Nga Atua by Robyn Kahukiwa
This lovely colourful book touches many levels of appreciation as there is quite a depth to the spectacular imagery. Robyn Kahukiwa is a renowned artist who has combined her skills as an author which is rather special, to produce an outstanding and stimulating children’s book.
Nga Atua will be enjoyed by young children but it will also become a source of reference for older siblings and adults alike if they need to refresh their knowledge of the supernatural gods and their different skills and power.
Stories closely follow cultural patterns: for instance with Tane separating his parents by using his strong thighs. Pakeha would expect him to be like Atlas and use his powerful shoulders but this is not the way the story is related in Te Reo.
The illustrations are spectacular, displaying aspects of Maori culture through posture, and shapes, with clever inclusion of native creatures, birds and mythical beings such as the Mahakirau of the sea. The vivid images work prominently with background aspects to support the main figures. Children can find Hei Tiki, and also the pou (wall panel) behind the dawn maiden which would bring these aspects to the attention for discussion in a second reading.
Text is clear but where translations are required the smaller text on the page is not intrusive.
The Spirit Gods chosen cover all basic aspects of the natural environment: Sky, Earth, Sea, Air, Fire, Water, and Wind. Special note is made of the welfare of women and children.
It is possible to play finger games with the story of Mahuika which will be more memorable because of the added tale including Pukeko’s fate.
It would have been good to have the wind names listed in Te Reo, (these could be added onto the page). Maui described as a shape-shifter likens this mischief maker to the Coyote in Native American folklore. Use of vocabulary like ‘Truth and Justice’ link these Maori deities with today’s youth and their TV films of Marvel heroes such as Superman. Awesome illustrations deliver background knowledge which every New Zealand child should have.
REVIEWER: Sonia Edward
TITLE: Nga Atua
AUTHOR(S): Robyn Kahukiwa
PUBLISHER: Oratia Books