by Ataria Sharman
Author Ataria Sharman says Māori lore of ancient Aotearoa captivated her as she was writing the book, allowing her imagination to run wild.
“Sometimes, I'll be out in my garden and I'll imagine the patupaiarehe, the fairy people are there, and I mean I can't actually see them but it just feels magical to just imagine they're there.”
Sharman is a writer, editor, social entrepreneur and researcher who advocates for wāhine Māori and has recently published a new book for young readers.
'Hine and the Tohunga Portal' is a fast-paced fantasy adventure. Hine and her brother, Hōhepa, unwittingly step through a portal into an ancient realm inhabited by the atua Māori (Māori deities), Kea bird tribes, patupaiarehe (fairy people), moa and giant eagles. This world is in turmoil as evil sorcerer Kae has built a cursed army and intends to rule this world and everything in it. He sees the opportunity to dominate the modern world as well, by kidnapping Hōhepa and using his life force to reopen the portal between the worlds. This sets Hine on a quest to learn ancient knowledge from the goddesses Hineteiwaiwa and Mahuika and her ancestors, find the medicine to revoke the curse on the warriors and gain the support of the Kea and patupaiarehe to fight Kae and rescue Hōhepa.
The weaving of Māori iconography and beautifully incorporated reo is impressive. I found the use of te reo and concepts of manaakitanga useful in extending my knowledge. I would recommend this book be bought for school libraries and for teachers interested in furthering children’s knowledge of te reo. I would read it to a class and have a list of Māori words they can use to look up the meaning. It was what l did when l read the book.
Multiple narratives take the reader between the two main characters of Hine and Hōhepa as they traverse this magical environment separately.
'Hine and the Tohunga Portal' would make a superb Read Aloud for Year 6 students and up, with all the topics that could turn into their own studies – NZ flora and fauna, extinct native birds, Māori legends, traditional Māori foods, and even the Treaty of Waitangi. It is easy to see this becoming a classroom classic in the near future.
This land’s forests are full of the patupaiarehe – brave and fierce fairy warriors when their forest home and animals are threatened. There are kea armies, serious about their lands and any trespassers who dare enter into it. Animals too are drawn up into the battle between good and evil.
Sharman feels that her editorial work helped her to become a better writer, and she hopes that ‘Hine and the Tohunga Portal’ will ultimately become a seven-book series to inspire rangatahi, similar to Harry Potter.
Author: Ataria Sharman
Publisher: Huia Publishers
Available: paper: bookshops