Kia Kaha! by June Pitman-Hayes
Singer-songwriter June Pitman-Hayes has composed this rousing and fortifying new waiata for children in New Zealand from all backgrounds. Observed through the lens of a child's everyday viewpoint, it celebrates the strength in community.
An accompanying CD of the heart-warming song, has a catchy and easy-to-learn melody. It is sung in English and te reo Māori by author Pitman-Hayes who is a creative writer, teacher and poet. The song was translated by Ngaere Roberts.
The song also features harmonies by popular New Zealand entertainer Pio Terei. It is slightly odd to me that the book still comes with a CD and it seems to be the only format available at present. While I get it is a marketing thing, unfortunately it also means a lot of children won't hear the song within their homes. Lots of cars and laptops no longer have CD drives, and even DVD players are becoming redundant in homes. It would be nice to eventually have the song accessible on a digital format too - boosting audience numbers and accessibility.
The story is a song of togetherness and kindness, a balm desperately needed in the world right now. It provides children with practical ways of showing support and empathy to other little ones in their lives.
Pitman-Hayes and illustrator Minky Stapleton have teamed up again for this book having previously worked together on titles including Kia Ora You Can Be A Kiwi Too and Tāwhirimātea: A Song For Matariki. Stapleton's pictures show a visual representation of diversity in race, culture and ability. There are different cultures, races, abilities, genders and ages across every page. A gorgeous double spread showing the families in their separate dining rooms, but very cleverly linked, provides a strong visual of unity and connection.
Stapleton also reinforces the strong New Zealand theme, with flora, fauna and familiar spaces all lurking within the pages. Kiwi, harakeke, Christchurch and the black jersey all appear.
The book includes both English and te reo Māori translation, as well as a handy papa kupu (glossary) to help those who are learning the language.
Kia Kaha is a sweet new book and song that celebrates the strength in community - and we all need that gentle reminder right now.
Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell
Scholastic NZ, RRP $19.99