Ordinarily, I don’t care for didactic stories for children, or for adults, for that matter. But somehow, this book manages to talk about the significance of Matariki, and connect with children, and adults, at the same time. It’s a very simple story, about a girl and a boy heading down to the beach at night with their family, their mum, their aunties and uncles and their grandmother, to sit by a bonfire and wait for Matariki to appear in the sky. Matariki is also known as the Pleiades, and the first new moon after they reappear in the sky in the middle of June marks the beginning of the new year for Maori.
The story recounts the varying legends and customs associated with Matariki. As I read it, I can hear the call with which Nana greets the stars as they appear, and feel the sadness of the women singing about those who have died and gone on the great journey to Cape Reinga and beyond. To me, this story has the pace and joy of Martin Waddell’s The Big Big Sea; it’s about family and connection and tradition and love.
Tirohia atu nei ka wheturangitia Matariki, te whetu o te tau
Behold Matariki the star of the year has made its appearance
And for the record, yes, of course we should give up Queen’s Birthday, and celebrate Matariki instead!