Activity for ‘Selafina’


By Catherine Hannken

Set in Auckland, New Zealand, this story tells of a young Samoan girl, Selafina, who is about to celebrate her tenth birthday. In honour of her Nana, who is visiting from Samoa especially for the occasion, Selafina learns to dance a siva to perform at her birthday party. This story reinforces the themes of culture and family, as well as promoting the value of fa’a malosi – finding strength in a difficult situation. It is beautifully illustrated in watercolour by Trish Bowles, with images from both Samoa and New Zealand.

This book was nominated because of its focus on the importance of intergenerational links, as well as the value placed on the Samoan siva dance.  It was also nominated because of its themes of family and closeness, and for its use of Pasifika themes in the illustrations – such as the frangipani flower on the cover.  This book was selected as a Notable Book in the Children’s Literature Foundation of New Zealand Awards, and was shortlisted for Best Picture Book in the New Zealand Post Book Awards (2004).

Activity: SAMOAN CULTURAL DANCE: The Siva (The Arts)

Curriculum Level

1, 2 & 3 (see curriculum links at the end of the activity)

NZC Key Competencies

  • thinking
  • relating to others
  • participating and contributing


 This story describes the beautiful Samoan dance – the slow, flowing siva, and its importance in the Samoan culture as a way of expressing emotion.

1.     After reading, talk with the children about the siva and pull out the words from the story which describe it (slow, rippling body, “like the gentlest of waves”, gliding feet, flowing hands). Look at the pictures for ideas too.

2.     Ask the children to stand up and have a go at moving like Selafina does, in a siva dance. Ask: what kind of music do you think goes with this dance? Share ideas.

3.     You may be able to invite a family or community member into class to perform the siva for children.

4.     Watch YouTube clips which show the movement of the siva, as well as the music which is used:

  • Women and men performing together:

5.     Talk about the moves, stand up and have a go at some of them.

6.     In pairs or small groups, children can make up and practice their own siva to perform back to the class. You may like to provide some music for this.


  • YouTube access
  • Traditional Samoan music to dance to

Taking it further

  • Samoan parents could assist with making appropriate costumes.
  • At Level 3, students begin to explore and describe dances from a variety of cultures. Children could be involved in researching other cultural dances from the Pacific Islands, and finding out the history and significance of these dances.

Curriculum Links

 The ArtsDance

Understanding the Arts in Context

  • demonstrate an awareness of dance in their lives and in their communities (Level 1)
  • identify and describe dance in their lives and in their communities (Level 2)
  • explore and describe dances from a variety of cultures (Level 3)

Developing Ideas

  • improvise and explore movement ideas in response to a variety of stimuli (Level 1)
  • use the elements of dance in purposeful ways to respond to a variety of stimuli (Level 2)
  • select and combine dance elements in response to a variety of stimuli (Level 3)

Communicating and Interpreting

  • share dance movement through informal presentation and share their thoughts and feelings in response to their own and others’ dances (Level 1)
  • share dance movement through informal presentation and identify the use of the elements of dance (Level 2)
  • prepare and share dance movement individually and in pairs or groups (Level 3)
  • use the elements of dance to describe dance movements and respond to dances from a variety of cultures (Level 3)

Links to other PPBC books

Tane Steals the Show by Lino NelisiWatercress Tuna and the Children of Champion Street by Patricia Grace

– both books look at dance in Pacific cultures.

Other Ideas

  • talking and writing about overcoming shyness (English)
  • talking and writing about learning something new (English)
  • talking and writing about being brave (English)
  • looking at Samoan language used in the story (Learning Languages/ English)