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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Whetū Toa and the Hunt for Ramses by Steph Matuku

Despite this being set largely for a younger audience (with amazing illustrations by Katharine Hall that add another fantastic piece to Huia’s impressive collection of beautifully presented books in their stable) this book has all the makings of a classic novel that will be enjoyed by many, no matter their age. The second in the series on Whetū Toa, this features the escapades of the rambunctious ram, Ramses.

Drawing on the set up of the first in the series, namely Whetū Toa and the Magician, Matuku takes the lovable characters that complete The Mighty Mikaere’s farm and demonstrates their softer sides as they hear the news that their beloved carer, Whetū, will be heading back to school. The response from the bull is just brilliant, the challenging of the stereotype is a real positive here.

Whetū is an engaging main character. She is wise beyond her years but also has the naivety of innocence at times, so brilliantly captured by Matuku in both of the books.

But it is really Ramses who steals the show in this book, as the title suggests. Ramses the ram disappears and it will take all of Whetū’s courage and self belief to find him again. It’s a journey of discovery for both characters as they find out a little more about the strange workings of the magician. At times this journey leads them into parallel worlds which can be a little scary and so a little warning for more sensitive younger readers is needed here.

Subtly bringing out some fairly well ensconced tropes of junior fiction like the responses to bullying and care for animals, Matuku manages to find freshness in the messaging. The exploration of who we are and the sharing of emotions, feelings and troubles makes for a really solid educational platform as well as a great story.

Most of all, the range of genres brought into the text is what brings readers back to Matuku’s writing. The incorporation of humour, mystery, action and of course the almost mythical style of her novels more broadly.

This is a classic novel that is perfect for readers who love great writing with a strong New Zealand feel. Tau ke!

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Huia Publishers


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