I am thrilled to accept the ALCOHOL SPRONSORSHIP PRESS AWARD for the week, administered by NZ media star Steve Braunias, for my work on the Penguin and Tui story (More Bad Penguin). It is not that we are rum drinkers. It is just that I think it might be the greatest highlight in my writing career to date, supplanting my pride at being voted second most popular writer (beaten only by the TV reviewer) in the local paper some time ago. Fame and rum await, if not fortune.
I am thrilled to accept the ALCOHOL SPRONSORSHIP PRESS AWARD for the week, administered by NZ media star Steve Braunias, for my work on the Penguin and Tui story below (More Bad Penguin). It is not that we are rum drinkers. I think it might be the greatest highlight in my writing career to date, supplanting my pride at being voted second most popular writer (beaten only by the TV reviewer) in the local paper some time ago. Fame and rum await, if not fortune.
Dear oh dear Penguin NZ yet again Same author, same editor, same publisher, same series, same sponsor BUT DIFFERENT BOOK. First the Tui NZ Fruit Garden ever so slightly embarrassingly recalled because of “allegations of plagiarism”, now the companion volume Tui NZ Vegetable Garden is recalled and to be destroyed for the same reason. A bit more than just allegations, do we think?
Penguin NZ have issued an immediate recall of all copies of this book.
There was a bit of a problem with the first version of the Tui NZ FRUIT Garden by Sally Cameron, published by Penguin NZ. In fact it was clearly quite a large problem, given that Penguin ordered an immediate recall within a few days of its release. It’s usually called plagiarism – rather too much cut and paste from copyrighted sources without acknowledgment. It was the third such embarrassing incident in quick succession for this publisher, the highest profile being Witi Ihimaera’s work, The Trowenna Sea. No matter. Publishers closed ranks and I was on a National Radio panel where other professionals explained that it was all the author’s fault and none of this could possibly be blamed on the maligned publisher.
To my astonishment, Penguin NZ, with the backing of their sponsor Tui Garden, ploughed ahead using the same author to rewrite the book and a year later they issued a second edition which was substantially different. No better, mind, but different and minus the sections which appeared to have been plagiarised.
Would you not think that both Penguin NZ and Tui Garden would have put the first book by the same author in the same series – The Tui NZ VEGETABLE Garden – under the microscope at the same time? I reviewed it when it came out in 2009 and I was far too kind. In my defence, all I can say is that it seemed markedly better than the other book which I was reviewing alongside it. When faced with the FRUIT book a year later, I questioned whether the earlier VEG book might suffer from similar problems related to cutting and pasting other people’s work. I even cited the garlic entry and gave its source as a copyright website belonging to somebody else.
Given the obvious inexperience of the author, did nobody involved think it warranted a closer look? We are talking the same book series, same author (Sally Cameron), same sponsor (Tui), same publisher (Alison Brook for Penguin), same editor (Catherine O’Loughlin). When the author is already under scrutiny, in the dock so to speak, it is difficult to believe that others involved can dump all the blame on her a second time.
It was only ever going to be a matter of time before somebody noticed. And two weeks ago, somebody identified a primary source for the Tui NZ VEGETABLE Garden and posted the following comment on my website:
“Not only has Dr D G Hessayon ripped off Sally Cameron’s Tui NZ Vegetable Garden, chapter and verse, but, he also had the temerity to do it four years prior to Sally being published.
Is it OK to lift entire chapters of books if you include a reference to that book at the end? Hope so, ‘cos I’m just finishing my book “Great Expectations” with a small reference at the back to Mr C Dickens.”
My informant was working from a more recent copy of a source publication, “The New Vegetable and Herb Expert”. English horticulturist and bestselling author, Dr Hessayon actually published his book a good ten years before Sally Cameron produced hers. It took me mere minutes to track down a copy on Trade Me. I think I paid $12 for it plus P&P and it arrived in the mail this week.
Well. Oopsy. How many examples are sufficient?
