One of the things I love the most about the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is that it always introduces me to New Zealand books that I hadn’t heard of. One of the gems that I’ve discovered from the shortlist is M.H. McKinley’s brilliant graphic novel, Wars in the Whitecloud: Wairau, 1843.
Wairau, 1843 is the first in the Wars in the Whitecloud graphic novel series that vividly brings to life important events in the early interactions between Maori and Pakeha. This first book portrays the ill-fated meeting between early settlers and the Ngati-Toa tribe at Wairau in 1843. It was a short but violent and bloody conflict and the author hasn’t shied away from portraying this. M.H. McKinley stays true to these historic events while bringing to life both Maori and Pakeha figures who played a part in the conflict. There are also extensive historical notes at the back of the book so that you can learn more about the events and the people involved.
As someone who loves both New Zealand history and graphic novels I absolutely love this book! I loved studying New Zealand history when I was in high school and this is the sort of book that I needed. Secondary school Social Science teachers all over New Zealand need to have this book put in their hands. It is an invaluable resource to make history come alive, not just for teenagers but adults as well.
The art is stunning throughout, with realistic depictions of Maori and Pakeha. I especially like the art and layout of the front cover, which reminded me of a movie poster. The only thing I didn’t like about the book was that there wasn’t enough of a margin throughout the book, meaning that you have to really pull the pages apart sometimes to read the text.
Wars in the Whitecloud: Wairau, 1843 is a finalist in the Best First Book Category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and it is certainly a winning book in my opinion.