Book List: Reo pukapuka for Te Wiki o te reo Māori


This week, September 11-18, is Māori Language Week, which is all about celebrating one of the official languages of Aotearoa and the language of the tangata whenua of these mōtu. This year’s theme encourages people to “Kia kaha te reo Māori”—make the language stronger. Literary resources and books written in te reo Māori are a great way to enhance your whole family’s te reo journey. Here is a list of some great books published in te reo Māori in the past 12 months, compiled by Marino Harker-Smith.

Kōhanga: Preschoolers, 0-5 years:

Tōku Whānau Rerehua: My Beautiful Family

Nā Rauhina Cooper

Nā Isobel Joy Te Aho-White ngā pikitia

Published by Oratia

RRP: $22.99

Buy now

People have different kinds of families and that’s okay, because that’s what makes them special. Huia has a school topic to talk about “our family,” but she’s shy to talk about her own family with her classmates: she has two mums and is worried what her friends will think. But over the next few days she learns that families come in all shapes and forms—some whānau have a step-parent, some have one parent, some children are whāngai or adopted. Huia doesn’t have to be shy anymore, because everyone’s family is different, and every kind is beautiful. 

He Rite a Miti ki a Pāpā

Nā Éric Veillé

Nā Piripi Walker i whakamāori

Published by Gecko Press

RRP: $14.99

Buy now

A board book great for toddlers and preschoolers, He Rite a Miti ki a Pāpā follows a child bonding with their father through imitation of everything the parent does. But when Miti throws all the toys in the air and they land on Pāpā’s head and he yells, so does Miti—Pāpā takes a break to think before rushing back for a big hug and both are happy again.

You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are!: Me i Mōhio Koe ki tō Waimarietanga

Nā Belinda O’Keefe

Nā Ross Kinnaird ngā pikitia

Published by Oratia

RRP: $21.00

Buy now

This is an intergenerational tale to help children connect with their grandparents’ experiences. Most kids don’t like doing house jobs and young Izzy is no exception. But when she moans about having to unload the dishwasher, her great-uncle Arthur tells her “You don’t know how lucky you are!”—and lists worse things he’s done, from hand-washing stacks of dishes to dodging arrows in a battle. His stories get wilder and wilder and Izzy starts to wonder if her uncle may be exaggerating a little.

Farewell, Anahera

Nā Vanessa Hatley-Owen

Nā Scott Irvine ngā pikitia

Nā Kanapu Rangitauira i whakamāori

Published by David Ling Publishing

RRP: $19.99

Buy now

This is a comforting and uplifting story for anyone, big or small, who has lost someone that they love. It could also be good for helping a child navigate the grieving process or learn about death. In Māori belief systems, when our loved ones die, they begin their journey to return to Hawaiki. “From far away, Hawaiki called to her. Turning her face to the sun, she was ready for her next adventure.”

Ringakōreko

Nā Sacha Cotter

Nā Josh Morgan ngā pikitia

Nā Kawata Teepa i whakamāori

Published by Huia

RRP: $22.00

Buy now

This is a story about a pig that refuses to act like a “normal” pig. While the cow says “moo” and the chicken says “cluck,” the pig says “ringakōreko!” (dazzlehands!). And as hard as the Farmer tries, Pig refuses to go “oink,” and instead gets all the animals moving to “train hands, rain hands, fly-it-like-a-plane hands—gotta liberate these dazzlehands!”

Ko Annie Rāua ko Marama/Annie and Moon

Nā Miriam Smith

Nā Lesley Moyes ngā pikitia

Nā A. T. Mahuika i whakamāori

Published by Penguin Random House

RRP: $21.00

Buy now

A re-release of a popular 80s book, this heartwarming story is of a young girl and her cat as her single mother tries to find them a home. This book won the Picture Book of the Year award in 1989, when it was first published, and has now been reprinted in a bilingual English and Māori edition for a new generation to enjoy. Annie, her mum, Meg, and her pet cat, Moon, are always shifting house. One day, Nana offers the perfect solution—but will Moon like their new home too?

Ko Tama me te Taniwha (Tama and the Taniwha—Māori Edition)

Nā Melanie Koster

Nā Monica Koster ngā pikitia

Nā Pānia Papa i whakamāori

Published by Scholastic

RRP: $21.99

Buy now

Tama is down at the lake with his sisters and grandparents. When his sisters tease him about a taniwha being in the river, he takes a deep breath and dives in anyway. What is that wonderful, swirling, sparkling apparition? Is it a taniwha? Or is it something else altogether?

