NZ Book Month – Taniwha

taniwhaTaniwha, written and illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa

A small boy lives by a river, and there’s a taniwha in it. (“ta-nee-fah”)

There’s a taniwha in my river. People say it’s a log, but I know it’s a taniwha.

The boy talks to the taniwha, and she tells him stories about the old days, and takes him to special places. Together they have visited Tangaroa and his children in the sea, and Ranginui in the clouds, and Papatuanuku in the earth. He has brought back treasures from these travels, and he shows them to his koro.

He looked and smiled.
‘You have seen the faces of
Tangaroa, Ranginui and Papatuknuku.
How rich you are!’

And the book ends with the same words that it started with.

There’s a taniwha in my river. People say it’s a log, but I know it’s a taniwha.

This is a poetic book. The pace is slow and measured, and the sentences simple. The illustrations are beautiful – complex and interesting without being overdone. I love the grandfather’s look of peace and pleasure when the boy is showing him the treasure, and the curious wonder in the boy’s face. The small boy is lovingly drawn, so much so that I wonder if Robyn Kahukiwa modeled him on one of her own mokopuna.

There’s a glossary and pronunciation guide at the end which I found very helpful when I was reading this book to my girls. I can manage the pronunciation of everyday te reo Maori, sort of, but some of the multi-syllabic names in this book challenged me.

I think that what I like most about this book is the way that it captures the beauty of a child’s imagination. I remember what it was like to imagine that a taniwha lived in the tomo on my nana’s farm, and to see furtive creatures slipping through the bush, and through them, to encounter myth and mystery. The small boy collects treasures from sea and earth and heavens, but the greatest treasure is his sense of wonder about the world in which he lives.


NZBMsmlI’m taking up Ele’s challenge, and blogging a book a day in October, which is New Zealand Book Month. All the books are by New Zealand authors.


4 comments on “NZ Book Month – Taniwha

  1. […] continues to meet the post a day challenge at In A Strange Land with Taniwha written and illustrated by Robyn […]

  2. George Darroch says:

    I loved that book. Thanks.

  3. […] Taniwha is a beautiful book about a boy who believes in the folk-law of his culture and lets his imagination take him to wonderful places where he is given gifts as a reminder of his belief and faith.  I love this review of the book. […]

  4. superrelish says:

    Beautiful review for a great book.
    I have just linked a post here

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