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PUNGA by Deborah Nourse Lattimore


The Goddess of Ugly

by Deborah Nourse Lattimore & illustrated by Deborah Nourse Lattimore

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-15-292862-6
Publisher: Harcourt

 An art historian who's created picture books on several cultures (The Winged Cat, 1992) explores the Maori custom of sticking out the tongue in a way that's considered beautiful, especially during the haka dance. Sisters Kiri and Maraweia must learn to do this to earn a moko (chin tattoo), but Maraweia keeps making silly faces. Grandmother warns that she'll meet the fate of Mudfish and Lizard, who ``wiggled their tongues in a very ugly way'' and were entrapped as wood figures on Punga's lodge. Sure enough, Maraweia is so caught; but Kiri confronts the goddess and persuades her to free her so that, together, they can show her the haka as it should be danced--and, magically, their tattoos appear. A note and glossary place the invented tale somewhat in context, but more precise details about the role of Maori tradition would have been welcome. Still, the meaning the Maori attach to this classic gesture will intrigue; while Lattimore's art--with its vibrant, humorous characters, detailed Maori carvings, and dozens of other faces and species to spy in a freely rendered, lush green setting--is, once again, the book's strength. (Picture book. 4-8)