‘Here we are, fighting alongside the so-called mightiest nation on earth with all the firepower you could ask for – jets, B52s, tanks, gunships, arty, rockets, napalm, you name it – and the VC are creeping around with a rifle each and we still can’t beat the beggars! And it’s getting worse, not better.’
It’s 1969. The sixties are still swinging, man is headed for the moon, and surfing-mad Davey is out to win the inaugural Newcastle Under-14 Surf Championship. But when his older brother Tom is drafted to fight in the army, the far-away war in Vietnam creates waves very close to home.
I’ve written non-fiction about New Zealand soldiers who fought in Vietnam, and also the impact this had on their families, but never any fiction. This was a good opportunity to have a go at that, even though this story is set in Australia and aimed at a school-aged audience. It’s for children, but older readers might like it too. It was fun – though I must admit I had a hard (and occasionally frustrating) time toning down my usual writing style for younger readers, but I think we got there in the end. And it’s been an excellent warm-up for my ‘great New Zealand Vietnam novel’ – whenever I get around to writing that one. Update – which I did, it’s called The Leonard Girls, and it was published in 2022.
‘This is a very good book about a family and a neighbourhood living through the late sixties, a period that changed our world forever. It is pacey, funny and sad, written with gusto and empathy.’
Reading Time (The Children’s Book Council of Australia), 15/5/2015