Gladys goes to War by Glyn Harper, illustrated by Jenny Cooper (Penguin Random House)
This is the fourth book Glyn Harper and Jenny Cooper have collaborated together, and I think it their best. Glyn happened on the story of Gladys while he was researching another book in Australia. He saw a photo of her holding a large snake she had driven over and thought he must investigate further. He discovered Gladys was born in Australia but moved to New Zealand when she was young. From an early age she had an interest in mechanical objects and yearned to help her brothers fix the car. However, in those days, such activities were frowned upon for young ladies. She married and they bought a car sales yard, but when her husband enlisted in the war, she was determined to not be left behind. She wrote to the army offering her services, and they wrote a polite note back telling her to knit socks for the men serving the country. Gladys finds a way to get to Egypt, and there she drives ambulances. This remarkable woman endures hardship, tragedy, illness and yet comes through it all to further some of her other dreams.
An empowering book about a young woman serving during WWI. One teacher told me when she read it to her students many of the children had tears in their eyes at the end of the story. Stories like these build empathy and show children that it wasn't just a man's war - women helped in many ways. They were also brave, heroic, and hard-working during the war.
Jenny Cooper wrote in her exhibit of the book in the What Lies Beneath Exhibition that she thoroughly enjoyed illustrating the book. Jenny has illustrated several war books but this was the first time a woman featured in one. She loved investigating the fashions of the times and dressing Gladys up in clothes of that era. The illustrations are stunning.
Gladys goes to War featured on News Hub and National Radio,
and is currently #1 on the Nielsen Bestseller List.