Kua Whetūrangitia a Koro by Brianne Te Paa
A young boy learns about the customs around celebrating Matariki from his grandfather. They watch the stars from the top of a mountain, prepare their offering of food for the gods, and the boy learns about Te Waka o Rangi and the tradition of calling out the names of loved ones who have passed away so that they can become stars.
Just before Matariki the following year, the boy’s Koro suddenly dies. He gathers and prepares the food offering and asks each family member to come with him up the mountain when Matariki is due to rise, but they all make excuses, and he is disheartened.
But when he tells them what Koro taught him, they all climb the mountain before sunrise, follow the rituals Koro carried out and call out Koro’s name so that he can become a star.
This is a simply stunning book, steeped in tradition, that moved our whānau to tears. Tears of joy that a book like this finally exists, tears of empathy as the little boy finds his whānau are all busy, and tears as we remembered our loved ones who are now stars.
Author Brianne Te Paa is an assistant principal and her passion for education and te ao Māori shines in this gorgeous story.
This is a Matariki book of course, it gifts readers with more knowledge about some of the traditions surrounding Matariki. It is wonderful to see more books about Matariki, especially ones that delve deeper into the traditions rather than just the stars. To see a children's book where Te Waka o Rangi and hautapu are the focus is incredible, and made me realise just how overdue this was.
Te Paa has created a powerful title that will enable our tamariki to gain a better understanding of their own culture, and the culture of others. But it is also a book that transcends a date.
Grief and loss are one of the many transitions our tamariki face in life. Books about death are books whānau hope they will never need, but are incredibly important regardless. Kua Whetūrangitia a Koro is a story that will prove a valuable resource for talking with our younger ones about love, death and grief - all abstract concepts that can be difficult for our tamariki to grasp.
Te Paa's story is accompanied by gorgeous illustrations by Story Hemi-Moorhouse. Her illustrations are moody and full of feeling, hope and love. There's lovely little homages to whānau life hidden within the depths of the illustrations - Hemi-Moorhouse does an excellent job of making readers feel at home within the pages.
Kua Whetūrangitia a Koro is also available in English as How My Koro Became A Star. The te reo Māori edition is great for those learners of the language looking to take a step beyond beginner level and into sentence structure. I immediately rushed out and bought the English version to gift to school, and was pleased to see kupu Māori embedded throughout that edition.
Kua Whetūrangitia a Koro is a taonga of a picture book. Thoughtful, informative and infused with aroha, it is a must on any bookshelf, alongside a box of tissues.
Reviewed by Rebekah Lyell
Huia, RRP $22.00