Memoirs, Biographies and Family Histories

 Life Stories has produced forty books to date. Below is a selection of some of our books.

Gumboots and All

P J McKay

Ken Jones came from a line of English peat farmers, so perhaps it was simple destiny that kept him on the Hauraki Plains, working like his father before him to turn swampy acres into high yielding dairy pasture.

Less obvious was his later venture into kiwifruit at a time when the crop become something of a liability. But Ken liked a bit of risk and it paid off. The Depression, the war years and post-war recovery, the IT revolution… Ken’s life spanned decades of upheaval and change, but with plenty of sweat, his nose for a canny deal, and with a wife of Pat’s calibre at his side, he took what chance gave him and shaped it into his own slice of history.

190 x 250 mm, 190 pages, softcover
ISBN 978-0-473-67964-4
Cost: $45
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Silver Thread and a Golden Needle

by M L de Jong

Roz’s story begins in Fiji and moves to the colder climes of New Zealand. Her first job was as a seamstress in the sixties when Auckland was humming with small sewing rooms producing haute couture. As Roz matured, her desire to become an international designer and have her work on the world stage never wavered. Eventually gowns that Roz designed were on-stage in London – how this came about was totally unexpected. At the heart of this story is a mother’s love for her family.

As a mother I have brought them up to be loving, caring and nurturing of their own children and that’s all we can ask for. It’s the silver thread of mothering that holds a family together.  – Roz Allsopp-Smith

200 x 240 mm, 139 pages, softcover
Cost: $45
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Murray Ball

A Cartoonist’s Life

by Mason Ball

Let me show you how my dad became a leading cartoonist of his generation, how his endearing characters evolved and where the insightful and humorous ideas sprang from. Let’s see the man behind the drawing desk and delve into the workings of his mind. – Mason Ball

In the first biography of cartoonist Murray Ball, Mason Ball charts all the hits and misses and long years of hard graft that went into what would become a wildly successful creative enterprise: Footrot Flats. From his unique viewpoint and with candid honesty, he reveals the real-life backstory to Murray Ball’s most iconic characters and themes, paying homage to the man – and father – who could see the quirks of human nature in his surroundings and capture them with the stroke of a pen.

Superbly illustrated with family photos and cartoons by the man who brought us that most lovable character, The Dog.

272 pages, hard cover
Cost: $45
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A Dairy Farming Legacy

The Storey family 150 years of farming in the Waikato

by Maria de Jong

At seventeen, John Storey already knew he wanted to take on the family farm. His great-grandfather had shaped the Woodstock estate from a swampy block in Te Awamutu that was purchased in 1868. His father’s small portion of the original  estate was failing, but John was up for the challenge of turning it back into a successful venture. His successes – and struggles – gave him the insight to become a voice of authority. As chairman of the NZ Dairy Group and the NZ Dairy Board he helped guide the transition to deregulation and safeguarded payouts for farmers, and pressed for clear commercial strategies to protect farmers’ assets and keep their interests centre stage during a time of major upheaval in the industry.

In a journey involving decades of hard work and risk, John Storey has led change at both national and private level. A Dairy Farming Legacy acknowledges the tough years but above all celebrates family resilience and a vision to secure a farming future for generations to come.

195 x 250 mm, 297 pages, softcover
ISBN 978-0-473-64153-5
Cost: $45
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The Stringing of Pearls

by Liz Holsted

From 1955 to 1985 adoption in New Zealand was a secretive, anonymous process, designed to effect a complete break between adopted children and their birth parents.

New family, new start. 

The law had changed by the time Liz Holsted felt compelled to learn more about her true roots, but accessing records remained difficult or even impossible. Using a manuscript written by her English birth father about his adventurous, heady days as a 17-year-old immigrant in 1930s Kaitāia, she began a search to understand the decision that had so radically defined her life.

‘Pearl by pearl’ clues emerged and the story in this book evolved. But The Stringing of Pearls isn’t just about clever sleuthing. It throws light on a time of bigotry and social judgement when women in particular could feel forced into drastic choices. It measures the gains – and challenges – of connecting with newfound family, and the transformative power of a loving home. Funny, enlightening, heart-wrenching, rewarding, The Stringing of Pearls tells of a quest for identity and the part-fact, part-imagined answers Liz finally came to by daring to ask that most human of questions: ‘Who am I?’

230 x 150 mm, 177 pages, soft cover
ISBN 978-0-473-62965-6
Cost: $30
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Southern Wanderer

A Habitat Restoration Pilot’s Life

by Peter Garden with Naomi Miller

At a time when our mandate to defend biodiversity and reverse the damage of centuries has never been clearer or more urgent, the legacy of helicopter pilot Peter Garden sets a critical example. For decades, he has been part of ground-breaking bird rescue projects around the world, at some of its most extreme latitudes: Aotearoa New Zealand, the Seychelles, the Pacific Islands, Puerto Rico and Alaska, and even a twelve-year battle on sub-Antarctic South Georgia Island.

