National | Matariki

Matariki sparked teacher's imagination for award-winning children's book

An award-winning children's book is being released just before Matariki. How My Koro Became a Star centres on the special relationship between a grandfather and his moko.

It's a heart-warming story about whānau and dealing with the deaths of those we love.

This year saw it win the Storylines Te Kahurangi Kāterina Te Heikōkō Mataira Award for a manuscript written originally in te reo Maori.

Author Brianne Te Paa (Ngāti Kahu, Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Te Whānau-a-Apanui) says the story is about a boy who has learned tikanga about Matariki from his koro, and tells the journey of the boy upholding that same tikanga after he passes.

“I’m a teacher, so my audience is always children. This story, in particular, came to me and I just knew that this was going to be for tamariki,” she says.

The inspiration for the book came when Te Paa, after a chance meeting during her Te Pīnakitanga ki te Reo Kairangi wānanga, met māramatanga Māori expert Professor Rangi Mātāmua.

“My kaiako, who are friends with him, invited him to talk to us about Matariki. As he spoke, the story unravelled in front of me and I thought, ‘Wow! Somebody should write something about this.’

"Permission to grieve'

“It took me a couple of years to realise that the somebody was me but I’m very grateful to Professor Mātāmua for sharing his knowledge, and to my kaiako reo Māori for giving me the tools to be able to write that in te reo Māori as well..”

Feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive” for the book,  Te Paa says.

“I think it resonates with a lot of us because we have to find a way to deal with loss. It gives us permission to grieve and gives us a different way to do so tieing in with Matariki.”

The book is available in both English and te reo Māori.

“I think it’s important that our tamariki kōrero Māori have access to stories, especially when they reflect their world and are embedded in mātauranga Māori. I’m glad I was able to provide that for them as well.”

Winning the award named after reo Māori revitaliser and Māori education pioneer Dame Kāterina Mataira was a huge honour for Brianne.

“I owe the tūāpapa the foundations to Te Ataarangi, which Dame Kāterina was a co-founder of. The specialness of that is not lost on me. It’s a huge round circle moment. I’m very honoured.”