Classic nursery rhymes with a touch of kiwi with the help of tamariki

Author Janet Horwell with her self-published book Ētahi rotarota o Aotearoa Kiwi Rhymes for Modern Times.


Author Janet Horwell with her self-published book Ētahi rotarota o Aotearoa Kiwi Rhymes for Modern Times.

When Janet Horwell started reading nursery rhymes for her baby girl Hazel, she was struck by the lack of diversity.

Only about three women mentioned – and when they did, they were cooking, eating or running away from spiders, she said.

So Horwell, who grew up in Blenheim and now lives in Mapua, raised his quill and began to adapt classical songs to better reflect the modern world.

This is how his new self-published book tahi rotarota or Aotearoa Kiwi nursery rhymes for modern times was born.

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When Horwell was a new mom, she was looking for ways to entertain her daughter, so she pulled out a book of nursery rhymes, she said.

“I didn’t know what to do with a baby, how to entertain him.”

Janet Horwell was inspired by her daughter Hazel's love of rhymes.


Janet Horwell was inspired by her daughter Hazel’s love of rhymes.

Hazel, who is now 14 months old, loved the beat, and when she went downstairs for a nap Horwell still had the tunes swirling in her head, so she decided to make them more palatable.

“I felt they needed to be more diverse and modern. “

She also wanted to reflect the country the Kiwi children lived in, she said.

“It’s so much nicer to be able to teach them about the birds and wildlife of Aotearoa.”

As she began to develop the rhymes, she sought feedback from her nieces and nephews to help her polish the Kiwi versions.


Maania Tealei (Ngāi Tahu) recounts her journey of learning Maori te reo.

Ultimately, Three blind mice became Hip collars, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star became Lost under the pointers, and I am a little teapot became Luminous bottom.

Rhyme The next black fern came straight from the tamariki informing her that there must be a rhyme about rugby, she said.

Horwell had previously created books for his nieces and nephews, all of which were collaborations with the family.

The hope was that this book would become a “living collaboration,” she said.

“At the end of the day, I wish kids would keep changing rhymes… they can keep making it modern and relevant.”

The desire to be relevant to all of Aotearoa’s children led to the decision to include te reo translations in the book.

Tamati Waaka translated the nursery rhymes into te reo, and the book was also reviewed by a cultural sensitivity advisor before being published, she said.

“We wanted it to be a learning tool, so we wanted to keep it as close to English as possible and try to keep the pace as much as possible.”

Now the final version, which features artwork by Ana Craw, is out in line and through select retailers in Nelson, Whangamata and Christchurch.

The book was receiving good reviews from teachers and speech-language pathologists, she said.

Horwell hoped that when she broke even half of the proceeds would go to supporting te reo in schools, while the rest would help fund the creation of another nursery rhyme book “with even more voices from”. our tamariki ”.

Dora W. Clawson