Teen war story tops children's book awards
Thu, 17 May 2012 10:55p.m.
By Elizabeth Puranam
A book about a New Zealand soldier during the First World War has been named children's book of the year.
Nice Day for a War is based on author Matt Elliot's grandfather's diaries.
The setting for the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards was straight out of a fairy tale. The book that took the topped the honours is anything but.
Nice Day for a War is about author Elliot’s grandfather Cyril Elliot’s time as a soldier during World War 1.
Elliot first came across his grandfather's diaries 10 years ago.
“Absolutely fascinating and quite mesmerising. I just basically read it from cover to cover when I first got it from dad.”
So when Elliot and illustrator Chris Slane were looking for a project two years ago, they decided to share Cyril Elliot’s experiences.
Elliot says they wanted to do something to get boys interested in reading.
“The lack of reading habits that a lot of boys have, so Chris and I thought why don't we do something that would attract teenage boys and get them reading - something with a lot of colour and not too much text that puts them off.”
Elliot says the book would be best suited for those in intermediate and high school.
While it does not glorify war or violence, it does not shy away from the realities either - showing photos of dead soldiers.
“We did have to be a little bit careful about how we treated that, but we also thought it was really important that we did have a photo like that in the book because death was such a part of this whole experience.”
Judge Gillian Candler says it is important that young people understand all aspects of society, including war.
“There are wars going on around the world all the time and they're often quite hard for children to grasp and understand and this wonderful story unpicked that, I think, showing what the day to day reality of at least one war was like.”
And while the book is aimed at teenagers, it is also about one - Cyril Elliot was 18 when he enlisted for the army.
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