• NZ Booklovers

Interview: Kitty Brown talks about Matariki


Kitty Brown and Kirsten Parkinson (Kāi tahu) are cousins from Ōtepoti-Dunedin. They are the co-creators of the popular Reo Pēpi series. They have a new beautifully illustrated book Matariki out. With this pukapuka they share some of their whanau Matariki practice and offer ideas and inspiration to make your Matariki sparkle.

Kitty Brown talks to NZ Booklovers about the new book.


Can you tell us a little about the new book?

Matariki is a simple picture book. Each page explores the essence of each Matariki star in big bright illustrations. Pōhutukawa-Tūpuna, Waitā-Te moana etc etc.

There is very little text and the idea is that readers can freestyle korero about what they see in the pictures. Use the book to spark their own ideas about Matariki with a loose framework. Then at the back we share some more of our ideas for Matariki celebrations. There are mihi and karakia to share too.


How difficult was it writing this book compared to your previous books and what did you find different about the process in writing this book?

This time difficult was different, we replaced our usual super-structured series with a quite free flow approach to a paperback picture book! Also our driving Kaupapa was different this time. We wanted to plan something for Aotearoa on the momentous occasion of our first indigenously led public holiday.


Was there any research involved?

Āe rā! The mātauraka in Matariki has been generously shared by Māori experts in astronomy and the maramataka. This knowledge is very precious and important because in many cases it has had to be shielded from colonial oppression, remembered and upheld till times were safer to bring it into the light again. We have been following and studying the information shared by Dr. Rangi Mataamua, Te wānanga o Aotearoa, Kāi tahu whānauka and other sources. Over the years we have integrated practical Matariki celebrations into our lives in a sort of applied research.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

This pukapuka was really formed over several years of our own reclamation of Matariki for our whānau. We had been practising and storing away idea’s for ages when we heard about the plan to make Matariki a public holiday. So we revisited our thinking on Matariki and put our heads together to shape some concepts. Over a year or so we tended to the concepts through writing and illustrating and then came together with some Te Reo Māori experts to shape the final pukapuka.

The ‘pictures without text’ idea was around inviting people to kōrero with little ones about the images. We always enjoy finding books we can freestyle a story to, with our own limited te reo!


If a soundtrack was made to accompany the new book, name a song or two you would include.

Kirsten actually composed a waiata for us to use when we make appearances to present the pukapuka. So if you get to see us kanohi ki te kanohi you’ll hear the book along with soundtrack! But if we needed to add to that it would be some of Ariana Tikao’s taonga puoro and maybe a little sweet Marlon Williams.


What did you enjoy the most about writing Matariki?

We had the opportunity to work with two Te Reo Māori experts Kiringaua Cassidy and Krissi Smith. Collaborating with them to bring our text to life with te reo rangatira was a real honour.


At the same time we were able to consult with Victoria Campbell who is our Kāi Tahu tōhuka kokoraki (Māori astronomy expert) she gave us some very special mātauraka to include.

Collaborating on the project helped us to dream up the ways the illustrations could express the essence of each star in the Matariki cluster.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

We had our usual pizza pāti with the whanau and did bombs off the wharf.


How do you plan to celebrate Matarki?

We are planning to celebrate with our whanau and communities during Matariki! We are looking forward to a series of wānaka outdoors with our kids.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

Takurua and Raumati from One Tree House-We loved the rhythm of te reo in these bilingual books.

Belonging by Toko Pa Turner-A powerhouse pathway home to personal identity.

Tōku Pāpā-Ruby Solly-Beautiful, beautiful poetry from a uniquely Kāi Tahu perspective.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

A bit of a break! We are a slow burn at Reo Pēpi, as we create our pukapuka alongside many and varied passions. Heoi anō the ideas and creativity continue to flow strongly between Kirsten and I and we love working collaboratively on Kaupapa Māori projects.


Matariki written by Kitty Brown and illustrated by Kirsten Parkinson, published by Allen and Unwin NZ.