Book Review: Ake. Ake. Kia kaha E!

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_ake_ake_kia_kaha_eWira Gardiner’s book, Ake. Ake. Kia Kaha E!, paints a powerful & often painful picture of the trials & tribulations of the men of B Company 28 Māori Battalion, from its inception in October 1939, to its demobilisation in January 1946.

Importantly, he gives historic context to the involvement of Māori in the NZ Army, by pointing back to the Māori  Pioneer Battalion, which sailed with the 1st New Zealand Expeditionary force in WW1, & served with distinction at Gallipoli & on the Western Front.

Wira then provides a detailed account of the national and intra-Māori politics involved in raising 28 Maori Battalion, and the decision by Māori that the individual companies should be organised along Iwi lines – B Company comprising the Hauraki & Bay of Plenty Iwi. The politics and racial sensitivities involved in selecting the officers and NCOs of the Battalion, which required a balance between military experience and cultural familiarity, is also well described.

Using official information, other writers’ books,  personal accounts & whanau interviews as his base, Wira follows B Company in particular, but 28 Māori Battalion in general, through the disastrous battles in & retreats from mainland Greece & Crete, the mixed fortunes of the Desert War in North Africa, & finally the more successful campaign in Italy.

The writer punctuates his narrative with insights from combatants’ perspectives into the very real shock & horror which inevitably affect those involved in killing other humans – especially at close quarter in hand-to-hand fighting. No account is more poignant than that of Corporal Riini in the aftermath of a rearguard action in Crete. Covered in blood from a German he had just bayoneted, Riini was in tears after noticing that both he and the dead German had both been clasping their rosaries when they clashed. Riini vowed never again to bayonet another enemy.

Although Wira’s book gives the facts of battles fought & associated casualties, its real virtue is bringing to life for readers the experiences of individual men of B Company; mateship while at war; fear in battle, grief for friends lost; homesickness for whanau & familiar cultural surrounds & kai. The annex listing the names of all 968 members of B Company, including photos where available, gives further life to them & their stories

Regarding presentation and writing style; given the size of the book (488 pages), and to facilitate reading, some of the more detailed personal information would sit better as footnotes, and some of the notes already indexed at the back of the book would be better placed on the relevant page of the text. Also, the writer tends to move quickly back & forward in time, which requires the reader to regularly re-attune to the narrative’s chronology.

The author’s cultural & military credentials are obvious throughout.

While this book will appeal mainly to those inside the NZ military history community, plus descendants of B Company men in particular & 28 Māori Battalion generally, it may also attract those interested in understanding the immediate & long term disquieting emotional effects on those intimately involved in close combat in the killing fields of war.

Reviewed by Barry Keane

Ake. Ake. Kia kaha E! Forever Brave! B Company 28 Māori Battalion 1939-1946
by Lt Col (Rtd) Sir Harawira Gardiner
Published by David Bateman Ltd
ISBN 9781869539856

Book Review: Pathway of the Birds – The voyaging achievements of Māori and their Polynesian Ancestors, by Andrew Crowe

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_pathway_of_the_birdsAnthropologist Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter Buck) described ancient Polynesians as supreme navigators of history. Their double-hulled, sewn plant canoes propelled by woven mat sails explored the far reaches of the Earth’s greatest ocean.

Captain James Cook between the years 1769 and 1779 visited more Polynesian islands than any other European explorer before him.

Andrew Crowe in Pathway of the Birds explores the history of movement among the islands of the Pacific and the means of transport with the development of boat designs and the possibilities and archaeological finds of some of the various remote islands in the Pacific and the deep ocean voyages that were deliberate and planned. He also notes the different species of native birds and lizards and how they differ between the islands, and the tools used by the inhabitants and the purpose for what they were used.

This covers a subject of great interest to many readers with over 400 photos and illustrations breaking up the text.

While I found this book extremely interesting I did struggle at times to take in the information. As a New Zealander whose ancestors come from other places this highlights to me the courage and tenacity of Polynesian inhabitants and their desire to travel and explore the Pacific.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Pathway of the Birds: The voyaging achievements of Māori and their Polynesian
by Andrew Crowe
Published by David Bateman Ltd
ISBN 9781869539610

Book Review: The Hauraki Gulf: An Iconic Kiwi Playground, by Jane King

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_hauraki_gulf.jpgThe Hauraki Gulf is a stretch of water east of Auckland, dotted with a unique array of islands treasured by those who live there and nearby. Author Jane King explores these islands and surrounds in her book The Hauraki Gulf, as a celebration of the area’s unique geographical landscapes, natural beauty and resources.

