The New Zealand Wars by Matthew Wright

With New Zealand history being part of the curriculum from 2022, teachers and school librarians are going to be on the lookout for great resources for students. Oratia Books are one of the publishers that are leading the way with their NZ Series of books that focus on New Zealand history. The most recent book in this series is The New Zealand Wars by Matthew Wright.

In his slim, visually-appealing book Matthew Wright gives readers a concise introduction to the New Zealand Wars. Matthew talks about how and why the wars started, who fought the wars, and breaks down the individual conflicts. We learn about the major incidents, including the Battle of Gate Pā, and the figures involved from both sides, including Hōne Heke and George Grey. The information has been broken down in to short sections of text, with lots of illustrations, photographs and maps. Matthew has very effectively used boxes and sidebars to explain points or words in more detail. There is also a list of further reading and an index in the back, making it easier to find details about certain people.

The New Zealand Wars will be an invaluable resource in New Zealand schools. I loved studying New Zealand history at primary school and high school, as it was history that was relevant to me. The books on New Zealand history were few, and very text heavy. Matthew Wright’s book, on the other hand, is short, but concise, and it’s very readable. It will be appealing to students as they won’t get bogged down by text and will be able to find the information they need easily.

The thing that I like the most about this book is that it is packed with images. There are primary resources, like the photos and paintings from the time of the conflict, but there are also modern photos of pā sites, graves and monuments. As Matthew mentions in his book, these monuments help to remind us that history isn’t a boring list of things that happened, that ‘it is about the shapes and patterns of the past that made us what we are today.’

The New Zealand Wars is the kind of New Zealand history book that I wish had been around when I was in high school. This is a book that should be in all schools in New Zealand, especially in primary, intermediate and high school libraries. I will be looking out for the other titles in Oratia Books The NZ Series.

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