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:

Friday, 26 May 2017

Feature author for June - Hazel Edwards

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 well-known author Hazel Edwards, author of Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop and 200 other books (including There's a hippopotamus on our roof eating cake).

In Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop Hazel Edwards explores why this wartime surgeon and rugby-player, is so well regarded. Melbourne born, farm boy 'Weary' was fascinated by medical science and sport. In November 1939, after the outbreak of WWII, Weary signed up for the Australian Army. In April 1942, Weary and his men became prisoners of war. Weary's leadership against the Japanese prison guards was heroic. He saved lives through his medical skills, negotiated on behalf of his men, and persuaded the Japanese it was in their interests to have healthier prisoners. Read his story to find out how he survived the war and led a successful medical career afterwards.

Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop is part of the Aussie Heroes series, which introduces junior readers to heroes who have made an important contribution to Australian society. Aimed at readers 10 plus New Frontier Aussie Heroes series include Weary DunlopDr Fred Hollows  and Edith Cowan , the quiet woman of note. Download a teaching resource to go with the Aussie Heroes series: What Makes a Hero? Discussion Activity Use these points to discuss your hero.

Here are some reviews of Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop online. 
Hazel's book about Edith Cowan features another person who helped the war effort. Edith Cowan was involved behind the scenes in the Red Cross organising assistance for the troops and families on their return from WW1. She was against international war but practical about what she could do. She was also the first woman elected to parliament. In 1920 she received an OBE for her services during WW1; coordinating the care for returned soldiers. You can find her on a $50 note. 

Existing teacher resources here 

Follow Hazel on Twitter: @muirmoir and Facebook

Listen to Hazel Edwards talk about her books with Jen Storer.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Feature author for May - Deborah Abela

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 bestselling author Deborah Abela.  Deborah has a fascinating story to tell why she wrote 'Theresa' - watch her video here or below: 

Deborah launched the video on Facebook: "My wonderful and clever partner, Todd Decker, has made a video about how my kids' novel, Teresa A New Australian, was researched and written. It uses footage from our trip to Malta last October to launch the book with the president. Malta is a beautiful series of islands and the underground tunnels are fascinating."

In the video, Deborah talks about how her children's book Teresa is loosely based on her father's story. The main character in the book, Teresa, was only four years old when the bombs began to fall. Over the next three years her island home of Malta became the most heavily bombed place of WW2. With her country destroyed and starvation rife, Teresa’s father decided to leave for Australia, to its promise of jobs, wealth and a brighter future. Despite very few possessions, little money and outbursts of racism, Teresa and her family work very hard to make Australia their new home. 

Deborah has a new book out this month, too. It's about a fictional character called Wolfie, who unlike other wolves, wants to rescue a princess. See more about it here.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Mitchelton Library display of Anzac Stories Exhibition

Mitchelton Library is hosting the Anzac Stories: Behind the Pages Exhibition for all of April and May. They have had a few schools look at the exhibition and have also taken it “on the road” to a school where 600 children got to see it.

Here's some pictures of the exhibition. More to come.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

ANZAC Day book commemorations

We celebrate April 25th every year to commemorate the soldiers, medical and support staff who sacrificed their lives on our behalf during the world wars and subsequent wars. Writers have shared their experiences and stories so that we can learn from history. Ideally all writers would like readers to take from their books that war is not the answer.

Melinda Szymanik wrote about why writers feel compelled to write war stories, here. The Sapling, an online children's book magazine recommends great New Zealand Anzac Stories here and Children's Book Daily recommends these top 20 Australian Anzac picture books here.

You can also see an exhibition about the research that authors and illustrators do when creating war stories for children at the Anzac Stories: Behind the Pages Exhibition presently being hosted by the following libraries:

Mitchelton Library, Brisbane, Queensland: April – May

Broome Library, Western Australia, April - May

Nundah Library, Brisbane, Queensland: June – July

Albany Library, Western Australia - August

Holland Park Library, Brisbane, Queensland: August – September

Wynnum library, Brisbane, Queensland: October – November

Will post more libraries that are hosting the exhibition when they confirm dates.

There's also another exhibition in New Zealand called What Lies Beneath and Napier and Taradale Libraries are presently hosting it.

Please find below some posters to help you bring awareness to the children's ANZAC books available in Australia and New Zealand.

Here's an A3 poster you can download with all the books in the exhibition to date.

Schools and Libraries can download this Scholastic poster from here.

Here's my contribution:

Image may contain: 7 people, text

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Feature Author Pamela Rushby

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 week we have well-known author Pamela Rushby and her book 'The Horses Didn't Come Home'. 

A boy, his horse – a war far from home
The last great cavalry charge in history took place at Beersheba in the Sinai Desert in 1917. It was Australian soldiers and horses that took part in, and won, this amazing, unexpected, unorthodox victory. The men proudly proclaimed it was their great-hearted horses that won the day. But, in the end, the horses didn’t come home …

OLMC Library blog says, "The Horses Didn’t Come Home by Pamela Rushby is a beautiful story of loyalty and courage that highlights the bond between the Australian Light Horse soldiers and their horses. This Australian novel tells the story of the victorious cavalry charge at Beersheba in the Sinai Desert in 1917 during World War I, which is in contrast to the horrific events at Gallipoli."

Exciting news from Pamela: "Well, I’ll be off to Israel in October to attend the special commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, which features in ‘The Horses Didn’t Come Home’. This will take place in Beersheba and they plan to recreate the 2-day route the Light Horse took across the desert, and then the Charge itself.   (If anyone is interested in going along, the Israel Travel Centre in Rose Bay, Sydney, is running a special tour that takes it in.)"