The land and sea is beloved by locals, but many of these islands will be unknown to New Zealanders. The Hauraki Gulf is an easy and visual way to get to know the islands, the people who live there and how the island is used now. New Zealanders will also enjoy the stories of ‘how it used to be’, bringing back memories of growing up in small town New Zealand.

The book touches on a brief history of each island as a chapter, exploring current use and conservation as well as reflecting on early years. Islands featured include Great and Little Barrier Island, bird sanctuary Tiritiri Matangi Island, Rangitoto, Waiheke Island, as well as the lesser known Motuihe, Rotoroa and Pakatoa islands. The book is pictorial with large colour photos throughout, highlighting the islands and people then and now.

Local people share personal and historical yarns about the land, people and events in The Hauraki Gulf. These short, local insights are fun to read and great to have documented, even if you wonder if the yarns haven’t grown larger and more colourful over time.

One of my favourites is the local legend of early emergency flights to Great Barrier Island. Back in the 1980s, a pilot would volunteer to fly to Great Barrier Island to pick up injured or sick locals to take them to the mainland. It was dangerous, as the island was pitch black with no electricity supply and it was difficult to locate the airfield with no lights to guide the pilot. The airfield was just a paddock and often boggy, and emergencies often happened at night. At one point, locals were rounded up to drive their cars to the airfield where they would park their cars in two straight lines, opposite one another, to create a runway by headlights. You feel such things can only happen in small town New Zealand.

This is a nice coffee table book, easy to read and touching on many features of the islands and people. A visual map showing the Hauraki Gulf and the location of the islands featured in the book would have been a nice addition.

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

The Hauraki Gulf
by Jane King
Published by David Bateman
ISBN 9781869539504

Book Review: Big Pacific, by Rebecca Tansley

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_big_pacificThe Pacific Ocean contains half the world’s water and covers a third of the world’s surface. This alone makes it one of the most fascinating places on our planet. Add to that a diversity of lifeforms, landscapes and peoples, and you have the formula for a great book.

Big Pacific has been produced to accompany the Natural History New Zealand four-part series to screen on Prime Television. The images used come from the documentary but there is an added bonus. Interspersed between the stories of plant and animal life, are little vignettes about the actual making of the documentary. These added an in-depth look at the difficulties and joys of shooting a series over an extended period. It gives the human stories behind the images. I loved this Kiwi down-to-earth touch.

The chapters are creatively designed to avoid the usual land, sea and people classification. Here we have a chapter on population growth, one on hunger, a section about secrets and finally one about mayhem, which defies the title of Pacific (peaceful). Such a creative way to organise material means that you can pick up the book and dip in to any part. The images are superb and the text is enough to inform and engage, but not to bore. Each section includes a map showing where in the Pacific this creature or life form is located.

An introduction gives a little background to the discovery and naming of the Pacific, but the main focus is on the diversity of this ocean. The start includes maps of the Pacific that makes for easy reference when reading. Along with the expected inhabitants, such as sharks, seals, whales, Tuatara, Iguana and turtles, you will also meet Wolf Eels, Jellyfish, Red sea urchin, squid and palolo worms. The final section includes some geology and archaeology associated with this vast area.

This book tackles a huge and diverse area of our world. While it cannot cover every aspect of the Pacific, I think it makes a wonderful introduction. I can see this book on the coffee tables of countless burees around the Pacific Islands. It will inform the travelers from the Northern climes, about our large slice of paradise. For New Zealand readers, it will encourage you to search a little harder for your Pacific island getaway. While a gentle beach is appealing, a trip to view some of these amazing creatures would be a special holiday.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Big Pacific
by Rebecca Tansley
Published by David Bateman Ltd
ISBN 9781869539634

Book Review: The Ugly Kiwi, by Scott Tulloch

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_The_ugly_kiwiA delightful retelling of the classic The Ugly Duckling using New Zealand characters and drama.

A kiwi egg hatches in a duck nest, and out pops a bird which doesn’t look like, sound like or act like the other baby birds.  A cat appears and drama begins as the feline foe catches a tui … but, of course, our hero – the kiwi – saves the day.

The text is full of descriptive language, a rich treasure trove of words to extend children’s vocabulary and explore creative storytelling.  However, children can still confidently follow the story with the rhyming melodies of the text.  There are lots of opportunities to slow down and predict what might happen next.

