Posts Tagged ‘Diaries’

The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman.

June 13, 2020 Comments off

length stringThe Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman. Pub. Puffin Books, 2020.

This novel for middle and senior school students is one of the most moving, emotional and compelling novels I have ever read.

Anna is 12 years old when the Germans invaded Luxembourg in 1941 and started identifying all the Jews with the yellow star and stripping them of any human dignity. In August 1941 it was still possible for Jewish people to escape Luxembourg to Portugal and get a ship to America but it was dangerous and expensive.

Anna leaves her twin sister Belle, plus the the rest of the family, at the insistence of her parents and goes to live with Hannah and Max in Brooklyn New York. Anna keeps a diary of her feelings addressed to her twin sister Belle and writes letters to her family. She gets no reply but remains positive about life and seeing them again.

In today’s World, Imani is 12 years old and facing her Bat Mitzvah. She is a black girl who has been adopted by Nordic parents in New York and has been brought up Jewish along with her also adopted brother Jaime. Imani wants to know who her parents were but finds it difficult to bring this fact up with her adoptive parents who have been loving and caring all her life.

When Anna dies she leaves her books to her grandchildren and Imani finds the diary Anna wrote in 1941 and reads it as part of her presentation for her Bat Mitzvah. What she and her friend Madeleine read brings out all the emotion and reality of the Holocaust.

Beautifully written with Anna’s diary entries and Imani’s life in the modern World. It will have you in tears.  It is also current as Imani tries to find her own identity as a black girl living in today’s world.

If you miss this you will kick yourself. Wow! What an ending.

My NZ Story. The Wahine Disaster by Shirley Corlett.

April 6, 2020 Comments off

wahineMy NZ Story. The Wahine Disaster by Shirley Corlett. Pub. Scholastic, 2020.

This novel was originally part of the My Story Series titled Abandon Ship published in 2003 but it has been redesigned and I have just read it in the week that the Wahine went down 52 years ago.

It is powerfully written in diary form by 12 year old Debbie who was aboard the ship and saved the diary by wrapping it in plastic before going into the sea and being rescued at Seatoun.

The novel is skilfully linked to another sinking in Wellington harbour of the Birmin one hundred years before, on which one of Debbies relatives was doctor. This provides a spooky side to the story when Debbie was in the water, freezing cold and barely able to hang on, she feels she was assisted by her grandfather relative.

Lots of pictures in the back plus a portrait of life in 1968 the year that Martin Luther King was shot and the Beverley Hillbillies was the most popular TV show.

Easy to read and a great lockdown story of another tragedy in another time.


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.

Dawn Raid by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith.

March 13, 2018 Comments off

dawn raidDawn Raid by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith. Pub. Scholastic, 2018

This most impressive novel is part of the My New Zealand Story series and concerns the Dawn Raids on Pacific Islanders during 1976 on the orders of the Muldoon Government. never has new Zealand got closer to being a police state than during these years of the seventies.

Thirteen year old Sofia Christina Savea keeps a diary from June till November 1976 and documents family life of the time plus the slow politicising of the Pacific Island community brought about by the racist acts of the police in chasing up overstayers in New Zealand.

The best part of the novel is Sofia’s home life, her life at school and her quest to earn money on a milk round to pay for some impressive go go, leather, knee high boots. The role of her mother father and siblings is superb.

Sofia has a talent at public speaking and has entered a competition. She is struggling for a topic until on a visit to Auckland for a family reunion they are dobbed in by a neighbour and the police dawn raid their property at 4.00am in the morning.

Lots of great writing and memories in this novel, in fact one of the best in this series.

My NZ Story Harbour Bridge by Philippa Werry.

February 24, 2015 Comments off

harbour bridgeMy NZ Story Harbour Bridge by Philippa Werry. Pub. Scholastic, 2014.

More than just a story of the making of the bridge, it is a social history of the years 1958/1959 that will make Aucklanders’ in particular look back and weep with desire for the old days.

It was the days of the space race when the Russians held the upper hand with the first Sputnik and then the first dog, Laika, in space. It was a time of star gazing to see the satellites crossing the cosmos and the wonder that man could be so clever. We don’t think like that now.

Johnny Devlin topped the hit parade with Lawdey Miss Clawdy an Elvis song and girls tore the shirt off his back in public appearances. Where are you now Johnny? I haven’t got your record but I have Elvis’s.

A section could be purchased for 600 pounds and a new house built for 2000 pounds and the ordinary NZ working man could buy a house. Fat chance these days.

In between time The Auckland Harbour Bridge was constructed with British steel and built by overseas workers from the British Isles and elsewhere along with our own workers. Danger money was paid as were bonuses for meeting targets and no mention of minimum wages. Try getting that these days.

Simon and his best mate are in a pretty young teachers class in form 1 or year 7 as we call it now on the North Shore where everyone went to work on the ferries. She encourages them to keep a diary and Simon does so for the whole year from february 1958 till 30th August 1959.

He documents the progress of the bridge construction and the life of his family particularly his sensitive sister Linda who hates the cruelty to animals in the space race. i never thought of that at the time.

In the back are photographs of the bridge in various phases and the diary shows highlights of the construction. A timeline is given and this makes a very appealing novel for primary and intermediate students. Even better for older students like me who can look back at the good old days.

Well researched and told by Philippa Werry.

The Island of Lost Horses by Stacey Gregg.

November 12, 2014 Comments off

island lost horsesThe Island of Lost Horses by Stacey Gregg. Pub. HarperCollins, 2014.

Not many people will have heard of the Abaco Barb horse, the rarest breed in the World. Stacey Gregg has and she has written another of her impressive horse stories with an historical context. This time it is about Christopher Columbus on his quest to the New World at a time when Spain was living in fear of the Spanish Inquisition and Jews were being persecuted not for the first or last time.

Stacey Gregg links 12 year old Beatriz a present day girl who is sailing with her marine biologist mother studying jellyfish in the warm seas around the Bahamas. Lucky girl. With a story of a girl Felipa from the year 1492. A girl who keeps a diary of her life.

While anchored near an island Beatriz sees a horse with top hat markings and is drawn to the horse. While chasing  the horse she both are caught in a life and death struggle in mudflats and are rescued by and old woman named Annie.

It becomes clear that Beatriz and the horse are fated to be together and this attraction has roots in the history of Christopher Columbus. Felipa’s  diary  tells a story of persecution and flight to the New World with a top hat marked horse on one of Columbus’s ships. Is there a link between the two girls?

I really like Stacey Gregg’s novels. They have good values, strong girl characters and great adventure and of course horses. Can the rare Abaco barb horse species be saved and of course there is a hurricane.  Wonderful ending.

Reluctant girls of primary and intermediate school age love them. This year another of Gregg’s novels The Princess and the Foal won children’s choice at the NZ Post Book Awards. This novel is just as good.

Dork Diaries Book 6: Holiday heartbreak by Rachel Renee Russell

June 3, 2013 Comments off

DorkDork Diaries Book 6: Holiday Heartbreak by Rachel Renee Russell. Pub. Simon $ Schuster, 2013.

I have already reviewed a Dork Diaries book earlier in this blog and decided to put the latest one on the blog because it is such a laugh with appeal to reluctant pre teen girl readers and they exist. It is not just the boys.

Nikki keeps a diary of her life and she always talks about her home life especially her younger sister Brianna who has a furtive imagination and her school life. Chloe and Zoey are her closest friends and very supportive friends they are and they won’t let her get away with wooly thinking and acting.

Number one enemy is  Mackenzie a shark in lip gloss, skinny jeans and platform heels. Mackenzie is the type of mean rich girl that seems to haunt American High schools. This time she wants Brandon, the near perfect boy, who likes Nikki and she has a crush on him. Oh heartbreak!

Valentines Day dance is to be a girls ask the boys dance. There is drama ahead. Not only that they have to elect a teen princess at the dance. Who will win? I hope it is not Brandon.

Easy to read with high girl appeal. It is a wet day and I had no problem in putting it all aside for this novel.

My NZ Story: Pandemic by Sally Stone

November 5, 2012 Comments off

Pandemic: Spanish Flu 1918 by Sally Stone. Pub. Scholastic, 2012. 

The 18th My Story novel ironically about the events from August to December 1918 covering the end of World War 1 and the Spanish Flu that ravaged the World killing more than 50 million people. In NZ 8,600 people died with more than a quarter of them Maori.

The story is told in diary format by 11 year old red haired Freda, a spirited girl who doesn’t miss a trick. She grows up on a farm in Canterbury outside Christchurch, with her dour father, downtrodden mother, brother Bobby who goes to war, and a grandmother who is a harbinger of doom in a comical sense.

Sally Stone not only tells the story of these tense days but gives an excellent portrait of life in these times that will astound today’s kids. She touches on corporal punishment in the classroom, children should be seen and not heard, marbles, housework of the most arduous kind, churning butter, making soap and swagmen coming to the door for a feed.

All told using the idiom of the day. The flu was even written into skipping rhymes -:I had a little bird its name was Enza, I opened the window and in-flu-enza”. Just brilliant.

The returned soldiers, prohibition and all the measures taken because of the flu are starkly presented in chipper fashion by Freda.

Great for primary and intermediate age children and easily read because of the short diary entries. Excellent history with photographs and historytimeline in the back. History is more powerful when it is personnalised like the books in this series.