When ten year old Conrad finds out about Tane, the Maori god of the forest, he decides to pray to him in the hopes that Tane will fix some of his family problems. Of course, being Pakeha this is met with all sorts of reactions from his friends, family, and teachers. Conrad Cooper’s Last Stand, by Leonie Agnew is set in Auckland in 1978, at the time of the Bastion Point occupation. Told from the point of view of Conrad narrating to Tane, the book is a touching, funny tale that has surprising complexity.
I say this because although the book is aimed at 8-10 year olds, you almost need to be an adult to appreciate it. Conrad takes everything literally (as many children do at that age), and many of the jokes will go right over children’s heads. For adults though, it is a pleasure to read, and I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions.
It is a wonderful history lesson, as we learn about the Bastion Point occupation from the point of a boy who sees everything in an unbiased manner. To Conrad, everything is black and white, or at least he thinks it should be. Good is good, and bad is bad. Although his views on this change throughout the book as he learns that life can be much more complex, he offers a view of the era that isn’t bound by preconceptions.
It is an engaging and heartwarming New Zealand read that offers a slice of history not talked about much in fiction. While 8-10 year olds will enjoy it, I highly recommend Conrad Cooper’s Last Stand for all ages.