Reviews: Three reo Māori pukapuka

These are reviews of new picture books, by Lady Kataraina Pōkai. What do we think? You must read these books!

Read these reviews in te reo Māori here. The Dream Factory, Rere Atu Taku Poi! | Let My Poi Fly!, and Te Pīkari Pipi have all been shortlisted in the 2024 NZCYA Book Awards! Read our summary of all the award finalists here.

Te Wheketere Moemoeā | The Dream Factory, nā Steph Matuku, ko ngā pikitia nā Zak Ātea (Huia)

When night falls, a mystical mist is released from the dream factory across a small township that activates beautiful, happy dreams upon the people of the town. They dream of cakes made of flowers, flying cars, mermaids and unicorns. When they wake the next day, they work on making those dreams come true.  Until, one night, a kererū enters the dream factory and one of his feathers accidentally falls into the machine and changes the dreams. 

You’ll have to read the full story to find out what happens next! 

Although I thought the cover looked better suited for intermediate/high school students, the illustrations are very colourful and vibrant with a style like that of traditional paintings.

There are some not so common words like pihitahi (unicorns) and ponaturi (mermaids). It is always a joy to add new words to the punakupu (glossary).  

One day, a kererū flew through an open window at the dream factory. A feather fell from her wing, drifted through the air and was caught in the dream machine.

At times I’d ask my eight-year-old daughter Mihiata some questions before turning the page to get a sense of what she’s thinking might happen next, a strategy I find useful to keep her engaged, also to prompt her to generate her own thoughts as to what might happen. 

After the feather falls from the kererū into the air of the dream factory and a dark, gloomy mist is released across the town, I asked her… “What do you think will happen next?” 

“Perhaps they will only dream about kererū now”, she replied.

“They were all sad when they woke up. I was sad too because they couldn’t dream anymore”.

Although there are no main characters in the story, it is very engaging. It pays to have an imagination too. It was easy to follow, and I had loads of fun reading it aloud to Mihiata.

Te Wheketere Moemoeā | The Dream Factory

Nā Steph Matuku

Ko ngā pikitia nā Zak Ātea

Huia Publishers

RRP: $22.00

Hokona ināianei

Rere Atu Taku Poi! Let My Poi Fly!, nā Tangaroa Paul, nā Rebecca Gibbs ngā pikitia (Oratia)

I loved seeing kupu Māori with their English translations in the corner of the pages as opposed to skimming to the back of the book. This prevented any disruptions to our reading. I also admire the bilingualism of the book and the placement of te reo Māori text, followed by the English text.

The diversity and inclusiveness that involves different coloured characters is humbling and I appreciated not only seeing tamariki Māori, but you are also seeing students from different backgrounds with different coloured hair, including a student with glasses and one in a wheelchair.

I haven’t read many books that address prejudice at a child’s level, and I think we need more stories like this. I can feel the passion of the author and the lived experience of being raised around kapa haka as I too was brought up this way; going to practice with Uncle or sitting in front of the TV waiting for our relations to come on who were performing at the Aotearoa Traditional Māori Performing Arts Festival (ATMPAF). E mihi nui ana ki a ia me aua wheako ōna. [Editor note: This phrase has been intentionally left in te reo Māori. It is an expression of gratitude to the book’s author.]

I love the key messages I can feel emanating from the story, things such as, ‘be brave’, ‘be courageous’,  no matter who may feel uncomfortable around you. With a little support and understanding the world can be a better place.

A few minor things were picked up with the te reo Māori text to think about.  For example; Āta/ātā only has one macron and Pouaka/Pouka has a missing letter. 

This book is exquisite.

The illustrations are amazing and make us feel like we’re in the story. They reflect a very Māori feel to them and remind me of when I was at kura! Beautiful colour schemes with an attractive cover to entice all tamariki. I also appreciated seeing little post-its with the words of the items (waiata/haka) in the story.

As mentioned earlier, I think we need more stories like this to allow and encourage our tamariki to do as their hearts desire and not to be reluctant due to discrimination or judgement of others. Be free, be you and be kind.

