Book Review: Armistice Day: The New Zealand Story, by Philippa Werry

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_armistice_dayIt is heartening to see that the war years, while distant to the current generation, are still being recorded in an easily accessible way for children and young adults. Philippa Werry has been very active in writing and compiling stories from New Zealand. Her Waitangi Day and Anzac Day books are a must in every school library.

This title is a little harder to place. The idea of Armistice Day will not be familiar to most New Zealanders. We tend to remember the events of the wars in our ANZAC ceremonies and publications. This book looks at the ends of wars: what happened, how they were later remembered and the aftermath of war both abroad but especially in New Zealand. It also looks at our place both in the United Nations and in peacekeeping operations.

The strongest aspect of the book is the wonderful photos of memorials, events and documents related to the coming of peace. Philippa Werry’s research has seen her include some really interesting and unexpected images. I was at Akaroa when I read the book and was delighted to see the Akaroa Junior Red Cross represented. These images really help to put a face to the events after the wars.

The chapters clearly tell the story and are easy to follow. I think it would be wonderful to see students taking this focus and relating it to their local communities. They will see their local War Memorial,  Memorial Drive, Memorial Hall, Memorial Plunket Rooms in a brand new light. It helps to remind us all that while the wars ended, people’s memories of those wars did  not. This book helps us understand the continuing importance of peace in our time and the part we all play in this.

Armistice Day, while an unfamiliar term, is an excellent resource for students of war, but more importantly, of peace.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Armistice Day: The New Zealand Story
by Philippa Werry
Published by New Holland Publishers
ISBN 9781869664411

Add these authors into your popularity stakes this Christmas

While approximately half of all international book sales are made up by sales of books for Children and Young Adults, less than 1/3 of NZ book sales are in the Children and Young Adult category. Why is this? The talent is certainly here – perhaps it is a matter of name recognition?

Looking at the bestsellers charts for international Children’s & YA, parents and kids buy based on author name. Right now, Andy Griffiths is hovering at the top of the charts for his Treehouse series. David Walliams also sticks on the chart like glue: I didn’t even realise he’d written seven books until his visit to the Auckland Writers’ Festival made that clear. In the domestic market, names like Lynley Dodd, and Kiwi story author Bob Darroch stick around, with backlist sales being incredibly strong.

With this in mind, here are a whole load of still-living, possibly-overlooked amazing NZ authors that you should bring into your child’s reading world as early as you can.

Picture Book Authors

Donovan Bixley
cv_little_bo_peepDonovan is New Zealand’s king of expressive illustration. His sheep in Little Bo Peep and More (Upstart Press) are hilarious, and his illustrations of kid’s classics Wheels on the Bus and Old MacDonald’s Farm (Hachette NZ) are brilliantly original. With several original stories under his belt now – the award-winning Monkey Boy (Scholastic NZ, 2014), for one – I can’t wait to see more.

cv_ghoulish_getupsFifi Colston
Home costume creation must-have Ghoulish Get-ups (Scholastic NZ) is just the latest in a great range of books that multi-talented creative Fifi Colston has to offer. Her award-winning Wearable Wonders (Scholastic NZ)  is essential for any young creative soul, and she has illustrated more books than I can count, in a career spanning 30 years. The Red Poppy, written by David Hill (Scholastic NZ), was just gorgeous, and Itiiti’s Gift, with Melanie Drewery (Puffin), is another classic.

Juliette MacIver
cv_yak_and_gnuWith her latest picture book, Yak and Gnu (Walker Books), being her 12th picture book in 5 years, Juliette MacIver and her flawless rhyming verse have become one of the perennials of the NZ book world. Her first book, Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam (Scholastic NZ), is the boys’ favourite; my personal favourite from her backlist is Toucan Can (Gecko Press). Most of her books are illustrated by the equally wonderful Sarah Davis.

cv_trainsCatherine Foreman
Catherine Foreman has a way with words for the younger kids in your family. Her 2015 book, The Roly-Poly Baby (Scholastic NZ), is a lovely short tale for your adventurous baby. Her 2013 series ‘Machines & Me’ still comes out most nights in our family – Trains in particular. Take note, writers of NZ – we need more good books about trains!

Ruth Paul
cv_stompRuth’s latest is the third in a group of dinosaur books, What’s the Time, Dinosaur? (Scholastic NZ) Not only are Ruth’s illustrations delightful, she can even rhyme! Our family favourites are Stomp! (board book just released), Two Little Pirates , and The King’s Bubbles (all Scholastic NZ).

