‘It’s only a waste if we stop fighting’, Iris Wood
15 April, 2021
I chose to read The Pōrangi Boy by Shilo Kino because it sounded interesting and I liked the bold colours of the cover page.
The book is about Niko, a young Māori boy, who lives in a small Northland town. Everyone calls him pōrangi, which means crazy, because he believes in the taniwha his koro has told him about. Niko is really close to his Koro, who changes his life in surprising ways, but he is also being bullied by his cousins. There are plans to build a prison on their land, and Niko’s koro is protesting against this whilst other people in their community want the prison to be built.
The Pōrangi Boy is about standing up for what you believe in. It is also about the impact of greed, drugs and differentiating opinions in family relationships. The book shows us what you can achieve with whānau and friends when they support you. Furthermore, The Pōrangi Boy is about whether Niko can step up and be a leader.
I think this book would appeal most to 12 to 15-year-old New Zealand readers. You need to have some understanding of Māori culture and te reo Māori, as there are Māori words and phrases but no glossary. There are certain words I did not know, but I could usually figure out their meaning from the rest of the sentence.
At the start, I found the book hard to get in to because it was not always clear to me which characters in the book were speaking. In the first three quarters of the book the chapters switch back and forth between something happening, and I kept wondering what the big event was going to be. The last section of the book takes place in the present, when Niko decides to take action. There were some surprises and some very sad parts to the story, which hooked me.
The author does a good job of showing which characters are good and bad by describing how they react to situations. I liked the main character Niko, because he is caring and he is close to his whānau. The parts in the book where Niko is being bullied made me want things to turn out well for him.
Niko and his koro have a close relationship and Niko learns a lot from him, even when others think his koro is pōrangi. “What if you sit here for weeks and nothing happens? That’s a waste…” Koro pauses for a moment. ‘It’s only a waste if we stop fighting” (page 84). Later on, Niko reflects on what he learnt from his koro and decides to take action. Niko believes in the taniwha that his koro taught him, as they see the taniwha as a kaitiaki of the land that the prison is planned to be built on.
I found this book interesting, as I have not read other books about Māori land protests before. Kino made these topics relevant to me by telling the story from the perspective of a twelve-year-old. I would recommend this book to my friends. This is the author’s first novel and I would like to read more from her in the future.
- Iris Wood is 12 years old.