Rangatahi Māori stories recognised at book awards for children and young adults

By Stefan Dimitrof

Pania Tahau-Hodges  (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Ttūtemohuta, Ngāi Tūhoe) is a finalist in the 2022 New Zealand book awards for children and young adults.

Her book, The Greatest Haka Festival on Earth, written in both English and te reo, has been nominated in four different categories.

Judges say there is a growing strength of books with a te ao Māori worldview and titles in te reo Māori.

The awards attracted a record-breaking 199 entries, with 28 titles announced as finalists.

This is the highest number of submissions ever received for the awards, which are the pre-eminent celebration of publishing for young people in Aotearoa.

'Really thrilled'

Tahau-Hodges said that she's really thrilled at the nomination of her book and to see so many Māori participating being recognised.

“Steph Matuku, Lauren Keenan and Ataria Shaman are all amazing Māori writers. I'm really thrilled to see the finalists this year.”

The Greatest Haka Festival on Earth or Mokopuna Matatini is a love story to her past as, in her words, she is a “haka junkie”. Her love for haka and Te Matatini and the shared experience of kapa haka motivated the creation of this story.

The story follows a kapa haka group, led by Nan, who leads and organises the group for the festival.

“Nan used to be a kapa haka star back in the day and she has a bit of a surprise for the mokopuna when they get to the festival.

“It’s important for our tamariki to see themselves in the books they are reading, I hope that it has a positive impact on them”.

'Get lost in different worlds'

Tahau-Hodges said that with the implementation of technology into children’s lives that authors and publishers have had to adapt but Tahau-Hodges has learned from children that their love of books will never go away.

When we have time reading with our tamariki and mokopuna, there is hat closeness, that holding each other tight while immersing yourselves in a story together.

“It’s the ability to hide away and get lost in different worlds and fall in love with the characters.”