This delightful novel follows James ‘Snow’ Goodison from his childhood on a farm to his defining coming of age moment in the Wanganui anti-German riots of 1915. Snow becomes a shop assistant for a German butcher, and this relationship allows him to grow as a person. He learns some hard truths about the world when the shop is looted by rioters caught up in patriotic madness.
The text scatters a range of carefully selected details to breathe life and context to the story, such as a tour by the Australian Rugby team and the introduction of the first Ford Model T cars to the town. These details will immerse the younger reader without suffocating them. This is a novel with a historical setting, rather than a historical novel, and the characters remain central.
The earnest, upbeat tone of the text will hook young readers in. The book itself is physically on the small side, with large font, making it a very accessible text. Reluctant readers will really enjoy reading this as the pages and chapters fly by in a whimsical blur. I have no doubt that anybody reading the opening will go on to read the entire text.
Title: Night of the Riot
Author: Matt Elliott
Publisher: Salisbury Books
Ages: 11–16 years
Reviewer: Ian Stewart
Position: HOD English
School: St Peter’s College, Palmerston North