Here's Pamela talking about the 'The Horses Didn't Come Home'

Congratulations to Pamela Rushby for her book 'Lizzie & Margaret Rose' being selected as a CBCA Notable Book.

Read more about Pamela Rushby and her book on her Anzac Stories blog page. And in the Courier Mail.

Image may contain: 2 people

Friday, 24 March 2017

Feature Author Illustrator Mark Wilson

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 week we have the very talented Mark Wilson with his book 'Flapper VC'. 'Flapper VC' has just been released and is already selling well. Flapper was a big hit at the 2nd Annual  Dromkeen Literature Festival last Saturday, and the kids love him (or more precisely, the hand puppet that pretended to be Flapper!). 

Based on the true story of Flapper, a messenger pigeon and his handler, an Australian soldier, during WW2.

Raised and trained in Australia, Flapper survived four years of warfare in the Pacific, to eventually be pinned down and surrounded by Japanese troops during the battle for Manus Island in the late stages of the war. The patrol was almost out of ammunition, many were wounded, and the only radio they had was smashed by a stray bullet. The only hope of survival was to get a message through to Headquarters for support. It was up to the messenger pigeons with the patrol. The first two pigeons released were shot by enemy snipers, but Flapper, against all the odds, survived the snipers and machine gun bullets to get a message through that saved the patrol. Flapper was awarded the Pigeon version of the VC, called the Dickin Medal, for his actions on that day, and his medal is proudly displayed at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia.

Published by Lothian/Hachette Children's Books Australia.

Recent Children's Books
Beth – the Story of a Child Convict Hachette
Flapper VC Hachette
Digger - The Dog Who Went to War Hachette
Migaloo - the White Whale Hachette
The Horse Soldier Windy Hollow

Recent Awards
2016 Whitley Picture-book Award Migaloo – the White Whale
2015 CBCA Eva Pownall Notable Book Award The Afghanistan Pup
2014 WAYR Award shortlist Ben & Gracie’s Art Adventure
2014 CBCA Notable Picture book Award Vietnam Diary

A sneak peak of Mark's display:

Friday, 10 March 2017

Feature Illustrator - Fifi Colston

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 week we have the very talented Fifi Colston, writer, illustrator, craft maker, and entertainer as the feature author. Fifi drew the illustrations for her latest book 'Torty and the Soldier', written by Jennifer Beck. 

New Zealand medic Stewart Little found Torty the tortoise in Salonika (now called Thessaloniki, in Greece) in WW1. Stewart was taking time out from his hospital ship duties when he saw the tortoise ambling along a dirt road. He watched in horror as a French gunner cart rode over the little tortoise. Stewart rushed to see if it was dead and found it looking rather squashed but still alive in the dirt. The tortoise needed some care and Stewart decided to look after it on board HS Marama ship. The tortoise amused the invalids on board while they sailed back and forth from Alexandria to France to England and back again, picking up more wounded soldiers. When the ship sailed home Stewart had to decide what to do; take it home and risk the wrath of his senior officers - no pets were allowed back into New Zealand - or drop it off at one of the stops. A heartwarming tale about the oldest living WW1 survivor.

To illustrate this heartwarming tale Fifi visited the still alive tortoise in Napier and sketched it. She also took photographs of the replica Torty tortoise at Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand, where they have a lifesize exhibition on WW1. Fifi chose to use a limited palette, using sepia-colours; the olive green and browns of the army uniforms, a pale blue water-colour wash for the sky, and has aged the pictures with splatters and crease-marks, which give it an authentic antique-look. It's a stunning book that encourages children to be empathetic to the animals caught up in WW1.

Torty and the Soldier was released this week in Morrinsville and in Wellington, and is also available in Australia at these stores: ABC store, Dymocks, Rosebud Book Barn and Scholastic  

See more about Fifi Colston, Jennifer Beck, Torty and the Soldier here.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Feature author - Libby Hathorn

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 week's feature author, Libby Hathorn, has just had her book 'A Soldier, A Dog and a Boy' long-listed for the 2017 Children's Book Council (CBCA) Picture Book of the Year Award.  That means it is a Notable Book for this year and here's hoping it might even go further ... Several other authors in the exhibition have been shortlisted too, including: Pamela Rushby children's war book called 'Lizzie and Margaret Rose', Dianne Wolfer's book 'The Shark Caller', Anna Pignataro's book 'Agatha and the Dark', and Claire Saxby's book 'Wild Pa'.

'A Soldier, a Dog and a Boy' is a moving story about a young Australian soldier in the battle of the Somme. While walking through the fields away from the front, he finds what he thinks is a stray do, and decides to adopt it as a mascot for his company. Then he meets Jacques, the homeless orphan boy who owns the dog. The soldier realises that Jacques needs the dog more - and perhaps needs his help as well.' 

Phil Lesnie's stunning illustrations are also shortlisted in the CBCA Book of the Year Awards. 

Libby was inspired by a WWI photograph, from the collections of the State Library of NSW, of a returned Australian soldier opening a sack revealing a young orphaned French boy who was smuggled out of France. Her Uncles experiences in Gallipoli and the Battle of the Somme also shaped the story, as well as months of research at museums in Australia and France.

Libby has also written another children's war book called 'A Boy Like Me: A story about peace' illustrated by Bruce Whatley. Libby was inspired for this work by a poem about peace by WB Yeats and in turn Bruce, as artist, was inspired to use his left hand to get what he believes is a simpler and more emotional response to the text. See for yourself.