Dawn Raid by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith, Scholastic New Zealand
This is the latest title in Scholastic’s very popular My New Zealand Story series. I was interested to see the colourful stylized cover, which is very different to the realistic covers of previous books in the series. I asked the Scholastic people about the cover, and they replied, “It is a new look for the series, and as we reprint backlist titles we will be redesigning them with new covers. It’s basically a fresher look with a more contemporary feel – something that we hope will resonate with more readers, and not just in the sense of a school textbook. There are so many important stories told in this series that we wanted to give it a new lease on life.” I’ll be looking forward to seeing what they come up with.
This story takes place in the middle of 1976, anchoring its setting very firmly in the first sentence, “I can’t believe the first McDonald’s in the WHOLE country is here – in Porirua! – at the shopping centre in Cobham Court.” That brings back memories for my husband and me of taking one toddler and one newborn son to McDonald’s so we could have a special treat!
Enough nostalgia. The story focuses on 13-year-old Sophia and her family. Her father is Tongan, and her mother is Pakeha. Sophia is mainly interested in getting a job and earning some money so she can buy a pair of white go-go boots. But as she continues with her diary, interacts with her schoolmates, and does well in the school speech competitions we realise that she’s observant and thoughtful.
Mention is made early on about the Government-controlled dawn raids on houses belonging to Islanders – raids that were meant to locate overstayers. The theme continues throughout Sophia’s diary entries, so it’s no great surprise when a dawn raid hits Sophia’s extended family - and chaos ensues.
It’s an easy and interesting read, with good use of slang and teenage pre-occupations to make the setting vivid and believable. Recommended for intermediate and early teen readers who want to know more about the history of Pacific Islanders in New Zealand.
ISBN 978 1 77543 475 7 RRP $17.99 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman