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Te Kuia me te Pūngāwerewere; Te Tuna Wātakirihi me ngā Tamariki o te Tiriti o Toa


Te Kuia me te Pūngāwerewere - The Kuia and the Spider

Te Tuna Wātakirihi me ngā Tamariki o te Tiriti o Toa - Watercress Tuna and the Children of Champion Street

By Patrica Grace

Illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa

Translated by Hirini Melbourne


I’m rapt these classic pukapuka (books) have been released as bilingual editions because, not being fluent in Te Reo, I like having the translated text there too to refer to.


Most Kiwis will be familiar with the story of the Kuia (grandmother) and the spider, who compete with each other to decide who is the best weaver. The simple, funny tale is a celebration of the Māori art of raranga (weaving) as well as the relationship between elders and their mokopuna.

I’m especially stoked to see the re-release of Watercress Tuna and the Children of Champion Street, as I only stumbled upon it several years ago in a compendium of Kiwi stories (Puffin’s New Zealand Bedtime Treasury) and realised from the clothing in Kahukiwa’s glorious illustrations (buckled sandals, terry towelling shorts, shell suits) that, like The Kuia and the Spider, it must’ve come out when I was a kid, and yet while the Kuia has endured and is found in most libraries, I’d never read Watercress Tuna ‘til I got the Treasury for my own kids.


Yet to my mind Watercress Tuna deserves to be revered just as much, because Grace achieves an indelible feat: she creates a story that celebrates the multicultural children of a low socio-economic community in a joyous, authentic and subtle way, while weaving in an element of the supernatural to mystify and excite the young reader. A magical tuna (that’s reo for eel) flies out of his creek to deliver each of the tamariki of Champion Street a gift, which relates to music or dance. A poi for Roimata, a pate (log drum) for Tuaine, a pareu (polynesian skirt) for Nga, a streamer for Jason, an ailao afi (Samoan fire stick) for Fa’afetai. Once equipped with their instruments and dance accessories, a street party begins!


Reviewer: Stacey Anyan

Puffin, paperback $19.99