Fog, gale force winds, freezing temperatures and red tape can thwart even the best laid plans, but the successes have been thrilling. This story is part technical manual for future operators, part occasion to share in the sheer bloody-mindedness and perseverance it takes to backtrack on ecological negligence. Southern Wanderer is Peter Garden’s testament to the recovery within our grasp.

“If  a reader is interested in aviation and a ‘can do’ attitude this book is a great story of wanderlust, flying ability, drive, focus and quiet humour. It is one of the best books I have enjoyed in recent times.  The narrative flows easily and some fantastic colour photographs and good maps enhance the journeys Peter has undertaken.”
– R J Tapper

195 x 250 mm, 380 pages, softcover
ISBN 978-0-473-57519-9
Cost: $60

Fred Graham

Creator of Forms – Te Tohunga Auaha

by Maria de Jong with Fred Graham

WINNER, Ngā Kupu Ora / Māori Book Awards, Te Mahi Toi Award, 2014

This comprehensive survey of the art of Fred Graham details the artist’s life from his childhood in the Waikato to his career as a sculptor. Fred Graham is a leading figure in New Zealand’s art world. 

He began as an art teacher, and since 1984, he has been a full-time sculptor, producing a wealth of work and having sell-out exhibitions. His work is displayed in public spaces in New Zealand and several Pacific Rim countries. 

This book is richly illustrated with photographs of the artworks by award-wining photographer Geoff Dale, and it includes essays by Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, Professor Robert Jahnke and Dr Jill Smith that discuss Fred Graham’s work in the context of New Zealand art. 

210 x 250 mm, 186 pages, softcover
ISBN 978-1-775-50134-3
Cost: $40

Making Tracks

Walking in Mangawhai and Northland

by Jean Goldschmidt

Beginning with one spectacular coastal walkway, the volunteers of Mangawhai who loved
the outdoors, planned, developed and devised enough walks through bush, private land and
along beaches to offer up to thirty walks for the annual Walking Weekend. This is the story
of the first fifteen years and describes how a small coastal community in Northland produced
one of the first walking festivals, of the type now held throughout New Zealand. Walks are
described in detail and beautifully illustrated with maps, guides and colour photographs. Jean
candidly shares her experiences of learning through failure and the joy of success. Small
town New Zealand comes alive with the energy of its people galvanised under Jean’s
leadership. Read some of Mangawhai’s fascinating history, get to know some of the locals
and be inspired to put on your walking shoes!

260 x 200 mm, 248 pages, full colour with maps, softcover
Cost: $45

Character Building

A family journey

by Ruth Nichol

An NAC flight hostess from Dunedin and an army lietenant returning from Borneo, meet on a bus to Whenuapai airport, Auckland, and so begins the story of the Baker family. Together they experienced the “Troubles” of Northern Island, lived in West Germany during the Cold War, Nigeria under military rule, New York at the prestigious US Military Academy Westpoint and Rome working for a multi-national organisation before returning to New Zealand to take up deer farming. Life has certainly been an interesting journey and together they have shared many character building experiences. This is their story.

250 x 190 mm, 135 pages, softcover
Cost: $35

Island View

by Maria de Jong

What was Hahei like before it became a thriving holiday settlement?

Hahei was once part of a large coastal farm and one of the children who grew up on that farm, Charles Harsant, tells his story. Charles grew up free range and barefoot. There were no roads and travel was by horseback or boat.

Charles’ wife Ann grew up in wartime England and as a young woman toured New Zealand in a Model A Ford. Ann describes her first view of Hahei:

“It was as if we had landed on a desert island. There wasn’t a footprint to be seen and the sand was made up of tiny pink shells which glowed in the setting sun. It was truly beautiful.”

The Harsant Brothers started farming in Hahei in 1912 and their descendants are still farming in the area. Their lives were closely intertwined with the first settlers in Hahei, the Wigmores. This book is a rich family history with tales of gum digging, kauri felling, soldiering and breaking in the land. It traces the family’s emigrant roots in England in the 1850s to modern day Hahei and is lavishly illustrated.

200 x 260 mm, 237 pages, softcover

Deep Roots, Strong Wings

by Hope Ingham

Hope was raised in a tight-knit, rural South Otago community, but broke away from the strong farming tradition of her father’s family to attend Otago University in the 1950s, eventually becoming a teacher in the Hawke’s Bay where she met her husband, Don. Together, the couple started a family and a life in education, both achieving highly in their respective careers. In Hope’s memoir Deep Roots, Strong Wings, she reflects on her journey from farm girl to Auckland city apartment dweller through a collection of warm and honest stories.

190 x 270 mm, 141 pages, softcover

Up at Daybreak

by Maria de Jong with David Wilton

For 100 years the Wilton family have farmed on Wilton Road, near Morrinsville. This book follows the life of David Wilton, who was born on the farm in a small cottage, without running water or electricity. At age 16, David started working on the dairy farm full-time and breaking in his own land. Generations of Wiltons have transformed the swampy land, covered with manuka, and divided by gullies, into the lush, prime Waikato dairy land that it is today.

A wealth of farming detail documents 100 years of farming and the changes that have occurred. David relates stories of draught horses ploughing the land and carting milk cans to the dairy factory; at milking time, men would squat down around 200 times – great fitness work for rugby players!

Te toto o te tangata, he kai; te oranga o te tangata, he whenua.
Food supplies the blood of man; his welfare depends on the land

260 x 200 mm, 156 pages, softcover

In Search of the Gold Mount

by Maria de Jong 

In 1940, Gordon is determined to escape the hardship and fear of living in Japanese occupied China. At age 14, he flees China on a borrowed passport and travels to relatives in Fiji. There, he becomes independent at 15, and eventually marries and raises a family. Gordon’s own schooling was curtailed by war and he is determined to offer his own children an education. It is through building a successful café business in Suva that he is able to support his family. But there is a catch! In order to be successful, his wife, Alma, and their five children must help out. In the kitchen, Gordon learns to bake a variety of goods, from spicy curries wrapped in roti to delicious high, sweet buns. Alma learns the art of decorating wedding cakes. The children are often reluctant helpers, but through the café, they learn about team work and their own special strengths.

This is an honest and heartwarming account of Gordon’s life, from grinding poverty to prosperity.

210 x 148 mm, 161 pages, softcover
Cost: $25

Ruby’s Story

by Ruby Lyons

Ruby was two and a half years old when she lost her mother to appendicitis. The youngest of eight, she was placed under the care of her beloved Aunt Maggie, and together they moved between family members as Ruby grew up. Ruby’s memories create a charming child’s view of the countryside and town life in early twentieth century Otago. She journeyed to the North Island in her teen years where she experienced the busy world of station farming. Ruby’s Story is a careful, delightful account of Ruby’s youth, living with extended family across New Zealand.

250 x 195 mm, 380 pages, softcover
Cost: $60

The Inheritance Thief

by Adrienne Nairn with Maria de Jong

What happens when someone in your family can’t be trusted? What happens when that person is
your brother, a former SAS soldier, who moves in on your elderly stepmother with an eye on the
inheritance? Cathy, observing this scenario, fears for the victim, yet the odds are stacked against her
as her brother moves to ostracise her from the family after a secret is revealed. How can Cathy
combat his tactics – tactics learned during his time with the SAS? Based on a true story, this account
shows the hurt and sorrow caused by an inheritance dispute and yet it is an uplifting read as we follow
Cathy’s struggle for justice. After moving to New Zealand, Cathy continues to fight her brother’s dirty
tactics through the courts. She engages the help of Frank, a lawyer with a gambling habit but a
determination to see justice done. The Inheritance Thief is a compelling story highlighting the growing
issue of financial elder abuse and one woman’s will to fight it.

127 x 203 mm, 220 pages
Austin Macauley Publishers
Cost: $30

A Skylark Sings

by Norma Pretscherer and Karen Jarvis

Norma grew up on an isolated South Canterbury farm. Her father, a struggling
World War I veteran, raised 10 children on his own. She recalls wearing
underpants sewn from soft cotton flour bags and sleeping under potato sacks for
warmth in bitterly cold winters. Freezing nights, like the one when her sister
went missing.
Norma’s nursing career reveals how times have changed in the profession and
in the care and treatment of patients. She recounts moving stories of kindness
and compassion, along with a good dose of humour, such as the morning she
handed her elderly patients the wrong dentures! Norma does not flinch from
shrewd perceptions when reflecting on bringing up her own children and
helping husband Gus run his successful Remuera hair salon, at one time the
largest salon in Australasia.

195 x 260 mm, 244 pages, softcover, colour photos
Cost: $30

Ian Devereux – To Cut a Long Story Short

by Karen Jarvis

To Cut a Long Story Short is a vivid account of an inventor who followed his passion and
believed in himself. From bullied farm boy to PhD scholar, to family man and founder of the
highly successful, internationally acclaimed company, Rocklabs, Ian Devereux has lived a
full and fascinating life.

Devereux gives a gripping account of his work as a forensic scientist on the Arthur Allan
Thomas case. Anecdotes from business trips to politically unstable countries, including near
death experiences, will engross readers. His unorthodox approach and willingness to take
huge financial risks gave rise to a niche marketing business model that was revered by
economists of the day.

Shining through this biography is Devereux’s generous and trusting nature, formidable
intellect and contagious sense of humour. Karen Jarvis’s lively narrative will keep the reader
engrossed to the end.

145 x 210 mm, 254 pages, softcover, colour photos
Cost: $40

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