Poetry Box review festival and POP-UP challenge 4: Courtney Sina Meredith and Mat Tait’s The Adventures of Tupaia


The Adventures of Tupaia Courtney Sina Meredith with illustrations by Mat Tait,

Allen & Unwin  – author page


Each day this week I am posting a review of a children’s book published in Aotearoa with a pop-up challenge and a secret giveaway. You will have 48 hours to do the challenge!



Tupaia was the incredible Tahitian priest navigator who sailed on the Endeavour with Captain Cook on his first journey to Aotearoa.

Allen & Unwin worked with Auckland Museum to publish this magnificent book to accompany the museum’s exhibition: Voyage to Aotearoa: Tupaia and the Endeavour

The exhibition is on from 13 September 2019 until 15 March 2020 at Auckland Museum.


The book is a significant arrival because it brings into view stories from our past, and the important role Tupaia played in the first encounters between Aotearoa’s tangata whenua and Cook and his crew. Tupaia was a navigator but he was also a translator, a cultural interpreter and an artist.

It is important that our stories are seen from multiple views (not just those of Pākehā) and that they are also written and reviewed by Māori and Pasifika writers.

This big beautiful large format hard-back book is a tribute to an astonishing man. Courtney Sina Meredith, a poet and fiction writer, has brought both poems and prose together to tell the story, and that choice adds to the richness of the book. Mat Tait, a comic artist, has added stunning visual images to add layers to the story. It is a book of multiple beliefs, customs, discoveries, relationships.

When the Endeavour arrived in Tahiti, the ship’s artist, Sydney Parkinson, taught Tupaia to paint with paper and paint, while Tupaia taught Sydney the traditions and language of Tahiti. With his impressive grasp of English and his many talents, Tupaia was invited to help navigate on the voyage south, along with his young apprentice Taiata.

History can be facts and history can be imagined, history can also be smudged facts and misused facts and overlooked stories.  This book is one step in fixing our missing stories. Courtney gets me to feel history. And when I feel history I think about history.


The Endeavour rocked gently as she sailed south. After exploring local waters, the ship had left the tropical lushness of the islands behind, the crew firing a cannon on departure. The thunderous explosion had rung about the hills as Tupaia looked back to shore with both excitement and sorrow. The priest navigator had no way of knowing if he would ever return to his home.


Courtney and Mat help me picture Tupaia breathing in ocean air with his arms outstretched, feeling the wind against him. He was breathing in and feeling knowledge on his skin, listening to the stars chanting. Tupaia told Cook and Joseph Banks (the botanist) that he and his people understood time and space differently.  He read the ocean and he read the stars. He shared scared knowledge that should have remained with his society because he loved sea travel so much. We hear Cook say how his King might like to claim the empty islands.

Ah, this is such a deep and difficult pang.

With rich graphic illustrations, Mat shows us Tupaia’s arrival in Aotearoa: scenes, people, objects, marae, warriors, hongi, muskets, life, death, peace, violence, the sky. Each page holds my attention and each page moves me. The illustrations track the places the ship stopped at. Courtney’s prose and poetry unfolds people and places, communications and miscommunications. The writing is like song – singing the past into life for our ears and hearts. Yet this is also a book of important ideas – how we write the past, how we must listen to multiple stories and understand there are multiple ways of doing things.

Ah, this book encourages me to pay attention.

It is the kind of book you need to spend time with, making discoveries, finding new ways to see things.

I haven’t felt a book to such depths for a long time. I am hoping every child gets to read this book and love and learn from Tupaia and his travels as much as I have. An essential book. A magnificent book in debt to mahi and aroha.



THURSDAY POP-UP challenge:


This is a tricky challenge for me because it feels like you need to read the book and you need to talk about the book with friends and family, and your class.  And then the book will open up inside of you.

To write a poem about Tupaia without having made discoveries about him feels wrong.

Pākehā have done too much of this!

So I am going to give you a few choices.


1  If you have read or have heard about Tupaia make a poem that makes a connection with him, that shows something about him and his travels.

2   Write a poem imagining what it might be like to travel across the ocean. Can you do a little research? Can you collect ocean words (nouns, verbs, adjective, similes). Collect navigating words, sky and star words? Use your senses to bring the ocean scene to life? Have you ever been out on the ocean? Use that experience.



Deadline: 26th October 9 am

Include: your name, age, year and name of school

Don’t forget to put  TUPAIA or OCEAN poem in subject line so I don’t MISS your email.

Send to: paulajoygreen@gmail.com

Some favourite poems: I will post some favourites on 26th October. I will have at least one secret give away! I will put names in the hat and pull one out.

1 thought on “Poetry Box review festival and POP-UP challenge 4: Courtney Sina Meredith and Mat Tait’s The Adventures of Tupaia

  1. Pingback: Poetry review festival: some favourite Tupaia and ocean poems | Poetry Box

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