A 13 year old boy named Kahi wanders the streets of Christchurch city, feeling a bit lost in a place he should belong. That ordinary day suddenly changes when he finds a 10 cent coin, The profile of the British Queen and the Maori icon on the reverse makes him think about himself and his Maori culture. The coin, a symbol of the colonisation, leads him to his Kuia (grandmother), a wise lady who shares some of her vast Maori knowledge with Kahi. The words of his Kuia carry him on a mesmerizing journey that will make Kahi discover his heritage and his true identity.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part is the story in English, the second is the story translated into Te Reo Maori and the final part is "behind the scenes" with sketches and notes from the creator.
The awakening is a beautifully illustrated children's book that feels like it was just made to be in schools. It tells the story of a young Maori boy struggling with the two sides of his heritage and includes wee 'factoids' in different coloured boxes along the way. I love the drama of the images and the passion the artist clearly has for exploring Maori culture. It would go well in a bilingual English - Maori school too, as the entire story appears twice, once in English and once in Maori.
The only criticism that I'd have is that there are almost too many pieces covered in the one story - we go from the 'true' history of the massacre at Kaikoura to the myth of Maui's search for fire. While all of these things could well be covered in a single conversation between a boy and his Kuia, I felt that picking just one would have allowed the story to have taken on more of a parable-like feel and go a lot deeper.
Having said that, I enjoyed the book immensely and look forward to Gonzalo's future work. His stunning art makes the world of Maori myth and history come to life spectacularly.
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