Words and pictures from The Sapling. Links in titles are to Whitireia copies to preview before you buy:
Do you want to be sure you're getting top-shelf books for your favourite people this Christmas - or on any gift-giving occasion? We are making it easy for you! Here is our selection of the very best New Zealand picture books of 2017.
This is a quiet, lovely story of a girl learning family history.
Ana wakes up on her first morning in Sāmoa and sits with her grandmother out in the garden. Not only does she get to eat a juicy mango, but she hears the story of how the mango tree came to be planted by her grandparents.
Jane Va’afusuaga has an ear for evocative, sensory details, letting us in on, for instance, not just the taste of the mango, but its warmth, scent, texture, and the way the juice drips down your chin. The illustrations are beautiful, adding depth to the scene perfectly.
This is an original Māori myth about a family with a grandmother and three grandsons. The two older brothers are not kind to their odd-bird third brother – but the brother is a type of shaman, who can talk to nature.
The text and illustration are entwined beautifully by Whaanga, with white-background sketches pushing out the dream spirit world in a delicate, wistful way. You finish the book having been on a journey.
This is one of a growing number of picture books with the full text in both English and te reo Māori. There’s a full glossary at the back, so it’s an ideal stepping stone for English speakers who want to increase their reo, as well as being an immersive story for reo speakers.
Kahukiwa’s atua are super-heroes, as they always have been in her work around this theme of identities in the Māori spirit and atua worlds, be it illustrative or painting.
They include Mahuika who carries ‘fire in her fingers’ which she hurls at her enemies, Tūmatauenga the warrior who fights ‘for truth and justice’, Maui, part-atua, part-man, who fished Te Ika-a-Maui out of the sea, Hinetītama, the dawn maiden whose ‘powers of love come with her transformation into Hinenuitepō, great woman of the night.’
The mythology about the atua and their special powers are accompanied by Kahukiwa’s wonderful illustrations.
Read the rest of the review-cum-profile of Robyn Kahukiwa, by Kelly Ana Morey, here..
We’re Off to Find a Kiwi by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Kate Wilkinson Published by Scholastic New Zealand RRP $18.00
Juliette MacIver’s typically first-rate, jaunty rhyming takes us on a tour of the country as two children go on a quest.
They don’t know anything about where a kiwi might be, so they take some wrong turns, and are helped along the way by a tūī, a sheep and a kea, until they finally put all the clues together and go to the right habitat.
There are nice opportunities for children to guess what’s next, or join in a repeated line, and some of the rhymes are just hilarious. I won’t spoil the very best one, at the end, but trust me, this is Juliette MacIver at her best - as she seems always to be!
He Wāhi i te Puruma by Julia Donaldson, translated by Karena Kelly and illustrated by Axel Scheffler Published by Huia Publishers RRP $20.00
He PĪIIIKI mihi tēnei e rere atu nei ki a Karena Kelly, nāna i whakamāori te pukapuka He Wāhi i te Puruma.
Karena Kelly’s translation of Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson is a standout Māori language kid’s book to come onto the market this year.
It’s not easy to translate a book written completely in short rhyming rhythmic stanzas, but Kelly has pulled off the task with flair. Her use of creative language in te reo, interspersed with lovely easy repetition so that kids can still follow along easily, adds to a book that was already great in English.
Richard Fairgray is one of the most interesting picture book artists to emerge recently, and in this book he has taken a simple concept and used it to explore individuality.
The Turner Family has the best monster around. It is suave, strong, athletic and all round amazing! So after a lot of negotiation to get mum around to the idea, the family orders a monster online, and are very excited to find out what it is like. But, it’s not the one they ordered!
Their monster turns out to be goofy, cuddly and fun ... even if he is a little smelly. This book is humorous and fun, and celebrates the joy of difference.
Read the interview between Zee Southcombe and Richard Fairgray, here.