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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.


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

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

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

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

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    February 26, 2018

    Picture Puffin

    32 pages

    RRP $19.99

    Online retailers

    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • Fishpond
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.co.nz

Awards and Recognition

  • New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults
    Russell Clark Award for Illustration

Also by Glyn Harper