Book Review: Matariki, Me Haere and Maranga Mai, written by Sharon Holt and illustrated by Deborah Hinde.

These three Te Reo Singalong books are an interesting and educational way for childrencv_matariki to learn Māori, and were an instant hit with our toddler. They follow a similar structure to the children’s book series published by Huia Publishers in the early 2000s, with simple verb conjugation and tense-use, using colourful pictures to make it clear to the reader what the subject of the sentence is. The repetitive sentence structure is an easy way to learn te reo, and the glossary at the back useful for parents when stuck on a particular word.

cv_me_haereMy son was particularly taken with the bold illustrations, especially the vehicles in Me Haere! and the animals in Maranga Mai. Indeed, the art is appealing due to its use of colour. The art is also uncluttered and simple, which is necessary for a book designed to teach children words in another language as it allows them to easily see what the words mean. Matariki isn’t as colourful as the other two by virtue of its subject matter, making it much less appealing for younger children. It will appeal to slightly older children, though, especially during the Matariki period.

Tcv_maranga_maihe singalong CDs are a nice companion to the books, although as the songs aren’t particularly catchy they aren’t essential to enjoying them. The CDs nonetheless allow the books to be promoted as more of a package rather than simply a book, and will probably make them more appealing to parents and early education centres. It also sets the books apart from the Huia series I mentioned above. The best of the three CDs we listened to is certainly that which accompanies Maranga Mai, as it is complete with animal sounds. A compilation CD would be useful as well, to allow parents to play the CDs consecutively without disturbing the children’s learning.

As a minor note, the translations in the back are sentence by sentence rather than word by word. For the purposes of this book and for people learning basic te reo this makes perfect sense. However, in some cases it would be beneficial for a more detailed translation, especially if the books are being aimed at people with minimal knowledge of te reo who intend to use them as a stepping stone to learn more. Te reo Maori is an incredibly nuanced language where one word can mean a number of things depending on the context; for example, the word ‘runga’ is used in Me Haere, and the translation notes that it means ‘by’ in the context of the sentence. Runga when used in conjunction with ma, however, is also used to mean ‘on’. This is perhaps a minor detail when the intended audience are preschoolers, but it would be a shame for future confusion should arise when talking about, for example, whether a cat is ‘on’ or ‘by’ a box.

I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for more books in this series, and if reasonably priced may even become a go-to gift for children’s birthday presents in the future.

Reviewed by Lauren Keenan

Matariki
written by Sharon Holt and illustrated by Deborah Hinde
Published by the Writing Bug Ltd
ISBN 9780473274238

Me Haere!
written by Sharon Holt and illustrated by Deborah Hinde
Published by the Writing Bug Ltd
ISBN 9780473242459

Maranga Mai!
written by Sharon Holt and illustrated by Deborah Hinde
Published by the Writing Bug Ltd
ISBN 9780473214913

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