New Holland, 2014
Illustrated by Bob Kerr
The three young soldiers in the story are best friends from school, and they leave New Zealand together to go and fight at Gallipoli. Landing first in Egypt, they travel by ship to Anzac Cove and dig into trenches to fight the Turkish troops holding the peninsula. Conditions are tough and Joe gets sick, but his mates help him off on the hospital ship. Then Harry is fatally wounded and his burial has to take place on the cliff-top, away from the snipers. Many years later, the friends are reunited when the two old veterans fly to Gallipoli and lay poppies on Harry’s grave. The illustrated factual text on pages 30-31 provides extra information about the events pictured in the story.
The story behind the book
Best Mates is my first picture book and it was a privilege to have it illustrated by Bob Kerr. Bob had previously illustrated a School Journal story for me about Paddy the wanderer, the small dog who made his home on the Wellington wharves in the 1930s. Because we live in the same city, I was able to pop down to his studio and watch his amazing illustrations taking shape. We talked over the story together and I knew that Bob really understood what I was trying to say in it. He had been to Gallipoli himself, some years before, so he was very careful about getting the landscape exactly right. When we had the book launch, he brought along some of the original watercolours and everyone else was as bowled over by them as I was.
Bob Kerr is a painter and award-winning illustrator, known for his depiction of Terry and the Gunrunners in the 1970s series written by Stephen Ballantyne. His book After the War published by Mallinson Rendell in 2000 was a finalist in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards and winner of the Russell Clark Award for 2001. Bob lives in Wellington and works from a studio in Cuba St, in a building that used to house a photographic studio, where many young soldiers had their photographs taken before they left for World War One. This is his blog: Undercoat, and here is a blog post about Best Mates.
“Best Mates is a story of comradeship and endurance in the face of adversity.” …read more
John McIntyre of The Children’s Bookshop reviews Best Mates on Nine to Noon, RNZ, 4 April 2014… listen here
“Philippa Werry and Bob Kerr have collaborated here to bring a graphic picture in simple but telling words and stunning illustrations of the Gallipoli Campaign, of friendship and of the Australian, New Zealand and Turkish soldiers who were involved.” …read more
Around the Bookshops
“This book is a wee gem and I must admit it brought a tear to my eye.” …read more
Beatties Book Blog
“Philippa Werry knows about Gallipoli like few other writers and in this picture book portrays one of the drivers that sent men to war in 1914, and that was to be with your mates.” …read more
Bobs Books Blog