Monday, 30 October 2017

Midnight's story turns 100

Excerpt from Frané Lessac's blog about the 100 year commemoration of Midnight's service in WWI.

October 30th, 2017 | Category: Books, News
It will be 100 years ago tomorrow, that Lieutenant Guy Haydon bravely rode his beloved mare, Midnight, over the enemy trenches in Beersheba. Horse and rider served together until sunset on 31 October, 1917.

They took part is what is known as the last great cavalry charge of WW1 – ‘a defining moment in history’. This true story is immortalised in our book, Midnight – The story of a light horse.

To commemorate the anniversary of this event, we returned to Midnight’s birthplace and inspiration for our book.

It was here, under this tree on the Haydon Horse Stud in the Upper Hunter Valley that Midnight was born.

“A foal is born at midnight, homestead side of the river.  Coal black. Star ablaze.  Moonlight in her eyes.”

A fact not mentioned in the book is that Moonlight is Midnight’s mother. When you now read the last page alongside with the painting, be sure to grab a tissue.

The original art from Midnight was exhibited at the RSL Hall in Murrurundi over the weekend, alongside the local school children’s artworks inspired by our book.

Midnight- The True story of a light horse is published by Walker Books in Australia
Midnight – A True Story of Loyalty in World War I published by Candlewick Press in the US

Read more here and here.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Albany Library hosts Anzac Stories exhibition

Albany Library in Western Australia recently hosted the 'Anzac Stories: Behind the Pages' Exhibition and had this to say about the exhibition:

"I wanted to thank you for all of your hard work in getting the War Books Exhibition together!

The images and stories behind them are so fascinating and we look forward to having them on display again during the final ANZAC commemorations here in Albany.

Thank you so much for this opportunity, I wanted to share a couple of photos of the display in our Town Hall.

The students were very excited to find interesting facts and recognise books and stories that had heard about! The books featuring animals were extremely popular."

Author Dianne Wolfer getting ready to talk to children at the Town Hall where the exhibition is being held

Local Albany school children check out the Anzac Stories Exhibition

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Holland Park Library Presents Anzac Stories Exhibition

While in Brisbane a week ago, I popped into Holland Park Library to see the exhibition. I had seen them as pdf files but not printed on foam boards and they looked fabulous. Here's some pictures:

Maria Gill next to her Anzac Heroes' display board

Dianne Wolfer on tour in Albany region, Western Australia with the Anzac Stories exhibition

During book week Dianne Wolfer toured the Albany region with the Anzac Stories Exhibition. Here's some photographs from her tours in schools and libraries.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Presenting August Author Corinne Fenton

The Anzac Stories: Behind the Pages exhibition has many fabulous Australian and New Zealand authors and illustrators in it. Go to Authors/Illustrators/Books to see the full list.

This month we have award-winning author Corine Fenton. Here's her launch speech about researching My Friend Tertius.

Launch Speech for My Friend Tertius – 25 March 2017

This story has been the biggest struggle. I thought Queenie took a long time at almost five years. Tertius has taken a decade. But now I can say, without any doubt, that every bit of research, every word changed, moved, altered and agonised over, has truly been worth it. 

For a story, which from the beginning seemingly told itself, its format as a picture book was like writing a door-stopper and then choosing one word from each of the 3,000 pages and cobbling those one-words together. And they had to be exactly the right words. 

From the moment I heard about Tertius, then discovered his connection with Arthur Cooper, I couldn’t let either of them go. I knew their story was a wonderful, exciting, marvelous adventure, but more than that, it is a love story.  A tale of caring and dedication, of making allowances and sacrifices and risking everything for something you love. To be honest, I hadn’t planned to write about a man and a gibbon at all.

To follow Queenie: One Elephant’s Story, I wanted to write a story about all the colourful animals who have resided at the Melbourne Zoo – a snippet of the ones with character. But before I got anywhere with that, I heard about Tertius, a gibbon who had once lived at the Melbourne Zoo. But Tertius was different, he sipped orange juice with a straw, enjoyed a real cup of tea morning and night and slept in the zoo director’s house in a basket. From newspaper articles and zoo records, I learned he’d had another life before the zoo, so I started working backwards. 

I found articles which suggested he’d come from the port of Fremantle. I happened to be at a writer’s festival in Fremantle at just the right time, so I checked through Customs and police records for 1942, with fellow writer Karen Tayleur beside me, and we drew a blank. 

Tertius was an unusual name, particularly for a gibbon, so I wondered where that came from. I Googled and one day found a short reference to a gibbon called Tertius in books written by an American author & journalist, an adventurous soul who I think was born way before her time, called Emily Hahn. 

I read all of the books by Emily Hahn I could get my hands on and from them were references in other books, to a man called Arthur Cooper who traveled with a gibbon. 
Eventually I found Emily Hahn’s daughter who pointed me to the Lilly Library in US which housed her mother’s collection of writings and amongst it I found a letter that Arthur Cooper had written to her in 1973 – with the most precious photos of Arthur Cooper and Tertius. That was like finding gold. 