1) On turnips: Hessayon: Round is not the only shape for these Early turnips – there are also flat and cylindrical ones. There is not much variation in the globular Maincrop types sown in summer, but you can choose the yellow-fleshed Golden Ball. (page 105)
Cameron: Round is not the only shape for these early turnips – there are also flat and cylindrical ones – but there is not much variation in the globular maincrop types sown in summer. (page 174 and one can do a side by side match for much of pages 174 and 175).
2) On Brussels sprouts: Hessayon: Birds are a problem – protect the seedlings from sparrows and the mature crop from pigeons. Hoe regularly and water the young plants in dry weather. The mature crop rarely needs watering if the soil has been properly prepared…. (pages 34-5)
Cameron: Birds are a problem. Protect the seedlings from sparrows and pigeons that will eat the mature crops. (Which type of pigeons, Sally?) If scarecrows don’t work, hang cutlery from a clothes hanger. (That suggestion does appear to be a Cameron original). … Hoe around the plants regularly and water the young plants in dry weather. The mature crop rarely needs watering if the soil has been properly prepared….( page 70 -71)
Even the instructions for picking are eerily identical.
Hessayon: Begin picking when the sprouts (‘buttons’) at the base of the stem have reached the size of a walnut and are still tightly closed. Snap them off with a sharp downward tug or cut them off with a sharp knife.
Cameron: Begin picking the sprouts at the base of the stem when they have reached the size of a walnut and are still closed. Snap them off with a sharp downward tug or cut them off with a sharp knife.
Similar problems exist with broccoli, celeriac, Jerusalem artichoke, the aforementioned garlic and more and I cannot claim to have done anything near a complete analysis. Given that the problems appear to be of a similar magnitude to the first version of the FRUIT book which was recalled, will we be looking at a recall of the VEG book? Maybe Tui Garden might consider whether it is a good look being affiliated to a book which claims to give good advice to New Zealand gardeners when a fair swag of it seems to have come from a book for British gardeners.
Lightning, it appears, can strike twice in the same place. It just beggars belief that editor, publisher and sponsor all appear to have failed to factor that in to their considerations.
First published in the Waikato Times and reproduced here with their permission.
The ongoing saga (and it is developing into a saga):
1) The review of the second edition of the fruit book: The Sequel – a second coming for the Tui NZ Fruit Garden
2) Does credibility and reputation count for nothing these days, or does Penguin just think we have short memories? (written upon hearing that Penguin and Tui were using the same author to rewrite the fruit book)
3) The story that started it all and that is currently the second most read article on my website, still receiving hits every day: The Tui NZ Fruit Garden – dear oh dear
4) The lead story on the Taranaki Daily News which broke the first plagiarism story. Since then I have parted company from the Daily News and moved to the Waikato Times.
5) The original review of the Tui NZ Vegetable Garden, which was far too kind and is now embarrassing to me as a reviewer. But I leave it in place because it is a good reminder – and I am considerably more thorough at reviewing garden books in NZ than many others. The Tui book did look better than the other one I was reviewing at the same time – but it, at least, was actually written by the author, based on her experience (however limited it was). Separating the genuine enthusiasts from candyfloss fashion gardening
6) The Tui NZ Flower Garden I merely add this one to complete the set. I declined to review the companion volume on kid’s gardening but I did review the flower book (same series but different author). I would not for one minute suggest that this volume suffers from plagiarism, not at all. It could only be original, for reasons which may be obvious if you read the review.
1) To say that we were simply amazed to see that Penguin is reissuing the Tui NZ Fruit Garden in May would be an understatement. Same cover, same author. This is the book they withdrew from sale extremely quickly a year ago when the massive problems of plagiarism and inaccuracy were pointed out to them. Presumably the text has been reworked because the early blurb refers to it being in conjunction with a panel of industry experts. It is to be hoped that industry experts include people with extensive personal experience in growing these plants at home throughout the country and not just the commercial producers who want to sell their plants. That aside, it is astonishing that Penguin appear to think that sticking with a discredited and blitheringly ignorant author is just fine. Are we really meant to have such short memories?
2) Alcantarea regina (or is that geniculata?) in flower this week.
3) Garden tasks for this week as autumn officially starts.
4) The third part in our series of step by step compost instructions – this time making cold compost which is the common technique for home gardeners.
The latest update on this article is The Sequel, a second coming for Tui NZ Fruit Garden
Sally Cameron is attempting to punch well above her weight in her book The NZ Fruit Garden. Her main experience seems to be in food writing and cooking and she runs a catering company in Auckland. Her gardening credentials are very limited and it shows in this Penguin publication sponsored by the Tui garden products company.
There is nothing wrong with using a researcher to pull together a comprehensive book as long as the editor/publisher ring-fences her with an expert panel to review the information. There is no evidence that this was done. Alas, being a keen home gardener on the North Shore is not sufficient. There are too many errors and in places the information is simply not adequate. Even worse, there are sufficient instances of unacknowledged quotes to make me breathe the dreaded word: plagiarism.
All those multitudes of fruit trees and plants sold in the past two years need attention. Clearly the time is right for a manual. And a manual is what this book is. To be fair, it is a well-presented book designed to be used often – good-quality paper, opens flat and even has a thoughtful heavy-duty plastic cover. The majority of the book is an alphabetical listing of 58 fruits and nuts, each giving some information on the origin, recommended varieties and the where, when and how of growing them. In addition to that, the first 50 or so pages give a great deal of generic information on propagation, planting and care. At the end of the book, there is a section on pests and diseases and a monthly diary for maintenance and harvest tasks. From almonds and apples to walnuts, most of the crops you will ever want to try growing are included – along with quite a few that you cannot grow, though you are not likely to learn that from this book. Tui’s sponsorship is generally unobtrusive. Superficially, the book looks really helpful and the design is good. Sadly, looks can deceive.
I went to double-check some of the information on apricots, particularly the claim that ‘‘many people think they are subtropical’’. In New Zealand, we all know the best apricots come from Central Otago and nobody ever claims that area to be subtropical. According to Cameron, apricot trees are considered subtropical, which means they can tolerate temperatures from 0 degrees Celsius to over 35 degrees Celsius and still remain healthy. Puhlease. That is not a definition of a subtropical plant. Elsewhere in the book, she recommends them as a suitable crop for Northland. But worse was when I found the Wikipedia entry and thought it seemed familiar. It was. I had just read it in the book.
Cameron: There is an old adage that an apricot tree will not grow far from the mother tree.
Wikipedia: There is an old adage that an apricot tree will not grow far from the mother tree.
Cameron: Although often regarded as a subtropical fruit, the apricot is native to a continental climate region with cold winters.
Wikipedia: Although often thought of as a ‘‘subtropical’’ fruit, this is actually false – the apricot is native to a continental climate region with cold winters
The guava entry is a worry. Actually, it’s even more than a worry when I compared it to easily tracked online sources, to which it owes a rather large debt. Cameron: The guava succumbs to frost in any area – it is a tropical fruit after all. Even if summers are too cool, the tree will die back.
There’s a slight problem here. She is writing about the large growing tropical guava, Psidium guajava, which you may have tried eating in Asia (I found it disappointing). But what we can and do grow here – and which has similar hardiness to a lemon – is the strawberry guava, Psidium littorale. The recommended varieties and some of the photos in the Cameron book are of P. littorale, but they are included under the tropical guajava and there is no indication that Cameron knows the difference. In our 30 years of experience with growing littorale, it does not suffer from any of the hideous pests and diseases she lists at length. Added to that is the propagation information, which is bizarre. Why even mention air-layering when it is not recommended and is so rarely done in this country as to be virtually unknown? The reason: because it appears to be cut and pasted from an easily traced Californian website that was all about guajava. Had Cameron known her material, she would have explained that littorale is commonly raised from seed in this country.
