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Interview: Lynda Finn talks about Trevor the Daring Duck


Sometimes writing as Rina Taramutu, Lynda Finn has authored a number of books, including Largely Happy: Changing your mind about your body, and Healthy Kids, Happy Kids: Better health for bigger kids in New Zealand. She is passionate about children from other countries reading books about their culture and including their language, which was the motivation to write Trevor the Daring Duck. West Auckland-based Lynda has two sons and five grandchildren. Lynda talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about Trevor the Daring Duck.

I came across his story by accident but having read it…….

What inspired you to write this children’s picture book?

….decided to turn it into a picture book for my little grand-daughter, using just my PC, printed pages laminated so her Mummy, my wonderful daughter—in—law Natalie could read it to her. Mila adores books, and her Mum has read to her since birth – or perhaps before. They are a reading family with an extensive library.

Then I decided to look at the Auckland’s 55 library system to see how many books there were for pre-scholers of Niue heritage.


One. Plus a few for older children and adults about the island’s history.


Over 20 years ago I worked with Anoma de Silva a lovely librarian who fought against opposition for multi-cultural literature in libraries. She eventually was successful in starting the collection we have today. When I saw there was only one book for little ones, the iron entered my soul.


I dearly wanted young children from Niue to have a book about their story, their Duck in vagahau Niue and sent it off to Scholastic. They loved it but explained that a bi-lingual book - one page vagahau Niue and the opposite in English - was not cost effective but allowed that a few words could be included. Disappointed, I realised it was this or not publishing at all – so I agreed.


What research was involved?

First I got in touch with the Niuean High Commission to ask if it was appropriate for a New Zealander of English descent, to write a book about what was, essentially, a beloved part of their recent history. They willingly gave me the go ahead.


Next, knowing Trevor had become world famous, his plight as Niue’s only duck wringing pity from event the hardest media heart. I accessed the articles from and on BBC, ABC, CBS, New York Times, Washington post et al.


It had already occurred to me that Mallards don’t have either wing structure or stamina to fly almost 3,000km with no land mass for respite, from Aotearoa. Research confirmed this.


However, the myth that he was blown there in a storm seemed much more colourful than the reality ( he walked into the cargo hold of plane at Auckland International and emerged with jet lag at Hanan.

What was your routine or process when working with the illustrator, Nikki Slade Robinson?

We had an instant rapport. Like me, she has had a lifelong interest and love of birds. I was sent simple sketches of her work by Scholastic and could tell, even from these basic drawings, that she would do a first class job, so accepted her immediately. And how wonderful it turned out to be. She has made Trevor live again by turning him visually into the character I imagined. I cannot thank her enough.


What did you enjoy the most about writing this children’s book?

That I could, with Nikki. bring Trevor back to life for the children of Niue. The island went into mourning when Trevor was killed by dogs in 2019. And, of course, Trevor will be a heritage book for my darling Mila and my other grandchildren (14-30 years).

What do you think children will take away from reading this book?

For the very young, a happy story about an adventurous duck who made many friends on Niue.


Nikki's illustrations portray how Trevor was helped by brother seabirds and then by the people of Niue. A subtle but important message that helping one another is a good thing. Niue is, as you may know, famous for its hospitality and generous hearts.

I hope older children may also enjoy the fact that Trevor who came from so far away, loved Niue and the wonderful people who looked after him so well, that he stayed forever.

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

I usually have an audio book playing all day and evening, just as others play music. I’ve never owned a TV so my evening are spent listening to someone reading me a book – and knitting Marae slipper for my kaumatua-kuia friends.


I’m confined to audio but the books I’ve truly enjoyed this year include:

The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman – a wonderful and surprising book.

And Mark Forsyth’s hilarious The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language and the sequel The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase. For light reading while I knit, cosy mysteries and Sherlock Holmes.


Scholastic NZ



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