Sally Suttoncv_zoo_train
All aboard the Zoo Train (Walker Books)! Sally is another fantastic picture book writer that isn’t anywhere near as well-known as she ought to be. Every child needs a copy of Roadworks (Walker Books). Be ready to hide it when it becomes a must-read Every Single Night. There are two follow-ups too – Demolition, and Construction.

Junior Fiction & Non-fiction

Kyle Mewburn
cv_dragon_knightKyle Mewburn has collaborated with Donovan Bixley for both of his recent junior fiction series’, Dinosaur Rescue (8 books, Scholastic NZ), and Dragon Knight. Begun early in 2015, this series is already 4 books strong. Both of these series are full of silly laughs for lovers of Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, with a bit of Horrible Histories for good measure. He also has a 24-title-strong picture book list too: Duck’s Stuck (Scholastic NZ) and No Room for a Mouse (Scholastic Aus) are family favourites.

cv_cool_nukesDes Hunt
Cool Nukes author Des Hunt specialises in action-packed, environmentally-conscious writing. He has written about glaciers (Shadows in the Ice), mining (Frog Whistle Mine) and treasure-hunting (Cry of the Taniwha). There is something in his 22-book strong backlist for every adventure-loving 8-12-year-old.

Elizabeth Pulford
cv_sanspell‘Bloodtree Chronicles’ author Elizabeth Pulford is an incredibly diverse writer, writing for every age range. Her Scholastic fairy series Lily was published worldwide, and her most recent picture book Finding Monkey Moon (Candlewick Press) is being feted all over the globe. Junior Fiction series ‘Bloodtree Chronicles’, beginning with Sanspell, is perfect for the magic-loving kids in your life.
Philippa Werrycv_anzac_day_the_new_zealand_story
Author of non-fiction titles Anzac Day and Waitangi Day (New Holland), Philippa is another multi-talented author, writing ably across age ranges. Her most recent books have focused on war, and the New Zealand experience of war, but an old favourite of mine is junior fiction title The Great Chocolate Cake Bake-Off.

WW1 series, Scholastic NZ
cv_1915_wounds_of_warScholastic has a current book series commemorating New Zealanders’ wartime adventures. This began last year, with 1914: Riding into War, by Susan Brocker (another great underrated writer), then 1915: Wounds of War, by Diana Menefy (you guessed it, another). It will go for another three years, and is good reading for kids who enjoy Michael Morpurgo and other war-focussed writers.

Ned Barraud & Gillian Candler
cv_in_the_bushNed and Gillian have paired up on four books about New Zealand nature so far, and each of them have been extraordinarily good. In the Bush is the latest from this pair, but there is also On the Beach, In the Garden, and Under the Ocean. All are published by Potton& Burton. So, no matter where you are going this summer, there is a book in this range for you. Another kiwi author who writes and illustrates in the same area is Andrew Crowe.

cv_new_zealand_hall_of_fameMaria Gill
Most recently, Maria is known for her ‘Hall of Fame’ books – New Zealand Hall of Fame and New Zealand’s Sports Hall of Fame; but she has also got a huge backlist of nature publishing under her belt. If it explodes (Rangitoto, Eruption), has feathers (Call of the Kokako, Bird’s Eye View) or indeed fins (Save our Seas), she is bound to have written about it. Get your eco-ranger onto her books now!

Young Adult Fiction
David Hill
cv_first_to_the_topMy Brother’s War and The Deadly Sky (Penguin NZ) are just the most recent in a very long list of books for young adults that the wonderful David Hill has produced. He has recently branched into picture book writing, with Red Poppy and First to the Top (Penguin, 2015). In his YA list, his sensitive portrayal of awkward teendom, and his wit, is what sets him apart from others.

cv_evies_warAnna Mackenzie
Author of the recent release Evie’s War, Anna Mackenzie has been an essential part of the YA scene in New Zealand for many years. The Sea-Wreck Stranger was the first in a series exploring the fate of a stranger in a close-knit community. Cattra’s Legacy and Donnel’s Promise took us back into history, and reminded me a bit of Tamora Pierce’s books, with their fierce heroine.

Brian Falkner

cv_recon_team_angel_vengeanceRecon Team Angel (Walker Books) is the most recent series from Falkner, and it is a must-read for lovers of the ‘Cherub’ series. He began his writing career with junior fiction, incorporating the Warriors (The Flea Thing) and Coca Cola (The Real Thing); then moved into future-tech YA, with Brain Jack and The Tomorrow Code. He is a master of fast-paced action-packed adventure fiction.

