Wars in the WhiteCloud: Wairau 1843 by M.H. McKinley (Kin Ltd NZ)
Non-fiction books for children and young adults nowadays have to compete with the internet, digital books, and social media. To encourage the target audience to pick it up in a library or bookshop it has to be visually exciting or interactive. First time author Matt McKinley has written and illustrated an episode of New Zealand’s land wars in graphic novel style and its stunning illustrations and speech bubbles are guaranteed to appeal to 13-15 year olds. The New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adult judges think so, too, shortlisting it it in the Best First Book category.
Matt uses two teenagers, Te Arana from Ngati Toa iwi, and Will Archer son of Chief Constable John Archer to lead readers into the tragic incident at Wairau in 1843. The two young men are caught up in the meeting between representatives of the New Zealand Company who believed they had purchased land in the Wairau area and Te Rauparaha and his tribe who felt they had been tricked into signing away their rights to the land. Past hurts, an accidental shooting, and two stubborn leaders failing to compromise and talk it through, results in a battle where one group meets a fateful end.
Matt began the 60 page historical story four years ago, after finishing his Master of Design with Massey University. In an interview with The Dominion newspaper, Matt said it took 16 hours to illustrate each double page spread. He’s now working on the next book in the series about the Flagstaff War in Nelson.
Bound to be popular with Intermediate and High School students, especially students who love to read historical recounts of New Zealand’s history. Will be suitable for young people with learning difficulties or reluctant readers; the realistic drawings and speech bubbles telling the story in easy-to-read chunks.