Leading up to Anzac Day

On Tuesday, I drove from Melbourne to Avoca to visit their primary school to talk about ‘Meet the Anzacs’. Over Tuesday and Wednesday, I presented to all grades and finished up with a presentation to adults at the local library.

As always, there are questions that make me laugh (Can I have some more of that hard tack biscuit? It’s yummy!), some that make me want to cry and the one that stumps me. Sometimes I’m stumped because I don’t know the answer, sometimes it’s because of the depth of their understanding. And there’s never, never enough time. The Grade 5 & 6 class wrote poignant poems about the 24 hours after learning their war is to begin. They also tested me on Army leadership structure. Luckily, I had notes and could answer their questions! Every class was prepared and keen to learn. A joy to be there.

In between, and overnight, I was reading Sally Murphy‘s new book ‘1915‘.  ‘1915’ begins where ‘Meet the Anzacs’ leaves off, overlapping its first few days with the last few in my book. I liked that her main character, Stan, had a twin sister, Elizabeth at home in Bunbury who was teaching his class while he was away. This allowed the reader to know the effect of his enlistment on those left behind. Stan is a thoughtful and level-headed bloke, who makes friends readily and who is prepared to do as he has been asked, despite the challenges that presents. I did have to stop reading on Wednesday morning, or I would have had red puffy eyes leading into my school sessions. I think I would have struggled to talk about Gallipoli at all. Sally uses a variety of techniques to include many viewpoints on war. There are those of soldiers, of his parents, his sister, of ‘enemy aliens’, and of the Turks. War correspondent, Charles Bean, has a word or two to say as well, and there is discussion about what will become ‘The Anzac Book‘. Stan is a teacher, a brother, a son, a poet and a young man trying to make sense of war while simultaneously trying to survive it. I was cheering hard for him and holding my breath. Congratulations Sally on a fascinating and moving novel for young readers.

To Anzac Day. Tomorrow, at about 10.40 am, I will be ‘appearing’ on ABC Melbourne, as part of the live broadcast from Fed Square in Melbourne with Jon Faine, to talk about ‘Meet the Anzacs’.

Clayton’s and tripping across the Tasman

Last night, I attended the CBCA Vic Clayton’s night where speakers talk about the current titles that they love, and that they think are worthy of consideration for the annual CBCA Book of the Year Awards.

It’s always inspiring to hear people talk about the books that move, entertain, inform and engage them.

I was thrilled to see ‘Meet the Anzacs’ on the Crichton display (for Max Berry’s illustrations) and on the Eve Pownall display with ‘Emu’.

And this morning, Philippa Werry is hosting me at her ‘Children’s War Books’ blog, reviewing ‘Meet the Anzacs’ and interviewing me about the writing of.

You can see the review here
 and the interview here  

Shortly, Philippa will be visiting me to talk about the similarity in the covers for our Anzac picture books and other elements of writing about war.

Meet the Anzacs Book Trailer

Before Christmas, I visited the Penguin Random House offices to record an interview about the writing of ‘Meet the Anzacs’. This week, following amazing work by the RH team, there’s a book trailer!

If you would like to see it, click here

This poster went out this week inside the book industry magazine ‘Magpies’ to schools and libraries. Lovely to see that my soon-to-be-released ‘Meet Weary Dunlop’ is also included. Thanks RH!

RN Drive – In the Drawing Room

Today I’ll be talking with Jonathan Green and John Schumann on RN Drive, ‘In the Drawing Room’ about our new picture books and about writing war for young people. John is author and singer of the classic Vietnam song ‘I was Only Nineteen’ which is now a picture book, illustrated by Craig Smith. My book, ‘Meet the Anzacs’ is illustrated by talented young painter, Max Berry.

Our books both talk about war, but different wars and different perspectives. But so much is the same. No one can ever be prepared for how war will affect them and no one is the same after experiencing war.

Tune in to RN Drive AM 621 between 6pm and 8pm tonight to hear what we talked about. There will be a podcast on the website later.

‘Meet the Anzacs’ is launched!

Yesterday, Mark Wilson, talented Melbourne author and illustrator (and musician and conservationist … ) travelled the breadth of Melbourne to launch my new picture book. He talked about writing war for children and included some amazing diary entries and photos. 

A young audience member read his copy of ‘Meet the Anzacs’ as I did, making sure I didn’t miss anything.

He didn’t take me to task, so I’m taking that to mean that I got it right.

My husband ‘turned pages’ digitally as I turned the paper pages. As I was writing this spread, I was visualising Melbourne Town Hall, but the illustrator, painter Max Berry, is a Sydneysider and he’s drawn Sydney Town Hall. It’s beautiful, as are all the images, but in my head, the men are still lining up in Swanston St!

I thanked the library staff directly, even though they were downstairs, but I’m sure my words floated down through the windows …

Mark is holding an extract from a WWI diary … amazing document

I had hard tack biscuits (tasted by some hardy souls!), Anzac biscuits, cake, tinned corned beef and more. There were army boots that my son’s gf threatened to steal … amazing construction, completely leather lined and a leather stacked heel. I can’t blame her.

I am so grateful to friends and family, teachers and librarians who travelled to share yesterday with me. I love the opportunity to show them what I’ve been doing … that it’s not all faffing about and gazing into middle distance.

Today I was in the city prerecording a radio interview for RN Drive with Jonathan Green and John Schumann (author and singer of ‘I Was Only Nineteen’ illustrated by Craig Smith). Listen out for that on 621 next Wednesday or Thursday evening.