Friday, March 1, 2024

Children’s book transcends cultural boundaries

Renisa Maki

The Grandmothers of Pikitea Street, | Ngā Kuia o Te Tiriti o Pikitea, published by Oratia Books, was recently launched in bookstores during the Maori Language Week. EastLife talks to the young children’s book author whose storyline uses food as a great connector to bring communities together.

As a young Indian student studying at Howick Intermediate, Renisa Maki struggled to find stories that celebrated diversity and multiculturism.

Years later, working in the diversity, inclusion, and leadership arena, the former Macleans College student plucked up the courage to work on a children’s story book that focusses on racial tolerance and inclusion.

The bilingual children’s book in English and Maori weaves a heart-warming story of multiple cultures bonding over food and stories created in a child’s world.

Aimed at teaching children to respect and celebrate diversity, the children’s book portrays Māori, Ethiopian, Samoan, New Zealand European, Indian and Chinese grandmothers sharing traditional stories with their grandkids as they make the kids’ lunchboxes for school.

The Grandmothers of Pikitiea Street offers a different lens for children to see the world more respectfully.

Filled with characters of different colour, The Grandmothers of Pikitea Street, builds on cultural strength and reflects different human experiences as it highlights moral values, different cuisines and traditional proverbs.

Skilfully woven together, the storytelling is done by doting nanas as they share traditional recipes and folklore with grandkids, whilst talking about nutritious and traditional food.

The children’s book aimed at transcending cultural boundaries, helps kids to understand where their friends, neighbours and school mates come from, and how they are different, and yet the same! The storyline clearly showcases food as the universal connector.

Readers can visualise the fragrance of lemon grass blending with the aroma of garam masala, and the whiff of a freshly baked scones that fills the air, as the book travels into the homes and hearth of a multicultural community that lives down Pikitea Street.

Food brings vibrant communities together and creates a bonding experience as grandmothers prepare dishes for their monthly gathering, where they share their respective traditions and stories.

Renisa says she had the good fortune of having an established author of children’s books illustrate her very first book.

“I am so glad that Nikki Slade Robinsonis who is an award-winning illustrator and author, agreed to illustrate my book,” she says.

The te reo translation is done by Kanapu Rangitauira.

The former Pakuranga resident says the book that took 18 months from the time of conception to the launch, fills the gap in the market.

“I couldn’t find a single children’s book that celebrates different cultures as it delves into proverbs, traditional cuisine and morals,” she says.

The young author says she is thrilled to hear from her publisher that Scholastic has placed a bulk order to share her children’s book in schools, libraries and Duffy Books in Homes.

The Grandmothers of Pikitea Street has also been included in the Booksellers Association, Summer Reading Guide.

Renisa was recently informed that the multicultural children’s book will also travel to the Frankfurt Book Fair.

In the meanwhile, the first-time author is looking at moving up the storybook ladder by working on a full length novel …though currently she is enjoying the moment, signing her books that sit proudly in bookshops.

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