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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Ko Kiwi Mā and Te Whare by Nā Ngaere Roberts, rāua ko Christine Dale


Living in a bilingual house and raising the next generation of te reo Māori speakers, it can be hard to find picture books that are suitable for new language learners. Most are often translated old favourites, or are too difficult and of poor quality. Fortunately, these two new offerings from OneTree House are two examples of a rare gem.

Ko Kiwi Mā and Te Whare, are both written solely in te reo Māori. Ko Kiwi Mā is a counting picture book, that supports language learning and numeracy using Aotearoa's unique flora and fauna. Each number is represented by an animal, shellfish, plant or bird. As well as counting though, the book highlights positional language, with tuatara on rocks, kea in the sky, and koura in the river.

Te Whare, the companion book, follows a baby crawling through their house, introducing the reader to kupu (words) for household furnishings and items. Poi, the family cat, and a beloved teddy bear all feature. At the back of Te Whare a separate 'hide and seek' list of pictured nouns works as a game to cement and reinforce new kupu.

The illustrations in both books are simple, yet say so much. A very simple colour palette, primarily black and white, keeps a strong contrast for little eyes, while colour adds emotion in the final pages of Te Whare. Likewise, in Ko Kiwi Mā, the pictures add meaning to the printed word. If you are unsure of what the text is trying to say, the picture will help you decode it.

While both books are written in te reo Māori, even those very basic knowledge of the language will be able to read the books. The illustrations give many clues, and with each page a repetition in structure, learners both new and old will treasure these stories. 

Te Whare has become a beloved bedtime story for us. The ending is sweet, and relatable to even the youngest of readers. While aimed at early childhood, both of these delightful picture books would be wonderful for adult learners of te reo Māori too. They are simple, informative and a great tool for learning new kupu and sentence structures. These are two wonderful resources that will help strengthen te reo Māori within the next generation. 

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

OneTree House, RRP $20 each


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