Author, Phyllis Johnston was a child in New Zealand during World War 11 with two of her brothers serving overseas. She clearly remembers how the war ruled their lives. Her parents tuned in to the BBC World Service every night to listen to the news of the war, and in particular to try to ascertain how her brothers might be faring. There was the ever present fear of the policeman’s knock on the door bringing bad news about loved ones fighting overseas, or of an imminent Japanese invasion. And most young men were away at the war leaving the older people to do the hard work on the farms.
In Brother Sister Soldier Cousin, her forthcoming novel for children aged 9+ years, Phyllis Johnston evokes the war years in New Zealand with an assured authenticity, bringing her characters and the times into clear focus. The story tells of thirteen year old Helen whose life on the family dairy farm seems routine. But for Helen 1943 was to be a year of challenges: her brother comes home on leave from fighting in Egypt but goes AWOL when he is called up for duty again; her hardworking dairy farming father isn’t at all well; food is rationed; and even more shattering Helen discovers she is a ‘secondhand daughter’ and must struggle to find her own identity.
This is an affecting coming of age story which gives a true picture of life in New Zealand during the Second World War. It is told by an experienced writer and written with grace, warmth and humour. The book, published by Longacre Press, will be released on 19th June.