For the very first time, a bilingual book written in English and te reo Māori has taken the top prize at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young adults.
The book 'Te Wehenga - The Separation of Ranginui and Papatūānuku' was written and illustrated by Mat Tait (Ngāti Apa ki te rātō).
The pukapuka won the 'Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award' which is the highest recognition in children's literature in Aotearoa.
Talking to 1News, he revealed how he had no idea about the book being the first ever bilingual book to win that prestigeous award.
"Amazing. I mean I didn't actually know that. So yeah that's huge... that's huge," Mat told 1News.
"I think I still got a lot of processing to do about this" he added.
"Te Wehenga" introduces the Māori creation story, referred to as pūrākau, which unveils the beginnings of the world.
“The way that te reo Māori and te reo Pākehā are brought together closely feels like a metaphorical representation of the increasing bilingualism in Aotearoa,” Nicola Day, the convenor of judges said about the book.
She highly praised thre book for integrating both languages into the illustrations themselves.
The book author and illustrator believes that although this book will be found in the children's section, it's a great read for all ages.
At first, Mat Tait was struggling to find about the atua's gender. As he delved in further into the research, he realized the person who reseaerches Māori female deities, Dr Aroha Yates Smith was also his Māori teacher when he was 12 years old.
It was like a full circle since he is currently also a te reo Māori teacher.
The challenge during the making of this book made him realise that these pūrākau had been diluted.
“There are so many whakaaro hōhonu (deep ideas) embodied in this pūrākau... I wanted to give readers a sense of the power and the mana of the story, viscerally." Mat told Stuff.
"It’s definitely the hardest creative mahi I’ve ever had to do by a long, long way. It’s the most personal.”
This is Mat's first bilingual book, and it has now gone and won the top book awards for children and young adults!