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05 September 2023

Q&A: The Book That Wouldn't Read with Tim Tipene

Tim Tipene's The Book That Wouldn't Read, appeals to reluctant readers, just like himself when he was young. We chatted to Tim about his inspiration and how he became a dedicated reader.

Kia ora Tim. Congratulations on the new pukapuka! The Book that Wouldn't Read really is a unique kind of story. What sparked the idea to create such a different kind of reading experience?

Reading was a challenge for me at school. I wanted to capture the feelings and experience of being faced with what is a daunting task for many children, and to do so in a fun and creative way. Instead of focusing on the child having the difficulty, I decided to have the book take on the role as the reluctant reader.

You've said you are aiming to attract reluctant readers, similar to yourself when you were young. Was there a book or series that drew you into reading for pleasure?

I liked to explore books when no one was looking. Typically the pictures is what drew me in. I would try and garner as much of the story as I could from the illustrations, as reading was a struggle for a long time and I had very little confidence. I loved to write my own stories though, using the limited amount of words that I knew, and adding the odd new one that I had picked up and was confident to spell.

In year 8, (Form 2), I finally read my first chapter book. It was The Cay by Theodore Taylor. I had selected it from the Library for the daily silent reading time in class. I had started novels before, but never got far. This time though I was getting older, and instead of looking out the window or pestering those sitting around me, I was determined to complete it, no matter how many days or weeks it took. Slowly and systemically, I made my way through the novel. It was an amazing feeling when I reached the end. I remember looking around at everyone with their faces in their own books and wanting to tell them, to tell someone, that I had done it. Most of my fellow classmates were competent readers though, so I figured it wouldn’t have meant much to them.

The fact that I remember that novel shows the impact that it had. It further demonstrated to me the power of words and story.

The pukapuka is going to be published in both Te Reo and English and just in time for Māori language week! What was the process of working with translator Kanapu Rangitauira like?

The Book that Wouldn’t Read is my 18th book published. I have worked with Oratia Books for many years now and they have published a number of my pictures books and novels. The team at Oratia are very good at finding top translators such as Kanapu Rangitauira who has done a fantastic job with the Te Reo Māori translation.

The wonderful illustrations by Nicoletta Benella seem to be a key part of the engagement of the story, because the visuals are so important. Tell us about working with her. When did she get brought into the project?

The team at Oratia Books suggested Nicoletta Benella at the very beginning. I looked at her work and agreed that her illustrating would bring not only play and fun to the story, but also greater depth. Working with Nicoletta was very straight forward. As a reluctant reader her pictures alone would have drawn me in, just as I mentioned earlier. Nicoletta has managed to visually convey the feelings and the struggle of being a reluctant reader and I believe many children will relate to her images.

For the reluctant readers who love this book and want to keep up the momentum, which of your books would suggest they read next?

Rona Moon, Taming the Taniwha, Hinemoa te toa, Māui – Sun Catcher and others.

Would you like to continue experimenting with different styles of writing after this experience?

I find an unlimited freedom on an open blank page and so yes, I will keep experimenting.

The Book That Wouldn't Read by Tim Tipene $22.99 RRP, (Oratia Books). See for more of Tim's work.