Canterbury writer Jennifer Somervell was in Kāpiti/Horowhenua talking to school children about the life and practice of being an author.

"It is about encouraging children to write and to show what is involved in writing and publishing a picture book, such as how to structure a story," she said.

During a visit to Manakau School her farm related stories were a big hit.

"The kids were very animated, but they had also been eating the icing off cupcakes they had been making prior to our arrival.


"They had no trouble acting out the stories, such as the one about a pig escaping from the farm."

The book is called A very greedy pig and is one of five published books by Jennifer.

Writer Jennifer Sommervell was at Manakau School to talk to children about the life of an author.
Writer Jennifer Sommervell was at Manakau School to talk to children about the life of an author.

The book production is a family affair for Jennifer. Her sister Margery Fern, who is a primary school principal, is the books' illustrator and niece Ezra Andre is the designer. All five books published so far are self published.

"I was concerned that a publisher might want to sanitise the book, so decided to do it myself," Jennifer said.

A sixth book is in the pipeline.

Her first book was about her dad blowing up an old cowshed using dynamite, not quite the done thing these days, but a true story nonetheless. All her stories bear a grain of truth, she said.

"My dad really did blow up the cow shed ... a long time ago."

Jennifer and her sister grew up on a farm in South Hawke's Bay.


"My dad was the first person in Hawke's Bay to get a rotary milk shed. He came across the one in Taranaki, invented by Merv Hicks in 1967, and thought it was a great idea, but the old shed and its concrete pad had to go first.

"Dad knew all about blowing stuff up as his dad had been an explosives expert in WWI and they had blown up other things before together, like tree stumps."

Her other books are about a pig escaping, an old truck being fixed and an eel hunt.

She said her regular tours around schools with her husband are sponsored by Read NZ with support from Creative NZ.

"This makes the author visit affordable for schools and not too expensive for us."

She said several kids at Manakau School said they had copies of her books already and she gave one to the school.

She's been just about everywhere in the country over the years, and the main aim of these tours is to show kids that there is a career pathway for storytellers. She said she learned her craft as a journalist and worked among others for NZ Lifestyle Block, writing about herbs.

Manakau School principal Deb Logan told her she could see the kids could relate to her stories. Many have dads, granddads, uncles who fix old trucks for example, and they could see themselves in the stories as many of them live in rural homes or farms.

Jennifer Somervell's books are aimed at the 4-9 age group, but she said older kids still get something out of them. At the back of each book is an education section with a lot of information about the topic the books is about, such as milk sheds and there is more about Jennifer and her family too.

In the Day Dad blew of the Cowshed there is information on why her dad did that at the time, what a rotary cowshed is, how it works, plus some information on Jennifer and family.

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