Research for this story was truly like hunting for pieces of a jigsaw. A very large jigsaw. 
I also found references to Arthur Cooper and Tertius in books about World War II and I spoke to an elderly man, then a retired Vice Principal of Scotch College, who had once worked with Arthur Cooper in signals intelligence in Melbourne. 

Arthur Cooper was an eccentric, brilliant, linguist who also wrote poetry and worked for the foreign office in signals intelligence and in 1973 he translated Li Po and Tu Fur Poems in Penguin Classics. His friend, Michael Alexander, who contacted me after I’d placed an advertisement in the Australian Nurses Journal in 2010, described him as ‘an exceptionally gifted linguist and thinker about language, of an old-fashioned sort; a member of the Anglo-Irish gentry, though resident in England; an eccentric, if eccentrics disobey some social conventions (though he was scrupulously courteous) and are somewhat impractical. ‘ 

In a time and a place when it was quite acceptable to carry an exotic animal into bars, to drive about in cars and visit famous restaurants, Arthur Cooper saved a little Gibbon and showed him a different existence.   Arthur Cooper cared for him and loved him. 

Dedication: This book is dedicated to a small gibbon and a man called Arthur Cooper who risked all to save his friend ~ you see, once there was a gibbon called Tertius.

One question kept echoing in my mind – if I had to leave, what would I do with Tertius?
 Some days he came to work with me, sitting up like a little emperor in the old Rolls Royce I’d borrowed from a friend who’d returned to London when war was knocking on our doorstep.’ 

Friday, 14 July 2017

Feature author for July - Jackie French

The Anzac Stories: Behind the Pages exhibition has many fabulous Australian and New Zealand authors and illustrators in it. Go to Authors/Illustrators/Books to see the full list.

This month we have award-winning author Jackie French, author of 'A Day to Remember' and 200 other books. 
Jackie French was the 2014-2015 Australian Children' Laureate and 2015 Senior Australian of the Year. Some of Jackie’s books have sold millions of copies and won over 60 awards in Australia and internationally.  

Jackie French wrote on her website about her book 'A Day to Remember': 

"The first Anzac day in 1916 was created to urge more men to feed the war. A Day to Remember is the history of that one day of the year, and how it has changed over almost 100 years. It’s the story of Australia, too.  
My father in law landed at Anzac Cove, too. He never spoke of it.* Every year he marched, increasingly bitter, with friends unemployed because of the depression, or with lungs or eyes rotted from mustard gas. The marches were mostly men only affairs back then, as were the dawn services, in case crying women disturbed the silence.
My childhood saw the battered and weary of World War two, men scarred in body and mind from Japanese prison camps or the Burma railway, the mothers of my friends and my violin teacher, who had survived concentration camps.

Boys of my own generation marched away as conscripts to Vietnam, while I walked in anti war demonstrations. As a historian I came up against determinedly uncooperative bureaucracy as I tried to check a list of places where Australian troops have been sent since the 1970’s#. While newspapers talk of Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan, few Australians know our defense forces serve as peacekeepers places like Tonga, Cambodia, Somalia and Rwanda and Haiti. Peace is not easily won, or kept. But many do the best they can.

I’ve seen Anzac Day change from the grim faced marchers of my childhood, to the years when it seemed as if Anzac day might vanish except for a dedicated few, or when the Anzac day marchers faced anti conscription demonstrations, and women with placards who demanded the right to march too. In the past two decades our reawakening sense of history has recreated Anzac day yet again. Each year the marches are larger, the commemorations broader. Anzac Day itself has been a catalyst for many people to discover Australian’s history, too.
Last Anzac day I stood with friends in Braidwood’s main street.  Children marched with their grandparents’ medals. A poodle sat next to us, a sprig of rosemary in its collar. A kid called out ‘Daddy’ as her father passed.  Most of us, I think, wept a little as the Last Post played.
And we remembered.

For some it was a celebration of military tradition. Others in the crowd were pacifists, or felt that Australians shouldn’t be in Afghanistan. It didn’t matter. There are many different memories that make up Anzac day now. We remembered fathers, husbands, aunts, sons, daughters and grandfathers; those who our country sent to war and then forgot, when they returned home damaged; the starving and tortured who struggle towards refugee camps; all who suffer in war, or give their lives to try to make things better.
I wrote A Day to Remember because by honoring the suffering and sacrifice of others we find the gift of empathy ourselves. On this one day of the year, it is good to stand together, and remember not just the past, but why we need to remember, too."

Teacher Notes here.

'A Day to Remember' is not the only children's war book Jackie
 has written. She has also written the Hitler trilogy: Hitler's Daughter, Pennies for Hitler, and the latest book, 'Goodbye, Mr Hitler'. Jackie said on her Facebook page:

'Goodbye, Mr Hitler' is out in the world. This is the hardest book I have ever written and, possibly, the best. And to the thousands who have written asking questions about both the earlier books: this book will answer them and I hope give far more. To purchase it, you can find it here:…/goodbye-mr-hitler/

Here's Jackie French talking about the importance of books: