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.
Good non-fiction titles are rare these days but I am pleased to say that this is one of the very good ones for students of all ages. Very little is told of the Armistice after World War 1, the final battles, the Peace Terms, the return home for the soldiers, the Spanish Flu that followed, the extent of the casualties, the new world at home that awaited the soldiers and what Armistice Day and peace mean today.
After 1561 days of war it all ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month 1918. Approx 70 million men served and 16 million died. Orville Wright said “the aeroplane has made war so terrible that I do not believe any country will again come to start a war” How wrong he was.
The end of war was wildly celebrated by civilians in all countries but the men at the front took it in subdued fashion “outbursts of feeling seemed out of place”.
Some conscientious objectors were kept locked up until 1920 and had no rights for 10 years after that, we were unforgiving even then. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at which all Royal brides place their bouquets on their wedding day, came into being and the soldiers who were promised a world “fit for kings” went back to the same world they left but damaged mentally and physically and told to get on with it. Women lost soul mates, sons and brothers and suffered in silence.
The history is illustrated with superb photographs, newspaper articles, diary entries, maps and opinions from celebrated people. History doesn’t get any better than this.
This 64 page book should be in every school library in the country.
In Masterton in 2014 One hundred secondary school boys dressed in military uniforms of the First World War, renacted the men of the town going to war in 1914.
The parade was watched by townsfolk dressed in the attire of the day and among the spectators was the author of this picture book and her son. The author noted how her son was moved by the event and this picture book captures that feeling.
The written text is short and concise “We are going to dress up for a parade today” The young boy tells the story. We have a photo showing the original parade, the War Poster with Wairarapa Needs You, ANZAC biscuits, the old villa and car from 1914, the train journey, the crosses on the hillside and the farewell.
The illustrations are in sepia tones and pencil drawings and capture the old world well.
Ideal for study of World War One and it’s historical times, It is very moving too.
This excellent novel about a New Zealand girl’s experiences in World War 1 can only be described as epic.
Written by Anna Mackenzie while in residency in Belgium by Passa Porta, International literary School.By her own admission she became engrossed and immersed in World War 1 to the point of obsession. I am glad she did because this novel is one incredible account of the Great War and of English Society.
Evie is 18 when she and her parents and older brother Edmund take a passage to UK with the intention of touring Europe. The shot that rang around the World changed all that and the family found themselves living with her aunt in circumstances that can only be described as Edwardian upper class with values akin to those of the characters in a Jane Austen novel.
Evie mixes with the English young ladies who describe her as having “colonial outspokenness”. She can do things that polite young ladies of status don’t do. In many ways it is Downton Abbey palaver with war an unwanted guest at the table.
Evie wants to do her bit and gets involved as a nurse treating the hordes of young men with their horrendous wounds while the newspapers are full of the glories of battle. To talk the truth is a total social no no with the only evidence of what is happening in the casualty lists in the papers.
Evie is courted by a wounded officer and in spite of the raw reality all around them the relationship is totally innocent and refreshingly naive.
Each year of the war from 1914 through to 1918 is depicted in diary entries from Evie’s journal. Historical facts are included in the diary entries and changes in society and perceptions of the war change. Edmund goes to war and what an intrepid tale his is.
Evie herself goes to Belgium as a driver and nurse for the whole of 1918 and the true horrors of this war are portrayed through the men she treats in the most primitive of conditions.
Superbly described by Anna Mackenzie. How about this- Evie’s piano playing is described as being like a “farmhand clumping over a cow paddock in hefty boots”. her wit is also evident when Evie is asked if the cannibals still ate human flesh “only on Sundays it is a delicacy”
Anna Mackenzie has clearly put her heart and soul into this novel and I think it is her best. So far!
This excellent novel is part 2 of a series on World War 1 and it is essentially the nurses story of the first full year of the war from Gallipoli to the first anniversary in 1916. Diana Menefy brilliantly portrays the war with descriptions that will have you gasping in horror. Nobody should have to go through this.
Nurses brought a degree of humanity to the horrors of war but they were as unprepared for war as were the soldiers and indeed the army and the politicians who decided the war was necessary.
It is essentially the story of cousins Harriet and Mel who served in Egypt and on the hospital ship Maheno as the thousands of wounded soldiers were taken out of ANZAC Cove and repaired with the most basic of techniques. That so many survived was short of a miracle. It was a time without anti-biotics and the nurses and doctors were overwhelmed by the carnage that war produced.
Towards the end of the novel Ellie a nurse friend of Harriet makes the statement “I reckon that if the papers told the truth about the war no-one would come and they would have to call the whole thing off”.
Also evident in the novel is the growing New Zealand nationalism. Kiwis wanted to be with Kiwis and they had an intense dislike of the British- “the idiots in charge can’t admit that they’ve been defeated by the Turks” and “a man’s life is worth nothing to them”.
A little known fact that I picked up is that soldiers often wore their shorts inside out as lice infested the seams.
This is a winner as was the first book in the series. The nurses and the soldiers need to be remember for their incredible bravery not for the stupidity of the politicians and top brass who ran the war.
What an excellent short novel this is for primary and intermediate children and a timely reminder that it takes courage to refuse to fight.
Matt is in year 8 and because of his family situation – his father is working overseas and his mother is having a difficult pregnancy – goes to live with his grandparents on an organic dairy farm. His school has 6 students in year 8 and a bus load of kids in the whole school. This is a massive change for him.
A school project about a family member or acquaintence who is a hero stirs up history in a way that only happens in small communities where history is never forgotten.
With the help of his grand parents Matt chooses to write about Archie who was a conchie 100 years ago in World War 1. His story of resistence is astonishing and not dissimilar to David Hill’s My Brothers War but told in simpler fashion. This stirs up the community and his school friends and some interesting conflicts take place.
This is also a story of growing up, of relationships between old and young, of differences between city and country and of course the girl/boy stuff that emerges with puberty.
Easy to read, big font size and perfect for the reluctant reader. This first novel will really surprise you.
It matters nought that this story of a dog who went to World War 1 with a New Zealand is true or not. Many animals were used in WW1 including dogs, horses, donkeys and pigeons and it is possible that some dogs got into the trenches.
This story was based on the Regimental mascot of the NZ Rifle brigade Freda a harlequin Great Dane. Peter Millett has given Freda’s story a very human touch. As a puppy the dog could not be kept by Lucy and her family and was given away to a young soldier on his way to fight in France.
As the war stretched on Freda grew up and became comforting to soldiers in the most dreadful of wars. Told in Peter Millett’s well paced simple dialogue and superbly illustrated by Trish Bowles water colour illustrations. The dog in the soldiers pocket is charming as is Fredas first encounter with rats.
The war scenes are as real as they can be without the gore. The presence of the dog enhances the fact that the soldiers are human beigs fighting a war that should never have happend.
The ending has the young soldier, now a man, united with the young girl, now a woman and Freda who is something special. positive stuff.