5 Fab Books for Kids about Matariki
If you look into the sky this month, you’ll see a cluster of nine stars. In te reo, this cluster is known as Matariki, and it marks the Māori new year, an important time in the calendar.
The stars are also known as Pleiades, the ancient Greek name, and Seven Sisters in English. The story of the stars varies, but one of the most popular tells how the cluster represents a whaea or mother - Matariki, the brightest star - and her daughters, with each star representing an element of well-being and health and the environment.
In Te Ao Māori (Māori world view), the appearance of the stars closes the past year and marks the beginning of the new year. It’s time to honour people who have been lost in the past year, celebrate the present and look forward to the new year. The stars are also often associated with planting and harvesting, with a good season forecast if they appear clear and bright.
If you are looking for Matariki, the best time to see it is early morning, just before dawn. Look to the northeast horizon and look for the line of stars that form Orion’s Belt (known by Māori as Tautoru). Then look left until you see a group of tiny stars. Those are the Matariki stars.
Matariki varies each year but occurs sometime between late May and early July. This year Matariki falls on Friday 14th of July. Since 2022, the date has been marked as a public holiday in New Zealand.
To celebrate, we’ve picked out five fab books about Matariki to read as a family:
Matariki board book by Gavin Bishop This bilingual board book is an ideal introduction to Matariki for young children. Each star is named, and the meaning behind it explained. Bold illustrations will capture children’s attention.
Flit the Fantail and the Matariki Map by Kat Quin In this story about lovable Flit the Fantail, Flit and his friend are lost in the forest and use the Matariki star cluster to find their way home.
The Little Kiwi’s Matariki by Nikki Slade Robinson When Little Kiwi is woken by the moonlight, she goes through the forest waking her friends to celebrate Matariki. The book contains simple te reo alongside the English words to help you learn.
Matariki Around the World: a Cluster of Stars, a Cluster of Stories by Miriam Kamo and Rangi Matamua Accompanied by beautiful illustrations, this book tells the stories behind the Matariki stars from around the world including the Pacific Islands and Africa.
Navigating the Stars: Maori Creation Myths by Witi Ihimaera For older readers, this book by Māori author Witi Ihimaera redefines some traditional stories, tracing the history of Māori people in a modern way. Witi Ihimaera was the first Maori to publish both a book of short stories and a novel.
Celebrate reading all year round
If you love to read as a family, then we have books to suit everyone. Our adult and young adult subscriptions send you a book each month, based on your interests. Our children’s subscriptions contain a selection of picture books based on your child’s age group. You could also purchase a subscription as a gift - they make wonderful alternatives for Christmas, birthday or Matariki gifts, or at any time of year to show someone they are special.
- Words by Arwen Hann