A few years ago I was delighted to have a conversation with the lovely Jennifer Beck at the Auckland Art Gallery about her books (so yes! there were other people listening).
One book that stood out for me amongst her treasures was The Bantam and the Soldier. I loved the story and I loved the illustrations by Robyn Belton.
It is the story of a young soldier who finds a bedraggled and very hungry hen. He scoops it up into his jacket, and in the awful destruction of war, looks after her. The hen is the bright spot in terrible times. It is like a symbol of hope and of caring. But the story also shows you how tough and terrible World War One was. It makes you think. It makes you feel something.
Here is a bit from the story. You can see it is beautifully written. Each sentence is lovingly crafted:
‘It was wartime. The old stone barn echoed to the sounds of heavy tanks rolling past, and to the beat of soldiers’ boots as regiment after regiment marched towards the battlefield just over the hill.’
At the back of the book is a useful list of books which Jennifer used to help her research her story.
This beloved story has just been redesigned and republished by Scholastic. It won the New Zealand Children’s Book of the year in 1997. I think it is terrific that Scholastic is re-issuing some of our beloved children’s books.
Jennifer Beck has written more than forty-five books and has won all kinds of awards including some overseas. She lives in Auckland.
Robyn Belton has illustrated many books and has won many important awards (including the Margaret Mahy Medal and the Russell Clarke Medal).
If you want to enter my ANZAC poem challenge:
DEADLINE for your ANZAC Poem Challenge: Wednesday April 16th
Send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, year, age and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email. PLEASE say it’s for the ANZAC Poem challenge.
I will post my favourites and have a copy of The Bantam and the Soldier for one poet thanks to Scholastic (I am going to buy myself a copy to replace it!).