Best and Bravest. Kiwis awarded the Victoria Cross by Glyn Harper and Colin Richardson. Pub. HarperCollins, 2016.
This very readable and modestly written book on all thirty New Zealanders who have won the Victoria Cross for bravery in battle should have wide appeal for boys of all ages. It is not boys own stuff, it is just the facts as the action that led to the award happened. It covers every war from the New Zealand Wars to Afghanistan.
After finishing the book I thought is there a common factor in the type of man who won the VC? They were mostly small town boys who worked the land, many were over 30 years of age and all showed a lack of fear in the turmoil of battle. I doubt I could have been so brave.
There was also an element of foolhardiness in their actions as they strove to take a machine gun nest or rescue colleagues who looked doomed. They mostly used rifles, Mills bombs or hand grenades in battle and often hand to hand bayonet struggles.
But the overwhelming similarity was their modesty and that they saw their actions as part of a team action. None thought they were the bravest, all thought they were lucky and on the right spot at the right time. All thought others were braver than them. Many died and were awarded the Cross after death.
In the back of the book are all award winners, a breakdown of Army structure and the weapons used in battle. Illustrations by Colin Richardson enhance the drama and achievements of each medal winner. Wait till you read about Jimmy Ward who crawled out on the wing of a Wellington bomber, mid flight to put out a fire. Stunning.
One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi. Pub. HarperCollins, 2016.
Directed at 8-12 year olds this is one of the most enlightening and moving stories I have read for sometime .
Obayda is a 10 year old Afghan girl living with her two older sisters and parents in Kabul. It is a more enlightened Kabul than under the Taliban but still very restrictive for girls and women.
A car bomb takes the leg of Obayda’s father and they move to a small village where the father takes to his bed. All are concerned until an aunt approaches Abayda with a proposition to turn her into a bacha posh. What is this you ask? Well it is an old Afghan custom of turning a girl into a boy to change the fortunes of a family or household.
A boy is good luck, a boy can work and earn money and a boy will do more for Obayda’s father than any doctor could. The trouble is Abayda likes being a girl, she likes dancing and pretty clothes and enjoys being with her sisters. As the story evolves and Abayd gets better at being and doing what a boy does, the distance between her and her sisters widens.
Obayda becomes Obayd, one small letter makes all the difference. Her hair is shaved off, she wears boys clothes and goes to a boys’ school. But this doesn’t make her a boy. She struggles until she meets older boy Rahim. He tells her he is like her and that being a boy is more than what is in your pants. Obayd starts to get it, but then Rahim tells her he is never going to change back to a girl. Read the rest yourself.
Sensitively and simply told. This is one of my books of the year.
Nadia will read from her novel at WORD Christchurch 12.15 Saturday 27th August The Chamber, The piano
Mechanica. A beginner’s field guide by Lance Balchin. Pub.The Five Mile Press, 2016.
Wow! What an impressive picture book this is. After reading it twice my thoughts were “I want more, I don’t know enough” and I expect there is more because the title says it is a beginner’s guide and reference is made to The Mechanica Chronicles. I hope so!!
In a nutshell humans have destroyed the environment of the Earth so that all wild life of the planet have become extinct. To make up for it they create robotic Mechapets with Chen Sue a major player with his revolutionary Series 3 Wing Brace design.
This design effectively sets the mechapets free and they evolve into Mechanica who threaten humans and caused them to retreat into highly defended bolt holes. One of these is the South Sea island of Saraswati on which resides Liberty Crisp, a student of the genius Reginald P. Prescott.
When Saraswati is sacked by the Mechanica, Liberty sets sail on the HMS Beagle and does a Darwinesque trip around the World to see how the Mechanica have evolved.
The undoubted highlight of this book are the illustrations of the Mechanica. The detailed diagrams are complete with data such as Power Source, Speed, Origin, Size and specifics about their adaptations to their environment. There is the King dragonfly, the Powered Spider, the Articulated Snake and my favourite the Fast Parrot.
Absolutely Superb and with appeal for every age group. Not only that, Lance Balchin leaves the reader with a glimmer of hope.
Not everybody is going to agree with these Awards. I don’t for one. Overall I think the Children’s choices showed greater discernment and reflected reality than did the judges selections. I am delighted by this. I could never agree that Barney Kettle is junior fiction. For the record here are both selections:-
Book of the Year: ANZAC Heroes by Maria Gill, illus Marco Ivancic
Te Reo Maori: Whiti te ra by Patricia Grace
Best First Book: Allis the Little Tractor by Sophie Siers, illus. Helen Kerridge
Picture Book: Little Kiwi’s Matariki by Nikki Slade Robinson
Junior Fiction: From The Cutting Room of Barney Kettle by Kate De Goldi
Young Adult Fiction: Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo by Brian Falkner
Te Reo Maori: Te Hua Tuatahi a Kuwi by Kat Merewether
Picture Book: The House on the Hill by Kyle Mewburn illus. Sarah Davis
Junior Fiction: The Girl Who Rode the Wind by Stacy Gregg
Young Adult Fiction: Stray by Rachael Craw
Non Fiction: First to the Top by David Hill Illus. Phoebe Morris
Counting on You by Corinne Fenton. Illus. Robin Cowcher. Pub. Five Mile Press, 2016.
We often use the phrases “I’ll Never Forget you” and “I am Counting on You” with reference to someone we love. This simple yet moving picture book for everybody could have over sentimentalized these feelings but instead puts them in their proper place.
A young boy is flying a kite on windy days on clear blue sky days on days when he is full and on other days when he needs a hug and reassurance. He is remembering a parent who he still needs and will never forget.
Simple poetic text with watercolour and pen and ink illustrations that superbly enhance the text.
A book for discussion and reflection.
It wasn’t Me by Michael Bond. Illus. Joel Stewart. Pub. Corgi Children’s, 2016.
Harry is 9 years old and he is an inquisitive sort of boy. If he sees a sign saying Do Not Touch he just can’t resist. In a nutshell he is an accident waiting to happen and he drives his mother, father sister, grandparents and teacher to distraction.
When he turns up at his grandparents place for the school holidays grandfather says When do you go back? before he is even in the door.
The book is very perceptive about human behaviour. Have you ever noticed how your parents change when they are driving? Depends who is in the non driving seat you may have noticed. So does Harry.
The stories are hilarious and it seems the man who created Paddington bear has a grandson like Harry.
Easy to read for newly confident and confident readers. Would make a great read-a-loud.
Joel Stewart’s illustrations look familiar and always add something to the written text.