Cranberries: what is grown widely and successfully in New Zealand and indeed is now branded the New Zealand cranberry is, in fact, Myrtus ugni. Most New Zealanders wouldn’t even know that it is not the true cranberry and that the fruit used for Ocean Spray cranberry juice and dried or frozen cranberries is, in fact, a vaccinium.We have never heard of proper cranberries being grown in this country, though presumably you could grow them in Southland, because they need cold temperatures and may be happy in the southern peat bogs. Presumably the author didn’t know about cranberries, because the book doesn’t even mention Myrtus ugni, which you can buy from pretty well every garden centre here, but instead is all about vacciniums. That is the problem with using overseas references without local knowledge. Even then the information given is contradictory. In one sentence, vaccinium is recommended for growing around ponds and other soggy areas. In another, it is recommended that you plant it in the coldest, wettest spot in your garden, but adds that the ground should never be waterlogged. Has the author never heard of the cranberry bogs in North America and seen the deliberate flooding of them? And honestly, what rush of creative frivolity led to the recommendation that they are suitable for growing in hanging baskets?
Gooseberries: according to this book, gooseberries need 800 to 1500 hours of chilling in order to fruit well. Really? What constitutes chilling? Is it temperatures below 5 degrees Celsius – 3 degrees, maybe – or below freezing? Nowhere is that information given, which means that it is very hard to start counting your hours of chill. And the huge range is questionable. Does the author mean that gooseberries require a minimum of 800 hours of winter chill below a certain temperature, but if your hours are much more than 1500 (which presumably takes you to alpine areas in this country), the growing season may be too short?
What the New Zealand reader really needs to know is that because gooseberries need a cold winter to fruit well, you are probably wasting your time unless you live in the centre of the North Island or from Christchurch southward. Measuring winter temperatures in hours of chilling is an American custom not usually seen in this country.
Avocados: the advice is that avocados do best inland away from ocean winds. This could be interpreted as suggesting that they will grow more successfully in Inglewood than Waitara, but we can tell you that in this part of the country, you can only grow avocados successfully in mild coastal areas. In fact, even in warmer areas of New Zealand, you can get frosts if you’re more than 5 kilometres inland. So in this country, avocados have to be grown in coastal areas. Again, I tracked the source of Cameron’s information to a Californian website.
The entry on lychees is lifted pretty much word for word from a copyrighted website belonging to the California Rare Fruit Growers (I started with Wikipedia and found it one click through.)
Under quinces, one of the photographs labelled quince blossom is in fact chaenomeles blossom. And while one of the photos of the fruit is indeed a quince, the other one is chaenomeles. And the photo by the quince header is, we suspect a crabapple. It is certainly not a quince. One is left with the uncomfortable suspicion that nobody involved with this book realised that quinces (cydonia) are an entirely different plant to japonica apples (chaenomeles).
I could keep going, listing the glaring deficiencies in this book. It is riddled with them. You can spend $45 on it if you wish and I am sure it will receive glowing reviews in other media because, superficially, it looks good. It is a book that was probably rushed out to meet a market demand and escaped anything but the most perfunctory of editing. It lacks rigour in every aspect. Near enough is close enough and it all looks just lovely, darling.
I don’t wish to be accused of going on a witch-hunt, but I turned back to Cameron’s earlier volume, The NZ Vegetable Garden, also published by Penguin and sponsored by Tui. I actually gave it a good review in this publication. I randomly inspected the garlic entry and went to check a rather odd piece of information. It took me all of two minutes to find a copyrighted website, http://www.garliccentral.com/varieties.html, which contributed at least some of the exact wording for page 116 in that book.
It should be an embarrassment to a credible publishing house like Penguin, but presumably nobody bothered to check for relevance, accuracy, or plagiarism. Looks are all in this current world of publishing and cut and paste has a lot to answer for.
POSTSCRIPT: My, but Penguin acted quickly to recall the book from sale. Given an advance copy of this column, they issued a recall within 24 hours.