Book Review:  Nanny Mihi and the Bellbird, by Melanie Drewery, illustrated by Tracy Duncan

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_nanny_mihi_and_the_bellbirdNanny Mihi and her grandchildren make friends with a bellbird in the garden, but then in spring the bellbird disappears. They’re puzzled by the disappearance, and try to entice the bird back. Then in the summer, they get a lovely surprise…

Nanny Mihi and the Bellbird is a gentle story about appreciating nature and whānau. The illustrations are beautiful, particularly of our native birds and plant life, vivid and almost hyper-realistic. It’s a great read-aloud story, and my class of 6-year-olds enjoyed it very much, and enjoyed predicting where the bellbird might have disappeared to.

Award winning author Melanie Drewery brings us another lovely visit to Nanny Mihi’s house. A very welcome addition to the Nanny Mihi series of stories (last added to in 2006), Nanny Mihi and the Bellbird is the perfect sort of picture book for a child of New Zealand – a blend of both English and Te Reo Māori language with a focus on our native bird life. Readers who are unfamiliar with the Te Reo Māori phrases in the story will find a translation at the bottom of each page to help them.

The perfect gift for Christmas, I’ll be buying copies to send overseas as well.  It’s a lovely showcase of the things that make New Zealand special.  Recommended for children 3-8 years.  There’s also a fact sheet about bellbirds available for curious children or classroom use on the publisher’s website – a lovely touch!

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Nanny Mihi and the Bellbird
by Melanie Drewery, illustrated by Tracy Duncan
Published by Oratia Books
ISBN 9780947506360

WORD Christchurch: Embracing Te Reo

WORD Christchurch: Embracing Te Reo

This was one of the warmest, most welcoming, and most inspirational sessions of WORD Christchurch 2018. To Hana O’Regan (Kāti Rakiāmoa, Kāti Ruahikihiki, Kāi Tūāhuriri, Kāti Waewae), Hemi Kelly (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Tahu, Ngāti Whāoa), Miriama Kamo (Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāi Tahu) and Jeanette King – ngā mihi nui ki a koutou.

Embracing-Te-ReoKing, a Pākehā scholar of bilingualism, chaired the session. O’Regan, one of the leadership team at Te Rūnunga o Ngāi Tahu and an internationally recognised reo expert, said she’s excited that te reo Māori seems to be having a cultural moment: ‘We need that passion.’ Kelly, a translator and AUT lecturer, said there’s a massive growth in people wanting to learn te reo, which he attributes to the fruition of initiatives put in place 30 or 40 years ago. Well-known journalist and broadcaster Kamo said she’s pleased to see all the goodwill, but cautioned that te reo ‘has gone from severely endangered to endangered’. She would love to see Aotearoa’s history taught in schools, not so we can feel guilt but so we can all understand together.

O’Regan spoke about the benefits of learning te reo Māori. ‘You enhance the cognitive ability of your child if you raise them in two languages.’ We need to get over the propaganda that te reo won’t help you get a job, travel overseas, etc. ‘The world has been opened up to me because of my language and my work within it.’ Kamo agreed, saying that jobs are changing, and that if you have te reo you’ll have job security, since NZ employers are increasingly requiring it, particularly in the public sector. ‘The world will change around you but you’ll be okay.’

cv_a_maori_word_a_dayKing articulated a nervousness that a lot of Pākehā feel, that by trying a bit of te reo you’re being tokenistic and racist – particularly if you trip up and get it wrong. The panel all said this was not so. Kamo said ‘I love to hear people trying.’ Kelly said that te reo is our language for all New Zealanders, and O’Regan added: ‘Learning the language is a sign of respect. It’s not tokenistic or belittling – quite the opposite!’ The next generation will benefit from us now trying and pitching in, and having their language upheld and reflected back to them. ‘Go grab all your relations, and get them all doing it!’

O’Regan admitted that, even with all the excellent reo resources we have these days, it can still be hard to find places and spaces to practise your reo. I myself am learning te reo Māori and am in that very awkward phase of sort of being able to string a phrase or two together but not being confident enough to attempt actual conversation with other humans. So I would like to issue a general invitation now to everyone reading – please come and join me in my Awkward Reo Club, either online or if you see me in Pōneke. I recommend the following:

  •  This post on The Spinoff listing free and cheap reo classes around the country
  • Ask your employer to provide reo Māori classes as professional development – if you’re in Pōneke I highly recommend Kūwaha Ltd
  • The bilingual podcast Taringa (which has probably the best intro music of any podcast ever)
  •  Te Aka Māori dictionary (free online http://maoridictionary.co.nz/ or a few dollars for the app)
  • The Facebook group Starting in Te Reo Māori
  • Make your shopping list bilingual – I did this using Te Aka and my copy of Māori at Home by Scotty and Stacey Morrison. My fave so far is wīti-pīki (weetbix)

I was particularly heartened to hear Kamo say ‘I’ve been on a lifelong stop-start journey with my reo’, and that it’s fine to not be that great at it, especially right away. I went straight out and bought Kelly’s book A Māori Word A Day and got him to sign it for me. I am delighted to discover that the first word is āe (yes) and the second is aihikirīmi (ice cream). Nau mai, haere mai!