Finding Grace: Kimihia a Grace

Nā Emma Hinton

Nā Nicky Hartley ngā pikitia

Nā Lois McIver i whakamāori

Self-published

RRP: $25.00

Buy now

This story is a bilingual poem, exploring movement, meaning, and connection with lyrical illustrations on backgrounds painted by children to create the playful world of Grace. The protagonist, a child, goes on an adventure into their backyard. They collect treasure and connect with nature, and in doing so, the images reveal a girl finding her way of being with place and finding her own meaning of grace.

Tide’s Out/Tai Timu

Nā Frances Plumpton

Nā Stephanie Thatcher ngā pikitia

Nā Darryn Joseph i whakamāori

Published by Mary Egan Publishing

RRP: $20.00

Buy now

This is a bilingual English and Māori book that introduces numbers and counting with watercolour illustrations, featuring treasures that can be discovered while strolling along a New Zealand beach at low tide. Although set at Huia on the Manukau Harbour, many of these shells, creatures, and birds can be found on beaches throughout Aotearoa.

Kei ōku Matimati Waewae he Onepū, He Rongo Mātaitai ki tōku Ihu

Nā Rosalind Potter

Nā Ginney Deavoll ngā pikitia

Nā Urupikia Minhinnick i whakamāori

Published by Copy Press

RRP: $24.00

Buy now

This is the Māori-language version of Rosalind’s book, Sand in My Toes, Salt in My Nose, and embellishes on all the great things about summer beach holidays in Aotearoa.

Whetū, the Little Blue Duck

Nā Jennifer Beck

Nā Renee Haggo ngā pikitia

Published by David Ling Publishing

RRP: $19.99

Buy now

A trilingual edition, this book for young children is published in English, Māori and Pinyin, in partnership with the organisers of New Zealand Chinese Language week (25 September to 1 October).

Nana’s Electric Car—Te Motokā Hiko o Kui

Nā Marie Munro

Nā Rachel Doragh ngā pikitia

Nā Piripi Walker i whakamāori

Published by Nana’s Shed Books

RRP: $25.00

Buy now

Three environmentally conscious kids are excited to discover how their nana has chosen a clean new way to help protect the environment. Her new car is fully electric, and Nana even has solar panels on her roof—Nana’s new car is powered along by sunbeams! Dynamic illustrations bring the story to life in an authentic Kiwi environment, while Walker’s literal Māori translation keeps the words simple and clear, so the rhythm is right and each sentence flowers when delivered aloud.

Run, Rabbit: The Race/E Oma, Rāpeti: Te Rehi

Nā Norah Wilson & Kimberly Andrews

Nā Pānia Papa i whakamāori

Published by Scholastic

RRP: $19.99

Buy now

The little rāpeti races with his friends, but keeps hurting himself. Can he reach the finish line?


Kura: Primary school, 6-12 years:

He Reo Iti Noa Ahau

Nā Linda Tuhiwai Smith

Nā Isobel Joy Te Aho-White ngā pikitia

Published by Huia

RRP: $22.00

Buy now

This is an illustrated story aimed at older children (primary school and above) dealing with experiences of family violence and physical abuse, particularly from the child’s perspective. A young boy is unable to express his feelings and sadness and turns inwards. But with the help of his nan, other whānau, and a child psychologist, he rebuilds his self-esteem, begins to find happiness, and regains a sense of who he is and where he belongs.

Te Pukapuka ka Kore e Pānuihia

Nā Tim Tipene

Nā Nicoletta Benella ngā pikitia

Nā Kanapu Rangitauira i whakamāori

Published by Oratia

RRP: $22.99

Buy now

This is a book aimed at reluctant readers and those with dyslexia and takes the viewpoint of children who have reading struggles. Tim Tipene doesn’t like reading, until one day he picks up The Book That Wouldn’t Read. Suddenly the book takes on a life of its own, with sentences moving up and down, words changing colour and disappearing, and strange fonts and characters that get the reader jumping around, even burping. His appeals to the teacher and friends get hushed because “it’s reading time” and before he knows it, he’s finished the book and looking for what to read next.

Ngā Atua: Māori Gods

Nā Robyn Kahukiwa

Nā Kiwa Hammond i whakamāori

Published by Oratia

RRP: $22.99

Buy now

This is a book that will be enjoyed by young and old as prominent wāhine Māori painter Robyn Kahukiwa takes the reader on a stunning visual journey while imparting simple and effective explanations of the Māori gods. Robyn introduces the main Māori deities and explains the arena of life that each one is responsible for. For example: Tumatauenga is the greatest warrior. His powers are extreme strength and courage and he fights for truth and justice. This new paperback edition is fully bilingual with translations by Kiwa Hammond, building on 2017’s popular hardback edition in English.

