The House that Jack Built

Written by Gavin Bishop
Illustrated by Gavin Bishop
Published by Scholastic, 1999


  • Book of the Year: NZ Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults (2000)
  • Best Picture Book: NZ Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults (2000)

NZC activities for this picture book here.

The House that Jack Built is a book with two strands. The main rhythmic text based on the well-known rhyme, This is the House that Jack Built, tells the story of Jack Bull, who travels to New Zealand from London as a new settler in 1798. As the story goes on we see that his dream of beginning a new life as a trader is devastated by war between the new settlers and the native Maori, who want to protect their land. The detailed contemporary illustrations using traditional Maori form tell the story from a Maori perspective – beginning with the myth of creation: Papatuanuku, the earth mother, Ranginui the sky father and their children as guardians of the land. As the story goes on and Jack’s house grows, Papuatanuku is shown in the illustrations to weaken and fade. This story holds a poignant environmental as well as cultural message and is a thought-provoking insight into the founding of New Zealand by the Europeans.

Summary written by Marion McKoy

Book cover used with permission of publisher