Finally, a few you ought to know by now: Kate De Goldi, Elizabeth Knox, Fleur Beale, Mandy Hager, Bernard Beckett, and Ella Hunt. Introduce your teens to them, and they’ll read all of their books. They are brilliant. See my post from a couple of years ago for more about teen fiction writers in NZ.

by Sarah Forster

The blog to end our 20-day blog tour!

BookAwards_CC_900x320_v3_bannerWe have just finished a fabulous four-week tour around our authors inspirations, aims and achievements with their Children’s Choice finalist books. Now it is time for you to help your kids to vote their favourite book and author to win: they will be in to win a selection of finalists for themselves and their school if they do! Kids can select a winner in each category; the winning book of each category will win a prize at the Book Awards ceremony on Thursday 13 August. Thank you to all of the other blogs who have hosted these interviews!

Children's_choice_ya_fic_V2jpgDuring the first week of our tour, we heard from the Young Adult fiction finalists. We heard from Ella West (who, like any good super author, writes under a pseudonym) who dedicated Night Vision to Trish Brooking, because she still takes her out for lunch, after looking after her as Otago Education College Writer in Residence in 2010. We learned that Natalie King has not one but three pseudonyms, and was inspired by a dream of a lake to write the book Awakening, which begins with a mysterious necklace drawn from a lake. While Jill Harris sadly passed away in December, Makaro Press publisher Mary McCallum told us that she published her book The Red Suitcase because the opening chapter inside a Lancaster bomber had her riveted. I Am Rebecca was a return to a character that author Fleur Beale had written about before, in I am not Esther. She told us that the secret to her amazing characters is simply to “walk in the shoes of the character so that what happens to the character informs the story.” Our final YA author was Nelson-based Rachael Craw, who had two interviews in two different places! Spark was also inspired by a dream, which took 5 and a half years to come to fruition: she had to learn to write first! She was inspired by the power of DNA when she met her birth mother.

Children's_choice_picbook_v4Week two saw us jump back a few reading years to the Picture Book finalists. Scott Tulloch ran I am Not a Worm past fellow Children’s Choice finalist Juliette MacIver and her kids, and her oldest son Louis suggested what became the final line in the book: “I like butterflies.” Yvonne Morrison, author of Little Red Riding Hood…Not Quite, told us she was about to leave NZ for a new job in Vietnam, living on a jungle island and managing a centre for endangered primates! Donovan Bixley covered two finalist books in one interview, Little Red and Junior Fiction book Dragon Knight: Fire! and he said that working with the same authors again and again means he can just do a messy scribble at the early stage of illustrating, and they will trust him to flesh it out!  Jo van Dam wrote doggy rhymes for her own children when they were young, and this became Doggy Ditties from A to Z. This is illustrated by Myles Lawford, who had to do a lot of research to make sure he illustrated each breed accurately. Peter Millet answered his own question about pets in the army with The Anzac Puppy, illustrated by Trish Bowles, who used to get in trouble at school for drawing: she now gets rewarded for it! Juliette MacIver likes to feature things in her books that children see in their everyday lives – “monkeys, old wooden galleons, pirates, for example, things that children encounter most days on their way to kindy or school.” Marmaduke Duck and the Wide Blue Seas was the third in the series by her and Sarah Davis, who reckons Juliette sometimes writes things in just to annoy her: ”52 marmosets leaped on board”?!? Seriously!!? Do you know how long it takes to draw 52 marmosets? Much longer than it takes to write the words “52 marmosets”, that’s for sure.”

Children's_choice_JUNIOR_V4We began the Junior Fiction category with an interview with Kyle Mewburn, author of Dragon Knight: Fire!, the first in a new series for the younger Junior Fiction age-group, and a finalist in both the children’s choice and the judges’ lists. Kyle doesn’t let his ideas float around “in case they escape, or some sneaky author steals one.”  The lead character in 1914 – Riding into War, by Susan Brocker, was inspired by her grandfather, Thomas McGee, who served as a mounted rifleman in WW1. Desna Wallace lived through the Canterbury Quake, and the character of Maddy popped into her head on the way home from work as a school librarian one day. “It was a bit crowded in there, so I sat down and wrote it out,” she said. Stacy Gregg‘s story The Island of Lost Horses began when she fell in love, with a picture of an Abaco Barb horse, the breed featured in this story; which is inspired by real events. Suzanne Main won the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon award for the manuscript for How I Alienated My Grandma. This came with an offer of publication from Scholastic NZ, which enabled her to keep backing herself and her work to succeed.Children's_choice_NON_FIC_V3

