Waikato Journal of Education


narrative and illustrative technique

How to Cite

van Rij, V. J. (2022). Minions, masters, and migration: Challenging power structures in Gavin Bishop’s Cook’s cook: The cook who cooked for Captain Cook. Waikato Journal of Education, 27(1), 79–92. https://doi.org/10.15663/wje.v26i1.900


Arguably New Zealand’s best loved picturebook author/illustrator, Gavin Bishop invariably challenges populist power structures in his fiction and non-fiction. As such, his books are ideal vehicles for teaching children about such broad topics as race relations, colonisation, migration, class conflicts, gender relationships, environmental issues and spiritual beliefs. The fact that Bishop often addresses several of these simultaneously, and draws on found texts to do so, paves the way for the teacher to encourage the child to read not only the lines and images but between and beyond these in order to construct a fuller meaning.

This article will discuss Bishop’s (2018a) picturebook, Cook’s Cook: The Cook Who Cooked for Captain Cook, which qualifies as “faction”, a genre that mixes fact and fiction, with Bishop reproducing historical events and characters whilst investing them with an imaginative dimension. Most obviously, the selected book portrays migration, including the colonisation of New Zealand and the Pacific, and its longer-term effects. Hence, it focuses on the subjugation of the indigenous people, culture, flora and fauna to those that are imported, as well as the domination of the working class by the upper class. However, Bishop is too skilful an author/artist to suggest that everything is black and white. Rather, through paralleling and fusing the aforementioned foci, and in the ways in which the print and pictures work separately, together, sometimes against each other, and in interaction with fore texts, he suggests that dichotomies are mixed. 

The article will examine those portrayed as minions and masters (whether human or non-human), their conflicts and conflations, and Bishop’s use of verbal and visual techniques and fore texts to challenge dominant power structures. It will also argue that, while emphasising dichotomies, Bishop, the master storyteller and artist, creates structures that ensure his picturebook is balanced and whole and that, rather than treating the reader as a minion, allow him or her to become a master of meaning making.


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