The Perse School

Sam Angus author visit

13 Nov 2015

Year 5 and 6 pupils at the Prep were fortunate to welcome author Sam Angus into school yesterday.

Sam grew up in Spain and studied literature at Trinity College, Cambridge before becoming a children’s author. Her first book, Soldier Dog, is a powerful story of a boy soldier and his messenger dog, set against the backdrop of the First World War, and was longlisted for the Carnegie Prize.

She opened her talk with a moving anecdote from the World War 1 about a dog named Airedale Jack who was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for delivering a message, despite several gunshot wounds, which saved the lives of soldiers trapped in woodland.

Sam described in detail the historical background to her novel, Soldier Dog, explaining that at the start of the First World War the Germans had 7,000 trained messenger dogs and France had a similar number. Britain did not have any messenger dogs until 1916 when they realised their importance, and managed to round up lost dogs from homes as well as family pets. Angus also described dogs’ qualities of fierce loyalty and intellect which made them essential during the First World War.

She told the group that she has always loved reading and read all the time during her childhood. She read English at Cambridge and taught English at A level before becoming an author. The anecdotes she discovered in her research of the messenger dogs inspired her to write her first novel. She spent a great deal of time researching her novel and, inspired by the author of One Hundred and One Dalmatians, she wrote the first draft in six weeks. However, she spent two years re-drafting and sending her work to publishers which ended in a bidding war from five different publishers, all of whom wanted to publish her book.

Sam Angus also talked about her third novel, Captain, which is also set during the First World War but is about the war on the Eastern Front, which she described as being more dashing and heroic than the stagnant trench-based war on the Western Front. The novel also focuses on the role of donkeys and camels during the First World War.

The children listened in awe and asked a variety of questions about the use of animals during the war.


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