The story is beautifully accompanied by watercolour illustrations.  The pages are not cluttered with background, and focus on the key elements of the story.  They clearly convey movement, emotion and anticipation as the plot thickens.

We also love how the author has been true to how birds react.  As a teacher it is hard to find picture books that share scientific knowledge with children within a narrative tale.  However, in The Ugly Kiwi, our hero uses her claws to kick away the predator.  It will be used when we are exploring kiwi to provoke conversations about predators and protection.

The story weaves in the moral of being true to who you are under your feathers in this refreshing spin on a classic tale.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

The Ugly Kiwi
by Scott Tulloch
Published by David Bateman Ltd
ISBN 9781869539764

Book Review: The Dunedin Sound: Some Disenchanted Evening, by Ian Chapman

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_dunedin_soundEven though I was  born and raised in Dunedin I have to say the phrase “The Dunedin Sound” is completely new to me. Not being from the generation that encapsulates that label is perhaps a contributing factor, but I have come to realize that it is a fascinating subject and The Dunedin Sound by Ian Chapman has been a learning curve for me in music coming from my own hometown, during what is largely considered to be the greatest era of music.

The Dunedin Sound delves into 17 bands that were and are closely associated with the sound, providing background and explanations about the bands along with corresponding pictures that speak volumes. Amongst those we find written contributions from people that in some way or another have a connection to The Dunedin Sound. Their experiences vary greatly, as of course does how they personally view the music attached to The Dunedin Sound, but that is what gives the book a deeper meaning (rather than just biographies of some old bands that a few people want to reminisce about). It was reading about what attracted these people in the first place to the music, that makes me want to explore the treasure created in my backyard, hidden to my generation as the result of decades passing. Ian Chapman chose his contributors extremely effectively; they range from critics to fans to musicians, to music writers and more. All have a different take but all are united on the front that a vast majority of ‘80s bands from Dunedin had something special.

Throughout the book the snapshots and newspaper clippings, as well as posters (many of them hand-drawn) and the odd scribbled note here and there really made it feel like you had opened a time capsule from those days – a very well-presented and preserved one. One writer in the book talks about how ‘those days are gone now and, as is inevitable, a mythology is created and sold.’ The writer then makes the point that The Dunedin Sound is part of that, ‘but in it, relics are left to tell their own stories’, which is exactly what they do.

The only exposure I had personally had to the music written about was listening to ‘Pink Frost’ by The Chills, and it has only been since reading this book that I clicked that The Chills were a Dunedin band. But I have now discovered The Verlaines, Sneaky Feelings, more fully The Chills and I know there is much more yet to explore. Ian Chapman and his many contributors have provided those like myself with the insight of what the Dunedin music scene was made up of in the ‘80s and has already proven to be an excellent guide in my initial introduction to The Dunedin Sound. He has also given many others the opportunity to revisit times passed, giving extra information about bands that they might have known and seen perform, and in that way provided a tribute to the bands of The Dunedin Sound but also to their loyal followers.

I would highly recommend this book thanks to this dual appeal, and Chapman achieves this without making his aims obvious: The Dunedin Sound is blunt in it’s truthfulness. In my opinion, those who are familiar with the books subject matter will appreciate that, and for the others who aren’t, it will prove to be a reliable source of knowledge about the esteemed Dunedin Sound.

Reviewed by Sarah Hayward

The Dunedin Sound: Some Disenchanted Evening
by Ian Chapman
Published by David Bateman Ltd
ISBN 9781869538958

Book Review: Her Space – Kiwi She Sheds, Back Rooms and the Kitchen Table, by Marilyn Jessen

cv_her_spaceAvailable now in bookshops nationwide.Available now in bookshops nationwide.

If you have a dream of getting out of the grind of a nine to five job and fill your days with creativity Her Space is a must read. We often hear about the ‘Man Cave’ or ‘His Shed’ but little had been written about a space for women until Marilyn Jessen took a stroll down the garden path.

The reader is taken on the journey from Northland to Southland as the author steps into the spaces of over 60 artistic, creative and inspirational women to share their passionate stories. Over the course of a year Jessen met, interviewed and photographed jewellers, milliners, painters, sculptors, crafters and collectors to record the creative journeys of many New Zealand women.

