Szekely, C. (2011). Rāhui. Wellington, New Zealand: Huia Publishers.
Length: 38 pages
Illustrator: Malcolm Ross
I read the Te Reo Māori version at the library today. Although I have read the English version when the book was first published. I remember distinctly not liking the line ‘He drowned.’ or something so abrupt like that. In the reo māori translation, it’s less of a kick in the guts, like ‘We lost our friend. We thought he had gone back home.’
I have not seen or read a children’s books that tackles a heavy topic like death in such a beautiful way. It describes what rāhui means for a small community. It is a short story, using easy to understand language. The illustrations are darker, but they use vivid greens and oranges throughout, which, in my opinion, lighten the heavy load.
The story is about family, summer holidays and an unfortunate accident. Although there aren’t a lot of words to a page, they have a lot of depth. As an adult reading this children’s story, I’m reading between the lines and feel the loss. Although I would imagine for a child, they could probably feel the sadness.
And this is all without going into the actual topic of rāhui, the restriction of access to the sea and its resources until the rāhui has been lifted. That’s probably more words than what the book uses to describe rāhui.
This book is timeless. The topic, although a māori concept, is one that will need explaining to each new generation. Rāhui has quality writing and the illustrations are sombre and suits the tone of the book. It’s so easy to read and understand.
I would definitely read this book to my future children.
My Rating: 5/5