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About the book
  • Published: 5 April 2013
  • ISBN: 9781775533092
  • Imprint: Longacre Child
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $16.99

When Our Jack Went to War




A powerful and moving YA story about two brothers, one of whom goes off to fight in World War One.

A powerful and moving YA story about two brothers, one of whom goes off to fight in World War One.

It’s 1917 and Jack enlists. And although 13-year-old Tom is envious of his elder brother, he soon changes his mind as the reality of war becomes more apparent.

We follow Jack’s story through his letters home and through the eyes of his younger brother. Tom writes about life at home in New Zealand: living with Mum and their young sister, Amy, learning to hunt with his uncle, getting a puppy and learning to knit…for the war effort.

Jack writes of his first-hand experience in Trentham, the troop ship, Britain, France, the Battle of Messines and finally, Passchendaele. Sadly the story ends with Jack being killed at Passchendaele along with hundreds of other Kiwis. (Of the 180 soldiers in the 2nd Otago Division, 148 lost their lives in one day in New Zealand’s worst ever military disaster.)

When Our Jack Went to War is a fictional account of a real life tragedy, based on the author’s research into the death of her own great uncle, who died in 1917. The NZ Post Award-winning Sandy Mckay ably conveys how war affects everyone – it’s a superb meditation on war and its devastating effect on soldiers and their families.

  • Pub date: 5 April 2013
  • ISBN: 9781775533092
  • Imprint: Longacre Child
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $16.99

About the Author

Sandy McKay

Sandy McKay is an experienced writer for children; she is the author of over 12 titles, most notably, Recycled, My Dad the All Black, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, Losing It and One Stroppy Jockey. She was the recipient of the Dunedin College of Education Writer in Residency in 2001, and her books have been short-listed for the NZ Post and LIANZA awards and listed as Storylines Notable Books.

Sandy won the Junior Fiction Category of the NZ Post Children's Book Awards for Recycled. Her landmark book, Losing It, was short-listed for the Esther Glen Award and dramatised by Radio NZ.

She also writes for younger children, having three titles in the popular Penguin Kiwi Bites series. (I'm Telling on You, Barry and Bitsa, and Me and Jason Ballinger) as well as titles in the Walker Books series (Mr Tripp Smells a Rat, and Mr Tripp Goes for a Skate). Sandy's junior historical novel When our Jack Went to War was published in 2013.

Sandy lives in Dunedin with her husband Craig, daughter Meg and a high spirited spaniel called Lucy. They also have two adult sons who live 'not too far away'. She enjoys writing books that are accessible to a wide range of ages. And when not writing, she works as an adult literacy tutor.

Also by Sandy McKay

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Praise for When Our Jack Went to War

“A powerful novel told in letters from 18 year old Jack to his younger brother Tom from the battlefields of France and Belgium during World War 1.Sandy McKay has shown the contrasting situations of the men in the trenches and how the war was portrayed by the Political leaders and the press at the time. The letters reflect this astonishing difference. Tom’s letters from home are almost “boys own” in content and opinion. War is like a game, like hunting rabbits. You know however that this was the naive spirit and innocent enthusiasm that took young men to the battlefields of Europe for King and Country. Jack’s letters start out with that innocence and enthusiasm. The big adventure, can’t wait to get their before it is all over, lets give the Hun a taste of their own medicine. Then the realities hit in as the slaughter begins. The men knew their leaders and decision makers were useless. They couldn’t do anything about it through fear of being shot as traitors. They took it and thousands were slaughtered for nothing. Sandy McKay tells this story with class. Let the reader decide. To make the story more powerful she includes newspaper articles about the battles, about conscientious objectors and everything that was going on at home. The last 15 pages will wrench your heart out. High school and young adult in appeal.”

Bob Doherty, Bob's Book Blog


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