Children's Literature in Education

, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 481–507 | Cite as

Cultural and Textual Encounters in Gavin Bishop’s The House that Jack Built, a New Zealand Picture Book

  • Vivien J. van RijEmail author
Original Paper


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.


New Zealand Colonisation Adaptation Picture book as theatre Intertextuality 


  1. Abrams, M.H. (1985). A Glossary of Literary Terms, 6th ed. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.Google Scholar
  2. Balme, Christopher B. (2007). Pacific Performances: Theatricality and Cross-Cultural Encounters in the South Seas. New York: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Belich, James. (1991). Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century. Auckland, New Zealand: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  4. Bishop, Gavin. (2000). Putting it Together. In Session Talk for 18th World Congress of Reading. Gavin Bishop: Picture Book Author and Illustrator. Accessed January 10, 2017 from
  5. Bishop, Gavin. (2012). The House that Jack Built. Wellington, New Zealand: Gecko Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bishop, Gavin. (2016). About Me. Gavin Bishop: Picture Book Author and Illustrator. Accessed January 10, 2017 from
  7. Bradford, Clare. (2007). Unsettling Narratives: Post-Colonial Readings of Children’s Literature. Canada: Wilford Laurier University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Cook, James. (1971). The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific as Told by Selections of His Own Journals 1768–1779. In Archibald Grenfell Price (Ed.), Seeking the Southern Continent, chapt. VIII. New York: Dover Publications.Google Scholar
  9. Cotton, Penni, and Daly, Nicola. (2015). Cross-continental Readings of Visual Narratives: An Analysis of Six Books in the New Zealand Picture Book Collection. Bookbird A Journal of International Children’s Literature, 53(2), 36–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Craske, Matthew. (2000). William Hogarth. London: Tate Gallery.Google Scholar
  11. Derby, Mark. (2011). Māori–Pākehā Relations—Whaling Stations—First Contact. Te AraThe Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Accessed January 10, 2017 from
  12. Evans, Patrick. (2007). The Long Forgetting: Post-colonial Literary Culture in New Zealand. Christchurch, New Zealand: Canterbury University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Fensome, Alex. (2014, November 27). Settler a Big-noter but Fearless in Battle. The Dominion Post, p. A6.Google Scholar
  14. Holt, Jill. (2002). Postcolonial Pictures for Children: Gavin Bishop and the Folktale. Papers: Explorations in Children’s Literature, 12(2), 14–25.Google Scholar
  15. Hutcheon, Linda. (1985). A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  16. McGillis, Roderick (Ed.). (2000). Voices of the Other: Children’s Literature and the Postcolonial Context. New York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Michaels, Wendy, and Walsh, Maureen. (1990). Up and Away: Using Picture Books. Australia: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Nodelman, Perry. (1990). Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children’s Picture Books. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
  19. Orbell, Margaret. (2007). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Māori Myth and Legend. Christchurch, New Zealand: Canterbury University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Porter Abbott, H. (2015). The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Sinclair, Keith (Ed.). (2001). The Oxford Illustrated History of New Zealand, 2nd ed. Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. “Teachers’ Notes.” (n.d.) The House that Jack Built. Wellington, New Zealand: Gecko Press.Google Scholar
  23. Unsworth, Len, and Wheeler, Janet. (2002, December 17). Re-valuing the Role of Images in Reviewing Picture Books. Literacy, 36(2), 68–74. Accessed November 2, 2017 from
  24. Webb, Jean. (2000). Text, Culture, and Postcolonial Children’s Literature: A Comparative Perspective. In Roderick McGillis (Ed.), Voices of the Other: Children′s Literature and the Postcolonial Context (pp. 71–88). New York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations