Healing mental wounds of war

The children’s book `When Dad Came Home’ will be launched for the 100 year Armistice Day commemoration on November 10, at Howick Library, says author Vanessa Hatley-Owen. Times photo Wayne Martin.

Some wounds are not visible. For some returned soldiers the battles continued long after the guns fell silent.

Those were the thoughts that were running in Vanessa Hatley-Owen’s mind as she attended an author talk about the effects of First World War.

For someone who has always been a history buff, it didn’t take long for Vanessa to weave the idea into a children’s picture story book.

So what happens after the soldiers return from war? She postulated and went on to write a gripping book for children at a weekend retreat for writers.

Titled ‘When Dad Came Home’ the story is about a returning soldier who is suffering from shell shock, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and looks at how his children and wife gently help him back to health.

A self-confessed bookworm whose favourite reading spot is on her bed with the sun streaming in the window, birds chirping outside and the family dog on her lap, Vanessa thought that the book would be a good resource for schools as well as a way to gently introduce the subject of mental health into the story.

“I wanted to write about the returned servicemen, particularly the shell-shock, who mentally continued to fight the war, even when they came home, and make sure they are not forgotten,” says Vanessa, who until recently worked with Howick College where she look after public relations.

Her earlier works include The Picture That Jack Drew'-picture book manuscript for Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award 2014 and Aprons and iPods’, a junior fiction manuscript shortlisted for the Tom Fitzgibbon award, 2011. The Storylines Joy Cowley and Tom Fitzgibbon awards are for unpublished manuscripts.

The Cockle Bay resident now has her dream job as a librarian at Botany Downs Primary School where she is surrounded by books.

The well illustrated picture book which is a page-turner, movingly depicts how family love can help heal the mental wounds of war.

Published by Oratia Books, `When Dad Came Home’ will be launched in time for the 100 year Armistice Day commemoration.

There will be a book launch on Saturday, November 10 at Howick Library.