Author(s): Phyllis Johnston
In 1924, thirteen-year-old Dee is living with her mother and aunt: her father died during World War One. Although she misses her father, Dee is happy enough until she is separated from her mother and her aunt, both of whom, falling very ill, have to go to a sanatorium for medical care. Dee is thrust into a Wellington children's Refuge, where an authoritarian Assistant Matron makes her life a misery, and the rules of the institution suffocate Dee's academic ambitions and her self-expression. Soon Dee is shocked to learn that her aunt and her mother have tuberculosis: they've concealed the nature of their illness from her. As was common at the time, they treat her like a child when she feels she is mature enough to be granted some say in the direction of her life. Dee is a bright girl, whose memories of her solider father, and her love for reading and sketching help to sustain her through the arduous times at the Refuge, and her sense of betrayal from her mother and aunt. Yet when her mother dies, and the Matron refuses to let the girl attend high school, even the strong-willed, resilient Dee believes there's no way out. One day, salvation comes through the aid of one of her father's army friends: John and Essie Brownley offer Dee a new life on their farm. Dee's new rural home, however, doesn't quite offer the freedom from trouble that she has hoped for. John and Essie knew her father: as did many of the adults in the area. Some of Dee's new schoolmates have heard the adults talking about what really happened to her father during the war: their taunts and jibes force Dee to confront John and Essie. She wants them to tell her the truth about how Dan, her father, died. Dead Dan's Dee tells how war physically and emotionally affects families. Phyllis Johnston tackles a difficult subject in New Zealand's history with a frankness and simplicity that will be appealing, accessible and informative for a junior readership. SHORTLISTED JUNIOR FICTION CATEGORY NZ POST BOOK AWARDS 2008
Winner of Storylines Notable New Zealand Books: Junior Fiction 2008. Shortlisted for New Zealand Post Children's Book Award: Junior Fiction 2008.
Phyllis Johnston is an established children's writer witha particular interest in historical fiction. Her first book, No one Went to Town, was published in 1980, and she's since had many novels and stories published. She has taught children's writing at Waikato University and at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic. In 1998 Phyllis Johnston was honoured with the Betty Gilderdale Award for Distinguished Service to New Zealand Children's Literature Association. Her latest work is The Fugitive Soldier, 2004, and her first book with Longacre Press, Dead Dan's Dee is to be published in 2007.