Book Review: The Kiwi – Endangered New Zealand Icon, by Matt Elliott

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the-kiwi.jpgThe Kiwi has long held a special place in the hearts of most New Zealanders. Few of us have actually seen or heard one, but we know all about them. Or do we? Matt Elliott has embarked on an exciting journey to inform his reader about this amazing bird.

The subtitle gives you a clue to his approach. ‘Endangered’ allows him to look at the scientific facts. He describes all five species with illustrations and locations. He writes about sanctuaries both in New Zealand and overseas.  The dangers to the Kiwi include stoats, dogs and humans. His chapter on the use of 1080 is perhaps one of the clearest, most reasoned pieces of writing on 1080 use that I have read.

‘New Zealand’ includes kiwis importance to Māori as well as the use of the Kiwi on products and in advertising campaigns. The giant Kiwi in Eketahuna gets a mention, along with Kiwi pies and Kiwifruit.

‘Icon’ reminds us that we are known as kiwis ourselves when travelling. Who could forget the Buy NZ Made campaign that used the kiwi to remind us to support local businesses?

The Kiwi is the result of some extensive research, unearthing a wealth of little known information. I learnt that Roy Rogers sang about The Kee Wee Bird. I only remembered his song about the Little White Duck. Matt Elliott is an award-winning author writing for both adults and children. His love of history and skills as a researcher are evident in this book.

The illustrations and layout of The Kiwi make this an ideal introduction to our special bird. Both visitors and locals will discover a treasure trove of information between the covers. The final illustration by the author’s 5-year-old son begs the question: Will there still be Kiwi for his son to celebrate in 50 years.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

The Kiwi: Endangered New Zealand Icon
by Matt Elliott
Published by Imagination Press
ISBN 9780995110458

Book Review: War Blacks, by Matt Elliott

cv_war_blacksAvailable now in bookshops nationwide.

Rugby and war are often described as major influences in defining who we are as New Zealanders. This book is a new twist on an old theme.

To dismiss this book as ‘just another rugby book’ would be doing it a serious disservice. Everyone has a story to tell and Matt Elliott does this very capably for the over 90 men who both played for the All Blacks and, either before off after, served in World War 1. Although following the narrative of individual sporting and wartime careers becomes somewhat repetitive, there are certainly some intriguing stories. The remarkable account of Lieutenant Colonel (later Brigadier) Henry Essau Avery is one such tale.

Liberally distributed within the player’s biographies are some superb snippets and anecdotes. Former M.P. John A Lee’s account of playing rugby (John was a soccer player), in an article for Chronicles of the NZEF in 1916 is a classic example: ‘A man needs to be a centipede to play rugby decently, and every leg shod with a pair of tens.’

As a rugby enthusiast I was a little disappointed that the All Blacks involved in World War 2 were not give similar treatment. Perhaps that story has been told elsewhere, but the likes of Fred Allen, Charlie Saxton and Bob Scott – to name but three – deserve to be remembered as War Blacks, such was their influence for decades after the war.

While this book may attract only the dedicated bunch, for the serious collector it is a must.

Reviewed by Robin Hughes

War Blacks
by Matt Elliott
Published by Harper Colllins NZ
ISBN  9781775540366