Family of Forest & Fungi – He Tukutuku Toiora

Children's book by Valetta Sówka

Local writer Valetta Sówka has released her first book, Family of Forest and Fungi – He
Tukutuku Toiora. The book reveals the hidden kingdom of fungi, looking at topics like
ancestral uses of mushrooms and some fascinating contemporary applications of fungi, such as their ability to heal soils of pollutants.

How did our Māori ancestors use mushrooms?

What are some of the astounding ways that fungi can help us?

Why do some mushrooms glow?

Learn the answers to these questions on a journey to the forests of Aotearoa to discover the amazing, hidden kingdom of fungi that dwells there!


  • te reo vocabulary related to te taiao, the natural world
  • exercises for your child to complete to help them connect to te taiao and practise what they are learning about fungi
  • practical activities with fungi such as making ink, spore prints and how to grow your own mushrooms at home
  • beautiful watercolour illustrations by well-loved children’s book illustrator Isobel Joy Te Aho-White

Valetta also explores her ancestor’s world view of the natural world, and the book includes useful te reo Māori words for each section. “My nan, Mihi Amomate Bennett, was fluent in te reo Māori but was forbidden to speak it at school. If she did, she was beaten. I never heard her speak a complete sentence of Māori. Yet after she passed away, we found books she had written in her beautiful handwriting, pages of fluent reo.
Although I missed out on the language, she did pass down to me many cultural aspects:
respect for the natural world, knowledge of fishing and gardening by the maramataka, the awareness that everything has a mauri, or life force and that everything is interconnected."

These aspects of te ao Māori are explored through the book. He tukutuku toiora translates as a network of life; and refers to the role of fungi as an interconnector of the natural world. Because of this interrelationship, the book first explores the reader’s connection to their environment, before discussing forests and lastly the kingdom of fungi that interweaves through everything.

Including artwork by award-winning illustrator Isobel Te Aho-White, the book is intended fortamariki aged 8 to 12, though it also suitable for adults who seek to build a stronger
connection to nature. Interviews are also included with local cultural advisor, Sean Delany, and mushroom grower and educator Mihau Sówka. Valetta and Mihau together operate local business Matariki Mushrooms, offering wānanga about mushroom-growing, fungi, and their applications.

Valetta has collaborated with local kaiako reo, Hana Park, who provided the translations
throughout the book. “Hana’s te reo vocabularies enable the reader to easily include Māori words in their conversations about the natural world. It’s encouraging to see the language being embraced and used more often. I think my nan would have been very happy to see that.”

Author: Valetta Sówka, with illustrations by Isobel Te Aho-White and translations by Hana

Published in April 2023 by Blue Hand Publications

Language : English/Te Reo

51 pages, size 210mm x 297mm (A4)

ISBN: 796548548592

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Must have book

It is a beautiful legacy to read on. Also, has easy to teach information about mushroom types

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