SOUTHLAND author Pauline Smith’s first novel My New Zealand Story: Dawn Raid has been awarded the accolade of Best First Book at the 2018 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
Mrs Smith attended the awards ceremony at Te Papa, Wellington last night, where she received her award and $2000 in prize money.
“I got such a shock [when my name was announced], I just started to cry,” she said.
“I was sitting with literary royalty and I had the ‘how did I get invited to the top table’ feeling.
“I felt very humbled.”
Mrs Smith was one of 33 finalists selected from 152 entries submitted for the 2018 awards. Her book was nominated in two categories – Best First Book and the Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction.
The NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults celebrate the contribution New Zealand children’s authors and illustrators make to building national identity and cultural heritage.
Dawn Raid is the 28th book in Scholastic New Zealand’s My New Zealand Story series, which tell of significant events in New Zealand’s history as seen through the eyes of fictitious child diarists.
Mrs Smith’s story focuses on the dawn raids of the mid-1970s, when police raids were carried out on Pasifika households throughout the country as part of former Prime Minister Rob Muldoon’s campaign against overstayers. Through her diary, 13-year-old Sofia tells of the terror of being dawn-raided and the work of the Polynesian Panthers to encourage immigrant families in New Zealand to stand up for their rights.
The judges’ comments of Mrs Smith’s book – “Dawn Raid is a vividly drawn snapshot of the 1970s, packed full of laugh-out-loud Pasifika humour. From the quest to find white go-go boots that fit, to life on the milk run and avoiding boiled cabbage, Sofia navigates life in the 1970s with style.
“Issues of Pasifika identity and activism run throughout this book but are lightly woven into the story. Sofia’s growing political awareness of the Dawn Raids and their injustice and impact are sensitively told.
“This is a great story, and hugely relevant in our current geopolitical climate, to help children understand how political decisions around immigration that affect one group of people can have far reaching implications in society.”
Mrs Smith said she had several ideas for her next books, including a story of Sofia about five years later when she may have become a protestor.
She also wanted to tell the stories of people affected by the Invercargill floods of 1984, she said.
The top honour of the night, the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, was awarded to Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story, written and illustrated by Gavin Bishop, who was born in Invercargill. Mr Bishop also won the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction.