The Marae Visit by Rebecca Beyer and Linley Wellington
When a class visits the marae, they have lots to learn and lots to do. They also have lots of fun.
This new bilingual picture book is distinctively Aotearoa – with a wonderful story about what to expect, broadly, when visiting a marae.
It follows a class of school-aged children as the arrive at the waharoa of the marae, through the process of a pōwhiri, and highlights some traditional activities like poi and haka. While it obviously cannot cater to every iwi, it provides a good basic understanding of some of the things you might expect if you’re visiting a marae.
The story is translated into Māori by Hōri Rākau, which makes it accessible to everyone. However, it was disappointing that the English words didn’t use macrons, it really is a spelling mistake to leave one off if it’s needed. Macrons can also drastically alter the meaning of a word in Māori, and to have them on one version but not the other seemed like a basic oversight.
Accomplished illustrator Nikki Slade Robinson works her magic on The Marae Visit, with beautiful images once again. Her little touches, like the curl of breath during a hongi, are clever, respectful and slightly magical. She too has managed to make her illustrations feel both relatable but also generic. Carvings and the marae itself are instantly recognisable, but not so detailed that they aren’t relatable. It was also lovely to see such diversity among all the people depicted in the illustrations, an element that is so often sadly lacking.
I have not come across a picture book quite like The Marae Visit. It riffs off Warren Pohatu’s The Marae which also breaks down some of the protocols, processes and parts of a marae. However, The Marae Visit is more story like, with a foundation of non-fiction about a very important part of our country. Paired together, the two books make for a powerful educational resource.
The Marae Visit is the perfect book for any early childhood centre or primary school. It would be perfect to help enlighten younger readers about what visiting a marae is like. It demystifies what can be a scary unknown for children and adults alike, and focuses on the fun and learning that can be had, while also highlighting the historical importance of certain elements of the marae.
It is also a great book to read with children who regularly visit marae. It sparked many great conversations with my own children reminiscing about our own visits and expanding on tikanga and kawa of our iwi.
The Marae Visit is an important book that tells an important story about the heart of Māori culture.
Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser
Duck Creek Press, RRP $19.99