Archive for June, 2022

Matariki around the world

By Rangi Matamua and Miriama Kamo

Illustrated by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White

ISBN 9781775437420

Scholastic NZ

If I had to choose just one book about Matariki, this would be my pick. It is suitable for primary school all the way through to secondary. It is both celebratory and informative.

As a school librarian, I am often asked to find information on how other countries celebrate Matariki. Information has always been very limited to just a few sentences here and there. This book answers those questions with many pages dedicated to not just Aotearoa, but so many other countries.

We can read and compare our celebrations and cultures with places like: Africa, Greece, Japan, Scandinavia, Australia and many more. The countries have different names and different stories for the star cluster. This beautiful book brings the stories together whether they are known as Matariki, Pleiades, Subaru or a number of other names. The stories are all about star clusters watching us, guiding us, and being part of the same world.

We learn about the origins with Ranginui and Papatūānuku. We learn about their children. We learn about the different stars and the lunar calendar. I love that the authors have also included consideration for climate change under the pages on Waipunarangi which means “water that pools in the sky”. A modern day message for stories that have been around as old as time.

The book is easy to read, it flows well and is informative without being too wordy, and the authors have clearly researched and thought about what they wanted to include. The glossary and index add value as well.

The illustrator, Isobel Joy Te Aho-White has created stunning illustrations with the perfect colour choices. Lots of blues, purples, greens and culturally, respectful illustrations.

With our first Matariki public holiday just around the corner, this is a much-needed, wonderful publication to share and celebrate with schools, friends and family.


Thanks to Scholastic, I am able to share these beautiful mythical illustrations.


Skandar and the unicorn thief

By A. F. Steadman

ISBN 9781398512429

Simon & Schuster

Skandar is 13 and a bit of a loner. He has no friends, just his sister and his dad and all he wants is to be a unicorn rider. Not your stereotypical pretty-as-a-picture unicorn, but real, scary unicorns. It is all that matters to him but first he must pass his Hatchery exam, that is if he gets the chance. Each student must hatch their own unicorn, and tame them in order to become riders but not everyone will make it.

Action unfolds quickly for Skandar, and he soon finds himself on an island and pushed into danger. There are other riders his age but the biggest problem, is who to trust. Who is telling the truth, and who might betray him? Scandar has a secret, a life-threatening one that he needs to keep hidden. Bullies are found everywhere, but here the risk to Skandar’s safety and secrets could be deadly if his secret is revealed.

The unicorns are strong-willed, definitely dangerous, bloodthirsty and potentially wild killers. The new riders are people Skandar’s age and they come with their own personal issues and fears but also kindness and loyalty. Working out who will stand together is one of the book’s theme. Family, friends, honesty, bravery, it’s all here in this action-packed debut novel. I love the action of the fierce sky battles where unicorns and riders fight to win, but where survival is not guaranteed. I love the friendships and teamwork.

As well as the ferocious unicorns, there are four elements that tie riders, unicorns and elements together, or perhaps there is more, but that would be too revealing, and no one wants spoilers in their reviews. I can tell you, there is a lot to like. The characters, with all their flaws, the fantasy and storyline, good against evil, descriptive language and general pace of the story. The story is well written and I have already seen a number of students reading this at school and it has quickly become their favourite book, which is high praise indeed.

I’ve finished the first book and now hanging out for book two.