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Mrs Battleship by Tim Tipene

Author Tim Tipene called a teacher 'Battleship', then she changed his life.

This is Tipene's memoir of sorts. A product of rape, raised in violence, and abused by both his birth and foster families, Tipene recounts his early life in this book.

While it is aimed at younger readers, aged about five to 10-years-old, it is a fantastic read for any age.

Tipene recounts stories from his primary school years. They are often hilarious, but also illuminating. Tipene doesn't sugar coat his experience, but it is age appropriate.

He recalls some of the teachers he encountered along the way that changed his lift. 'Battleship' aka Mrs Battersby, is a tribute to the few teachers who acted at different times to protect him and champion him. It is especially gorgeous to see a photo of the author with the real Mrs Battersby, in 2017.

Tipene's stories of how he found jewels of wisdom and love in a world that had no place for him are heart breaking. Adults will need tissues. This is a book that every teacher should read too. While we all hope we never have to teach a child with an upbringing like the one Tipene had, we also all hope we will be remembered as a Mrs Battleship too.

There are plenty of funny moments too. It's easy to forget this is primarily a children's book. Younger readers will laugh out loud and nod in agreement. Tipene's cheeky side comes through.

His love of writing - of the escapism and joy it offered him - will also inspire. Tipene, even though he didn't understand the conventions of writing then, is now an award-winning author. His books include Māui - Sun Catcher, Taming the Taniwha, Haere, Rewa Finds His Wings and Patu.

He also founded Warrior Kids, a programme that empowers families and children by teaching them self-control and social skills.

Mrs Battleship is a memoir that shouldn't exist. However, it is an incredibly important book that should exist. No child should have to go through what Tipene did. But, that is sadly not reality. His memoir empowers those children who see themselves in the pages, and will help build empathy and understanding for those that don't. Every child needs a Mrs Battleship in their life.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

OneTree House, RRP $22


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