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Tales of Aotearoa: Māui and the Secret of Fire by Donovan Bixley


Author and illustrator Donovan Bixley is back with the latest adventure in his Tales of Aotearoa series, which sees his fresh take on Māui.


Māui and the Secret of Fire tells the story of Māui and his curiosity around fire and his grandmother Mahuika. It's a tale that many have heard of, but perhaps don't know quite so well as Māui and his taming of the sun.


Dr Darryn Joseph and Keri Opai advised and translated the story, ensuring that the story remains accurate and culturally appropriate, while still allowing Bixley a bit of artistic freedom.


This story once again plays on Māui and his character, or more specifically, his curiosity and cheekiness. It's not hard to imagine him as a toddler incessantly asking, 'but why?'. It is through these traits that Māui learns some valuable life lessons. Bixley draws on this, making Māui relatable for younger readers, and empowering them to look up to Māui as a tuakana.


Once again he creates a readable story, and uses plenty of te reo Māori words in the retelling. These aren't necessarily always translated, but reading the story it is very obvious what each word means. Bixley weaves more traditional language in with New Zealand vernacular too which makes the book even more relatable for readers.


As usual, Bixley's illustrations are beautiful. They are rich in detail and multi-layered, begging you to stop and really take it all in. The opening double spread proved to be a wonderful conversation starting point for us, with Bixley depicting the papakainga, complete with pātaka kai, tahā wai, and kete. Throughout all the pages there are little creatures and elements hiding, look out for Tāwhirimātea and Tamanuiterā too. Mahuika, Māui's grandmother, is perfect. Somehow Bixley manages to depict her as both sweet and terrifying - making it crystal clear that we should respect our kaumatua and elders.


A range of teacher's notes has also been developed to extend the experience children can have with the book, and a te reo Māori edition is also available.


Māui and the Secret of Fire is another great book helping to introduce the lessons of Māui to our younger generation. Fresh and relatable, with Bixley's trademark twists, it's a great addition to any bookshelf.

Reviewed by: Rebekah Lyell

Upstart Press, RRP $19.99

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