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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Tales of Aotearoa: How Māui Slowed The Sun by Donovan Bixley

Donovan Bixley is back with the latest adventure in his Tales of Aotearoa series, with a fresh take on Māui which brings the cheeky trickster to life for a new generation of Kiwi kids.

This time, the story of how Māui slowed the sun is retold by Bixley. Readers can discover the true name of Tama-nui-te-rā, and how Māui overcomes his challenges, as well as seeing him develop his skills at working with other people.

These are all important qualities we hope to raise our children with, and by placing Māui as a tuakana or role model in a picture book is a great way to demonstrate those in an accessible and age-appropriate way. Deeper themes of resilience, leadership, problem solving, and the sharing of knowledge are also explored within the story.

However, it's not all deep and meaningful. Māui 'the trickster' and pōtiki is highlighted, and young children will absolutely connect with that.

With the guidance of Dr Darryn Joseph (Ngāti Maniapoto), and Keri Opai (Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Te Ata, Waiohua, Ngāti Porou) the book is well informed.

There is an English and a te reo Māori version, but the English version still offers plenty of te reo Māori. Bixley gently introduces te reo Māori in a way that it doesn't need translation, but the meaning will not be lost if you have no knowledge.

The book also weaves the importance of harakeke through its pages.

Bixley's illustrations bring the story to life using his trademark style. Every read reveals fresh layers and surprises hidden with the bright, lush imagery. Keen readers may notice the hidden story within te marama - it is yet to be revealed if that particular creation story will be the next in the Tales of Aotearoa line up.

Bixley has also developed a range of teachers' notes to extend the experiences tamariki can have with the book.

A particularly touching message from Bixley is included in the back. It documents his own learning, coming to understand the deeper meaning and historic connections behind the legend.

The book feels rich with meaning and, due to the involvement of Dr Joseph, it is culturally appropriate and accurate.

This is a wonderful, modern retelling of the battle between Māui and Tama-nui-te-rā that is accurate, yet features Bixley's trademark touch. An accessible, beautiful way to ensure our youngest generation learn the stories of Aotearoa.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Upstart Press, RRP $19.99


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