The House That Jack Built

Binding: Paperback

Imprint: Gecko Press

Age 4+

Picture Storybooks Picture Books Picture Books: Character Books

This is the dog
That worried the cat
That killed the rat
That ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

“The House that Jack Built is a book with two strands. The main rhythmic text, based on the well-known rhyme, tells the story of Jack Bull, who travels to New Zealand from London as a new settler in 1798.

The detailed contemporary illustrations … 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, Papatuanuku 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.”



Gavin Bishop ONZM, Tainui, Ngati Awa, has published over 70 books internationally, translated into 12 languages. He has written for television and stage, as well as libretti for two children's ballets for the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Among the numerous fellowships and national book prizes that have been awarded to Gavin Bishop throughout his career, highlights are his Te Waka Toi Nga Tohu a Ta Kingi Ihaka/Sir Kingi Ihaka Award in 2018, recognising his lifetime contribution to strengthening Maori art and culture through his children’s books; The Arts Foundation’s Mallinson Rendel Illustrators Award in 2013; and the 2000 Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal for lifetime achievement and his distinguished contribution to children’s literature in New Zealand. He was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2013, and President of Honour of the NZ Society of Authors.


There is pleasure to be found at many levels in this splendid book.

Magpies Magazine

The old nursery rhyme is brought brilliantly to life in a colonial setting … It just gets better with each rereading.

The Listener

A complex weaving together of the nursery rhyme with the cultural, historical and environmental context. It’s not a quick read, to barrel through it one would miss so much. It’s rather a thought-provoking book to savour, discuss and debate, and revisit with your family.

Saturday Express

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