Torty and the Soldier- a Story of a True WW1 Survivor by Jennifer Beck, illus. Fifi Colston. Pub. Scholastic, 2017.
Torty is a tortoise from Greece and is New Zealand’s oldest survivor of the Great War 1914-1918. He was rescued by a New Zealand Ambulance Corps volunteer named Stewart who preferred to save lives rather than fight.
Torty was crushed by a gun carriage, rescued and nursed to Health by Stewart at the Salonika field hospital for wounded soldiers. The hospital was bombed during the war and off the coast the Marquette was torpeoed with over 100 nurses and medical orderlies lost.
Torty’s tale is told in conjunction with the war history and his trip back to New Zealand as an illegal immigrant. He still lives in Dunedin with the relatives of Stewart and is estimated to be over 200 years old.
Jennifer Beck sensitively tells the story and Fifi Colston’s illustrations of the War, the soldiers the Greek landscape and of course Torty to whom she gives life, are terrific.
Just in time for ANZAC Day and a reminder of a war story that is unlike any other.Valuable for every school library and in the home, for primary and intermediate school students but adults will love it too.
Trouble Tomorrow by Terry Whitebeach & Sarafino Enadio. Pub.Allen&Unwin, 2017.
This is the harrowing story of 15 year old Obulejo and his 5 year journey from his homeland in South Sudan to Australia. It is based on a true story and will give the reader an understanding of the hardship, violence and mistreatment that many refugees go through to arrive in the safety of our country.
Obulejo is a beautiful person whose name means Trouble Tomorrow the title of this book but I think he has had his fair share of trouble already and deserves better. If you met Obulejo in the circumstances in which he finds himself in, then you would be a lucky person indeed.
Born in a South Sudan village that had English as it’s educational language and christianity as it’s belief. The South had rich agricultural land and oil. This was desired by the largely Muslim North with it’s Sharia Law and war broke out. There were two wars the first ended in 1972 when I traveled south from Egypt to Juba and Malakal into Zaire. The people were lovely and it surprised me that the second war from 1983 to 2005 was such a brutal barbaric affair. It’s still going on.
Obulejo’s flight in the face of rebel advancement mirrors 100’s of thousands of others who did not survive. The wars cost over 2 million lives with thousands more in refugee camps. Life in a refugee camp is also a feature of this book.
For high school students and young adults but prepare for some harrowing brutality and some numbing humanity. The treatment of children will make you weep.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Pub. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016.
This excellent novel for intermediate and junior secondary students is one that will evoke every emotion that you have. You will by happy, sad, joyful, angry, frustrated, disbelieving and everything else.
Set in London and the countryside between 1939 and 1940 during the phoney war in which not much happened, until the retreat from Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain.
Ada is 10 years old although she doesn’t know this. She has a clubfoot which has never been treated and gives her enormous pain. She cannot walk and gets around on her backside and her knees. Her mother is a horrible woman who says she is cursed by the devil and that she is too disgusting to mix with other people. She is not.
Ada has a brother Jamie who is about six and goes to school. Ada looks after him although she can never leave the house. Both children are physically and emotionally beaten and are traumatised by their poverty and treatment from their mother.
When the children of London are evacuated to the country by Government decree Ada and Jamie are allocated to a wonderful woman called Susan who has to deal with their trauma. She educates them and heals the wounds in this stunning story that will eat into your soul. Not unlike Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mr Tom.
Easy to read with short chapters and you can’t help but be with the children all the way. This book was recommended to me by Elizabeth Cross from St Margaret’s College and everything she told me about this book was true. Thank you Elizabeth.
The Impossible Boy by Leonie Agnew. Pub. Penguin Random house, 2016.
This novel for children and young adults is staggeringly good.It is multi level, thought provoking and ultimately hopeful in spite of an endless war where there are no rules only winners and losers.
Every night on the TV News we see children hauled from the rubble of war torn cities in the Middle East, dirty, shaking, their faces carved masks of indifference and largely emotionless except for their eyes. It is gut wrenching.How do they cope with war? What do they feel? This novel directly confronts these questions.
Benjamin is 6 years old and he has an imaginary friend called Vincent Gum who looks after him after a train crash and delivers him to a children’s orphanage in the middle of a war torn city. Other children, who belong to no side, are in there, and Ben teams up with 14 year old girl Lucky, her brother Zaar and younger children Amos and Sofia.
Ben’s imagination is ultimately going to save all of these children who have turned the art of survival into a game. Each copes with war in a different way but their fears in this novel are personified in the form of the Hanger Man who hides in the closet. It is Ben’s imaginary friend Vincent who helps teach the children their fears cannot hurt them.
Vincent is a character in his own right with his own fears and he must learn how to cope too.
Leonie Agnew ‘s descriptions of the war situation are stunning. After an air attack she says even “the air seems to be crying’ and the journalists cameras “snap like a wild animal”
This book is unforgettable.
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.
The final exciting action packed novel of the 5th Wave Series for teenagers and young adults.
The series that began with the intrusion of a pregnant woman by a shadow from an owl which turned out to be a 10,000 year old alien without a body continues with 99.9% of humans slaughtered by the aliens. Now remains the moping up operations, the 5th Wave, with humans containing the alien presence killing everyone they meet. In fact everybody is killing everybody.
The world the survivors live in is violent, and death is always a heart beat away It is easier to kill a person than it is to tie your shoe laces and the only hope for humans is that they live long enough for their deaths to matter. There is a teddybear in the story to remind us that we reading about human beings.
Cassie, Ben now called Zombie, Ringer, Nugget, Sam and Megan plus the turncoat alien in human form Evan Walker exist and battle in the last 4 days of Earth. At the end of 4 days the huge alien mothrship that sits in all it’s greenery in the skies will unleash bombs on every city left on Earth to complete the elimination of humans.
Read this and find out if it all occurs. Is there any hope? Will all of the characters whose agonies we live through survive? Masterly written by Rick Yancey with a sense of humour that is bizarre but a believable.
You will not put this down once you start.
The Girl Who Rode the Wind by Stacy Gregg. Pub. HarperCollins, 2015. I wanted to read this new Stacy Gregg novel over 2/3 days but I couldn’t wait and read it in one day. It is another story of romance, of history of drama and of course it is about girls and horses. Formulaic the novels may seem but they all have their own individual flavour that says read me.
Lola is 12 years old and she lives near New York’s Aqueduct racetrack. All her family are involved in horse racing and she herself is a gutsy rider who loves horses. Lola goes back to Italy with her Nonna who fled Italy after World War 2 and has never been back. Nonna came from the beautiful city of Siena where every 16th August they run the Palio around the dirt cover cobblestones of the main piazza of Siena. It is the roughest horse race in the world competed for by the 17 Contrada or districts of Siena with names like Wolf, Porcupine and Giraffe. Winning is more important than life and death.
Lola meets a boy who works for a stable that trains the Palio horses and also meets Nico a wild powerful horse who she rides every day. But there is much history to get through before the Palio.
Nonna was known as Scavezzecolla when she was a young girl because she was a fierce rider who had competed in the Palio. She has a story of murder and romance in Facist Italy to tell Lola that she told to no-one and needs to get out. Secrets are to be revealed.
Stunningly written by Stacy Gregg who continues to write horse stories that are thrilling but I have always been a succour for romance. Teenage and pre teen readers have much to enjoy in this novel.