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DAWN RAID by Pauline Vaeluaga Smith Kirkus Star


by Pauline Vaeluaga Smith ; illustrated by Mat Hunkin

Pub Date: March 2nd, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-64614-041-1
Publisher: Levine Querido

Sofia Christina Savea shares what life is like during times of political unrest in 1970s Wellington, New Zealand.

Through diary entries, readers are introduced to vibrant Sofia, who is growing up biracial—pālagi (White) and Samoan—as she turns 13 and starts to consider the shifting world around her. Protests against dawn raids, as police hunt for Pacific Islanders who have overstayed their visas, and activism to encourage Māori land and language reclamation start to frame her perspectives around equality. Sofia’s developing awareness bridges her transition to becoming a teenager as she takes on a job to be able to buy her own things but also contributes to her family’s financial well-being. She is invited into conversations around civil rights in her community, particularly through her family’s involvement with the Polynesian Panthers, modeled after the Black Panthers. Vaeluaga Smith skillfully balances the joy Sofia experiences when she tastes McDonald’s for the first time or is learning Māori songs and games with thoughtful considerations of state violence against Pacific Islanders and how it intimately affects her family and friends. The accessible language allows space for Sofia, and readers, to tip in and out of complex ideas and politics that hold present-day relevance. Hunkin’s charming illustrations provide visual insight into the world presented so vividly in the text. A comprehensive historical note presents real-life heroes whose humanity is well-emphasized through the diary format.

Well crafted and wonderfully fresh.

(historical note, glossary, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 8-12)