Activity for ‘Two Cans of Corned Beef and a Manulele in a Mango Tree’

Two Cans of Corned Beef and a Manulele in a Mango Tree

by Sarona Aiono-Iosefa

A Pasifika adaptation of the traditional Christmas song, “The 12 days of Christmas”, this book features all things Pacific, including fire dancers, drummers, hula, chiefs, weaving, lavalavas, jandals, tapa, frangipani, corned beef, and a manulele in a mango tree. It is beautifully illustrated using bold lines and colour prints of Pacific icons. This book was nominated because of its “Pacific flavour” and appealing illustrations.

Activity: ICONS OF THE PACIFIC (Social Sciences)

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

NZC Key Competencies

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


In this book, icons of the Pacific are used to present a Pasifika variation of The Twelve Days of Christmas. The icons in the book could be used as the starting point for research into Pacific Island living.1.     After reading, identify and list the icons:

  • maulele bird
  • mango tree
  • canned corned beef
  • frangipani flower
  • tapa cloths
  • jandals
  • lavalavas
  • flax weaving
  • chiefs
  • hats (women dressing for church)
  • hula dancing
  • drumming
  • fire dancers

2.     Once all the icons have been identified, organise students into small groups and give them each an icon to investigate.

3.     Students should try to find out:

  • which Pacific Island(s) are represented with this icon?
  • why are they important for this culture(s)?
  • is there any significant history associated with this icon?

4.     Students will need access to books, pictures, photos and internet searches to find out their information.

5.     They could prepare an oral presentation for the class, or present their findings as a poster or slide show to share.


  • books, pictures, photos
  • internet access
  • large sheets of paper and felt pens (for posters)
  • computers (for slideshows)

Curriculum Links

Social Science

  • understand how cultural practices reflect and express people’s customs, traditions and values (Level 2)
  • understand how places influence people and people influence places (Level 2)
  • understand how cultural practices vary but reflect similar purposes (Level 3)
  • understand how people view and use places differently (Level 3)

Other Ideas

  • At Level 1, students could be involved in a performance of the song. They could make their own props to use in the performance (The Arts: Music & Dance)
  • Children could have a go at recreating Steven Dunn’s stunning print illustrations. Dunn has used wooden print techniques, however any printmaking technique could be used to illustrate the icons listed in the book (The Arts: Visual Art)
  • Compare this Pasifika version to New Zealand’s version , “A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree”, and the traditional version, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. This could be taken even further by asking students to create their own version using icons from another country (English/ Social Sciences)