Last month I was thrilled to receive a copy of Jim’s Letters, a new children’s book published by Penguin. They had approached me last year asking for permission to include images from my First World War postcard and postal history collection as elements within some of their illustrations. I had almost forgotten about it so what a wonderful surprise to have a copy of the book show up at my office one morning – and what a great job they have done!
Jim’s Letters is an incredibly moving story told through the letters and postcards exchanged between a young boy in Otago and his older brother serving overseas, initially writing from the sands of Egypt and then from the trenches of Gallipoli. The characters are fictional but theirs is a story representative of the experiences of many New Zealand families who waited eagerly for news from a father, husband, son or brother.
As my regular readers will already appreciate, a simple postcard can open a personal window into the past. Jim’s Letters uses this to maximum effect, and also includes foldout letters, allowing the reader to hold the correspondence in their own hands. This is an incredibly engaging and tangible way to experience history. It is a technique that was also used recently in New Zealand and the First World War by Damien Fenton, also published by Penguin, which included pullout facsimiles of letters and ephemera. The latter was a much appreciated Christmas present! As a collector it has long been a privilege to experience New Zealand history in this way and it is great to see others now have this opportunity.
Jim’s Letters was written by historian Glyn Harper and illustrated by Jenny Cooper, the same duo that previously collaborated on Le Quesnoy, another children’s book set during the First World War.
I’m always pleased to see history made more accessible, especially to children, so I was thrilled to be able to make a small contribution to this wonderful publication, which will help a new generation learn about the sacrifices made nearly one hundred years ago. I’m sure it will be a must have for any primary school teacher!
Look out for Jim’s Letters at your local bookstore or alternatively you can purchase it online. The release of the book is timely with ANZAC Day just around the corner and of course the upcoming centenary of the conflict.
© Lemuel Lyes