Cultural and Textual Encounters in Gavin Bishop’s The House that Jack Built, a New Zealand Picture Book
The House that Jack Built by multi-award winning author-illustrator, Gavin Bishop, is one of New Zealand’s most sophisticated picture books for children. Recently republished by Gecko Press in Te Reo Māori as well as English, it depicts the colonisation of New Zealand from 1798 to around 1845, and the beginning of the New Zealand Wars between Māori and Pākehā over land. Rather than simplistically depicting antitheses, the book emphasises mixed truths and a fusing of sides. This article considers the book’s interweaving of diverse cultures through its multi-layered story, which conflates several narratives, including those that are global and local, exotic and indigenous and, finally, those that are oral, written and visual. It examines the book’s deepest “truth,” which lies in its interaction with other texts, and the fact that the multi-literate reader must engage in the book’s playful intertextuality in order to access this larger “truth.” Drawing on ethnographic studies of historical, cross-cultural encounters, the article also explores Bishop’s appropriation and theatricalising of found texts, which he incorporates into his socio-political ideology, thus producing a work that forms an ironic counterbalance to more standard and sedimented versions of the past.
KeywordsNew Zealand Colonisation Adaptation Picture book as theatre Intertextuality
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