Friday 14 July 2017

A present from the past by Jennifer Beck; illustrated by Lindy Fisher

A present from the past by Jennifer Beck; illustrated by Lindy Fisher (Scholastic, 2006)

32 pages with colour illustrations

Subjects: World War One, France, Christmas, nurses, women in war, grandparents, family, picture books (Year 1-4)


It’s nearly Christmas time. Emily is waiting with her parents at the airport for her Aunt Mary whom she’s never met before. Aunt Mary has come all the way from England, bringing a special gift: a small oblong parcel, with a note saying “Best wishes from Princess Mary”. Inside, to Emily’s disappointment, is nothing but a small brass box with a damaged lid. But as Aunt Mary tells the story behind the box, Emily comes to realise that it is indeed a precious family heirloom.

These boxes, containing items such as sweets and tobacco, were the idea of Princess Mary, the 17-year-old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, who wanted to give every serving soldier, sailor and nurse a Christmas present in December 1914 as a personal thank you for their sacrifices and hard work. You can read more about them here and here.

These Christmas boxes make a lovely story on their own, but the box in this book played an even more important role.

Don’t miss the dedication: “In memory of women in wartime”. There is also a fact sheet at the end.

A review on Perfect Picture Book Friday says the book "would be a great resource in History classes enticing conversations about war, troops overseas, and families dealing with loved ones during war time in the past."

There's another review on Momo celebrating time to read (great title for a blog!) 

About the author
You can read an interview with Jennifer Beck on the Christchurch City Libraries website, or learn more about her on the Book Council Writers files

About the illustrator
Lindy Fisher is profiled on the Book Council and Storylines sites. She has also had over 75 stamps published by New Zealand Post! You can see some of her artwork on her website.

Other books you might like:
Jennifer Beck is the author of the much-loved picture book The bantam and the soldier. She and Lindy Fisher have worked together on other books, including Stefania’s dancing slippers and Remember that November (about Parihaka).

NZ connections:
When I was researching for my Anzac Day book, I got to see one of these tins. It belonged to Hami Grace, an old boy of Wellington College, and is now held in the College Archives.

Things I didn’t know
I didn’t know that Princess Mary was born on 25 April (1897) – the day that later became Anzac Day! What a lovely connection!

Have you read it?
Have you read this book? Let me know what you think!