Some of the women featured are just starting out, and still working at a day job while creating in their spare time. Others have taken a leap of faith to do what they love, hoping and believing the money will follow, and we meet some who have been creating long enough to know that it is financially sustainable.

Their spaces vary in size, some are just a table in a bedroom, an easel in a lounge while others have found sanctuary in a church or caravan or taken over the basement garage.
In her introduction Jessen says these ordinary women are extraordinary because they follow their passion, despite having faced physical, financial and emotional challenges.
“Some talk of the extraordinary power of creative endeavour to heal and give meaning to life, even in its roughest moments”.

Jessen has included some pages of advice including ‘Getting Started Creatively’, ‘Staying Passionate about Being Creative’, and ‘Creating Your Very Own Her Space’. Turning a creative passion into a full time job is a serious step and Jessen includes a ‘Marketing and Money’ section to assist in navigating the business side of the enterprise.

Her Space is a stunning book, and the photographs are a wonderful accessory to this well-written record of a selection of talented artists in New Zealand. It will sit well on my coffee table to be enjoyed by anyone spending time in my home as each story can be read separately and independently .

Marilyn Jessen carved herself a career in several senior management roles with high profile companies before opening her own successful management consultancy. She has also completed a media arts degree and became a specialist teacher in music, photography and film-making. Her introduction to books came when her husband Don asked her to take photographs for his books.

Reviewed By Lesley McIntosh

Her Space – Kiwi She Sheds, Back Rooms and The Kitchen Table
by Marilyn Jessen
Published by David Bateman Ltd
ISBN 9781869539443


Book Review: The Mt Pisa Station Story, by Nicola McCloy

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_mt_pisa_station_storyOne of the pleasures of living in a relatively recently-settled country, is that we have only really started to record the history of the land and the people. That history is still recent enough for us to tell the full tale, to fill in the spaces, to join the dots. Add to that the wonderful scenery of the Inland South Island through the seasons and the ages, and you have a great book.

The Mt Pisa Station Story ticks all the boxes. It begins with the Māori settlement, or passing through that took place. Then came the hardy early men, explorers, Scottish travellers, younger sons. Gold brought a massive rise in population, but also an opportunity to provide the essentials of life to the needy miners. A series of managers ran the station for many years, some knew this land and flourished, others struggled with the terrain and challenges of weather. The introduction of exotic animals to provide food or to control pests is a story in itself. While we all know about pigs and ferrets and rabbits, I was less familiar with the cat. In 1888 200 cats were introduced to the station to make “bloody war on the bunny”. It is these details and the accompanying photographs which make this book so much more than a farm story.

Perhaps the most important part of this tale is the subdivision of the station into 10 lots to be won by ballot. So in 1924 the MacMillan family became part of the Mt Pisa story. This family still remains today and the second part of the book deals with the struggles and successes as the family grew and flourished. Again, this was not an easy task and the book chronicles the depression years, the impact of war, the Rabbit Board decisions and the hydro schemes.

I loved this book. It tells a real story about real people. It does not gloss over the difficulties of farming over the years, but instead celebrates the diversification and vision which is essential to adapt and survive in changing times. If you know the region, it will give you the back story to the places and the names. If you have never been there, you will be planning a trip sometime soon. This book is perfectly timed to make a great Christmas gift, combining story, family, beautiful photos and a tiny snapshot of the history of New Zealand farming.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

The Mt Pisa Station Story: A stroke of luck
by Nicola McCloy
Published by David Bateman Ltd
ISBN 9781869539467

Book Review: The Story of the Hauraki Gulf, by Raewyn Peart

Available in bookshops nationwide.Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_story_of_the_hauraki_gulfWhen this book arrived by courier for me to read and review my first thoughts were – what a lovely coffee table book, but it is more than that. This is a serious but very interesting look at the history of the Hauraki Gulf. From the personal anecdotes and history of the various islands and areas around the beautiful Haruaki Gulf, to the more serious issues of colonisation by Maori and Pakeha alike, the working of the land, and the overfishing of the water. Many mistakes were made over environmental issues with lessons hopefully learnt, but in many cases the damage caused has proven irreversible.

The personal stories of Ray Walters are of particular interest to me, having visited Tiritiri Matangi a number of times. His time as a lighthouse keeper with Barbara and his family is interesting to read and then his continuing involvement over a number of years working for DOC after the lighthouse was automated. There are a number of these sort of stories throughout the book under the heading Story of the Gulf. Rangitoto is another island of particular interest to me, having visited it many times over a lot of years with the Auckland Tramping Club. The baches dotted along the foreshore have a fascinating history and one that we hope won’t be lost by destroying them. Yachties have called into Islington Bay overnight for a safe harbour from the weather for many years.

