28 Aug 2016

Art, Life, Music - Gavin Bishop

From The Sunday Feature, 2:00 pm on 28 August 2016
Gavin Bishop

Gavin Bishop Photo: Supplied

Generations of children have grown up with Gavin Bishop’s books. From Mrs McGinty to Mr Whistler, from Quaky Cat to Pip the Penguin, the characters he has drawn are part of our history. And not only in New Zealand, either – his work is translated in China and Japan, and published right around the English speaking world. He’s been a foreign expert for Unesco, twice, as well as a judge for the international picture book contest, the Noma Concours: he’d just got back from a third invitation to China at the time of this interview, and here in NZ he’s swept up multiple book of the year awards as well as the highest honour in the business, the Margaret Mahy medal. He was awarded the ONZM for services to Children’s Literature in 2013.

Mr Whistler by Margaret Mahy, picture by Gavin Bishop

Mr Whistler by Margaret Mahy, picture by Gavin Bishop Photo: Gavin Bishop, Gecko Press

It all began in 1981, with Mrs McGinty and the Bizarre Plant. An art teacher by profession – Gavin spent a total of 30 years at Linwood High School and Christ’s College in Christchurch – he was already fascinated by children’s picture books when a call came from Oxford University Press in Wellington wanting to publish New Zealand work, with a New Zealand flavour. 

Quaky Cat, by Gavin Bishop

Quaky Cat, by Gavin Bishop Photo: Gavin Bishop, Scholastic

That was the push he needed. Beginning work with well-known NZ authors – Joy Cowley, Margaret Mahy – he soon began writing as well as illustrating and now has some 60 books in his catalogue that range from original stories to retellings of the classics, many of them in te reo. Gavin is Ngati Awa and Tainui and has carved out a special name for himself retelling the stories of Maori Mythology – even (such as The House That Jack Built) recasting old European tales in a New Zealand setting. He sits on the board of the Te Tai Tamariki Trust and is passionate about getting kiwi kids to read.

Music details:

Pascal COMELADE: Danse des valseurs callipyges

Pep Pascual (clarinet, plastic trumpet), Oriol Perucho (drums), Gat (mandolin), Pascal Comelade (piano, organ), Mark Cunningham (tuba)

"Traffic D’Abstraction"

Delabel DE 031111


TCHAIKOVSKY: Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker Suite

London Philharmonic/Leopold Stokowski

Cala CACD 0521


TRAD: Hundreds of Birds Worshipping the Phoenix

Guo Yazhi (suona), Folk Music Band of the Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing China           

“Soie Of Chinese Folk Music”


Gwen STEFANI: The Sweet Escape

“The Sweet Escape”

Performers: Gwen Stefani, Akon

Interscope Records B0008099

Art, Life, Music is a series in which Charlotte Wilson explores the connections between music and art, visiting celebrated NZ artists, in their studios, to talk about their work and their life and their love for music – because each of these artists has a connection to music, in some way. Here, they choose their favourite pieces, and explain in their own totally unique and various ways, what makes them tick.