Ruawai Primary School students Mahuika Hick, Lily Jeffery, Korban Johnson, Zoey Kirk, Harry Lord and Ryan Green with author Jennifer Somervell

Real life stories

by Ann van Engelen

Children’s author Jennifer Somervell visited three Kaipara schools last week bringing her childhood stories to life.

“The students at Ruawai, Te Kopuru and St Joseph’s school in Dargaville, were enthralled by tales of slithery eels, blowing up cowsheds and riotous pig escapes when I visited,” said Jennifer.

Along with her illustrator-sister Margery, Jennifer writes the award-winning Tales From The Farm picture book series.

“The five titles are based on our real-life, stranger-than-fiction childhood adventures growing up with eight siblings, plus add-ons, on the family farm in the 1970s. The visits are supported by the NZ Book Council with funding from Creative New Zealand. Seeing an author writing about their own life gives children the confidence to write their own, they think — ‘I can do that too’.”

The Day Dad Blew Up the Cowshed, The New Old Truck, The Eel Hunt and A Very Greedy Tale have won first place awards in the United States-based Purple Dragonfly Book Awards for excellence in children’s literature. The latest book in the series, Uncle Allan’s Stinky Leg, was released last October.

“The junior children acted out a pig escape in A Very Greedy Tale, charging fences, squealing and leaping at buckets on a food-finding escapade. Seniors learnt about the largest freshwater eel in the world the native longfin, as well how a picture book is put together, including the surprisingly long editing process.”

New entrant teacher Denise Hewetson said the children were totally engrossed and enjoyed role-playing.

“It was great for the students to actually see an author. They can make that connection to a person and with books about farming — this is their lives, and they can imagine it.”

Tales From the Farm titles are available from Moran’s Bookshop Dargaville and online at