Children’s tuna tale still resonates
It’s rare to find a story set in your own neighbourhood, so it’s not surprising that Porirua school children have shown enthusiasm for Watercress Tuna and the Children of Champion Street for nearly 30 years.
The book, first published in 1984, was written by Patricia Grace and illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa. Both have links with the area. It tells of an eel (tuna) with a magic throat that leaves its home in Cannons Creek and bounces over the tavern, shopping centre and primary school to visit 10 children who live in Champion St.
The eel gives each child a gift that represents their ethnicity, after which the children and their neighbours dance all day and night. The story celebrates the area’s cultural diversity and community spirit.
In February 1985, children held a powhiri in the Cannon Creek School hall to launch the book. On the day of the launch these five children ( three of whom had characters based on them) posed for the photographer in a recreation of the book’s cover. They are holding an eel made of paper and fabric.
Almost 30 years later the book is still in print and the story still hooks local school children. Stone sculptures inspired by Watercress Tuna stand over the road from the school and Room 7 children have created a website about these sculptures and the book. It’s on livingheritage. org. nz, follow the schools link to Cannons Creek.
Children’s artwork based on the story decorates the Cannons Creek School hall and library.
For photo orders, visit the Timeframes database: find.natlib.govt.nz
The one that didn’t get away: Champion Street children pose with the Watercress Tuna, February 1985. From left, Onekura John, Serena
Beirne, Anthony Tinirau, Matthew Aiono and Kim Lister.