The Non-fiction category tour began with the double-nominee (in judge’s and children’s choice lists) Māori Art for Kids, written and illustrated by the husband and wife team, Julie Noanoa & Norm Heke. Their aim was “to create something for families to connect with and appreciate Maori art.” Poet Sarah Jane Barnett featured poetry title The Letterbox Cat & other poems by Paula Green and Myles Lawford on her blog The Red Room. Paula says, “When I saw the way the zesty illustrations of Myles Lawford danced on the page, I cried!” Maria Gill followed up her New Zealand Hall of Fame of 2011 with New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame: 25 Kiwi Champions – she says the toughest task was to decide who to leave out. Gorgeous illustration guide book A New Zealand Nature Journal, by Sandra Morris, was featured next on NZ Green Buttons. Sandra’s favourite thing to do when not drawing or managing her illustration agency, is tramping, unsurprisingly!  Philippa Werry was in last year’s awards with her great Anzac Day book, and this year she was a children’s choice finalist for Waitangi Day: The New Zealand Story, featured on Barbara Murison’s blog. Philippa focused this book on the day itself, as opposed to the treaty, and she enjoys doing cryptic crosswords while contemplating writing.

While this tour is ending, we will be carrying on our celebration of the book awards, promoting the judges’ list in the Book Awards for Children and Young Adults in the run-up to the awards announcement at Government House on 13 August 2015. There will be giveaways and reviews, and fun besides, so watch this space!


For the full links list for the Book Awards, please head here.

Other blogs involved were: NZ Booklovers blog, Booknotes Unbound, Around the BookshopsThrifty Gifty, My Best Friends are Books, NZ Green Buttons Blog and The Red Room.

Book Review: My New Zealand Story: Harbour Bridge Auckland 1958-59 by Philippa Werry

Available in bookstores now. 

“My New Zealand Story” is a series of books ofcv_harbour_bridge fiction about life in the past, by various authors, published by Scholastic.

My eyes lit up when I opened the courier package with my latest offerings to review. The building of the Auckland Harbour Bridge is an event that happened during my early childhood and so I have quite a few memories from that time. This book is a fascinating read and very well written.

Author Philippa Werry is a librarian and a children’s author. She has written non-fiction, poetry, stories and plays plus a number of pieces for the School Journal. One of her recent books, Anzac: The New Zealand Story, is shortlisted in the non-fiction category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. 

Mrs Hobson, Simon Robert Campbell’s teacher at Northcote intermediate asks the children in his class to keep a diary. Simon finds an old exercise book and starts writing. His teacher then becomes sick and the children forget about the task at hand, but Robert decides he quite likes keeping a diary and so from February 1958 – August 1959 he records things that interest him.

This is the 1950’s – a time of rock n’ roll, milk bars, night clubs, Bodgies and Widgies (I must be old if I can remember these terms!) and Johnny Devlin. The Auckland Harbour Bridge is finally going to be built. Living on the North Shore and close to the building site, Simon takes a great interest in all the activities. His uncle Alan is a construction worker and part of a gang of young men employed from all over the world to work on the bridge.
Originally a 5 lane bridge was proposed, but this was deemed too expensive, so the proposal was to build a 4 lane bridge – 2 lanes each way.

Simon’s interest in the bridge becomes an obsession, his friend Marty, on the other hand, becomes obsessed with the Space Race between the USA and Russia, his younger sister Jo can’t stop worrying about the animals used as the first space travellers, and his elder sister Linda is obsessed with Johnny Devlin and her parents lack of understanding for her “need” to go to the dance halls to listen to her idol.

I enjoyed revisiting this time in New Zealand history, and it brought back many memories.   The suggested age range for this book is 10+, and it is written in such a way that you couldn’t help but be drawn into the story.

At the back of the book are several chapters that help the younger reader with the facts surrounding the building of Auckland’s Harbour Bridge. These include, historical notes with a timeline from 1860 when the building of the bridge was first proposed. They also include interesting facts, regarding the ferries, The Space Race, Rock ‘n’ Roll era of the 1950’s. Also there is a Glossary with meanings of words used in the story e.g. aggregate, arched bridge. There are also a number of photos from Archives New Zealand.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

My New Zealand Story: Harbour Bridge – Auckland 1958–59
by Philippa Werry
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775431664

Book Review: Anzac Day, The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry

This book is shortlisted in the Non-fiction section of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. It is available in bookstores nationwide.

