The first set of Picture book stories written, illustrated, designed and published by an all Pasifika team in New Zealand
Wellington born Samoan author of children's Pasifika books and the creator of Mila's books, Dahlia Malaeulu, is launching eight new children's stories this year.
The stories include a board book "Going to Te Papa" which they are releasing with Te Papa Press. Mila's "My Gagana Series 2" which includes four early gagana readers and Mila's "My Aganu'u" series 1 which includes two picture book stories that they are self-publishing for Mila's books.
In the second half of the year Dahlia and her team will be releasing their second MG/YA book - "Tama Samoa". Last year she released "Teine Samoa" which was originally written during the lockdown in May and then released as an ebook for Samoan language week last year. The paperback edition was then published in October including study questions for students and the Teine Samoa Project. Read more about both Dahlia's background and the Teine Samoa book in her Women of the Islands profile here.
The new releases this year represent a lot of firsts for Dahlia and her team.
"We are feeling very proud and excited to be able to release so many books this year for our tamaiti, fanau and faiaoga." Dahlia says of the books and what makes them so special
"These stories represent a lot of ‘firsts’ for us – the first time this many books, all written by the same Pasifika author, to be released in a single year. The first Samoan bilingual board book for Te Papa Tongarewa (New Zealand’s national museum). It’s also the first time we will have a range of stories that our tamaiti will be able to see themselves, their language and culture across all schooling levels - from pre-school to primary to intermediate and high school."
The first's don't stop there, with the release of Mila's 'My Aganu'u Series' also being the first set of picture book stories written, illustrated, designed and published by an all Pasifika team.
Dahlia says it's been a huge dream of hers to have quality children’s stories for Pasifika, created and fully produced by Pasifika.
"It has honestly been a dream come true, made possible with the support of my amazing team, who are highly experienced in producing educational stories. We have created some rich literacy resources that we know will help our people develop cultural confidence while encouraging others to understand us better. Overall, it has also been an amazing learning experience and proves that we are more than capable of creating stories by us, for us and others." - she says.
With the upcoming book releases Dahlia has a personal connection to all the stories she creates and says they are inspired from her real life experiences.
The "My Gagana Series 2" stories were inspired by her son, niece, nephew and the spirit of some strong, independent women in her family.
"I do feel that our new Mila’s My Aganuu series is quite unique, bringing a new level of interest and engagement which is pretty exciting for all of us who were involved. For example, the first story, Fale Samoa, is a dual language book and it was just really fun to write because it rhymes and takes us on a bit of an adventure." she says
Her book 'Siva Afi Teine Toa' is a story she really wishes she had as a child and is a favourite of Dahlia's.
She was inspired to write it after seeing this photo below of Siva Afi dancer Moemoana Schwenke.
"It gives us an insight to our Samoan cultural values, personal challenges we face and the inner strength or courage we have, that is deeply rooted in the connections we have to our ancestors."
Dahlia wrote in her blog "They say a picture can say a thousand words – and it was this picture that gave me all the words I needed for the second story, Siva Afi Teine Toa."
"SIVA AFI = TEINE Samoa = strength = beauty = TOA/warrior/hero = goddess = Nafanua = ancestors = present & past = next generation. These were the exact words that came to mind and in this order."
As Samoan language week comes up starting this Sunday, Dahlia hopes that her readers will understand that the Samoan language, values and culture are assets and can be a gateway to learning more about ourselves and others. She also wanted to ensure that there were stories that accurately reflected Samoan's lives and the diverse language needs Samoan's have as tagata Samoa, living and growing up in New Zealand.
"That who we are and what we know is important – and that we can proudly succeed as ourselves, as Pasifika. This is why we hope all our books help to develop the cultural confidence needed to support all our tamaiti and their families in exploring and learning more about our Samoan language and culture, while encouraging our people to share their own stories with each other and the world." she adds.
Samoan Language Week starts this Sunday the 30th of May here in New Zealand and ends on Saturday the 5th of June.
Check out where you can buy these books in the links below -
Going to Te Papa | Asiasiga ‘i le Falemata‘aga i Te Papa
Mila’s My Gagana Series 2
Saia Says / Analia Asks - https://www.onetree-house.com/product-page/mila-s-my-gagana-series-2-isaia-says-analia-asks
Sala’s Surprise / Kuso’s Clean - https://www.onetree-house.com/product-page/mila-s-my-gagana-series-2-sala-s-surprise-kuso-s-clean
Mila’s My Aganu´u Series 1