This is the essential local kids' book of 2023.

Jane Arthur, Good Books

Paku Manu Ariki Whakatakapōkai

A bold and multi-layered picture book about self-determination narrated by a young boy full of ideas and questions about growing up, belonging, spirituality, culture and who is the boss.

Paku Manu Ariki talks directly to the reader, drawing on the stories that spin around him—his father’s mātauranga, his mother’s politics, his many pet birds, and his best friend who is taller, even though he’s younger.

The book is born from the experience of growing up in a strong Māori whānau in a country and wider world that offers a conflicting version of what is right and of value.

Paku Manu Ariki is trying to understand his role in his family, community and the larger world. His preoccupation is who is the boss—his nanna at the marae, his older siblings, or any number of atua? His steadfast dad, his Pākehā mum, the “leader of the free world”, or Paku Manu Ariki himself? Paku Manu bumps up against authority, trying to reconcile the kind and just rules of nanna and the unjust power of leaders he sees every day on the TV.

Thoughtful, funny and confronting, Paku Manu Ariki Whakatakapōkai is about the hustle for belonging, and our place in the epic spiral of space, time and culture.

Author & illustrator Q&A | Teacher notes

  • Book Details

    Country of Origin New Zealand
    Reader Age 6-8 year, 8-12 year
    Book Size

  • Reviews

    1. NZME Northland

      The book reflects the way images, feelings, words and history surround a child when they’re growing up, no matter how you try to protect them or how hard you work to explain the inexplicable.

    2. The Spinoff

      It’s so so fun to read and it’s just so alive. My kids scream with laughter when I read it to them, even though we are now on the 500th or 80 millionth read.

    3. The Source

      Visual interpretations of Paku’s universe of cars, dogs, planets, gods and goddesses, food and phones explode through these pages. Combined with Paku’s breath-taking observations, they present a delightful insight into a bright young Māori mind operating in top gear.

    4. Kete Books

      Funny, canny and profound, it’s one of the best and brightest kids’ books of 2023.

    5. NZ Booklovers

      Paku Manu Ariki Whakatakapōkai has so much depth to it, slowly revealed with each read. Behind the simple structure, text and beautiful illustrations lies a timeless truth.

    6. The Sapling

      In the end, Paku Manu Ariki Whakatakapōkai is a captivating journey that not only celebrates Māori culture, but also speaks to the broader theme of self-discovery and the importance of finding one’s role in the intricate web of family, community, and the world at large. This book is a treasure for readers of all ages.

    7. Poetry Box – Paula Green

      A book that is so good I want everyone to read it.

    8. Good Books

      This is the essential local kids’ book of 2023.

    9. Volume Books

      It’s fresh, full of humour, important questions, and honesty … a daring and delightful treasure.

Available worldwide from your local bookstore or online.

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