Story by Rebecca Sheraton
World War One was a defining moment in Australia’s history and we are now in the 100 year anniversary of this event. Three accomplished authors spoke about their experiences of publishing their World War One books – Andrew Plant, Tony Palmer and Sophie Masson.
Andrew Plant wrote and illustrated the picture book titled The Poppy based on the important battle at Villers‑Bretonneux, France. Australia played a vital part in defeating the Germans and this battle cemented a strong relationship between our two countries. The Poppy started off as a silent book. Andrew painted all the illustrations first, then he wrote the words. The words only took 25 minutes to write after spending so much time researching and painting. The whole book took two years to make and two trips to France. Andrew used real photographs he took while in France as the basis for his acrylic paintings. His daughter features in some of the paintings towards the end of the book.
Andrew encourages teachers to download a copy of The Poppy without words and let students tell their own narrative from the paintings first before reading it to them.
Tony Palmer is the author of The Soldier’s Gift, which is illustrated by Jane Tanner. He wanted to write a book about the war from a child’s point of view. The Soldier’s Gift centres on life on the home front for family members who are left behind, namely Emily and her father while her brother Tom goes off to war. There is one spread on the war on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Tony’s book uses the end papers to tell a visual narrative and timeline of characters in the book. He researched many original photographs, newspapers, advertisements and more to be included in the end papers. Tony also drew on memories of his late Uncle Jack and the time he spent with him as a child. His Uncle Jack fought in Gallipoli and survived being shot three times. His grandmother looked after his Uncle Jack and the character of Emily is based on her.
Sophie Masson wrote the book My Father’s War and 1914 Australia’s Great War. 1914 focuses on the event that triggered World War One, the assassination of the heir of the Austrian Empire.
When writing about war, Sophie noted the importance of making the reader feel what that period in time was like and not just give a history lesson. Authors need to carefully select what information to include and what not to include. To help her connect to the era, Sophie looked at original photographs and ordered newspapers and magazines from the time.
All authors spoke of the need to check your facts. Even sources from that period can have inaccurate information. They also spoke about the importance of correctly acknowledging photographs and images from that era.
Each of these books tell a different side of the war. Thank you to the panel for sharing how they each researched and wrote their books.
Andrew Plant is an illustrator, author, science educator, theatre designer, director and choreographer. Find out more information on his website andrewplant.com.
Tony Palmer is an author and Art Designer at Penguin. Visit his website tonypalmer.com.
Sophie Masson has published over 50 books in Australia and overseas. Sophie’s website is sophiemasson.org.
Rebecca Sheraton is a children’s writer and primary school teacher. rebeccasheraton.com.