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Auckland academic, former New Zealand Poet Laureate, award-magnet Selina Tusitala March – the first person of Pacific Island descent to get a PhD in English at the University of Auckland – has appeared a couple of times previously at Elsewhere with her poems Fast Talking PI and Guys Like Gaugin.

But this self-illustrated book takes her in another direction, back through a personal story about how her big and sometimes unruly hair made her self-conscious when she was 10, was sometimes the subject of ridicule (hence the title) and set her apart . . . until another mophead entered her orbit.

It was poet Sam Hunt – also tall and thin --who came to her school with his wild hair and wild words.

In not so many words she, as a teenager, saw a kindred spirit . . . and he didn't care what people thought.

“We were the same kind of different.”

And so her short story goes across spacious pages of idiosyncratic drawings of her multi-culti family background (Samoan, Tuvaluan, Scottish, English, French), the mop in the garage which was also tall and thin and had a wild head of “hair” and the tokotoko made for her when she became Poet Laureate.

mopheadAnd it too had a wild head.

This is a delightful story which is not just affirming but opens up discussions for young people about their own heritage, their own differences to accept and embrace, about pursuing a passion and so much more.

It is witty and self-effacing, places her considerable successes within the context of a woman with big hair and a job to do (poetry, of course).

And it has a neat circularity when she encounters a young boy on the ferry home to Waiheke who makes fun of her tokotoko.

“Do you want to hear a story?”

“Um . . . ok”

“When I was 10 . . .”

MOPHEAD by SELINA TUSITALA MARSH (Auckland University Press $24.99)


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AngelaS - Oct 30, 2019

Graham! Thank you for reviewing this and bringing it to a wider audience. It's delightful as you say and with very high production values so hopefully in all the situations it is placed it will last.It can also be used for most age groups. It won't be bought by every school because they don't all allocate their budgets for libraries or library books but that 's where it needs to be.
My pleased rant for the day! [Former school librarian and present children's award judge.]

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