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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Pipi and Pou and the Firewoman by Tim Tipene

Tim Tipene’s Pipi and Pou and the Firewoman is another superb addition to the beloved Pipi and Pou series, which continues to enchant young readers, bringing together its unique blend of adventure, cultural heritage, and environmental themes. This instalment introduces readers to a thrilling encounter with an ancient atua (god) and highlights the importance of fire safety, a particularly relevant topic given the increasing frequency of wildfires globally.

The story begins with cousin Rāwiri, who finds himself in trouble after being caught playing with matches in the forest. His mother is understandably furious, but Rāwiri insists that he saw a mysterious woman who warned him about the dangers of fire and even threw a fireball at him. While most of the family dismisses his tale as a fabrication, Nana, the wise and patient matriarch, believes him and decides to investigate.

Nana, along with her mokopuna (grandchildren) Pipi and Pou, ventures into the forest to uncover the truth. Their journey is filled with suspense and wonder as they encounter a little girl in a beautiful cloak and then a young woman who seems to know their deepest secrets. This woman, who can throw fireballs, is revealed to be an atua, a guardian of the forest, who feels wronged and is in distress.

One of the standout elements of this book (and, indeed most of the series) is the character of Nana. Her calm and composed demeanour in the face of danger sets a powerful example for Pipi and Pou. Despite the imminent threat posed by the firewoman, Nana approaches the situation with patience, understanding, and kindness. She teaches her grandchildren the importance of trust and empathy, even when dealing with beings as formidable as gods.

The themes of environmental stewardship, kaitiakitanga, and cultural heritage are woven carefully into the narrative. The plot underscores the significance of being careful with fire, a message that resonates strongly in today’s context of frequent disruptions in climate and, in particular, wildfires. Additionally, the inclusion of Māori mythology and language enriches the story, providing young readers with a deeper appreciation of our local cultural heritage.

Pou’s cheeky and humorous nature adds a light-hearted touch to the story, balancing the tension and making the narrative more engaging for young readers. His interactions with Pipi and Nana are filled with warmth and affection, highlighting the strong familial bonds that are a hallmark of the series.

The book is well-suited for emerging readers, with its short chapters, clear font, and riveting plotlines. The glossary of Māori words at the back of the book is a valuable resource for readers looking to expand their te reo vocabulary. Additionally, the inclusion of the first chapter of another Pipi and Pou adventure, “Pipi and Pou and the Waves of Destruction,” provides a glimpse of what’s to come.

In conclusion, Pipi and Pou and the Firewoman is a delightful and thought-provoking read that combines adventure, cultural education, and important life lessons. Tim Tipene has once again crafted a story that not only entertains but also imparts valuable messages about trust, empathy, and environmental responsibility. This book is a must-read for young readers, especially those who can see themselves reflected in the adventures of Pipi and Pou.

Reviewer: Chris Reed

One Tree House


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