New non-fiction reviews

From a tale of mythical women in northernmost Tuvalu to a story of a modern mophead woman of Tuvaluan, Samoan, French, Scottish and English descent – as well as adventures in tech through time, seaside exploration and Niuean icons. It’s time for a fresh crop of non-fiction reviews! Rhegan Tu’akoi takes us through them.

Mophead Tu by Selina Tusitala Marsh

Selina Tusitala Marsh’s spectacular sequel, Mophead Tu, does not disappoint. Much like the first Mophead, the story told is bold, challenging, and hilarious. It builds on the incredible imagery in the first book but does not rely on it—the sequel can be read independently. Marsh skilfully weaves together histories of colonialism and its effects, with her journey of writing and performing a poem in front of the Queen.

Spread from Mophead Tu, by Selina Tusitala Marsh (Auckland University Press)

A clever play on words, tu means to ‘stand with integrity’. It is clear that despite many, many, many obstacles, Marsh stood with integrity and didn’t let negative voices drown hers out. In big cloud bubbles, Marsh wonders if she can both ‘stand up for [her] people who struggled against the Queen… and still serve the queen?’ This is a struggle she manages to figure out through journaling.

The only word I have for the illustrations is, wow. The images seem to jump off the page because they are so full of energy. I particularly liked that the feature colour was purple—it further accentuated the royal storyline.

Spread from Mophead Tu, by Selina Tusitala Marsh (Auckland University Press)
Spread from Mophead Tu, by Selina Tusitala Marsh (Auckland University Press)

This is a book I would’ve loved when I was younger. Marsh breaks down big concepts for a young audience and threads through Pasifika mythology and knowledge from our academics in fun and imaginative ways. I think this is particularly useful for Pasifika and Māori rangatahi. Growing up Tongan and Pākehā, I vaguely knew our history was covered in blood, but I didn’t learn the word colonialism until high school. Importantly, this book shows that we do not have to turn our back on the past to fit into the present.

A hardback book full of life, this is the perfect addition to every library, especially if you already have the first Mophead. And if you don’t, this is even more reason to acquire both!

mophead Tu

By Selina Tusitala Marsh

Published by Auckland University Press

RRP $25.00

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The Gifts of Pai and Vau / Meaalofa a Pai mo Vau by David Riley, illustrated by Chad Robertson, translated by Siliga Tala

Another in the Pasifika Superheroes series, this hardcover book by David Riley tells a Nanumean legend about Pai and Vau. The language is simple, the story is easy to follow, and the graphics are colourful and bright. It is lovely to read.

Pai and Vau create Nanumea by pouring magical sand from their baskets into the ocean. Tefolaha, a warrior tired of battles, arrives in Nanumea ready to begin a new life. He meets Pai and Vau and challenges them to a contest – if they can guess his name, he will leave the island, but if he guesses theirs, they must leave. But Pai and Vau know that he was sent from God to be the ancestor of Nanumean people, so loudly say each other’s names in his earshot. That night, Tefolaha triumphantly tells them their names and wins the contest and the right to stay on Nanumea. Before Pai and Vau leave, they pour more magical sand into the ocean to create four islets, ‘more gifts for the people of Nanumea.’

Spread from The Gifts of Pai and Vau / Meaalofa a Pai mo Vau, by David Riley (Reading Warrior)
Spread from The Gifts of Pai and Vau / Meaalofa a Pai mo Vau, by David Riley (Reading Warrior)

A fantastic aspect of this book (and the entire series, too) is that the legend is presented in both English and Nanumean. This makes it a great educational tool, even for those who have no experience with Pacific languages. There is QR code on the first page which takes you to a recording of the story in both languages. Ocean sounds and music are dispersed through, which makes for a wonderful reading and listening experience. It is also good for children from other Pacific Islands. Nanumean is somewhat similar to Tongan, so I recognised many words. I first tried to read only the Nanumean and was excited that I could understand a lot of the story. I am sure Pasifika children will enjoy doing the same.

The Gifts of Pai and Vau | Meaalofa a Pai mo Vau

By David Riley

Illustrated by Chad Robertson

Translated by Siliga Tala

Published by Reading Warrior

RRP $24.95

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Timeline: Science and Technology by Peter Goes

Timeline: Science and Technology is the exact type of book I would have loved as a child. Detailing all the great scientific and technological advances of this world, it brings them all together in a succinct, yet fascinating way. It begins with the Stone Age and goes right through to what the future might look like. Most time periods stretch across a double spread feature a bright colour. For instance, the double-page for the Norte Chico civilization is a light green, with blue and green trees and vines.

