Haverstock School Young Journalists

Young journalists from Haverstock School talk to children’s author Jeanne Willis.

Jeanne Willis has been an author of children’s books for over 40 years: dogs, cats, rabbits, penguins, insects, reptiles and invented characters like Bog Babies have all featured in her stories.

Her latest book Jacko includes insects, snakes, a rabbit and a wounded baby jackdaw which is rescued by a boy called Mick and taught to fly. Jacko also touches on the Second World War, which Mick’s father fought in. It is all based on a true story.

We asked Jeanne:

When you were writing the book, did it affect your moods?

J: Yes, it did affect my mood. I was working to the point when something happened to the little bird, and I actually cried when I wrote it. ?

Was it easier to write the book because of your Grandfather’s experiences in WWI?

J: I think it was, because although it was a different war, my Grandfather told me about his friends who lost their lives; so when I heard Mick’s father’s story, I could empathise.

What did it feel like when you saw the items in Mick’s father’s box and read his diary for the first time?

J: Oh, it was amazing, especially when I found the little gold caterpillar badge and found out for the first time that there was a war element to the story.

How did you feel when you read Mick’s father’s war diary?

J: It chilled me to the bone. What was really notable about the diary was that there was never any feeling of self-pity. All he was doing was recording what happened.

How long did it take you to write Jacko? Was it difficult at times writing someone else’s story?

J: Yes, I was writing somebody’s life story and it wasn’t a perfect story arc. I was using real-life characters, but then was told I couldn’t use some of them, so I had to start again – twice!

Jeanne has written a wonderful book about real people. It shows not just how a community took a little bird into their hearts, but records the effect war has on families after it is over. The book is very different from her picture books, but Jacko is compelling; we didn’t want to stop reading it, with its sad, funny and brilliant characters.

Thank you, Jeanne Willis.

Kez, Annabella and Helen (Year 7), Lilith and Maya (Year 8), Harmony and Malachai (Year 9)

Stop Press: Jeanne’s next books to be published are four rhyming Winnie the Pooh picture books in the voice of AA Milne.

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