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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Strum A Tune If You're Happy, Kei Te Pai by Rebecca Larsen

When Pūkeko, Kiwi and Hōiho want to show how they feel, they get their musical instruments out to express how emotions are real. The terrific trio is back, and this time they are expressing emotion with musical instruments and a riot of colour.

To the tune of the much-loved nursery rhyme, When You're Happy And You Know It, the birds take readers on an emotional journey.

Told in both English and reo Māori, this is another delightful story from author and illustrator Rebecca Larsen. Larsen has also published three books following the same format - Row, Row, Row Your Waka, Tāne Mahuta Has A Forest, and Twinkle, Twinkle, Matariki.

In her latest book, each emotion is represented by a colour with native animals expressing those feelings with actions and music. The colours combine to make a beautiful rainbow - subtly letting younger readers know that all emotions are valid and accepted. The actions Larsen has included in the story are deceptive, too - they offer children some clever ways to regulate and express their emotions when they become too overwhelming.

Larsen has also cleverly chosen easier instruments to play and learn, encouraging schools to make the most of the book. I can see it being used throughout the curriculum, with children playing along or even turning it into a play or creating their own classroom version of the book.

There's a musical score included in the book, alongside a CD or QR code to scan to listen to the song version of the story in both English and reo Māori. For those who aren't too confident with reo Māori just yet, the links to listen to the song will help. The translation by Justin Kereama and Tania Solomona is excellent, and it's wonderful to see tohutō used correctly. The reo Māori follows a formulaic structure, making it a great opportunity for learners to expand their understanding and play at creating their own versions.

This is a fun, clever book that will be a wonderful resource for younger readers. Larsen combines music, actions, song and colour to create a joyful bilingual book that also teaches our younger generation that emotions are important and valid.

Bateman Books

Reviewed by Rebekah Lyell


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