Bert is in his 80’s when his great grandson comes to visit, wanting to know of an incident in his life during World War 2 that involved an abandoned building they called the Geronimo Bakehouse.
It awakens feelings and memories in Bert that he would rather forget and a decision he made that altered the course of many of his family’s lives especially his sister Betty who was 15 years old at the time.
The year was 1943, Bert was 11 years old and playing war games in his head and in the playground. It was a time when a Japanese invasion was feared, the men were overseas fighting and the Americans had come to town with their candy, nylon stockings and their swagger. The girls were hooked..
Bert imagined air raids like he heard on the BBC Radio News and decided to set up a secret shelter in an old bakehouse. It is to be used by a soldier who has gone AWOL and doesn’t intend to return. Bert and his sister help and feed him but Bert has misgivings about it all. You will have to read the novel to find out what is going to happen.
An excellent short novel. Sophisticated, no nonsense writing that recreates the war time atmosphere in New Zealand, a time when young women painted lines on their legs to simulate stockings, we all sang “bless them all Bless them all, the long and the short and the tall” and said such home spun philosophy as “what the eye don’t see, the heart can’t grieve over” and loose lips sink ships.
Family life during war time is portrayed very well and poor Bert carries his secrets around with him like a heavy unexploded bomb.
Superb reading for intermediate and junior high school students.
The Scent of Apples by Jacquie McRae. Pub. Huia, 2011.
Libby is going on 13 years old and she is very close to her grandfather who she calls Poppa. She lives on an orchard that grows apples to be made into cider. Libby loves the land, she loves plants, she is tomboyish in character and this all rankles with her snobbish and uptight mother.
When Poppa dies suddenly and her Nan has a stroke and is taken into a retirement home, Libby grieves. Home life is not good as her father and mother drift apart and Libby starts to pull her hair out leaving bald patches on her scalp.
Then her mother checks her into a boarding school where she meets a Maori girl called Charlie which turns out to be the start of Libby’s recovery from all her grief.
There is more to this book than that though including family secrets, Maori Medicice and the meaning of friendship.
Mainly for girls aged 10 to 14 years but there is something for everybody in this very perceptive novel.
Prairie Whispers by Frances Arrington. Pub. Puffin, 2005.
Why is this? Because it is about secrets. Colleen has a secret so vital that it is like a stone in her heart. While riding across the prairie after tending to her mother who is in a coma and waiting for the birth of her baby, Colleen comes upon a wagon in which is a mother who is dieing after giving birth to a baby. She says she is going to die and asks Colleen to look after her baby.
When Colleen’s mother gives birth to a stillborn baby without regaining consciousness and the mother in the wagon dies, Colleen places the live baby in her mother’s bed to make out that this is her baby. What a secret to hold.
Colleen is a brilliant girl and a great role model, but things happen that threaten her secret. Her younger brother pesters her after picking up that she knows something, and the baby’s father comes back. Heart rending stuff.
If you haven’t read this or got it in your libray then you are mad. A superb novel with a reading guide inside. I know it is 2005 but you can still get it.