Children were captivated as the author of the award-winning Tales From the Farm picture books, Jennifer Somervell, brought her country stories to life in drama with children at Golden Sands, Otamarakau and Brookfield Schools.
“We had junior child-pigs charging fences, squealing, rolling and leaping at buckets, as two pet pigs escaping on a food-finding mission. The students loved the role playing, but were also interested in a how a book was created from first draft to publication,” says Jennifer.
The children were fascinated that the stories were true and based on real events.
“They loved ‘The Day Dad Blew Up The Cowshed'”, said Jennifer. “They couldn't believe it was a true story.”
Co-authored with Jennifer's sister-illustrator, Margery Fern, the series is based on their childhood adventures growing up in 1960s and '70s on their family dairy farm. Their four titles: The Day Dad Blew Up The Cowshed, The New Old Truck and The Eel Hunt and A Very Greedy Tale have all won first place awards in the United States-based Purple Dragonfly Book Awards for excellence in children's literature.
“I hope budding writers will be encouraged to write about their own stories,” says Jennifer. “Country-themed books are gaining more recognition, which is great. They are part of our heritage as New Zealanders.”
Jennifer's stories are educational as well as entertaining. A Very Greedy Tale features pigs, electric fences and the kiwi inventors who pioneered them.
The Eel Hunt takes today's children eeling at night with torches and home made spears. The Old Truck follows the passage of the old truck being abandoned in a farm shed to its new life as a restored example of vintage machinery.
The Day Dad Blew Up the Cowshed harks back to the dairy shed revolution and the introduction of rotary milking.
Feedback from teachers indicates that some children are inspired to be authors and write about their own experiences.