Book Review: Gladys goes to War, by Glyn Harper and Jenny Cooper

gladys goes to warAvailable now in bookshops nationwide.

This book tells the true story of Gladys Sandford. Author Glyn Harper has cleverly incorporated this biographical story for children, while telling a story about an aspect of war through the eyes of Gladys.

Gladys was not like her sisters. She didn’t like sewing or baking or any other household chores that woman of that era were supposed to find rewarding. Gladys liked nothing better than tinkering with engines.

Gladys met and married William Henning, who loved cars as much as she did. He taught her how to drive. They set up a business in Auckland selling cars. The war came, and William enlisted. The women, on the other hand, were encouraged to stay at home knitting socks and balaclavas. Gladys wanted to be able to go to war like the men, so she enlisted with the New Zealand Volunteer Sisterhood, sailing to Egypt, where William was stationed as a soldier.

This story follows Gladys’s exploits driving ambulances taking wounded to hospital in Giza, and even working as a cleaner when Williams’ battalion moved to France.  Gladys’s ability to drive ambulances was not initially needed, but one day they were short of drivers, so Gladys stepped in. The wounded were carefully transported by her to the nearest hospital, with the trips seeming at times to be endless.

This is a wonderful story about a courageous woman and a wonderful story to read to children. I read this book to Abby who has just started school. She listened with great interest, asking questions in the appropriate places. In today’s world, women staying home to look after children, sewing and cooking seems a very foreign concept. Gladys is an inspiration to all women and children alike as she defied the odds. When told she couldn’t do something, she did it anyway, proving that women can indeed do anything.

The illustrations by Jenny Cooper are superb and complement the story wonderfully.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Gladys goes to War
by Glyn Harper and Jenny Cooper
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143507208