Reviewed by Elizabeth Heritage

Book Review: He Wāhi i te Puruma, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, and translated by Karena Kelly

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_he_wahi_i_te_purumaThis is a delightful story about the exploits of a witch, her broom and how friends help each other. However, it is a version with a difference. While I have been the proud owner of this story in English, it took my daughter to encourage me to get the te reo Māori version. Why? Because she is raising her daughter (my Granddaughter) to be fluent in te reo. Her pre-school, like most educational places, makes use of bilingual labels, conversation and waiata. Having books to support this is the next step.

Unlike some of the earlier books in te reo, this one does not include an English version or a glossary of words. This indicates a coming-of-age for bilingual books. I know the beautiful rhyming tale of the Witch on her broom and the helpers who want to join her. Like all good stories, there is a little lesson to be learned. When misfortune befalls her, the friends step in to save the day.

Julia Donaldson has a natural way with rhyme and the story hums along in Māori as in English. It reminded me of the Snail on the Whale and What the Ladybird Heard. She has a great ear for sounds and I know my audience loved joining in with, “Ka eke ra te kuri, whuuu! Ka rere runga hau.”

Axel Scheffler provides entertaining illustrations that add visual details to the melody of the story. I love his eyes, which have that surprised expression, “What? Me?” The colours are bright and clear and by placing the smaller illustrations beside each block of text, there are visual clues to help the reader. I noticed one student found the English copy and was turning the pages with a friend as they looked at the translation. What a great way to explore language.

I was hoping to keep this title in my Nanna bookshelf, but a visiting niece asked politely if she might take it back with her daughter to Australia. How could I resist a bit of Trans-Tasman re-education. I am now looking forward to seeing other titles by Donaldson translated and available to all.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

He Wāhi i te Puruma
by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, and translated by Karena Kelly
Huia Publishers
ISBN 9781775503293

Book Reviews: Te Reo Singalong Series: Kōrero Mai, Taku Mōkai, and Whai Mai, by Sharon Holt

Available in bookshops nationwide.

These three stories continue Sharon Holt’s successful Te Reo Singalong series. They are much loved by our kaiako and tamariki alike. Our teachers love the simple, repetitive te reo Māori to help them learn and use new phrases with our tamariki. Our tamariki love the music and stories about their childhood.

cv_korero_maiWe use the series in our classroom to support learning because they tell the events and interests of our tamariki growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand. Each picture is uniquely kiwi – the people, landscapes and activities provoke lots of kōrero from our tamariki about their own experiences that they can see!

We particularly like the diversity represented on each page of the different cultures and lifestyles of tamariki. For example, in Kōrero Mai, three young tamariki share their pepeha reflecting their unique family and home so everyone can connect with the book.

cv_taku_mokaiIn Taku Mōkai, photographs accompany the text as you visit different tamariki at home with their pet. As an adult, it is great to see the simple text doesn’t talk ‘at’ the reader, it feels like a conversation as each friend in the book proudly shares their pet and how they look after it.

Whai Mai introduces many simple phrases of te reo Māori but you don’t need to be fluent to understand the story about some friends playing follow-the-leader on a playground.

cv_whai_maiFor new te reo Māori speakers, there are translations at the back of each book, however the simple and useful phrases will soon become part of your kōrero with your tamariki. Additionally, the author has included some great ideas about how you can practice the reo.

Each book is accompanied by a CD. The stories are designed to be sung along to the music. Our tamariki can be heard singing the waiata in their play and love to read these books independently with the CD player. The music is peaceful and relaxing; these books are perfect for calming down before bed and reflecting on the day.

The te reo series by Sharon Holt is a great teaching tool for both tamariki and adults. More importantly, each book can be enjoyed by all as kiwi story-telling at its best too.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Kōrero Mai
By Sharon Holt
Published by The Writing Bug
ISBN 9780994117113

Taku Mōkai
By Sharon Holt
Published by The Writing Bug
ISBN 9780994117144

Whai Mai
By Sharon Holt
Published by The Writing Bug
ISBN 9780473294564

Book Reviews: Colours for Kiwi Babies, and Counting For Kiwi Babies, by Matthew Williamson and Fraser Williamson

cv_colours_for_kiwi_babiesAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

It is refreshing to read board books for young babies which represent the world they are growing up in through beautiful pictures and simple text.