Philippa Werry is a children’s author who cv_anzac_day_the_new_zealand_storyhas written a number of books, and has been shortlisted for several awards and prizes including The New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults in 2009, for her historical novel Enemy at the Gate. Philippa lives in Wellington and participates in the Writers in Schools programme.

The acronym A.N.Z.A.C or as it was previously known A. & N.Z.A.C was chosen when they combined into one new army corps in Egypt − The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Egypt was where the New Zealand Expeditionary Force had set up its base. A New Zealander, Sergeant Keith Little, working at staff headquarters in Egypt made up an ink stamp with these initials which he called the ANZAC stamp.

The very first ANZAC Day services were held in 1916 to commemorate the Gallipoli landings of 25 April 1915. The First World War was called the Great War because people thought no other war could be as bad.

ANZAC day has been a very important day to thousands of New Zealanders over many generations. Philippa Werry also takes a look at the history of ANZAC day and how it has been commemorated through the decades. Memorials have been built in many small towns and cities throughout New Zealand and Australia. We find out, in this book, why the ANZAC tradition matters so much and about how the tradition of a dawn service first started.

This book is a fascinating read, further enriched when I found a photograph taken beside a memorial at Lion Rock at Piha (a West Coast beach in Auckland) of the Auckland Tramping Club, as club members gathered for an ANZAC day service in 1931. Both of my parents were active members of the tramping club at that time – they would have both been in their early 20’s and were probably there. I spotted one of my mother’s closest friends Vi Sheffield in this photograph, which was a wonderful surprise.

This book is aimed at children 5–12 years of age, but for older children and even adults, this could be used as a tool to foster more research into the subject. Technology that is available today, means that a huge amount of information is now available on-line.

It is encouraging to find that even our 3-year-old granddaughter who attends a day-care here in Auckland was asked to commemorate ANZAC Day. A note went home to the parents, requesting that the children wear red clothing on the Thursday, because of ANZAC day falling on a Friday this year. An explanation aimed at her age level was given of the significance of ANZAC.

We also took her to a service at our local seaside village – a service now held outside under shelter, because the numbers of people attending has outgrown the local RSA hall.

Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story
by Philippa Werry
Published by New Holland Books
ISBN 9781869663803

Finalist Interviews: The origin of Anzac Day: A New Zealand story

books_anzacdayIf you have ever wondered where authors get their ideas, this is your chance to find out. We have asked our fantastic finalists for the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults all about their work, and they have been very generous in their responses!

Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story is a finalist in the non-fiction category of the awards.

Thank you to Philippa Werry for her responses:

1.    As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this book?
The idea behind Anzac Day came from my experiences of going to our local Anzac Day community service. Every year, people are waiting to hand out service sheets, and they collect them again at the end to re-use them on the next Anzac Day. That means that the format of the service – the words that are spoken, the music that is played, the songs that are sung – remains much the same.

I started to wonder why that was so, and why we always spoke those same words and played that same music, and I thought that exploring those ideas might give more meaning to an Anzac Day service for children who attended one. But then I realised that there was a lot more to find out: not just what happens in the service, but also how Anzac Day came about in the first place, and why we have the dawn service and the red poppy, and how memorials of different sorts help us to remember. I tried to put together a history of Anzac Day from many different viewpoints, without glorifying war but honouring the memory of those who served and died for their country, to show why it has been important in the past and why it still matters today.

2.    Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?
There were two big hurdles. One was condensing the huge amount of information available, and working out what to leave in and what to take out.

The other was the question of images. We wanted the book to be richly illustrated with a wide range of images – modern and historic photographs, paintings, maps, diaries, even stamps. So that was a huge process in itself: tracking down the images, emailing institutions and museums and libraries to find out if they were available for use, negotiating payments, keeping track of a budget. Some people were very generous and let me use their photographs or images for free, as long as they were properly acknowledged. We’d have unexpected hiccups, like an image we thought had been cleared suddenly becoming unavailable so we had to quickly find a replacement. And then there were captions to write and the acknowledgements page, which had to be tied to the page numbers and was very complicated to draw up.

I thought at the time there must be an easier way, and I did work out a few practical steps to help improve the process but I’m going through it again for another book and it is just as complicated the 2nd time round!

