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Whakarongo ki ō Tūpuna by Darryn Joseph


One night in June 2016, Massey University language lecturer Darryn Joseph (Ngāti Maniapoto) sat in a hospital room minding a teacher who had become a dear friend and mentor to him. Joseph wrote her a poem of appreciation, and kissed her goodbye. The next day she passed away.


That poem is contained in Whakarongo ki ō Tūpuna - Listen to Your Ancestors. The picture book is in te reo Māori and is translated into English. This sets it apart from many, many other books.


This is not a book that has been translated into te reo Māori - here te reo Māori is first, it is the valued language. It is so lovely, and empowering, to see te reo Māori allowed to exist in its own powerful self.


The story follows a teacher giving her pupils and grand daughter guidance by directing them to follow the examples of Māori gods and ancestors. It is a story of love and respect, that harks back to the friendship that inspired it.


The book, by its very nature, also provides an overwhelming rush into te ao Māori and tikanga Māori. Concepts such as ako, manaakitanga and aroha are front and centre.


It is also a wonderful book to help younger children deal with grief as it deals with death in a subtle, yet powerful way. The theme of whakamana (empowerment) also runs throughout the story. It is a book that should be prescribed reading in every early childhood or primary school. It is that powerful.


Illustrator Munro Te Whata (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou) is an emerging artist, who has vividly brought to life the settings in the book. He shows the tamariki and their kaiako in school, outside, and in a rest home. The illustrations are colourful and fun and the book is instantly recognisable as Aotearoa.


Joseph also includes a list of the atua included in the poem at the back of the book. Again, it is bilingual, with te reo Māori coming first. There are other beautiful touches - a kowhaiwhai pattern runs along the end pages, and Joseph's kupu whakamihi is entirely in te reo Māori.


He tino ataahua tēnei pukapuka. Te harakoa hoki o tāku tamawāhine, i muri iho i rātou pānui i tēnei pukapuka. Kia pai tāu pānui. (This is a very beautiful book. My children were so happy after reading it. Happy reading!).


Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Oratia Books, RRP $24.99

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