'Honest' account of war shared with pupils

21:00, Apr 11 2014
Manawatu military historian Glyn Harper
BROUGHT TO LIFE: Manawatu military historian Glyn Harper with his latest children’s book, Jim’s Letters, at Tiritea School.

Pupils from a Palmerston North primary school had a sneak peek of a newly released children's book before its launch.

Manawatu military historian Glyn Harper visited Tiritea School yesterday to read from his new book, Jim's Letters, "officially" released last night, and to talk about the realities of battle.

The Massey University war studies professor shared stories and answered questions from the 10 and 11-year-olds about being an author, his research, what life would have been like for soldiers serving in war and handed around shrapnel recovered from various battlefields.

With the help of students Oscar Severinsen and Jamie Bland, Harper then read to the class his new book - based around the correspondence between a New Zealand boy and his brother, a Gallipoli-bound soldier.

Fictional soldier Jim Duncan tells his experiences during World War I in Egypt and Gallipoli through the letters to his younger brother, Thomas, living on the family sheep station in the South Island.

Harper warned that the story has a sad ending - Jim is killed - but said it was an honest conclusion because when the Gallipoli campaign ended, only nine months after it began, nearly 3000 New Zealand soldiers were dead, along with more than 80,000 Turkish, 44,000 British and French, and more than 8500 Australian soldiers.


Harper said as well as honouring a significant event in New Zealand history, he hopes the book will give young people an appreciation of World War I and the reality of lives lost.

"Our military history is part of our family history, and I think it's important to remember what they did and the people that served," Harper said.

Principal Glenys Edmonds said with the school's proximity to Linton Army Camp, there were a number of pupils with parents in the armed forces and stories of warfare were an everyday reality.

Harper and illustrator Jenny Cooper officially launched the book at Ashhurst School last night.

Jim's Letters hit the top of the New Zealand Booksellers' bestseller weekly list last night.



A Manawatu military historian's children's book seems fit for a king, or at least a prince. Glyn Harper's book Le Quesnoy – which was published in 2012, tells the story of a French town's liberation by Kiwi soldiers in 1918, from the point of view of a child. A copy is being gifted to Prince George today. Harper said he was humbled that his work was selected to be added to the 8-month-old's collection. 

Manawatu Standard