Book reviews: April 2018

By: Claire Smith

In recognition of Anzac Day on 25 April, NZMCD has reviewed a selection of books that share the stories of New Zealand’s wartime history

The New Zealand Wars

Philippa Werry

New Holland

RRP $24.99

NZ-Wars -cover -front -HRThe New Zealand Wars are a part of our country’s history that many people wish they knew more about. This soft-cover book captures the details of how the wars came about, where and when they were fought, and who was involved. It looks at how they are being remembered today, including new ways of working towards understanding and reconciliation, and the Raa Maumahara National Day of Commemoration.

Author Philippa Werry also wrote Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story and has been shortlisted for both the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards and the LIANZA Awards in 2014. A fantastic resource for youngsters, the book is richly illustrated and well researched, and the story is full of fascinating detail, eye-witness accounts, and little-known facts.

Bobby the littlest war hero

Glyn Harper and Jenny Cooper

Penguin Random House

RRP $19.99

BobbyWhen you think of heroic war animals, you usually think of horses and dogs, but this one features a tiny yellow feathered fellow called Bobby. His best friend Jack is a soldier in one of the tunnelling companies of the Royal Engineers. Together, they go deep into the tunnels under no-man’s-land.

Jack’s job is to dig, while Bobby’s is to warn the men to get out quickly when there’s dangerous gas. This wonderful story, written by Glyn Harper, Professor of War Studies at Massey University, is based on a real-life canary, who survived several incidents and saved the lives of many Allied men.

It is beautifully illustrated by Jenny Cooper, an award-winning illustrator of more than 70 children’s books.

Odyssey of the Unknown Anzac

David Hastings

Auckland University Press

RRP $34.99

Odyssey -of -the -Unknown -AnzacTen years after the end of the First World War, the Sydney Sun reported that an unknown Anzac still lay in a Sydney psychiatric hospital. "He said he was an Australian soldier. Beyond his first statement that he was a Digger, he has not given any information about himself," reported the paper.

Thousands of people in Australia and New Zealand responded to the story and an international campaign to find the man’s family followed. David Hastings follows this one unknown Anzac, George McQuay, from rural New Zealand through Gallipoli and the Western Front, through desertions and hospitals, and finally home to New Zealand. By doing so, he takes us deep inside the Great War and the human mind.

Be in to win a copy of Odyssey of the Unknown Anzac by David Hastings.


Competition ends on 4 May 2018.

Gallipoli to the Somme

Alexander Aitken

Auckland University Press

RRP $34.99

Gallipolli -to -the -SommeAlexander Aitken was an ordinary soldier with an extraordinary mind. The student who enlisted in 1915 was a mathematical genius who could multiply nine-digit numbers in his head. When a vital roll-book was lost with the dead, he was able to dictate the full name, regimental number, next of kin, and address of next of kin for all 56 members of his platoon.

But this gift was also his curse; he could never forget the horrors of war. This is by some distance the most perceptive memoir of the First World War by a New Zealand soldier. For this edition, Alex Calder has written a new introduction, annotated the text, compiled a selection of images, and added a commemorative index.

An Anzac in the Family

Sherryl Abrahart

Pacific Books

RRP $35

ANZAC-in -the -familySherryl Abrahart remembers her father telling the story of his brother Leslie’s service in the Fourth Reinforcements. He vividly remembers the day he was sent home from school to look after his mother because a telegram had arrived saying Leslie had been killed in action, at the age of just 19.

When the Commonwealth War Graves Commission released their records online, Sherryl and her cousins were excited but were unable to find Leslie’s grave as expected.

For the next few years, Sherryl slowly pieced the story together, researching Fourth Reinforcements military files and discovering how young her uncle was, and the experiences he had survived, including Gallipoli and the sinking of the Marquette.

A Man Alone

Alan Carson

Evolution Copywriting

RRP $24.99

A-Man -AloneA Man Alone is the first-hand account of Alan Carson, a New Zealand Second World War veteran who spent four years as a POW in Poland. Alan was 21 years old when he signed up and joined the Allies in Egypt.

At the time, he says he was prepared to fight, prepared to be injured, and even prepared to be killed. But what he wasn’t prepared for was to spend nearly four years as a prisoner of war held captive by German soldiers in various prison camps throughout Poland.

Told in his own words, Alan offers a unique insight into life behind the prison camp fences and how a seemingly hopeless situation provided an opportunity for one man to discover his own personal strengths.

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