Archive for the ‘War’ Category

Yasmin’s Journey by Miriam Halahmy.

June 24, 2019 Comments off

YasminYasmin’s Journey by Miriam Halahmy. Pub. Ransom Publishing, 2016.

This is a short 63 page story in large font about a 15 year old Syrian girl and her 6 year old brother who escape Syria into Turkey and thence to Greece.

They fear ISIS and the journey is fraught with danger and bad men who charge unbelievable prices for services.

Ideal for reluctant readers or for immigrants themselves who are learning English and know the reality of what is happening.

Yasmin’s story is uplifting, simply told and has a powerful message.

Bess. The Brave War Horse by Susan Brocker, illus Raymond McGrath

March 15, 2019 Comments off

bessBess. The Brave War Horse by Susan Brocker, illus Raymond McGrath. Pub. Scholastic, 2019.

A beautifully illustrated picture book telling the story of Bess one of 10,000 horses to leave New Zealand for World War 1 and one of only 4 to return.

The story tells of her trip by ship to Egypt, her training with her master Guy Powles, her stay in the desert and her charge into battle. The full story of Bess is in the novel Brave Bess and the ANZAC Horses also by Susan Brocker, and reviewed earlier on this blog.

The illustrations of Bess’s journey and ordeal in war are  revealing, enhancing what she went through for junior readers and showing the horrors of war. A horse is not the easiest animal to draw but these illustrations are superb.

An excellent publication for everybody.

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The Telegram by Philippa Werry

February 10, 2019 Comments off

telegramThe Telegram by Philippa Werry. Pub. Pipi Press, 2019. .

During WW1 the last thing the people at home wanted to see was a telegram boy or girl coming to their door. If you had a son, a brother a father or a husband at war then a telegram meant missing in action, dead in battle or taken prisoner.

Beaty is a 14 year old girl who lives with her younger sister Tilly and their mother who works every hour to keep the family going. When mother loses hours at work Beaty, in spite of academic abilities, is pulled out of school and gets a job as a telegram girl.

She faces all sorts of bullying for being a girl doing a boys job but proves them all wrong and even learns some skills that the boys struggle with.

When the boy next door, Caleb, goes to war, he asks Beaty to write to him and she does. Their letters describe life back here in NZ and heavily censored impressions of life in the trenches in the last year of WW1 after Passchendaele. It also continues into the Flu Epidemic that followed the soldiers home. Excellent historical fiction.

Beaty is a treasure and good role model. Philippa Werry describes life at home with knowledge and accuracy in this very readible novel for primary, secondary and high school student.

Chinatown Girl by Eva Wong Ng.

February 7, 2019 Comments off

chinatown girlChinatown Girl by Eva Wong Ng. Pub. Scholastic, 2019.

This is a reissue of the My New Zealand Story title first published in 2005 but in response to the fact that there were now 171, 000 Chinese New Zealanders according to the 2013 census, reissued again.

Everybody should know what it was like to be Chinese in New Zealand and we didn’t make it easy for them. Chinese were known as the Yellow Peril and we made it as difficult as possible for them to come and settle here. The Immigration Restriction Act of 1908 put a bond of 100 pounds on any Chinese coming to this country(more than the average Kiwi earned in a year).

This story in diary form set in Greys Avenue Auckland (Chinatown) in the year 1942 when the threat from Japan was at it’s height, is told by 12 year old Sylvey Chan. It tells of the Chinese experience and will be of great interest to new immigrants to this country and to everyone else as well.

I think it is fabulous and is full of wartime history of rationing, of the blackout and the “loose lips sink ships” catch cry that dominate local thinking. Sylvie rides down Queen street on a push bike at night when the blackout is in force, visits an opium den, is visited by American Chinese soldiers after the fall of Singapore and the Battle of the Coral Sea. It also features  her life at Beresford street School and at Chinese School.

The book is full of Chinese wisdom of Confucius such as “when you go to other peoples places never go with only air in your hands”. Many Chinese became vegetable growers because it is what they knew from home and if the business failed you still had something to eat.

Absolutely fascinating. Well written and historically accurate. If you miss this you will kick yourself. For primary, intermediate and secondary school pupils.

The Hill of Memory by Peter Attwell.

December 23, 2018 Comments off

hill memoryThe Hill of Memory by Peter Attwell. Pub Mente Corde Manu Publishing, 2018

This novel about the 1913 Wellington Waterfront strike for Young Adults and Adults is possibly one of the most moving historical accounts I have ever read.

Johnnie Hargreaves and his mate Joe Halifax live through the bitterly contested waterfront strike and attend some of the demonstrations in which “specials” and farmers from the country on horse back, charged into strikers battering them with clubs.

The Waterfront Union wanted more surety of employment for their members and better conditions of work and the employers backed by the Massey Government wanted the status quo and went to brutal lengths to keep it that way.

The conflict broadened to be a battle of workers v bosses, townies v country and the haves v the have nots. The haves took the view that the strikers were trying to take away everything they possessed and held dear. The era of false news had begun long before Trump.

The story is simply told from the boys point of view and like the Springbok Tour of 1981 this strike divided families and communities and amidst it all came an incident involving Johnnie and Joe that neither of them was to forget for the whole of their lives. Read it and find out what it is.

This novel will have wide appeal for boys but girls shouldn’t hold back. There is a tragic story of romance involving Johnnie’s sister Hettie, a suffragette supporter and Ned the older socialist brother of Joe.

The novel continues into the outbreak of WW1 and the fate of the participants of the 1913 strike. Totally fascinating.

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When Dad Came Home by Vanessa Hately-Owen, illus. Rosie Colligan.

October 25, 2018 Comments off

dad came homeWhen Dad Came Home by Vanessa Hately-Owen, illus. Rosie Colligan. Pub. Oratia Books, 2018.


When the guns fell silent in World war 1 for many the war didn’t end. The noise, the trauma and the inhumanity of war stayed with them in their heads.

Rita and Thomas wait eagerly for their dad to come home. They are apprehensive as they see other dads come home with wounds and scars. They wonder what their dad will be like. Will he laugh and joke and carry them for piggy back rides?

They soon find out. Their dad is shell shocked. Noise upsets him. Rather than tiptoe round him they sing their favourite song when working with him or in his presence. It works and dad is soon recovering.

A heart warming story brilliantly illustrated by Rosie Colligan. She captures the faces of hope, of despair, of pain, of sadness and eventually of joy.

A beautiful story for everyone.

The Turnkey by Allison Rushby

September 4, 2018 Comments off

turnkeyThe Turnkey by Allison Rushby. Pub. Walker Books, 2018.

This award winning novel from Australia is a delight to read. It has a believable plot, interesting characters and is written in a style that is reminiscent of old style writing.

Set during the Blitz in world War 2 it pits the twilight world of the dead against a Nazi plot to win the war.

Flossie Birdwhistle died of rhumatic fever when she was twelve, now she is the Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery responsible for looking after the needs of the dead. She is in the twilight world and can function in the world of the living but cannot be seen or heard.

During a bombing raid of London she sees a Nazi officer on top of St Pauls  and realises he too is of the twilight world. He clutches a bright skull in his hands and when he sees Flossie he vanishes.

What is the meaning of the skull. Is Viktor Brun, the Nazi officer, spying for the Nazis? Can he communicate with the living? and is Highgate cemetery and the other six cemeteries of London involved in a Nazi plot to win the war?

The beginning of each short chapter announces what is going on in the chapter and there are hooks at the end of each chapter to keep you reading. The tension in the plot is spellbinding and the ending is gripping.

For confident junior readers and intermediate readers. Check it out you will be moved.