This book also explores the process that Auckland went through to get our current sewerage system. The sewerage was originally discharged into the harbour killing shellfish beds with great numbers of species of fish disappearing from the inner harbour. I often look at the statue of Sir Dove Myer Robinson that sits in Civic Square near Aotea Centre and wonder what the current generation make of his actions if they know it at all. Most would have no idea who he was or what he achieved for Auckland – a sad state of affairs.

The only down side to this book is its size and weight. I struggled to read it as it is not a bedtime book – almost too heavy to hold. Travelling by aeroplane visiting family in other parts of the country I couldn’t “slip it into” my carry on, as it is far too heavy to even slip into a handbag or laptop bag. But don’t be put off, this is well worth buying and you are able to pick it up and read chapters at random. This is one book all Aucklanders should read. It really is a fantastic book. Could be a great book for study by 9-18 year olds.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

The Story of the Hauraki Gulf – Discovery/Transformation/Restoration
by Raewyn Peart
Published by David Bateman Ltd
ISBN 9781869539405

Book Review: New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign, by Ian McGibbon

Available in bookshops nationwide

cv_new_Zealands_western_front_campaign.jpgAmong many qualities of this book, two in particular stand out. Firstly, Ian McGibbon places New Zealand’s rightly praised efforts on the Western Front with between 70,000 and 100,000 men in the full context of the of the massive efforts of Britain with five million men plus many millions from France. As well, McGibbon sets out to debunk many of the myths that have crept into the kiwi World War One narrative.

For instance, he explains away the assertion made by some other historians that Lieutenant-General Godley, commander of the New Zealand Troops, was responsible for the tragedy of the New Zealand losses at Passchendaele. It has been suggested that Godley, knowing that preparations for the battle were not up to standard and thus the attack would likely fail, did not refuse orders to attack from higher command. Rather, it has been said, that Godley put his own career ahead of his men’s welfare to “please his Commander-in-Chief”. McGibbon points out that Godley, like any other soldier, was required to obey orders and if he did not he would have been replaced by someone probably a British officer, who would carry the attack.

There is much more in this extremely well-published book than the debunking of myths and ensuring a realistic assessment of New Zealand’s efforts in the wider context of the Western Front. McGibbon, of course, is hugely thorough in his research: he has long established a fine reputation for this, not least with The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History (ed., 2000). However, he writes in an easy style and while this book is “big”, being A4 size and 408 pages inclusive of notes, bibliography and index, it is very readable.

The book is structured in chronological order, with chapters focusing on key battles such as the Somme and Passchendaele, Messines (1917) and Le Quesnoy; the latter two being victories for the kiwis. But the book is much more than an account of battles. It traces the whole New Zealand effort from the time the New Zealand Division arrived from Gallipoli in great detail, its structure, its training, health and welfare. The New Zealanders were required to work with other nations’ forces and a whole chapter is devoted to “Coalition Warfare”. The home front, “Sustaining New Zealand’s Effort” is also detailed, inclusive of the arguments for and against and then, final introduction of compulsory service.

The illustrations in this book are impressive. Unfortunately there is not a separate index of them, but they are included in the page index. The maps in particular are a feature: in colour and very easy to follow. Most have been prepared especially for this book, although there are original battlefield maps as well. The large format of the books enhances the illustrative content which not only includes many photographs sourced from overseas and not previously used in New Zealand publications, but also some of the best of the art from the war.

This publication was supported by The Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s War History Trust as part of the First World War commemorative project by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and launched recently at the Beehive where I met and talked with author, Ian McGibbon. After 40 years working as a military historian for various government agencies, finally as General Editor (War History) at the Ministry, Ian spent about four years meticulously research this book. In his speech at the launch he made mention of this research method being instilled into him through the example of Major General Sir Howard Kippenberger who was appointed Editor-in-Chief of New Zealand’s largest-ever publishing project, the Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45. Kippenberger set a high standard for the official histories, refused to contemplate censorship and demanded objectivity by his authors and editors. Principles which, by the example of his latest book, McGibbon has clearly absorbed.

Reviewed by Lincoln Gould

New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign
by Ian McGibbon
David Bateman Ltd
ISBN: 9781869539269