New Zealand History in Children's Fiction
The following are three very good New Zealand senior fiction titles that look at our history from non-European viewpoints.
The summer of 1976 is looking bright for 12 year old Erica Tito. Her plans involve riding Silver, her newly purchased horse, teaching her tricks and swimming in the river with her sister and brothers. Her plans don’t include her Father packing up the family and moving south to Auckland to Bastion Point, where people from all over New Zealand are converging to protest plans to turn the point into a subdivision. A trip that her Mother says will last a couple of days turns into an occupation that lasts 507. Erica chronicles this time in her diary, from the hardships of living in tents and shacks, to the high points of feeling part of something big and important, and the incredible low of the death of a child. Erica’s viewpoint is a fantastic way to explore this vital part of our history, as she sees things that adults may miss, and has a different perspective on the occupation.
Agnes and Niall arrive in New Zealand from Scotland with their parents in 1886, leaving their croft and family behind. They bring with them their Scottish culture and Agnes brings a silver bracelet gifted to her by her Grandmother. In a fictional river valley on the East Coast of the North Island, Agnes marries a fellow European settler, while Niall marries into a large Māori family who have established a Pa in the area. They have their own taonga, a greenstone Pekapeka (bat). The story is interwoven through the generations, each connected to the previous and the next by their taonga, but also the landscape and events. The story takes us through family dramas, the Boer and First World Wars, floods, earthquakes, Tangiwai, the Tour and Y2K. David Hill deftly ties the families together with vivid imagery that follows the reader from generation to generation. A fantastic insight into NZ history for young readers.
13 year old Sofia and her family live in Porirua in the 1970s. Her Dad is from Samoa, and her Mum is a Pākehā, but her parent’s races don’t really affect Sofia’s life. Sure, the school bullies comment on her “Samoan stink” and about Sofia eating nothing but cabbage, but she doesn’t mind all that much. Sofia’s living a normal life, excited about the opening of the first McDonalds in the country, and saving to buy a pair of go-go boots. But she’s also worried about her brother Lenny who is getting involved with the Polynesian Panthers and the Māori land marches, and she thinks she believes in civil rights. And when Sofia and family are directly impacted by the Dawn Raids, targeting Pacific Islanders and their families, she can no longer separate herself from what is happening around her. Dawn Raid presents everyday life in New Zealand in the 1970s, mixed in with social issues, civil rights and pop culture. Sofia and her family are warm and likeable and the topics are presented in an easy to understand way.
Dawn Raid won Best First Book in the New Zealand Children's and Young Adult Awards this year. You can read a sample of the book on The Sapling.