Rere Atu Taku Poi! | Let My Poi Fly!

Nā Tangaroa Paul

Nā Rebecca Gibbs ngā pikitia


RRP: $22.99

Hokona ināianei

Te Pīkari Pipi | Pipi Dance, nā Angie Belcher i tuhi, nā Lily Uivel i tā ngā pikitia, nā Pānia Papa i whakamāori (Scholastic)

Firstly, I find it necessary to give credit to the interpreter of this text. To her creative intellect and expertise to thread words together that retain the Māori way of thinking, igniting an intimate feeling that draws you closer to the story, ascribed to the seamless flow of description from beginning to end.  The story was delightful and read with so much enjoyment.  Whaea Pania, champion of the Māori language world – sincere admiration and respect from our hearts to yours.

My daughter Mihiata and I read this book together.  At the end of the story, I asked her, “What do you think about the story, darling?”, she replied, “this is new to me, I didn’t know there was such a thing, a dance to help you gather kaimoana, that’s awesome!”

A short rhyming review:

The written text is easy to follow,
with an abundance of rhyming words woven through to swallow.

It’s not as though a singular rhyming word found here nor there,
but multiple sentences from far and near!

We saw the glow of joy from Pē, gathering pipi with Māmā, a remarkable affair!
Imagery accentuating the ocean world, such intricate detail like pounamu and pearls!

With my feet under water and the sun on my face,
I wriggle my toes till I’m firmly in place…

We reach into the water and feel amongst the sand,
then one by one we find we have pipi in our hands.

As I reflect on my childhood and whānau time at the ocean, we didn’t dance while gathering pipi. We would sing and have deep conversations, a bit of banter here and there, but not dancing. The beauty of this story to me is the invaluable learning. Precious kōrero for our children of today and generations to come.

They will learn about the features and many characteristics of the ocean, the distinct connections between people and the environment, protocols for gathering kai, multiple new te reo Māori words and the type of attitude to have to achieve your tasks. 

Whenever we go to the moana to gather kai, we will use this line from the story to excite us about our task ahead.

Shuffle to the left, then shuffle to the right
Twist your hips from side to side, with all your might.

Te Pīkari Pipi | Pipi Dance

Nā Angie Belcher

Nā Lily Uivel i tā ngā pikitia

Nā Pania Papa i whakamāori

Scholastic NZ

RRP: $21.99

Hokona ināianei

Lady Kataraina Pōkai

Ka hāro ake au ki te tihi o taku maunga ko Hikurangi,
Ko ngā wai tuku kiri o taku awa o Waiapu e rere nei,
Ko taku iwi o Ngāti Porou tapatahi ana ki te whenua,
He tīwaiwaka hau nā Māui e tīori nei i aku mihi ki ngā manu huhua o te wao nui a Tāne, kei aku huia kaimanawa, tēnā rā tātau katoa.
Ko Lady Kataraina Pokai tōku ingoa, he māmā ahau, ā, tokowhā aku tamariki.
I tēnei wā he kaitātari Māori ahau i te tīma utu taurite ki Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga.
Ko taku tamāhine tēnei ko Mihiata Wirepa-Pokai tōna ingoa, e 8 tau tōna pakeke.
Kei Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna ia e kuraina ana, i tēnei wā.

My name is Lady Kataraina Pokai, I am a mum and have four children. I am a Māori analyst for the pay equity team at The Ministry of Education. My daughters’ name is Mihiata Wirepa-Pokai, she is 8 years old and goes to school at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna. We’ve always read to Mihiata, ever since she was a baby, and one thing that gets us excited, is
reading te reo Māori books! Especially children’s ones because they take us on a journey that’s fun and inspiring, and exploring the imagination creates an anticipation that keeps you wanting more! On the other hand, most te reo Māori books always have a kupu hou or two so there’s always learning too. Hopefully one day, Mihiata and I will write and publish our very own te reo Māori children’s book.