A cluster of luminous books for Matariki reading.
A cluster of luminous books for Matariki reading.

BooksJune 22, 2024

The pick of the Matariki picture books

A cluster of luminous books for Matariki reading.
A cluster of luminous books for Matariki reading.

A selection of beautiful books to relax and reflect with this Matariki.

Now is the time for snuggling up on the couch and connecting with loved ones through the power of storytelling. If you’re looking to add bookish rituals to your Matariki celebrations, here’s a selection of Matariki-inspired books for the whole whānau. 

Nonfiction / Activity books

Matariki: The Star of the Year by Dr Rangi Matamua (Huia)

Published in both te reo Māori and in English, this book offers a deep dive into Matariki in te ao Māori and into all of the ways in which Matariki is celebrated “with incantations on hilltops at dawn, balls, exhibitions, dinners and a vast number of events”. Dr Matamua is renowned as an authority on star lore and Māori astronomy so this is the book you need to immerse in Matariki and its significance here in Aotearoa. Written for adult readers but lovely to share and read with younger members of the family. 

My Matariki Colouring and Activity Book by Miriama Kamo, Rangi Matamua and illustrated by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White (Scholastic)

Pull out the coloured pencils and zone into the cosmos with this beautiful activity-book spinoff of Kamo, Matamua and Te Aho-White’s earlier book, Matariki Around the World (see below). A note on the bright star that is Isobel Joy Te Aho-White: see how it’s her luminous illustrations that are the thread that weaves many of the books in the list together. 

Matariki Around the World: A Cluster of Stars, A Cluster of Stories by Miriama Kamo and Dr Rangi Matamua and illustrated by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White (Scholastic)

A gorgeous book collecting nine stories that follow the Matariki constellation (Pleiades) and how it is celebrated around the world.

Matariki by Gavin Bishop (Penguin NZ)

The godfather of the picture book in Aotearoa, Gavin Bishop’s bilingual Matariki board book gives the meaning of each star in the cluster, depicted in his iconic style: perfect for the youngest on the couch.

Matariki Around the World: A Cluster of Stars, and its spinoff colouring in and activity book.


Ngā Kupenga a Nanny Rina by Qiane Matata-Sipu & Isobel Joy Te Aho-White (illustrator)

One of the very latest publications to celebrate Matariki, published this year, is Ngā Kupenga a Nanny Rina (also translated into English as Nanny Rina’s Amazing Nets). Here’s the blurb in te reo Māori and then in English:

“He kairaranga pūhara a Nanny Rina, ka taea te raranga i ngā momo kupenga katoa!

Ka pātai ana tana mokopuna, a Haeata te Kapua, mō ngā kupenga ka rarangahia hei pōwhiri i te tau hōu, ka tohua e Nanny me pēhea te whai i ngā whetū o Matariki hei ārahi i tana mahi kupenga.

He pūrākau whakamānawa tēnei, mō te aroha, te whānau, me te mātauranga tuku iho hei pōwhiri i te tau hōu.

He pūrākau whakapoapoa i ngā tamariki, tae atu ki ngā tohutohu hanga kupenga!

Nanny Rina is an amazing weaver – she can make all kinds of nets! When Haeata te Kapua asks what special creation Nanny will weave to welcome in the new year, Nanny shows her granddaughter how the Matariki stars guide her to the right net to make.

This delightful story for tamariki includes step-by-step instructions to weave a net. It is written by the award-winning Māori-Pasifika storyteller Qiane Matata-Sipu, and illustrated by the acclaimed Māori artist Isobel Joy Te Aho-White.”

The Astromancer: The Rising of Matariki; and Ariā and the Kūmara God by Witi Ihimaera and illustrated by Isobel Joy Te Aho White (Penguin NZ)

If you’d like to introduce a little action into your Matariki reading, then this series by master story teller Witi Ihimaera has an ear for the rebel character and the drama. Both books have been translated into te reo Māori by Heni Jacob as Te Kо̄kо̄rangi: Te Aranga o Matariki; a, A Ariā me te Atua o te Kūmara. Here are the tantalising blurbs: “The Astromancer is looking for four new apprentices to learn about Matariki and the Maramataka calendar. She chooses three boys and an orphan girl, Ariā, who will come only if she can bring her smelly dog. Ariā, though, is bored by the lessons, and she doesn’t want to be told what to do. But these are dangerous times, and Ruatapu the Ravenous is about to threaten the safety of the whole tribe. Will Ariā step up to save them?” And in the sequel: “Will Ariā manage to make the impossible climb up to the stars and free Te Kokorangi from Ruatapu’s clutches before time runs out?”

The Promise of Puanga by Kirsty Wadsworth and Munro Te Whata (Scholastic)

A sweet introduction to the Puanga star that rises ahead of Matariki and the star celebrated by those in Aotearoa who can’t see Matariki so clearly (learn more on the Puanga website).

Matariki stories for the whole family.

Ko Ngā Whetū Kai o Matariki series by Mirama Kamo and illustrated by Zak Waipara (Scholastic)

This series, published in both English and te reo Māori (translations by Ariana Stevens), follows the stars (Tupuānuku and Tupuārangi, Waiti and Waita so far) and recurrent characters Sam and Te Rerehua who have to overcome the sneaky tricks played on them by Patupaiarehe (who nick the food they’d stored and who pull up their plants!). Lovely, family focussed stories with an adventurous spirit. There’s another in the series, too – Nga Whetu Matariki i Whanakotia, also published as The Stolen Stars of Matariki, with the biggest mystery of all: “Sam and Te Rerehua love to visit their Grandma and Poua at Te Mata Hapuku (aka Birdlings Flat). They like to collect agate from among the stones, with a backdrop of whipping wind, flashing torchlight, and the splash of Poua’s gaff in the water. But one night, Grandma notices something mysterious. Someone has stolen some stars from the sky. And then the patupaiarehe come out to play on the beach… Can Sam and Te Rerehua rescue the Matariki stars?”

How My Koro Became a Star by Brianne Te Paa and illustrated by Story Hemi-Morehouse (Huia)

This lovely book was a finalist in the 2023 NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and winner of the Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award, 2023; as well as Winner of Best Children’s Book NZ Booklovers Awards 2023, and winner of the Storylines Te Kahurangi Kāterina Te Heikōkō Mataira Award 2022. 

It’s also published in te reo Māori as Kua Whetūrangitia a Koro and is the story to read with whānau when you want to remember those dear ones that have passed, and help children create the pathway between the living and the ones who are now with the stars. 

Mānawatia a Matariki!

All of the above books can be purchased from Unity Books’ flash new website

Keep going!