The illustrations are phenomenal. They are detailed, bright, and enhance the text perfectly. Peter Goes has drawn everything, from a lifelike Charles Darwin, to Willis Tower in Chicago, to a statue of Poseidon atop a fountain with Romans (and a yellow rubber duck) bathing below. Though difficult to decide, my favourite illustration was the Gothic cathedral because it was incredibly detailed and had quite a few humorous carvings— including a bishop who clearly needs the bathroom!

Spread from Timeline: Science and Technology, by Peter Goes (Gecko Press)
Spread from Timeline: Science and Technology, by Peter Goes (Gecko Press)

The ideas are big, and the book itself is big, too, making it a great one to pore over. I imagine it is also a great book to begin conversations and excite inquisitive minds. Younger children will enjoy the clever illustrations (which tell a story by themselves), while older children will be engrossed in both the illustrations and text. Timeline is captivating and compelling, a thoroughly interesting and engaging book.

Timeline: Science and Technology

By Peter Goes

Published by Gecko Press

RRP $39.99

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Niue Heroes by David Riley, illustrated by Munro Te Whata

Niue Heroes is dedicated to Niuean young people with the quote, ‘I wander beneath the stars, the path is lit, and so, I can see where I am going.’ The stars have guided many of those featured in this book, and now they guide other Niueans with their light. The book begins with Fao and Huanaki, the brothers who discovered Niue making them the ‘first Niuean achievers!’ The legend of their discovery is accompanied by lovely illustrations, particularly one which depicts them stomping on the reef to make land and nature appear.

David Riley features heroes from all different areas, there are sporting stars, musicians, doctors, actors, politicians, journalists and more. Many are recognisable for their achievement in New Zealand (and the rest of the world), so much so that I am now convinced nearly every successful person is Niuean!

Spread from Niue Heroes, by David Riley (Reading Warrior)
Spread from Niue Heroes, by David Riley (Reading Warrior)

As well as those I recognised, there were Niuean legends dispersed throughout, such as Laufoli. He lived in ancient Niue and was the warrior who helped the Tongans defeat Tologa, the monster who ate people.

The profiles in this book are incredibly interesting because they chart not just the person’s success, but also how they grew up and where they come from. It gives the important message that a person is not born a hero but can become one by working hard and thinking outside the box. By recording the stories of these Niuean people, David Riley shows that Niueans, indisputably, are world changers.

Niue Heroes

By David Riley

Illustrated by Munro Te Whata

Published by Reading Warrior

RRP $29.99

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24 Hours on the Kiwi Seashore by Gillian and Darryl Torckler

24 Hours on the Kiwi Seashore is a must-have for young and curious minds. It follows a 24-hour cycle of the seashore’s ecosystem. The book is sectioned into the tides, in chronological order from 00:00 to 24:00, beginning with low tide. The introduction to each section is written in story form, which helps to summarise what each fish, bird, or invertebrate etc. is doing. Then, on the next double spread, there are detailed explanations. This book contains all the answers to questions children may have about the seashore: where do hoiho live? Why do gannets dive into the water? What are sea cucumbers? All these questions, and more, are answered here!

The photography is stunning, definitely one of the highlights. There are detailed shots of gannets mid-dive, an octopus camouflaging with rocks, a seal staring directly at the camera, and an eagle ray gliding through the water. Fun facts are also scattered throughout—my favourite being that octopuses have three hearts and eight brains!

Spread from 24 Hours on the Kiwi Seashore, by Gillian and Darryl Torckler (Bateman)
Spread from 24 Hours on the Kiwi Seashore, by Gillian and Darryl Torckler (Bateman)

Gillian and Darryl Torckler have also created 24 Hours in the Kiwi Bush which is a great companion book for children who have a keen interest in all things nature. It, too, has incredible photography and information, so is sure to pique the interest of future David Attenboroughs!

Aimed at seven years and above, 24 Hours on the Kiwi Seashore is the perfect book for a budding nature lover and scientist. They can take it to the beach this summer to aid their exploration of the rocky New Zealand seashore.

24 Hours on the Kiwi Seashore

By Gillian and Darryl Torckler

Published by Bateman

RRP $19.99

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Rhegan Tu‘akoi

Rhegan Tu‘akoi is a Tongan/Pākehā based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. She is a Master’s student at Victoria and her words have appeared in Mayhem, Turbine \ Kapohau and Tupuranga, among other journals.