Brianne Te Paa is an Assistant Principal at Kaipara College. She has a Bachelor of Education and a Diploma in Te Pinakitanga ki Te Reo Kairangi. She is connected to the people of Ngāti Kahu, Ngā Puhi, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki and Te Whānau-a-Apanui. Brianne is passionate about learning and working with young people, and she has always enjoyed writing poetry and short stories. Brianne talks to NZ Booklovers.
Congratulations on winning the NZ Booklovers Best Children’s Picture Book Award 2023! Can you tell us a little about How My Koro Became a Star?
Thank you so much, I am truly grateful. How my Koro became a Star is about a young boy who's Koro (grandfather) teaches him about Matariki and the traditions associated with acknowledging it. The boy learns about the tikanga of calling out the names of our loved ones who have passed away so they can become stars in the night sky. When his Koro passes away suddenly before the rise of Matariki the next year, the boy takes it upon himself to fulfill the traditions taught to him by his Koro, while bringing his whānau along for the journey.
What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired to write this story after listening to the teachings of Professor Rangi Mātāmua (Kiwibank New Zealander of the year 2023). I was also inspired by my love for my grandmothers who were a huge part of my upbringing and the stories about my grandfathers who were both 'stars' before I was born.
What research was involved?
I really just drew upon the lessons that I learned while a part of a wananga reo in 2018 and 2019, where Rangi was a guest speaker. However, a copy his book, Matariki: The Star of the Year was never far from reach.
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
After first having the idea, I knew it would make for a good story, but I didn't know I was the one meant to write it. I sat with the idea for two years! Finally one night a month before Matariki in 2021, I sat down and wrote the story/ poem. Although it took two years to get to that point, it only took two evenings to complete.
When I write rhyming poems/ stories I start with writing the alphabet at the top of the page and it helps me with trial out different rhyming words for the end of each line. I've done this since I was a little girl.
How did you work with the illustrator, Story Hemi-Morehouse?
Huia Publishers organised the amazingly talented Story Hemi-Morehouse to create the illustrations for the book. When I first saw what she had done, I was blown away. The way story was able to bring the characters and emotion to life was everything I dreamed it would be.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
I think the best musical accompaniment to the story would be a traditional taonga pūoro instrumental i.e. kōauau, pūtōrino, pūrerehua. I just think the sound of taonga pūoro connects with people on a similar level as the story. But a song with lyrics that I think would fit with the story is, 'I Te Pō - Rū-Cru Mix' by Rob Ruha, The Witch Dr.
What did you enjoy the most about writing How My Koro Became a Star?
I loved that as I was writing it and reading through the verses, I couldn't help but cry. I knew it was special then, and I hoped that others would feel emotional too.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
I enjoyed reading 'The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo'. It was an easy read and had an enjoyable twist.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I'd love to be in the creative head space again to complete a story I have started that will again be inspired by my grandmothers.