3.    Did you tailor this book to a particular audience – or did you find it found its own audience as it was written?
The publicity info says it is aimed at 8-to-12-year-olds, but a lot of adults have told me that they’ve read it and enjoyed it, and they all say they have found out something they didn’t know before.

4.    Can you recommend any books that you love, that inspired or informed your book in any way?
There are so many books written about war, World War One and Gallipoli in particular, and about New Zealand’s place in war. I found the oral histories very moving, like Nicholas Boyack and Jane Tolerton’s, In the shadow of war: New Zealand soldiers talk about World War One and their lives.

I also loved Anna Roger’s book While you’re away: New Zealand nurses at war 1899-1948 because my great-great-aunt, Louisa Bird, was one of the first group of WW1 nurses to leave for the war in 1915.

5.    Tell us about a time you’ve enjoyed relaxing and reading a book – at the bach, on holiday, what was the book?
We usually spend New Year at my husband’s family’s bach in the Bay of Plenty. There are always lots of people – adults and children, and lots of books lying around. People bring books that they think others would like to read and we stock up supplies from the local library. This year, one book that fascinated us all was Tūhoe: portrait of a nation by Kennedy Warne, published by Penguin. It has stunning photographs – many of places that we have visited, and gives an in depth look at Tūhoe history.

6.    What is your favourite thing to do, when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?
Swimming for exercise, walking because it helps me get ideas, movies because we have a wonderful local cinema just around the corner and cryptic crosswords because they provide a lot of fun with words.

– Philippa has a Children’s War Books Blog


Book Review: Lighthouse Family, by Philippa Werry

‘My New Zealand Story’ is a series of cv_lighthouse_familybooks of fiction about life in the past, by various authors, published by Scholastic.

I became very engrossed reading this story, as I have visited a number of lighthouses all around New Zealand over many years – some were still manned when we visited, and others were automated.  It’s a very well written and entertaining story. Author Philippa Werry is a librarian and a children’s author.  She has written non-fiction, poetry, stories and plays, and a number of pieces for the School Journal.

This story is set in 1941-42 when the reality of war was hitting New Zealand hard with rationing and of course sightings of submarines along our coastline.  Darwin and Pearl Harbour had been bombed.  Along New Zealand’s coastline from Cape Reinga at the top of the North Island and Dog Island at the bottom of the South Island, were over 30 manned lighthouses. These lighthouses were manned by men with their wives and families along with single men that during this time were doing coast watches – keeping an eye out for enemy submarines and warships.

This is a story of one particular family through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl called Frances Sutherland. We see life through her diary from the period December 1941 until September 1942. She has an older sister Laura that comes home from boarding school in the holidays and three younger brothers, one of whom, Stephen, is deaf. They have various pets, chickens for eggs, pigs for meat and a cow for fresh milk.

lighhouse_imageThere are two other families – the Parkers with one son on the mainland, one daughter the same age as Frances and two younger brothers and one sister, and the Wallaces. The Wallaces are a couple with one son serving in the military.  The coast watchers are Bill and Walter. The Parkers get another posting and so Mr and Mrs McKenzie come to replace them. They have one son on the mainland and three other sons that arrive with them, and they move into what was the Parker’s cottage.

The Lighthouse keepers are a tightly knit group. With new postings every few years, many get to know each other well.  Life is tough as supplies are bought every few months by a supply boat, along with mail and newspapers.  When the boat comes, it is always a big occasion, often with Laura the older sister coming or going to boarding school, or other people like the Heath Nurse arriving to check on the health and welfare of the families.  France’s mother is pregnant and so as her confinement approaches, she needs to go to the mainland to stay with family and to be near a hospital. This means as the older sister left behind on the island along with her brothers, Frances has to take over all the household chores.
old_lighthouse_keeper I really enjoyed this book and could imagine either my 12-year-old or 10-year-old granddaughters reading it and enjoying as much as I did. Life was very hard in these times with no electricity, and cooking done on a coal range. The lighthouses were lit by hand – they had to light the mantels.  Regular reports are done by the keepers using a special code – probably a type of Morse code. For the women of the families, it was hard physical work.  All washing had to be done in a copper and if they had bad weather for any length of time clothing etc would be draped around inside the cottages.

Life for lighthouse families was very isolated, with the children making their own fun.  For children of today’s world, reading a story of life during wartime would seem very different.
I would recommend this book for 10 years upwards.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

My New Zealand Story: Lighthouse Family, Coastal New Zealand 1941-42
by Philippa Werry
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775431473