International Children’s Books Corner: THE BOMB by Sacha Cotter

Nicole Young

Staff Writer

Nicole, of the house Young, first of her name, is a writer and education policy wonk. She is a lover of crafting, procrasti-baking, fantasy, magical realism, and young adult fiction. Originally from Virginia, she is currently embarking on an adventure around the world, trying to see as many countries as she can. Twitter: @ittybittyny

I love children’s books! Everywhere I go in the world I try to pick up a couple for my little cousins and godchildren. I love popping into small shops and finding a book that teaches the language of that country in easy steps or one that display the lives of Black and brown people around the world. I’m particularly on the hunt for the latter, because all of the children in my life need to see more interesting, funny, and cute stories about Black and brown people, no matter what part of the world they’re in. And more than just historical books (though those are also important), but everyday stories about Black and brown people living full and beautiful lives.

That is why I was so excited when I stopped into Unity Books in Wellington, New Zealand, and stumbled upon the adorable book by Sacha Cotter entitled The Bomb (Te Pohū). What a heart-stealer this one is. It’s summer, and a little brown boy is both excited and a little worried about the beach and pool season. You see, he hasn’t quite perfected the art of the bomb (i.e. cannon bomb for those of us who did some pool splashing in our days) and he’s worried that his won’t be quite right. With the help of his amazing Nan, he gets up the confidence to do it his own way, which was always the right way.

The Bomb was the perfect summer book to give my niece (hey Zoe!). It’s about summer, it’s about confidence, it’s about knowing yourself, and best of all, it’s about fun. Look at this beautiful quote: “I shout out loud because now I really see that the voice I need to hear is the voice that comes from me!” Swoon. I am a huge fan of Sacha Cotter; she’s a New Zealand based author who is writing brown protagonists in all of her books. Moreover, her books are available in both English and Māori (translated by Kawata Teepa), which is a big deal. There is a significant movement in New Zealand focused on centering indigenous Māori language and culture, especially in education and literature. Cotter’s books do just that.

In addition to The Bomb, there is Keys (Ngā Kī), which is all about the wild, imaginative bedtime stories a dad tells his daughter. He builds new stories about each of the keys on his key ring, recounting where they take him in the world and beyond. There are space adventures, treasure chests, woolly mammoths, and more. Of course, this is a fantastic daddy/daughter read and is sure to be the next bedtime favorite. I mean, who doesn’t know a child obsessed with adult keys?

Finally, there’s Cotter’s The Marble Maker (Te Kaihanga Māpere). A young inventor and her lab assistant (who just happens to be a sheep) are determined to invent a new brand of marble and make it into what amounts to the marble hall of fame. The story is one of perseverance in the face of defeat, but the whole book is filled with a silliness, whimsy, and laughter that buoy the message and inspire the reader to go try out their own inventions.

Sacha Cotter’s books aren’t yet widely available on Amazon or American book buying sites yet, but if you don’t mind spending a few more coins, you can buy The Bomb, Keys, and The Marble Maker here, directly from New Zealand. HUIA, the publishing house and bookshop where Cotter’s books are sold, is based in New Zealand and focused on providing space for Māori and Pacific writers to tell their own stories. Cotter is one of many amazing authors in their pool. HUIA writers like Chris Szekely, Ripeka Takotowai Goddard, and others are writing beautiful, fun, and inventive children’s books centered on Pacific folklore and culture.

Check out your local library to see if they already have them or might invest in copies. I guarantee you that you will be glad you added these gems to your children’s book collection.