This book is a finalist in the category of Best First Book in the 2017 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
New Zealand history should be an important part of the education of our children but sometimes it is difficult to package the information in an easily read way. I think this might be the answer. A graphic novel takes the best of illustrations with the bare bones of text. Creatively combined, they tell a story in an engaging and informative way.
The story of the Pakeha Māori conflict at Wairau in 1843, marked the first major conflict between European and Māori. I grew up knowing it as the Wairau massacre, then the Wairau affray. Certainly, it was a sad story of greed, poor communication and mistakes on both sides. This version is based on the experiences of two boys, William and Arana. We hear of the confusion regarding land ownership and the injustice of the European law when a Maori mother and her child are attacked and killed. The devastating effects of English diseases also get a mention, especially on mental ability following syphilis. The narrative follows the events involving settlers, the NZ Company and the local Ngati-Toa.
The style of the illustrations fits the story. The colours are dark and threatening showing the harshness of conflict and the anger of the people. Expressions are vivid, details abound.
The book also includes excellent historical notes. These give an account of the actual events and biographies of each of the main characters. Photographs of the original sites and people add another layer of interest as do the newspaper pages on the back cover.
This book marks a new chapter in history for our children. It presents a clear, balanced version packaged in an easily read, well-illustrated book. I look forward to further titles in this series that will follow other events in the history of New Zealand.
Reviewed by Kathy Watson
Wars in the Whitecloud: Wairau 1843
By M H McKinley
Published by Kin Publishing