This is an accessible book for teenagers or adults. Beware, the topic of abuse, in little old New Zealand, is confronting. Tipene does a good job explaining his story and then moves into how he dealt with childhood challenges head on. Not only did Tipene face challenges but forged pathways of empowerment for other struggling children. Tipene has contributed much to New Zealand society through his Warrior Kids Programme that empowers generations of New Zealand children.
Themes in the book reveal multiple tensions across racism, identity, and injustice. Although Tipene is a pale Pakeha colour he has a Māori name. Tipene usefully describes how he was neither Māori nor Pākehā, because it highlights the plight of many mixed ethnicities in New Zealand, especially children. Readers may identify with the issues experienced and explored by Tipene.
“See I told you, Tim. Just because your last name is Māori doesn’t mean that you are. Stop hanging out with Māori kids. Go and be white like you’re supposed to be.” (pg7)
Humor contributes a light touch to the darker topics. Tipene takes up martial arts. He brings his traditional weapons to school where they are locked under staff supervision until it’s time for Tipene to practise. However some boys planning a fight against him hear about the weapons and decide Tipene is not the boy to pick a fight with any more – that he might go ‘Ninja’ on them.
“...they approached me and each in turn proceeded to apologise and shake my hand. ‘No hard feelings, eh, Tim.’ They had obviously watched too many movies.” (pg80)
The chapters of White Moko would be useful as standalone episodes to engage English students looking for Aotearoa short stories.
Title: White Moko: Stories from my life
Author: Tim Tipene
Publisher: One Tree House
Date of Publication: September 2020
Ages: 14 upwards
Do you have any advisory warnings for this book? Challenging topic of abuse
Reviewer: Michele Ayres, Librarian, Motueka High School Tasman
How are you recommending this book: Recommended
What’s the book’s opening sentence? ‘Who are you?’
You can buy this book here