16 Aug 2016

Cook Islands crab racing inspires author

3:57 pm on 16 August 2016

A holiday in the Cook Islands inspired a New Zealand author to write a children's book on the country's traditional crab racing game.

no caption

June Allen was inspired to write about crab racing after watching a race in the Cook Islands. Photo: 123rf

Aucklander June Allen, 79, recently launched her book The Cook Islands Crab Race, highlighting the much loved Cook Island pastime of hermit crab racing.

While on holiday in Rarotonga she became fascinated with the game when she noticed children collecting crabs in a bucket and other adults crowding around to watch.

"We saw this big rope circle and the bucket of crabs in the middle," she said

"I thought that was pretty cute. It's fun to see something different."

Ms Allen explained that the crabs were released inside the circle while the adults bet on which crab would reach the rope first.

"Of course the crab doesn't know he's racing. He just wants to get the heck out of there!" she said

"See they've all got a number painted on their shell and of course the adults have got sweepstakes, a bit like the Melbourne Cup you might say!"

The book reveals which crab wins the race that day but does leave some details out.

"I haven't put anything about gambling because it's a book for little children," she said.

 Author of "The Cook Islands Crab Race" June Allen (centre) wants to see more Pacific stories in children's literature.

Author June Allen (centre) wants to see more Pacific stories in children's literature. Photo: Supplied

The recent launch of her self-funded book was attended by Cook Islands Consul General Rosaline Blake, Takitumu paramount chief Pa Tepaeru Teariki Ariki and staff from the Cook Islands education sector.

"I had written to the consulate office in Manukau City, hoping that somebody might be interested to come to our launch," she said

She said the support from the Cook Islands community had been overwhelming.

"They've given me so much support about the idea of having it out there in the community, one way or another, for people to read about one of these traditional games."

Crabs are released inside a rope circle while the adults bet on which crab would reach the rope first.

Crabs are released inside a rope circle while the adults bet on which crab will reach the rope first. Photo: Supplied/123rf

A former teacher and trained librarian herself, Ms Allen said she wanted to see more Pacific stories featured in children's literature.

"The children's librarian showed me in my local library just how few books there are for kids to look at about the Pacific. Very very little. I was shocked.

"I've been a teacher in South Auckland, quite some time back. We all know there's a huge population of Pacific people."

She also founded the Dawson primary school library in Otara nearly 40 years ago and said they had never thought about getting stories about the Pacific there at the time.

"We just looked at what was available for kids' stories," she said.

"There's some lovely books available but not particularly stories that come from our Pacific neighbours."

"I think it's important. I know it's important and for them also, perhaps to have them back home as well."

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs