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Archive for the ‘War’ Category

This Is Where I Stand by Philippa Werry, illus. Kieran Rynhart. Pub. Scholastic, 2021.

March 25, 2021 Comments off

This powerful picture book is my sophisticated picture book of the year and it is just in time for ANZAC day when we remember the fallen at Gallipoli and in every war.

It opens with a bronze statue of a WW1 soldier, handsome, young, rifle slung over his left shoulder.”This is where I stand. All Day. Every Day. All Night. Every Night”.

He watches the children play, he sees the stars at night. he sees the children pass, he notes the remembrance once a year,he remembers the soldiers going to war in ships, the desert sands of Egypt, the slaughter at Gallipoli, the wounded coming home with their haunted eyes, the protesters..”.I am memory”.

Superb illustrations by Kieran Rynhart. Perfect to understand the sacrifices of war and the passage of time.

Categories: Picture book, War Tags: , ,

Katipo Joe. Bk2. Spycraft by Brian Falkner. Pub Scholastic, 2021.

March 6, 2021 Comments off

This is masterful writing from Brian Falkner that will have you spellbound from beginning till end. Falkner grabs the reader on page one and never lets you go till the stunning ending when you will be screaming out for more.

After his experiences in London during the Blitz and the fateful mission in France, Katipo Joe the fifteen year old spy is airlifted into Germany during a bombing raid, with the aim of infiltrating an elite group of Hitler Youth. This will have him mixing with five other elite young Nazis and competing with them to become movie stars in a film by Leni Riefenstahl. But there is a bigger prize than that but you will have to read the novel to find out what it is. This will not be a hardship I can assure you of that.

In this journey he finds love and meets Hitler’s inner circle of Himmler, Goebbels and Goring and even the girl that stole Hitler’s heart Eva Braun, plus Hitler’s dog Blondi and that is a story in itself. He mixes with the Nazi elite in the town of Obersalzberg and ponders “how can you be in the presence of such evil and not feel even a prickle of discomfort?”. They appear so normal.

The highlight for me is the meeting of the top Nazis including Hitler, Eva Braun plus Goebbels etc at the Eagle’s Nest fortress in Berchtesgaden, a place I visited in 2004.

This is world class writing, well researched, historically accurate and poses a “what if “scenario regarding Hitler’s dilemma of whether to to invade England. The detail is fascinating from the descriptions of the Nazi leaders to the aircraft, the guns the motor vehicles that the SS and Hitlr drove around in and of course the landscape around Obersalzberg. In the back of the novel there are some very enlightening photographs in which the action was involved

The ending is stunning and sets up book three. I can’t wait. If this isn’t the best Children and Young Adults book of the year I will give up eating strudel.

The Valley of Lost Secrets by Lesley Parr. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2021.

February 20, 2021 Comments off

This might possibly be the best novel dealing with the evacuation of children out into the countryside from London and other cities in WW2, that has been written. Comparisons can be made to Goodnight Mr Tom but that would be wrong because there is the added dimension of mystery and relations between Wales and England.

Twelve year old Jimmy and his younger 6 year old brother Ronnie are evacuated from their home in London to a small Welsh coal mining village. Jimmy is determined not to like it when him and Ronnie are billeted with the Thomas’s who not topic of the week in their community.

Ronnie while very emotional takes to the Thomas’s straight away and starts calling them uncle and Auntie which Jimmy finds difficult to accept. Jimmy has his own problems as his best mate in London Duffy is billeted with the vicar and his bad boy Jack and they cease to be friends. A girl of similar age Francis who was an object of fun and derision in London has found great confidence in the change to Wales.

On a walk up the hills Jimmy and Ronnie discover a skull hidden in the trunk of a tree and expose a decade old mystery that deeply involve the Thomas family.

Strong emotions are evoked and cultural differences are exposed as well as family secrets and community relations. This book was compelling reading and would make a good read aloud at middle school and intermediate level.

A stron part of the novel and a source of mystery are the tree illustrations that begin each chapter. You will have to find this out for yourself plus and additional mystery in the written text.

A superb novel about this era of the phoney war inWW2 and very good social values as well as historical perspective.

Katipo Joe: Blitzkrieg by Brian Falkner.

March 31, 2020 Comments off

katipoKatipo Joe: Blitzkrieg by Brian Falkner. Pub. Scholastic, 2020.

This action filled war story of World war 2 is a novel to rival the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz. I make this comparison because it is totally world class writing from, in my opinion the best action writer in New Zealand.

Based on true events it is set in Berlin in 1938 as the Nazi machine was taunting the world with threats and it’s anti Jewish programe. Joe is 12 years old and his parents work as diplomats and also spy on the Nazis. Joe goes to school in Berlin and mixes with Martin Borman’s nephew Klaus. Joe is a blue eyed blond youth and speaks fluent German , a fact that makes him a target for espionage.

When his father is arrested by the gestapo, Joe and his mother escape from berlin in a thrilling piece of action.

The scene shifts to London during the Blitz with Joe living in the ruins of the city looking for his mother. he meets friends on the street and the tragedy of wartime Britain. He gets involved in a Nazi spy ring that involves his mother and when his mother is allegedly  killed in a Nazi bomb plot, Joe is seconded by MI6 special forces and trained to be a spy.

The scene then shifts to occupied Paris with Joe flown into France to infiltrate the Hitlerjugend or Hitler Youth movement to effect an assassination of a prominent Nazi general. The action is thrilling.

Splendidly written by Brian Falkner who is at the top of his game. The action is astonishing and tragic. War is like this. Don’t miss this one it is superb.

For readers between 12 years and 16 years. Adults will love it too. Photographs in the back plus a glossary giving all the aircraft, guns and Nazi terms. Easy to read and compelling.

Boy Giant. Son of Gulliver by Michael Morpurgo, illus. Michael Foreman.

October 4, 2019 Comments off

Boy GiantBoy Giant. Son of Gulliver by Michael Morpurgo, illus. Michael Foreman. Pub. HarperCollins, 2019.

This is story telling at it’s very very best. It combines a real situation of refugees leaving their homeland because of war, with the classic tale of Gulliver and his adventures in Lilliput.

Omar and his mother leave their village in Afghanistan after it is bombed and destroyed  with the loss of a sister and father. Their journey is long tortuous and soul destroying but they stick with it. Eventually mother and son are forced to separate with Omar taking a boat hopefully to England where his uncle owns a shop.

That journey is hazardous to the extreme and after a massive storm Omar finds himself washed up on Lilliput where the small people hail him as Son of Gulliver. We learn of the story of Gulliver who fixes a feud between the Lilliputians and the people of the island of Blufescu. Things are still not right between the two islands and Omar is forced to take action akin to Gulliver.

The novel is full of wisdom and is a quest for peace and understanding between Peoples and Nations. How is this for wisdom? “children don’t mind if you make mistakes. They don’t think anything is wrong with it. They know making mistakes is how you learn”.

But how will it end? If you don’t read this you are mad.

As always Michael Foreman’s illustrations are superb, creating the world of Lilliput perfectly and enhancing a brilliant story for primary, intermediate and junior secondary readers.

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.

Categories: Picture book, War Tags:

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.

books@nationwidebooks.co.nz

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.

Contact for book information to mente.corde.manu@gmail.com