Kua auraki mai ano a Maui ki te whakahihiko i te ngakau pohewa.
Donovan Bixley retells the story of how Maui captured the secret of fire. This is the traditional tale but with Donovan's unique twist. The pictures are bright and bring their own level of humour to the book. Darryn Joseph and Keri Opai ensure that the story is accurate and culturally appropriate and translate the story for this Te Reo edition.
There are times when I have to do a lot of thinking before allocating a score to a review book, but this time round there was no need for that. From the moment I opened the first page, I was captivated by the vibrant illustrations - modern and colourful, but nevertheless unmistakably Maori. Because I was already familiar with the legend, having grown up with it, I could trace the story outline just by looking at the pictures. The text was the extra treat, joining the growing collection of books in Te Reo for children as they increase their word power in the most compelling manner.
I took the book with me to a family celebration, knowing there would be plenty of children there and certain that Miss Three and her siblings would be especially interested. I had not counted on their teenage cousin choosing to sit with us and enjoy the story along with the younger ones. He was just as fascinated as they were, listening to every word and admiring the pictures along with them - and showing remarkable patience when Miss Three wanted to go back a page to revisit something. All of them are bilingual, so there were no issues with unfamiliar words - the text was easy enough for everyone to follow. (However, just in case the book is being shared with a child whose reo is not so secure, there are illustrations of some of the main items in the story just inside the front cover, together with the appropriate word.) The speech bubbles, too, provide a simpler version of the story for younger readers or those who are less confident in their reo.
Their favourite of all the pictures, and one Miss Three kept wanting to go back to, was the double page spread of Maui arriving at Mahuika's home. Shades of blues and greens made it look like an eerie underwater scene, and Mahuika herself with her distorted fingernails was nothing like the children's idea of a grandmother. Her words "Tena koe, e moko! Hara mai, e noho me to kuia", inviting Maui to come and join her, sent shudders of horrified delight through the children; what a fate that would be!
All of them loved the way Maui is just plain naughty. He gets out of the chores, sets up his brothers to take the blame, moves things around, and takes other people's property. He is cheeky and nosy, and often extremely annoying. In fact, Maui is the original delinquent; although he manages to achieve great things (like ensuring humans can access fire for cooking and warmth), he is not slow to use people for his own agenda. Mahuika is not exempt; one by one, her fingernails are taken and destroyed. And then, when things go belly up, Maui calls on Tawhirimatea in turn - another example of using someone else to get what he wants.
At the end of the book there is a page of information on the mahoe and kaikomako, trees that can be used to make fire. This would be useful for older children researching the facts behind the myth. And there is also the text of a short waiata which outlines the legend; another taonga for older readers to enjoy. Not that Miss Three was interested, of course - she just wanted to go back through the coloured pictures and "read" the book to herself a second time.
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