Seven Hills West Public welcomes children's author

Out of crisis came creativity for New Zealand professor Peter O’Connor, who visited the school in late May to launch his first children’s book. Pascal Adolphe reports.

A group of people holding books standing behind a table. A group of people holding books standing behind a table.
Image: Author Peter O'Connor with students and staff at Seven Hills West Public School and copies of his book 'A Teaspoon of Light'.

New Zealand author and professor, Peter O’Connor, has chosen Seven Hills West Public School for the global launch of his first children’s picture book.

A week before the release of the book in New Zealand, Professor O’Connor read the story - A Teaspoon of Light - to an enthralled group of Seven Hills West students.

Professor O’Connor is Director of the Centre for Arts and Social Transformation at Auckland University. His work focuses on how the arts can help create more socially just and equitable worlds.

He was inspired to write the book after working with children following major earthquakes in Christchurch and Mexico.

“High quality (children’s) literature is literature which pays attention to the language and is complemented by illustrations. It opens up possibilities for conversation with children about important things,” Professor O’Connor said.

“They don’t preach at kids about what to do. They open up things for kids. Quality literature has those hallmarks of being rich in metaphor and rich in the devices of the English language we use to teach in schools.”

A man talking with a parent and some students. A man talking with a parent and some students.
Image: Peter O'Connor speaking with a parent and students at Seven Hills West Public during his book launch.

A Teaspoon of Light tells the story of a young girl, Marley, named after Professor O’Connor’s granddaughter, who has a dream cloth that reminds her of the people she loves and safe and happy times.

When times get tough and the cloth rips in two, her memories start to slip away. Marley must make new, loving memories before she can bring back the old ones and think about the future.

“My granddaughter looks just like the Marley in the book,” Professor O’Connor said.

“A Teaspoon of Light is a metaphor. The metaphor is the light mends things that are broken. The light can be found in the darkest of places and it starts as a glimmer and then it grows, and it grows as you remember those who’ve helped you on the way.

“Marley reaches for the teaspoon and that for me is what you have to do.

“I was aiming for a story that showed that despite how bad the world can get, there is an out, a way through, and that I think is just so important everywhere. I’ve taken that story into disaster zones all over the world. It’s really important.”

A man sitting on a stage holding a book. A man sitting on a stage holding a book.
Image: Peter O'Connor reading his book to students at the school.
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