Michael Brown, ill. Mat Tait
Potton & Burton, NZ$40
This book is a stunning pictorial presentation of classic tall tales from the folk-memory of New Zealand’s past.
Michael Brown has taken musterers’ yarns, family legends, history footnotes, old songs and even the lies told by tour bus drivers and spun them into stirring tales of passion, revenge, bravery and romance. (There is also some good old leg-pulling.)
Matt Tait has used his experience with award-winning comics to create striking graphics for such wonders as the giant crayfishes of Waihi. (One would “feed a football team including the coach.”) Some of the stories are linked to genuine historical events like the Tarawera eruption and the adventures of the shore whalers. Others are closer to urban myths, like the many versions preserved here of Cargill’s Castle.
Michael Brown’s real love is for songs like "Ranzo the world’s worst sailor" and the fast-footed dog of the title.
The cover is Mat Tait’s masterpiece.
This review was originally published in Fairfax newspapers in Dec 2015.