Author(s): Shilo Kino
Twelve-year-old Niko lives in Pohe Bay, a small, rural town with a sacred hot spring and a taniwha named Taukere. The government wants to build a prison over the home of the taniwha, and Niko's grandfather is busy protesting. People call him pōrangi, crazy, but when he dies, it's up to Niko to convince his community that the taniwha is real and stop the prison from being built. With help from his friend Wai, Niko must unite his whanau, honour his grandfather and stand up to his childhood bully.
This is a coming-of-age story about a boy who stands up to a bully and gains respect, stands up for what he believes in and becomes a leader, and inspires a community to come together and protect its land and way of life. The story is based on actual events that occurred in Ngawha, Northland, where Maori opposed a prison being built on sacred ground and where it could also disturb the home of a taniwha. Niko can be seen as one of the new wave of young people everywhere coming forward and fighting for a cause. He is inspiring and there is humour as he faces challenges and finds ways to make things work. The story, for readers aged eight to fourteen, has memorable characters, including a veteran protester aunty with big ideas and a big heart, a grumbling wise grandfather Niko loves and is also a bit ashamed of, a mum struggling with daily life, and friends Niko falls in and out with.
Shilo Kino (Nga Puhi, Tainui) is a journalist who works for Marae. She has had her work published in the New Zealand Herald, The Spinoff, The Pantograph Punch, Stuff and Huia Short Stories collections and was a participant in the 2018 Te Papa Tupu writing programme. Shilo is fluent in Mandarin, has lived in Hong Kong and is a member of the Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network of young leaders strengthening ties with Asia.