A stunning tale of bravery, Ashika Hira
July 13, 2021
Charlie Tangaroa and the Creature from the Sea is a novel by T K Roxborogh. This was published by Huia in 2020 and is a finalist for the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young People. Roxborogh writes of a young boy, Charlie, who finds a creature from a fairy tale on the shores of his local beach. This discovery changes his view of the world forever and Charlie is finally able to see the world as it truly is, the creation of the gods above, below and around us.
We are transported to Tolaga Bay on the East Coast, where Charlie Tangaroa lives with his mum, grandad and younger brother Robbie. One day, while picking up rubbish on the beach with Robbie, they see the shape of a body on the shore of the beach. When they get closer they realise that it is a woman, horribly pale, unconscious, and possibly dead. Dreading the worst Charlie goes to check her pulse, only to find it beating strongly, and upon closer inspection he can see that her skin isn’t really pale at all but more a white blue hue. Her arms and legs are abnormally long and between her fingers there is a thin film of skin that makes them look webbed. But it is her feet that catch his eye, with protruding bones that look a bit like claws. This doesn’t look like any human Charlie has ever seen and his grandad confirms that what Charlie and Robbie have really found is a ponaturi, a creature of Māori legend, and now Charlie’s life.
This ponaturi belongs to Tangaroa, the god of the sea, but when she refuses to return, and then insists that he is kōmitimiti (mixed/blended), Charlie becomes even more confused. All he knows is that this ponaturi has taken a liking to him and he is the only one who can understand her. She has chosen him to help her get to the forest and her parents, and while this confuses Charlie immensely (a sea creature whose parents are in the forest!), he never backs down from a challenge and will try his best to help her out.
But if Charlie thinks that this is the end of the wonderment he has another thing coming for him. The arrival of the ponaturi is only the first of many unbelievable things to come in the following days. Charlie will soon find out that this is so much bigger than reuniting this ponaturi with her parents and goes back centuries to a battle between the gods. Will Charlie be able to find his mana and resolve this conflict before it gets out of hand and destroys the lives of those he loves?
Before reading this book I had an admittedly limited understanding of Māori culture and beliefs, however this book had deepened my understanding and given me an insight into many Māori legends and traditions. This book taught me a lot and I have come to realise that many Māori traditions and beliefs are similar to that of my own culture.
This is a stunning tale of bravery, adventure and family. Only once Charlie realises his potential will he be able to harness his mana. This book would be great for those who love books about adventure, self-empowerment and who would like to learn a little bit more about Māori culture.
- Ashika Hira is 15 years old and lives in Hastings.