In Colours for Kiwi Babies, each double page spread focuses on one colour. One page is filled with the colour with the colour’s name in both te reo Māori and English. Opposite, a stylized kiwi image represents the colour. With each turn of the page, the pictures show New Zealand proudly – a rugby jersey, pohutakawa, pavalova; all things your child is likely to grow up knowing in real life.

cv_counting_for_kiwi_babiesIn Counting for Kiwi Babies, the focus is on New Zealand native birds from across the country – kiwi, tūī, ruru and kea for example. The text includes the numeral with te reo Māori and English names for each number. This is great as your child grows for number recognition.

In both books, both English and te reo Māori are valued equally – and it is fantastic to see some bird and plant names are not translated because these kupu are part of our kiwi dictionary!

The books are robust enough for your child to love but designed for adults to enjoy too. I really enjoyed the muted colours which were pleasing to read and the pictures could hang on my wall!

We shared these with a young child who has just had a baby sister join her whānau. The simple format allowed her to read to her new sister independently and for her sister to enjoy the story-telling.

Both these books are a beautiful addition to any new-borns’ library and as your baby grows, these books will provoke lots of kōrero about the images and text.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Colours for Kiwi Babies
by Matthew Williamson and Fraser Williamson
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143771142

Counting for Kiwi Babies
by Matthew Williamson and Fraser Williamson
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143771135

Book Review: Hush -A Kiwi Lullaby By Joy Cowley and Andrew Burdan

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_hush_a_kiwi_lullabyWe are so blessed in New Zealand to have writers such as Joy Cowley. She has continued over the years to provide appropriate, beautiful texts to share with our children. Hush is the latest addition and I think this book and song will quickly become a Kiwi classic.

The traditional lullaby by Brahms is given new words and a Maori translation. We have sheep and Mums, stars and tui, pāua and kauri in place of the traditional English images. The words fit the tune in a natural way and the illustrations use a soft palette to create an harmonious, restful scene.

I was delighted to see the book has an additional Māori text and even a glossary of Māori words. The next generation of Kiwis will be familiar with a bi-cultural approach at pre-school and school, so it is timely to see New Zealand publications acknowledging this.

This book would make a wonderful gift for a newborn, a toddler birthday or even to a Grandparent. It is a delight of word and image. As the final line states:
‘And when that silver fern’s no more….
You’re still the best baby in Aotearoa.’

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Hush: A Kiwi Lullaby
by Joy Cowley and Andrew Burdan
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433125

Book Reviews: Kākahu – Getting Dressed; Kararehe – Animals; and Kanohi – My Face, by Kitty Brown and Kirsten Parkinson

Available now from selected bookshops nationwide.

I have reviewed lots of books for Booksellers NZ now, and I know that it’s a good one when I go and talk to our school librarian Sam about them. We both love reading good novels and share recommendations; we also enjoy great children’s books, and Sam, bless her, will often take my recommendation from a review and order a copy for school.

 


I took these three books straight to Sam to ask her to order a set. I’d just read them to three 5 year-olds in our Te Reo Māori immersion class to test out an age level for them. Being board books, even though they were really engaging to me as a reader and language learner, I wondered if our youngest learners would think they were babyish. They most definitely did not.

My three young friends – all learning to read and speak Te Reo Māori – really loved the books. They enjoyed using their own knowledge of reading to work out the phrases by looking at the pictures and matching the words. They spontaneously acted out some of the phrases. They were excited to be able to actually be able to read new books.

Because these books are bilingual – Te Reo Māori and English – they will be accessible to most readers in New Zealand. It’s a great idea to make some simple vocabulary and phrases available to readers who only have a smattering of Te Reo Māori with the English translation underneath, and there’s a really helpful pronunciation guide with phonetic spelling at the back to help.

The illustrations are just gorgeous. The children look like real Kiwi kids, cheeky and mischievous and full of spirit; you feel like you could stroke the animals. And being board books, they are robust enough to grow with a baby or toddler into a child’s first year of school; although I think the books are too lovely to be chewed on!

I will be buying these books as gifts for newborns, and for early birthday presents – I think they’d be great for children who are up to 5 and a half. I think these are such a valuable addition to the wonderful pantheon of homegrown books that speak of New Zealand; every early learning centre should have the set. I really hope that Kitty Brown and Kirsten Parkinson will produce more!

Reviewed by Rachel Moore (New Entrance teacher)

Kanohi: My Face
by Kitty Brown and Kirsten Parkinson
Published by Reo Pepi Tapui Ltd
ISBN 9780473331504

Kararehe: Animals
by Kitty Brown and Kirsten Parkinson
Published by Reo Pepi Tapui Ltd
ISBN 9780473331511

Kākahu: Getting Dressed
by Kitty Brown and Kirsten Parkinson
Published by Reo Pepi Tapui Ltd
ISBN 9780473331528