RATA BOOKS: Connecting authors and illustrators with teachers and librarians

A group of Aotearoa authors and illustrators have long felt a need to get more coverage for our locally produced children’s books that don’t have the same marketing reach as international titles. Author Maria Gill tells us about the creation of RATA Books and what it’s all about.

Recently at a book launch, a librarian said to author and teacher/librarian Leonie Agnew that she wished there was somewhere librarians could find out about book launches and new books. It sparked an idea. 

Leonie spoke to several authors: Melinda Szymanik, Vanessa Hatley Owen, Anne Kayes, and me; and author/illustrator Vasanti Unka, about the possibility of starting a Facebook group that connects New Zealand children’s authors and illustrators with teachers and librarians. We had long felt that New Zealand authors’ and illustrators’ books had struggled to stand out amongst the plethora of big budget marketing of overseas books.

We called the site RATA Books (Rangatahi and Tamariki Aotearoa) and set out to invite as many librarians, teachers, authors and illustrators as possible. We continue to garner more through word of mouth.

Throughout the week, we put up book reviews, notice of book launches and events, and any literary news.

Every Monday, an author or illustrator introduces themselves and their books. On the Friday of that week they give away books. Teachers have said it has been great, as they’re meeting authors and illustrators they haven’t heard of before. 

Throughout the week, we put up book reviews, notice of book launches and events, and any literary news. We also encourage teachers and librarians to put up pictures of their library displays and teacher resources. They can contact authors and illustrators on this site for school visits, too.

Our admin team has plans for more entries. For example, I started the inaugural Saturday Snippet with a ‘Did you Know?’ entry. It was a little snippet of information from my latest book, Queen of the Cosmos. More non-fiction authors’ entries will follow. We hope teachers will share those nuggets of information with their students.

Screenshot of Maria Gill’s Saturday Snippet Facebook post about her book Queen of the Cosmos

In the future, we’d also like to include videos and pictures of illustrators’ progression from thumbnail to finished page. Plus, more photos of New Zealand book displays in libraries, bookstores and in the wild. 

Auckland school librarian Helen de Leeuw said, “I love RATA books. It’s an invaluable resource for us librarians. A place to keep up-to-date with everything ‘bookish’, especially new publications and reviews, not to mention a great forum for sharing of ideas. It makes you feel like you are actually ‘friends’ with these great NZ authors that you have read and can now connect with.”

I love RATA books. It’s an invaluable resource for us librarians.

Helen de Leeuw

School librarian Bronwyn Bell said, “RATA books is amazing and so valuable, I let people know about it any chance I get. Recently, I’ve been sharing info about authors (Meet the Author Monday) with my student librarians and classes and I’m loving the recent Saturday snippets—I can see some great info for displays there.” The site is open to any New Zealand author, illustrator, teacher, or librarian. Please join us on the Facebook site: RATA Books. You’ll find book reviews from several sources, notice of book launches, meet authors and illustrators, be in to win free books, and be able to communicate with a group of people who love New Zealand children’s books.

Maria Gill
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Maria Gill has written 60 children’s books for the retail and education, local and international markets. Her book Anzac Heroes won the Margaret Mahy 2016 Book of the Year prize. Many of her books have been shortlisted for national awards and been selected as Storylines Notable books. NZCYA shortlisted title from earlier this year, New Zealand Disasters: Our Response, resilience and recovery illustrated by Marco Ivancic (Scholastic NZ) includes historical, contemporary, and recent disasters including the Covid-19 pandemic. This month saw her publish Remarkable animal stories from New Zealand and Australia, illustrated by Emma Huia Lovegrove (Scholastic NZ.)