Poetry Box review: Stacey Morrison & Jeremy Sherlock’s Kia Kaha – A storybook of Māori who changed the world

Kia Kaha: A storybook of Māori who changed the world, Stacey Morrison & Jeremy Sherlock, Penguin, 2021

E huri tō aroaro ki te rā, tukuna tō
ataarangi ki muri i a koe

Turn to face the sun and let your
shadow fall behind you

(Georgina Beyer page)

Kia Kaha: A storybook of Māori who changed the world is my favourite children’s book of 2021. It is groundbreaking, ground restoring, remarkable in its reach and empathy. Stacey Morrison and Jeremy Sherlock have gathered together Māori who deserve recognition and celebration (they acknowledge there are so many more they wanted to include). Stacey and Jeremy share the stories in a lovingly produced book that is like a meeting place, a heart lounge, a conversation map.

The book includes Māori who have excelled on the sports fields and courts, those who have worked hard to make the world a better place by fighting for the rights of Māori, of the Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ communities. Those who have done amazing things in law, health, politics, education, the promotion of te reo Māori. Those who work hard in film, the arts, music, comedy, literature. Those who are activists. There are navigators, entrepreneurs, fashion designers. There are teams of people (the Māori All Blacks, the 28th Māori Battalion, the Māori Women’s Welfare League) and there are numerous individuals (Dame Whina Cooper, Dame Tariana Turia, Stan Walker, Patricia Grace, Taika Waititi, Ralph Hotere).

It was a genius idea to select twelve illustrators: Akoni Pakinga-Stirling (Te Arawa, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāi Tahu), Haylee Ngāroma Solomon (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi), Isobel Joy Te Aho-White (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu), Jessica Kathleen Thompson Carr aka Māori Mermaid (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāruahine, Ngāpuhi, Pākehā), Josh Morgan (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata), Kurawaka Productions, Miriama Grace-Smith (Ngāti Hau, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Toarangatira and Ngāto Porou), Ngaumutane Jones aka Ms Meemo (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu, Tainui, Ngāi Tūhoe, Whakatōhea), Reweti Arapere (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Tūwharetoa), Taupuruariki Whakataka-Brightwell (Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa, Te Arawa), Xoë Hall (Kai Tahu), and Zak Waipara (Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Ruapani). The artwork is dynamic, fresh, full of life. Glorious.

As I read each story I feel like I am sitting beside the editors on a warm rug (I have never met them) but it is though they are speaking to me, to all of us readers, and we are listening spellbound. Each story flows like honey, like everyday conversation. Glorious.

I also love the sayings that head each story. Little pieces of wisdom that catch important things about each person.

I see this magnificent and important book, this gift, this taonga, as a waka that sets sail into the future with song and recognition, ideas and heart, mahi and aroha. This is my favourite children’s book of 2021, no question.

E kitea ai ngā taonga o te moana
me mākū koe

To see the gifts of the ocean,
you must get wet

(Sir Hekenukumai Busby page)

Stacey Morrison (Te Arawa, Ngāi Tahu) is a radio and TV broadcaster whose projects have spanned 25 years. She is also a mama to three young tamariki who have been brought up with te reo Māori as their mother tongue. Stacey herself didn’t learn to speak Maori until she was an adult. It required a lot of research, determination, wonderful mentors and the support of a community to achieve her goal of becoming fluent by the time her children were born. Stacey and her husband Scotty co-wrote Māori at Home to help other families use te reo in everyday settings, and Stacey’s first children’s book, My First Words in Māori, became a number-one bestseller. Both Stacey and Scotty work with many groups and families to build Māori-language friendships and community for whanau. Stacey has also been an advisor on pre-schooler and children’s TV shows, which, along with her experiences with her own children, has helped her identify the words children pick up early in their language learning. As a winner of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori Champion Award in 2016, and the winner of Waipunarangi – Te Reo and Tikanga Award 2021, as well as a graduate of Te Panekiretanga o te Reo (the Institute of Excellence in Māori Language), Stacey loves encouraging the learning and use of our country’s beautiful native language.

Jeremy Sherlock (Tainui, Ngāti Awa) was born and raised in the small town of Coromandel. Growing up, he loved sport, music and drawing and was always a bit of a bookworm. At the time, there wasn’t much of a selection of books written about and for Māori, but his grandfather’s tall stories, family histories, and Peter Gossage’s picture books about the myths of Aotearoa made a big and lasting impression. A couple of decades later, he joined the publishing industry as an editor of non-fiction. Over the years, Jeremy has worked in New Zealand and Australia for Reed, Penguin and Penguin Random House, specialising in biography and memoir, sports, history, pop culture and all things Māoritanga. He currently lives and works in Tamaki Makaurau as a freelance publishing consultant and writer. Kia Kaha, a collaboration with Stacey Morrison, is his first book.


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