Kia Kaha! Together, standing strong

Kia Kaha! is the catchphrase being heard everywhere right now as all of us, big and small, must join together in the battle to squash the coronavirus.

In her new Picture Book, June Pitman-Hayes shows small children what Kia Kaha means through a series of little anecdotes.

A little boy falls over and hurts his knee. His friends rush over to comfort him and tell him to be strong. A ball hits a little girl on her head, making her feels dizzy like a rolling wave, so her friends call out Kia Kaha! be brave! And when a little boy gets stuck high up in a tree while trying to rescue a cat, and is terrified, his friends find a ladder to get him down.

The children in this book reflect our diverse society (amongst them is a little girl in hijab, a small boy wearing an All Black sweatshirt, and a child in a wheelchair). Their families feature too.

June Pitman-Hayes wrote this book before COVID-19 forced us all into lockdown. All the things the little kids in this book do with their friends like running around playing ball, having a sleepover at someone else’s house and hugging their friends, is impossible during lockdown.

During World War Two “Ake! Ake! Kia Kaha E!” was the rallying cry of the 28th Maori battalion as they marched to war. More recently after the 6.3 Christchurch earthquake hit New Zealand it was the iconic phrase which people used to encourage and show support for each other.

Now we are soldiering on in a different way. Instead of marching off to war with guns slung over our shoulders we are being asked to do the very opposite and hide away inside our homes from an invisible enemy. Even after we go down to Level Three, or lower, all of us will still have to keep our social distance. It will take quite some time before life gets back to normal again and that’s really hard for children who are missing their friends.

I pride myself on being staunch, and I’m not overly sentimental, but I found myself getting a little teary as I listened to the words on the accompanying bonus CD, sung in both English and Maori.

“Kia kaha! Kia kaha! Together, standing strong. We join our hands in friendship, that’s how we get along. All around our gentle land no matter where we’re from, we’ll fill the air with laughter and our kia kaha song.

We’ll fill the air with laughter, together we’ll carry on. We’ll show each other how we care and sing our Kia Kaha song.

We’ll fill the air with laughter and our kia kaha song!

We’ll fill the air with laughter, together standing strong. Kia kaha!

Kia Kaha! Together, standing strong. By June Pitman-Hayes, Minky Stapleton (illustrations), Ngaere Roberts (Maori lyrics) & Pio Terei . Publisher (Scholastic NZ) RRP $19.99

Reviews by Lyn Potter

Parent and grandparent, Avid traveler, writer & passionate home cook

Read more by Lyn here.