Activity for ‘Tulevai and the Sea’

Tulevai and the Sea

by Joy Cowley

Tulevai and the Sea is a legend about the great love between a mother and her son, set on an island in the Pacific. When Tulevai is captured by the sea, his mother is so desperate to get him back that she summons up such immense strength that she is able to push the sea back until she finds him. The book is beautifully illustrated by Manu Smith using water and spirit-based markers and the pictures show traditional images of the Pacific Islands.

This book was nominated for the collection because of its use of Pacific mythology in the story and its beautiful illustrations, as well as its theme of love and connection between a parent and child.

Activity: RETELLING (The Arts)

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

NZC Key Competencies

  • thinking
  • using language, symbols and text
  • relating to others


 In this activity, children will work in groups to create a play which retells the story of Tulevai and the Sea.

1. After reading the story a few times, identify as a class

  • the characters
  • the main parts of the story

Write or draw these up where everyone can see them.

2. In pairs, children practice oral retelling. Share some as a class.

This will help to get the story engrained and start children thinking about how they might begin structuring a play.

3. In groups, children work to create their own retelling play.

  • If time, they may like to make masks or props for their performances.
  • Children could use percussion instruments to create sound effects.

For example: the wind and the sea

4. Practice and perform the plays to an audience.


  • paper, card, felts, paint for mask making
  • other props
  • instruments to make sea and wind sounds

Taking it further

  • Video record the plays.
  • Read and dramatise some other Pasifika stories.

Curriculum Links

The ArtsDrama

  • explore the elements of role, focus, action, tension, time and space through dramatic play (Level 1)
  • contribute and develop ideas in drama, using personal experience and imagination (Level 1)
  • share drama through informal presentation and respond to ways in which drama tells stories and conveys ideas in their own and others’ work (Level 1)
  • explore and use the elements of drama for different purposes (Level 2)
  • develop and sustain ideas in drama, based on personal experience and imagination (Level 2)
  • share drama through informal presentation and respond to elements of drama in their own and others’ work (Level 2)
  • use techniques and relevant technologies to explore drama elements and conventions (Level 3)
  • initiate and develop ideas with others to create drama (Level 3)
  • present and respond to drama, identifying ways in which elements, techniques, conventions, and technologies combine to create meaning in their own and others’ work (Level 3)

Other Ideas

 The illustrations in this book are stunning and they really draw the reader into the story. After looking at how the illustrator, Manu Smith, has used a combination of water and spirit-based markers to create his art work, children could each choose a part of the story to illustrate. These could be combined in a book and used as another way of retelling the story.Other mediums could also be explored – paint, pastel, print, crayon and dye.Look especially at how Smith has created the sea images, and has personified them with eyes – this is often the way gods are represented in traditional myths and legends.

Links to other PPBC books

Turtle Songs: A Tale for Mothers and Daughters by Margaret Olivia Wolfson – this story also tells of the great love between a parent and a child.