67, No. 3, 1958, “Attitudes to the Maori in Some Pakeha Fiction”, Pearson, W. H.