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Where the Poppies Now Grow - a child's-eye view of the First World War

PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 April 2014

Grim conditions greet the boys as they prepare for battle

Grim conditions greet the boys as they prepare for battle

Joke de Winter 2012

Yorkshire author Hilary Robinson has dedicated her new children's book exploring a friendship ravaged by the brutality of war to the memory of her great uncle who fell at the Somme.

Award-winning Yorkshire author Hilary RobinsonAward-winning Yorkshire author Hilary Robinson

Where the Poppies Now Grow (Strauss House, £6.99) is also a tribute to illustrator Martin Impey’s great uncle who, like scores of others, lost his life on that tragic battlefield.

‘My great uncle died on the tenth day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916,’ said Hilary. ‘His body was never found, but his sacrifice is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing Of The Somme.

‘Martin and I have shared stories handed down from our grandparents and stories which fascinate children of all ages today. This is what inspired us. We wanted to contribute to the centenary in the best way we know how.’

Their powerful story is primarily about friendship, and how even the strongest devotion can be tested to breaking point by the tragic machinations of war. But it’s also about survival and the indomitable human spirit.

Where the Poppies Now Grow by Hilary RobinsonWhere the Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson

Hilary chose to write the fictional tale in rhyme as a tribute to the war poets. While Martin, who previously illustrated War Horse for the Oxford University Press, brings life and colour to each and every page with stunning artwork that manages to capture both the innocence of childhood and the valour of battle.

‘My great uncle was killed on October 9th 1916 at the Battle of the Somme,’ he explained. ‘He was just 19 years old.

‘His grave was unknown to the family until I researched him about 15 years ago. It was an incredibly moving experience to visit the cemetery and be the first member of our family to lay a wreath of poppies on his grave since 1916.’

Where The Poppies Now Grow has been specifically written to help young children engage with a period of history in which so many sacrificed their lives. It’s already attracting very favourable attention.

Popular Yorkshire author and former county inspector of schools Gervase Phinn said: ‘Written in the great poetic tradition of depicting war as something immensely sad and personal, Where the Poppies Now Grow is a powerful, poignant and beautifully written poem, superbly illustrated, and one which touches our hearts.’

A sequel, The Christmas Truce – The Place Where Peace Was Found, will be published later this year.

About the author

Hilary Robinson is an award-winning radio producer, broadcaster and author of more than 40 picture books including the bestselling Mixed Up Fairy Tales. She also produced Private Peaceful, narrated by Robson Green, for BBC Radio 2.

She was born in Devon and brought up in Nigeria and England, but now lives and works in London and Yorkshire.

Hilary, who has Manx ancestry, is related to William Wordsworth via a collateral branch of the poet’s family.

A picture of the illustrator

Martin Impey studied graphic design with distinction and alongside illustration has worked in design, film, advertising and marketing.

He’s passionate about military history, art, photography, nature, music, sport and space travel. He’s illustrated numerous children’s books and has also worked in the toy, puzzle and games market

Honouring our heroes

Farnley Estates in Huddersfield has put out a call for help in its bid to erect a plaque in honour of its young men who died in the Great War.

From his research, Farnley Estates Director John Sykes has discovered the names of three soldiers born in Farnley who died during the First World War.

Two of the men, Private W Lodge and Gunner Ernest Price are mentioned on the Thurstonland memorial, but there is no mention of Private G Shaw, who apparently died at home two weeks before the end of the conflict.

‘These are men who died for their country and we feel it’s only right that they should be remembered in the village where they were born,’ he said. ‘There may be more young men from Farnley who also fought and died in the war, whom we don’t yet know about.

‘There’s also a mystery over Private Shaw: did he die from his injuries, illness or some other cause? We’d like to hear from anyone who knows more about the history of these young men, or who knows of anyone else from Farnley who died in the First World War, so that we can remember them at this year’s centenary.’

If you have any information or are related to the men who died and have additional information to share, please email johnsykes@farnleyestates.co.uk or call 01484 665544.

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