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The Māori Picture Dictionary Te Papakupu Whakaahua


The Māori Picture Dictionary Te Papakupu Whakaahua contains illlustrations of 1400 everyday words chosen by Margaret Sinclair and Ross Calman, authors of The Raupo Essential Maori Dictionary.


Leafing through The Māori Picture Dictionary Te Papakupu Whakaahua, I was immediately captivated by the brilliant illustrations created by two up-and-coming Māori artists, Josh Morgan and Isobel Te Aho-White. Their delightful sense of humour makes the dictionary an engaging book to read.


Picture dictionaries often focus mainly on nouns, and while this dictionary includes plenty of illustrations of familiar objects, creatures, parts of the body, games and technology, it also includes words for feelings and actions. It’s a uniquely Aotearoa dictionary, with many words and illustrations directly related to Māori culture, for example, “action song waiata ā-ringa”, “ancestor tupuna, “chief rangatira” and “challenge wero”.


The words are in alphabetical order based on their English translations, with Māori words in bold text. I especially liked the occasional inclusion of short sentences in both English and Te Reo that show how a word can be used in a sentence.


Word lists for days of the week, months of the year, numbers, colours, shapes, parts of the body and cities and towns on Aotearoa have been provided at the back of the dictionary, along with a useful index of Māori to English words. There are also three full-page themed illustrations based on a classroom, a home and on the marae. It might have been useful to include a pronunciation guide for those who are at the beginning of their te reo journey.


The fun and colourful illustrations and the carefully chosen words, mean that every child will enjoy learning from it but it will be especially great for visual learners who learn best through images. It would provide lots of opportunities for doing fun interactive activities together.


This dictionary will appeal to children, but it is great for adult learners too. Many of us regret never having had the opportunity to learn te reo at school but now we can learn it alongside our children and grandchildren or via online or in-person classes. As a te reo learner, I sometimes get frustrated trying to get my head around the grammar and how to structure sentences, despite the encouragement of my kaiako (te reo teacher). But this picture dictionary makes acquiring Māori vocabulary fun. Focusing on learning the 1400 words and phrases in the book is building my confidence to continue on my te reo journey.


It’s exciting to see so many new resources to support and strengthen the learning of te reo Māori, and this is a particularly special one in the mix.


Reviewer: Lyn Potter

Penguin Random House