Riwia me Te Mātai Arorangi

Nā Linda Tuhiwai Smith

Nā Isobel Joy Te Aho-White ngā pikitia

Published by Huia

RRP: $22.00

Buy now

This is an emotional story that deals with homelessness, poverty, and grieving the loss of a sibling from the child’s perspective. Riwia’s baby brother Tawa has been in Auckland Hospital since he was born and his family has come to stay in Auckland. While Riwia goes to school and dad works as a cook, Mum stays with Tawa. Their Aunty Sue’s house is full and renting is expensive, so Riwia and her parents live in a van in the park. Sometimes it’s scary at night when people shout at them in the park, but the weekend is good when they go to Aunty Sue’s and Dad cooks a boil-up and they all have a shower. But Tawa is getting sicker and he dies. The family travels back to Te Teko to take Tawa to their marae for his tangi and burial. Riwia learns about the journey Tawa’s spirit will make to farewell Aotearoa.

Ka Wehi au ki ngā Wenerei

Nā Linda Tuhiwai Smith

Nā Isobel Joy Te Aho-White ngā pikitia

Published by Huia

RRP: $22.00

Buy now

A picture book for primary school children and older, I Don’t Like Wednesdays is about a young boy learning to cope with his grief after his older brother, Apa, dies on a Wednesday.

Ko Te Wai, Ko Tama me Te Marama

Nā Linda Tuhiwai Smith

Nā Isobel Joy Te Aho-White ngā pikitia

Published by Huia

RRP: $22.00

Buy now

Similar to the author’s other books outlined in this list, this book also deals with major social and emotional issues to help children navigate difficult and traumatic experiences in life. This book looks at experiences of having a terminally ill parent as well as living in poverty.

Te Wai’s mum is seriously ill, and Tama’s mum struggles to make ends meet, but Te Wai has got a big imagination and is determined to make the day better. The friends plan a trip to the moon and they wait at the bus stop for the spaceship. Each time the bus arrives, someone they know gets off, and they share something to eat with the children while the kids help them with the steps and heavy bags. That evening, Aunty Cherry takes them in her little red ‘spaceship’ car to look at the stars and tells them how people’s spirits become stars when they die. Te Wai understands this will not be long for her mum. Days later, her tangi takes place, and Te Wai is surrounded by the caring support of her whānau, her community and Tama.

Māui: Sun Catcher

Nā Tim Tipene

Nā Zak Waipara ngā pikitia

Nā Rob Ruha i whakamāori

Published by Oratia

RRP: $22.99

Buy now

This hip-hop style resetting of the famous story of Māui sets the infamous hero as a schoolboy living with his mum and four older brothers in a city where the day is never long enough for things to get done. Māui seizes the moment: “Mum, I’m gonna catch the Sun for you, that Sun who’s always on the run”. This bilingual book in English and Māori brings Māui into a modern-day setting.

Kua Whetūrangitia a Koro

Nā Brianne Te Paa

Nā Story Hemi-Morehouse ngā pikitia

Published by Huia

RRP: $22.00

Buy now

A grandfather teaches his grandson about customs surrounding Matariki, including the Te Waka o Rangi star constellation where captain Taramainuku, according to Māori oral histories, casts the giant net that hauls the dead from the earth and places them in the canoe to become stars. As they watch the stars from the top of a mountain, the boy learns about the tradition of calling out the names of loved ones who have passed away so that they can become stars. A year later, the boy’s koro suddenly dies, and he gathers and prepares the food offering and asks each family member to come with him up the mountain when Matariki is due to rise, but they all make excuses, and he is disheartened. But when he tells them what Koro taught him, they all climb the mountain before sunrise, follow the rituals Koro carried out, and call out Koro’s name so that he can become a star.

Rona Moon: Ko Rona Māhina

Nā Tim Tipene

Nā Theresa Reihana ngā pikitia

Nā Stephanie Huriana Fong i whakamāori

Published by Oratia

RRP: $23.00

Buy now

A retelling of the Māori pūrakau of Rona and the Moon, Tipene brings the story into a modern-day setting. Rona Moon gets angry with everyone—her brother, Nana, Papa. And then one night, she calls the moon stupid. Taken to meet her ancestor Whaea Rona on the moon, Rona Moon learns a lesson in how to control her temper.


Marino Harker-Smith

Marino is a mum of two, feminist, professional op shopper, proud Māori of Ngāti Kahungunu o Te Wairoa. She has a Diploma in Journalism from the first bicultural journalism programme in New Zealand and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Māori Studies and Cultural Anthropology.