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  • Published: 26 February 2018
  • ISBN: 9780143771876
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $21.00

Bobby, the Littlest War Hero

War historian Glyn Harper's brand new story about a band of tunnellers in the First World War, and the tiny canary who helped them survive, with heart-warming illustrations by Jenny Cooper.

This is the story of Bobby – the littlest hero in a very big war.

Bobby is a tiny canary. His best friend is Jack, a soldier in one of the tunnelling companies of the Royal Engineers. Together they go deep into the tunnels under no-man’s-land. Jack’s job is to dig, while Bobby’s job is to warn the men to get out quickly when there’s dangerous gas. Bobby’s warnings save the tunnellers’ lives again and again.

But Jack worries that it’s a hard life for a little bird. Will Bobby ever be free to fly again?

Glyn Harper and Jenny Cooper are the award-winning creators of bestselling picture books about the First World War: Le Quesnoy, Jim's Letters, Roly, the Anzac Donkey and Gladys Goes to War.

  • Published: 26 February 2018
  • ISBN: 9780143771876
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $21.00

About the authors

Glyn Harper

Glyn Harper is Professor of War Studies at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. He is Massey's Project Manager of the Centenary History of New Zealand and the First World War. A former teacher, he joined the Australian Army in 1988 and after eight years transferred to the New Zealand Army, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Glyn was the army's official historian for the deployment to East Timor and is the author of numerous history books, including Kippenberger: An Inspired New Zealand Commander; In the Face of the Enemy: The complete history of the Victoria Cross and New Zealand; Dark Journey: Three Key Battles of the Western Front; Images of War: World War One: A Photographic Record of New Zealanders at War 1914–1918 and his most recent Letters from Gallipoli: New Zealand Soldiers Write Home. He has written a number of children's books, of which Le Quesnoy, Jim's Letters and Roly, the Anzac Donkey are the most recently published. In 2015 Glyn and illustrator Jenny Cooper won the Best Picture Book Award at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, as well as a Storylines Notable Picture Book Award, for Jim's Letters, a moving story about a correspondence between two brothers during the First World War.
Speaking about writing stories for children in an interview with the Manawatu Standard in 2018, Glyn said, ‘‘I think history is immensely important. Having a sense of the past and what has created the nation as it is today is very important for young people. If
stories can do that, I think they are serving
a good purpose.’’

Jenny Cooper

Jenny Cooper is an award-winning and prolific illustrator of more than 70 children’s books, and says she finds each new title “completely different and a new adventure”. Noted for being an exceptionally versatile, characterful and exuberant illustrator, the judges of the 2015 LIANZA Children and Young Adult Book Awards praised Jenny for the “multitude of talents in her basket of goodies . . . she is able to draw a variety of animals convincingly well; her command of emotional drawing is also superb. The depth of feeling in the faces of her characters brings tears to the reader’s eyes. She is surely envied by other illustrators.” Jenny’s recent work includes a series of critically acclaimed First World War picture books with text by Glyn Harper – Roly, the Anzac Donkey, Jim’s Letters and Le Quesnoy: The Story of the Town New Zealand Saved – and the beautiful A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children edited by Paula Green. In 2015 Jenny was honoured as one of New Zealand’s foremost illustrators with the presentation of The Arts Foundation Mallinson Rendel Illustrators Award. The award’s patron Ann Mallinson declared her the “perfect recipient”, saying that “Whether a pencil sketch or a realistic, photographic based style, Jenny’s illustrations jump out of the page with an invigorating spirit . . . Jenny is a greatly admired and very experienced artist who has illustrated a large number of picture books. Her work is always of the highest standard. She can tackle any subject, and if it requires more than her wonderful imagination, she will do thorough research.” In August 2015 Jim’s Letters, Jenny's and author Glyn Harper’s memorable depiction of a World War One correspondence between two brothers, one a soldier in Gallipoli and the other at home on their Central Otago farm, won the Picture Book category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Jenny has also won a number of Storylines Notable Book Awards — for A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children edited by Paula Green (2015); Jim’s Letters with Glyn Harper (2015); Ria the Reckless Wrybill with Jane Buxton (2011); A. W. Reed’s classic Illustrated Myths and Legends of the Pacific (2008); The Mad Tadpole Adventure with Melanie Drewery (2008); Duck Walk with Joy Cowley (2003); The Great Pavlova Cover-up edited by Jo Noble (2002); and The Wooden Fish with Tim Tipene (2000). Jenny lives in Amberley, near Christchurch.

Praise for Bobby, the Littlest War Hero

This extraordinary tale is beautifully told and illustrated by the experienced and perceptive team of Harper and Cooper. The text is powerfully understated and the illustrations show the humanity and inhumanity of war at the same time. Come ANZAC Day everybody will be reading this story. One to remember. The perfect war story for children.

Bob Docherty, Bob's Book Blog

War historian Glyn Harper and illustrator Jenny Cooper are the award-winning creators of several best-selling picture books about World War I. Through their work, they’ve unearthed some of the neglected but nevertheless fascinating stories and characters from one of the darkest chapters in history. This book, centred on the tunnellers of WWI,is no exception. The real hero is a canary called Bobby who could alert those underground to potentially fatal gas poisoning. According to British newspapers in 1917, Bobby had been gassed seven times but survived each brush with death. If you’re looking for a moral to the story, it maybe that you’re never too small to contribute.

Dionne Christian, Weekend Herald

It is beautifully written with compassion as Jack cares for the canary and plays his harmonica too. There is a subtle but powerful message about freedom woven into the tale and reflections that animals were heroic too. Perfect for schools or for your young reader to help them understand the complex issue of war and memory.

Sue's Reviews, Wairarapa Times-Age

In this charming children's book by historian, professor and former soldier, Glyn Harper, one of the smallest heroes takes centre stage. ... Brought to life in illustrations by Jenny Cooper, Bobby, the littlest war hero tells the story of two birds of a feather who both long to fly free.


Jenny Cooper’s charming illustrations draw readers in to the story. Spread across single and often double pages in the muted colours of war, the images immerse the reader in Bobby’s story.

Waihi Leader

...the best part is that the tale comes as a picture book and so is available to an audience for whom the Great War is distant history. This book makes it real...As Anzac Day approaches, Bobby would be a wonderful way for a family to share ideas on war, peace and the importance of friendships.

Kathy Watson, The Reader

Jenny Cooper definitely does her share of storytelling in this book. The use of yellow tones in this book struck me - gaslight echoing the canary, and the yellows in the uniforms. Cooper also showed her skill with some great perspectives of tunnelling during the war.

Sarah Forster, The Sapling

Glyn Harper and Jenny Cooper are brilliant at educating our younger generation through their words and illustrations. While young children don’t need to know about the brutality of war, they do need to know what war is. Bringing birds and animals into the stories is a clever way to introduce history.

Linda Hall, Hawke's Bay Weekened

Awards & recognition

New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

Shortlisted  •  2018  •  Russell Clark Award for Illustration

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