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The Other Sister

Pipi Press, 2021
ISBN 9780473579579
Highly commended, Storylines list of notable books for 2022

This book is a sequel to The Telegram (Pipi Press, 2019) –  but you can also read it on its own. It is set in the same town and contains many of the same characters, as well as lots of new ones.

January 1920 heralds the start of a new decade, promising fresh opportunities for girls like Tilly and the friends she makes at her new secondary school. Tilly dreams of doing something remarkable, but those dreams seem impossible to reach, outweighed by all the things that girls can’t or aren’t supposed to do. At the same time, she feels she’ll never live up to the achievements of her sister Beaty, who was the town’s first telegram girl during the last years of World War One, the influenza epidemic and the Armistice.

The war is over now, but its shadow still darkens the town. Returned servicemen struggle to fit back into their old lives. Some have shell shock while others are crippled or blinded. Families have lost loved ones. Young men like Daniel and Caleb Murphy have come back battle-scarred, missing their mates, often unwell or suffering from shell shock and struggling to fit in to everyday life.

But the year has some things in store for Tilly that she could never have foreseen. From the moment that Matron stalks across the lawn of the soldiers’ convalescent home at the Red Cross garden party and tells her, “We could do with some help from young gels like you,” Tilly’s life is about to change.

The months that follow throw unexpected challenges in her way, and propel her into a series of events that are unexpected, happy, sad, puzzling, thrilling, exciting and sometimes all of those things at once. 


“Do I have to go?” I asked over an early breakfast on Saturday morning.

“You do, if Matron wants you to,” Ma said. “It’s a privilege to be asked to help.”

I set off with a lump of worry in my chest, but the early morning walk through quiet streets soothed some of my nerves. Birds were singing in the trees all the way up the long drive. The house was quiet, too; nobody was about except the gardener, weeding some flower beds at the edge of the lawn. He gave me a long stare, then straightened up and put his tools back in the wheelbarrow.

“Arr,” he said. “You’re the sister of the other one, aren’t you?”

This photograph is of the 1920 Royal Tour of King George V’s son, Edward, Prince of Wales. It shows the Prince being showered in confetti at Westport – an illustration of how popular he was. Archives New Zealand Reference: IA31 Box 1/1; CC-BY-2.0; https://www.flickr.com/photos/archivesnz/albums/72157633445122529/with/32495078491/
Did you know that before Girl Guides, New Zealand girls could be peace scouts? But in The Other Sister, peace scouting doesn’t work out too well for Tilly and her friend Olivia.
Memorial to Dr Margaret Cruickshank, on a giant grain silo in Waimate. (The other figure, also from Waimate, is WW2 soldier Eric Batchelor.) I based my Dr Rutherford partly on Dr Cruickshank – the first woman doctor registered in NZ, but I was glad that my doctor, unlike her, survived the influenza pandemic

‘The Homecoming from Gallipoli’, 15 July 1915 by Walter Armiger Bowring. This painting shows the return of the first group of wounded soldiers from Gallipoli, when New Zealanders first confronted the grim reality of wounds, amputations and psychological trauma.
Archives reference: AAAC 898 149 / NCWA 532; CC-BY-2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/archivesnz/11456475685/in/album-72157644779453583/
1918 Influenza Pandemic Memorial at Pukeahu War Memorial Park, Wellington

Media interviews

Scroll down to the last question! “What’s next on the agenda for you?” Interview: Philippa Werry on NZ Booklovers, 30 March 2021

Words from the Bubble with Rachel Doré on MPR/Manawatū people’s radio, Episode 66, 11 October 2021

Philippa Werry on her new book The Other Sister on Standing Room Only with Lynn Freeman, 14 November 2021

Interview: Philippa Werry talks about The Other Sister on NZ Booklovers


“This story forms a captivating introduction for young readers to a national trauma – and the power of empathy to make a real difference in the lives of damaged heroes” … read more (and also here)
Kete Books; review by Jessie Neilson

“Philippa Werry’s research, writing and historical prowess has once again captured a piece of New Zealand for young readers to experience for themselves” … read more
What Book Next by Adele Broadbent

“You will love Tilly” … read more
Bobs Books Blog by Bob Docherty

The Other Sister is an excellent read for young adults and those older…Tilly is a plucky character to really care for” … read more
NZ Booklovers; review by Karen McMillan

“I love this intricately crafted, exquisitely written, entertaining book, that brims with warmth, humanity, insight”… read more 
Poetry Box review by Paula Green

“Tilly is a well-realised, interesting character; an imaginative day-dreamer who is also practical. ..  By the end of her journal, Tilly has developed self-confidence from having overcome a remarkable range of challenges. The Other Sister is an enjoyable novel which offers insights into a moment of great change in New Zealand. It is also a pleasure to read.”
Magpies, vol 37 no 2, May 2022; review by Trevor Agnew

The Other Sister by Philippa Werry is a lovely coming-of-age story that left me feeling really satisfied. I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t want to reach the end!”
Thanks to 13-year-old Savarna for this review on Hooked on Books

“Notable New Zealand children’s books I read and would recommend to anyone as Christmas gifts for kids include… Philippa Werry’s The Other Sister (a slow burner — maybe too slow for its teen audience but by the end I was in love with the main characters and her story)”.
My year of reading 2022 by Rachael King 

You can find teacher notes for The Other Sister here.

The Other Sister was included in the NZ Listener list of top children’s and YA books for 2021!

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