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From science to fantasy: Cook Islands writer explores new genre to promote Polynesian culture

Tuesday 29 November 2022 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Education, National

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From science to fantasy: Cook Islands writer explores new genre to promote Polynesian culture
Former Miss Cook Islands and Miss South Pacific Joyana Finch. SUPPLIED/22112325

After releasing her first children’s book, ‘Buzz the Electron’ on Amazon a year ago, former Miss Cook Islands and Miss South Pacific Joyana Finch is all set to release her new book – Merio the Polynesian Mermaid.

Merio is a young mermaid child who gets lost in a storm after ignoring her mother’s warning while chasing reef fish.

She takes shelter overnight in a giant Pāua shell and in the morning, while she wept, she hears faint magical music.

This is just a snippet of Finch’s new book Merio the Polynesian Mermaid set to be released next year.

After making her debut with Buzz the Electron followed by Violet the Photon and Bucky the Carbon Atom, Finch says she decided to give science books a breather and jump into “a bit of fantasy” with Merio the Polynesian Mermaid.

An illustration of Finch’s new book set to be released next year. SUPPLIED/22112326 /22112327
An illustration of Finch’s new book set to be released next year. SUPPLIED/22112326 /22112327

“I’m intending to write a series of Merio books. This first one being about her journey with ‘Nanna’s Pearls of Wisdom’.”

Finch, the first Pasifika woman to attain a degree in Mechatronic Engineering, says her latest book is about a young mermaid and her Nanna.

“Her Nanna reveals that the music comes from her magic pearls of wisdom hidden in her kete,” she explains.

“In times of trouble, the pearls of wisdom will help guide you if you listen with an open heart.”

Finch says she is very excited about this new publication and is putting more effort into the illustrations.

“I want this book to be beautiful and on par with the times, so that our children can reach for it from their library shelves.”

The book will be a bit more of a Polynesian style, says Finch, hoping it will inspire children to value their Polynesian culture more.

“Well that’s the intention,” she says.

“Merio wears Tiare Māori in her hair and black pearls around her neck.

I want our kids to be so proud of who they are.”

A mother of three, Finch, who grew up in Rarotonga, has published three science books for children up to the age of six.

In 2021, she released Buzz the Electron, introducing electricity. Later that year, Violet the Photon introduced electromagnetic waves and refraction, which she illustrated in Rarotonga and in 2022, Bucky the Carbon Atomintroducing atomic structure and covalent bonds.

Finch says when she started writing her first book, she was simply fulfilling a gap in the literary market.

“As a parent in the tech industry, it was a need of my own.”

However, after receiving positive feedbacks following the book’s release, she realised there was a large desire from parents for this genre.

“And I had proven to myself that I am indeed capable of producing these books.”

Finch says her first books have served as a learning curve for her especially in areas such as: sourcing publisher, designing for production, creating an online store, incorporating a business, growing a network of organisations that align with this project, learning new illustration software’ and starting and growing a brand on social media.

“The list goes on. And all this had to be done in between raising my three young girls and while working as a remote engineer.”

Finch says when she receives “thank you” messages from parents or sees videos of children around the world reciting poems about electricity, electromagnetic waves and covalent bonds, something within her glows.

“That’s the only way I can describe it. This journey has been my most fulfilling venture yet. And I believe it has only begun.”

Finch says the science books are very popular as a trio set, and are available at mrsjfinch.com.

The books also got picked up by Scholastic New Zealand and featured in their book order brochures all over New Zealand.

“That was definitely a surreal milestone.

Online business Mrs. J Finch

Finch says the Mrs. J Finch brand just happened – “It certainly wasn’t planned. When I had to sign off as an author for my first book, I didn’t want to put my full name.”

Finch somewhat wanted an alias, because she didn’t want her friends and family to buy the books because they knew her.

“I fully believed the books could stand on their own because they are good.

“Mrs. J Finch just stuck and it soon became a space where I can share my creativity and ideas for all to enjoy.”

She says there is a Mrs. Finch Europe branch being set up in Holland, taking over the Dutch translations of her books.

“I’ve been trying to realise Kuki Airani translations but no luck yet. That’s ok though. It will happen eventually.

“I had no idea how well it was going to do. I’m just following my gut (and heart) most of the time.”