Central HB: Author's old stomping ground a trove of tales

By Nicki Harper

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Author Jennifer Somervell joined Takapau School children and teacher Dawn Meredith.
Author Jennifer Somervell joined Takapau School children and teacher Dawn Meredith.

Everyone has stories to tell of events in their life, and as author Jennifer Somervell has discovered, the farm is often a rich trove of anecdotes and adventures.

She recently completed an author's tour of Hawke's Bay schools, including Flemington School and Takapau School, which she attended as a child, growing up on the family farm at Otawhao.

Her rural childhood memories have sparked a series of children's books, Tales from the Farm, and during her school visits she shared the story of The New Old Truck with the fascinated students.

"It was really fun and nostalgic to go back to my old school and the area where writing started for me, so close to where our stories are set," Ms Somervell said.

The New Old Truck is the tale of the 1921 Republic truck that Ms Somervell's grandfather, Gordon Somervell, bought in 1938 for use on the farm, and the story has been recognised with an international Purple Dragonfly first place award.

Ms Somervell said her visits included reading the book to the children and explaining how it was based on a real truck. She also showed a video comparing old trucks to the trucks of today.

"I don't see my audience unless I go out and hear from them. It's very valuable to see the responses," she said.

"The children were delightful. Very engaged, with heaps of questions."

She also took the children through the process of writing a book; the multiple drafts and the patience and persistence required.

"They were surprised to see number 15 of 17 drafts with scribbles all over it.

"Children's books have a limit 600 to 800 words so heaps of editing goes into it. Not just the text but the illustrations as well."

The writing process for Ms Somervell is a family affair. Her sister Margery Fern is the illustrator and her niece does the design. "We have had to learn to disagree and work through things. You do not agree about everything but we are a team now."

The next book in the series, A Very Greedy Tale, is due out in September.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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