The Seven Kites of Matariki, by Calico McClintock

It’s a special time of the year. A time when the whispering wind blows warm from the east, and a crescent moon rises in the wintry night sky. Seven little sisters make kites with eyes of seashells to celebrate the New Year. But that playful wind whips those kites away. Matariki is here.

The Seven Kites of Matariki is a story that imagines why the stars in the cluster called Matariki can be seen in an early morning sky, low on an eastern horizon. Seven sisters are preparing for the new year by following a long-held tradition of making and flying kites. This year is the first year that the youngest sister, Ururangi, has been old enough to make her own kite. Each of the sisters makes a kite, representing their own personality. In a clever way each kite becomes a star in the constellation we know as Matariki, or Pleiades.

This beautiful little book is a wonderful way to introduce our tamariki to the Matariki story. Matariki is a relatively new story, so it is not a traditional myth that has been passed down from one generation to the next. However, McClintock tells the tale is the mythic style of traditional storytellers. Children will love the warm and expressive tone. The fictional retelling uses just enough information to tell the story while keeping children engaged.

Dominique Ford’s illustrations are warm and familiar. The combination of watercolor, pencils and pastel are lovely. They’d also make a great teaching point for the classroom, with the process easily reproducible for children.

It will make a wonderful addition to any classroom. Teachers will find it a welcome addition as part of a Matariki celebration, traditional Māori legends and for some fantastic technological learning, engaging students to make their own kites. Scholastic has downloadable resources for teachers and parents on its website to accompany the book.

This is a picture book that needs to be published. It is a wonderful one for parents to share with their children, learning alongside them. A gorgeous whimsical story that should be added to every child’s bookcase.

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Rebekah is an Otago-based mother of two young girls. The former journalist and primary school teacher has a soft spot for New Zealand authors and young adult fiction. Follow her on Twitter.

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