by Selina Tusitala Marsh
I admit to having been a little behind the times in some areas, which made me expect graphic books were still more comic-like. With limp covers, pages of cheap quality paper, strips of cartoon-style drawings on each page.
Wrong, wrong, wrong in the case of this one, for here’s a hardcover, heavy rather than flimsy pages, each with a single drawing and a few words of text. More like a children’s picture book, though the full colours of picture books have been replaced by black and red only.
And this tells a story better appreciated by older children, certainly teens, and adults too.
Dedicated “to those who stick out”, it’s an autobiographical tale written and illustrated by Poet Laureate for the past two years, Selina Tusitala Marsh. She credits her mop of hair “so wild it defied gravity” to her mixed parentage – Samoan, Tuvaluan, Scottish, English and French. I’m thinking she was also well-named by her parents for this Tusitala shows she is not only a great writer of poetry but of stories too, as well as an artist.
With a few well-chosen words and delightfully simple cartoon pics, the young Selina’s school experiences trying to blend in despite her unruly mop is both hilarious and affecting. It’s a school visit by another wild-haired poet that is inspirational for the young girl. It challenges her perspective and sets her free from the restraints of conformity. Academic success, honours, national and international acclaim follow in spite of the mop of wild hair. Or perhaps partly because of it?
In telling her story Selina Tusitala Marsh has been generous in her acknowledgement of other writers, poets, and high-achieving Pacific Island women.
Altogether, this book is a delight – to hold, to read, to see, and to learn from.
Malo lava for this and all your achievements, Dr Marsh.
Author: Selina Tusitala Marsh
Publisher: Auckland University Press