Thursday marked the start of the Maori New Year in New Zealand, which falls on the first new moon after the constellation Matariki appears in the sky. Matariki, known variously as the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, Subaru and more in other countries around the world, signals a time of celebration, including kite-making. So it’s time to reach for Libby Hakaraia’s book Celebrating Matariki for a rather more active bedtime than usual. Here in the northern hemisphere, as we approach mid-summer, the sky is far too light at bedtime to see any stars at all – but there is something about reading about them that just makes you go and look out of the window! Never mind – there are some wonderful photographs and it’s the kind of book you can dip in and out of, so a quick skim of a couple of pages may well whet children’s appetites to pick it up in the days following and look at it in more detail, maybe trying out some of the many activities for themselves.
For stories about the stars, there are some stunning anthologies out there: Sun, Moon and Stars by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Jane Ray; or if you can get hold of it, Juliet Sharman-Burke’s Stories from the Stars: Greek Myths of the Zodiac (Abbeville Anthologies and also once published as a Barefoot Books collection), illustrated by Jackie Morris (who incidentally has also illustrated a number of Mary Hoffman’s books!). Demi’s The Dragon’s Tale and Other Animal Fables of the Chinese Zodiac has a very short fable for each animal – perfect for those bedtimes when for whatever reason, there’s only time for a very quick story.
One book I don’t know but which looks as though it might be a treat is Coyote and the Sky: How the Sun, Moon, and Stars Began by Emmett “Shkeme” Garcia and illustrated by Victoria Pringle… so if you know it, do let us know…
And I have to say, too, that Jane Ray, Jackie Morris and Demi are all on my list of favorite illustrators… now there’s a thought. How long would a permissible list be?