Posts Tagged ‘World War 1’

Flying Furballs Bk10. Take-Off! by Donovan Bixley. Pu. Upstart Press, 2022.

September 29, 2022 Comments off

Dull would he or she be of soul who could not find enjoyment out of this comic book adventure that is a parody of World War 1 flying aces with a bit of WW2 thrown in.

Europe is divided between countries that are either cats or dogs. It is Katdom verses DOGZ and the battle is in the air with Sopwith Camels and Fokker triplanes. It’s sort of Biggles with cats and dogs.

It is full of characters like Syd Fishus an ex flyer who is father of new ace Claude D’Bonair, plus Major Ginger Tom the best dogfighter in Katdom and Manx a no nonsense mechanic. On the DOGZ side we have Alf Alpha a Hitler type leader who is known as the Furrer, plus The Red Setter the most famous pilot in the Woof Laft.

The DOGZ have planned to divert Katdom with a phoney raid while plotting an armed invasion further south. Katdom is duped and set out in the air “to give those DOGZ a jolly good licking”. Mean while erstwhile potential hero Claude D’Bonair is declined permission to take part in the battle and sent south on reconnaissance. What will be the outcome? Has katdom gone to the dogs? or will the cats make a purrfect response? read it and find out.

Told in three different ways. Firstly the air war is in comic book style and episodic with each episode divided by an heroic episode on the life Major Ginger Tom called Tom Foolery and involves an Ancient Chinese Ming vase. Also between episodes of this story we have detailed drawings of the aircraft used in WW1 plus flying tricks used in air combat. But wait there’s more. Check and see what it is.

Amazing detail and some references from songs such as Cats in the cradle with a silver Spoon which is an autobiography of Major Tom and this gives this picture book sized story great appeal for adults and older readers.

I missed the first 9 books about the Flying Furballs and intend to go back and read them and so should you. One of the most readible and entertaining stories I have read for some time. Donovan Bixley’s illustrations and written text are superb. An award winner in the making.

The ANZAC Billy by Claire Saxby, illus. Mark Jackson & Heather Potter.

March 26, 2019 Comments off

anzacThe ANZAC Billy by Claire Saxby, illus. Mark Jackson & Heather Potter. Pub. Walker Books, 2019.

The illustrations in this picture book are some of the most powerful images I have ever seen in a publication, with the detail of life in a home during World War 1 outstanding.

The story is of a little known practice carried out by Australians to see that their fighting men received a billy full of goodies for Christmas. I am not sure if this happened in NZ.

A boy is preparing to fill a billy for his dad by putting his favourite things in, while grandma and mother put their things in too. On the inside cover and the back cover the things that go into the billy are shown.

The written text tells the story simply  with a letter to the soldier who receives the billy written by the boy. But it is the illustrations that really tell the story.

The last illustration will blow you away.

Just in time for ANZAC day.

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.

Kiwis at War: 1918, Broken Poppies by Des Hunt.

March 18, 2018 Comments off

broken poppiesKiwis at War: 1918, Broken Poppies by Des Hunt. Pub. Scholastic, 2018.

The final part of the Kiwis at War series is as good as all the others with an emphasis on the final battles of the war including Passchendaele, the German push after the deal with the Russians and the Armistice.

Des Hunt has focused on some of the more humane aspects of the conflict that were so easily overshadowed by the horrors of battle, the incompetent decision making and lack of compassion shown by the masters and officers who directed the war. The ordinary soldier was treated like truck loads of sheep going to the slaughter house.

There is war horror in this novel too, the rain, the mud, the trench rot, the fear, the shell shock, the noise, the bombs, the mangled bodies and minds and the killing.

It is the fate of a little fox terrier named Poppy who was lost by a little French girl called Zoe as she and her family were retreating from a German advance that is at the crux of the novel. Found by Henry Hunt a relative of the author, Poppy’s adventures will send chills up your backbone and bring you to tears of happiness.

Narrated in chronological countdown till the end of the war from August 1917 to November 1918, there is also a few photographs in the back plus a timeline and glossary.

Don’t miss this one and read the whole series also reviewed on this blog. For readers from intermediate age through to young adults. Des hunt knows how to tell a story.

Kiwis at War 1917. Machines of War by Brian Falkner.

March 27, 2017 Comments off

Machines of war 1917Kiwis at War 1917. Machines of War by Brian Falkner. Pub. Scholastic, 2017.

Seventeen year old Bob Sunday took his dead brother’s identity and signed up to be a pilot in the newly formed Air Corps in WW1. He was made an observer instead with his back to the pilot in a new Bristol fighter handling a Lewis machine gun but he will be made a pilot later.

His first encounter with action won him the Military Medal without even leaving the ground, but he was still put on a charge. In the coming weeks he learned that newcomers were not treated very well because of their high attrition rate. Many did not last a week, nobody wants to get to know a man who is going to die. His survival and bravery ensured that he made friends and enemies as the Flying Corps is revealed as elitist and tarnished with the social structure of England.

The highlights of this superbly told story are the airborne dogfights and the parties around the piano in the evening as the pilots mourned those that never came back and toasted victories. The Red Baron and Herr Voss the German Aces in their tri-planes, featured in the fights as did the contrast between the war in the air and that of the soldier in the trenches, the PBI or poor bloody infantry.

Told between April and November 1917 the War is still very much even culminating in the bloodiest battle of all Passchendaele. The view of the battle from the air is a revelation as is the use of the new technology, Tanks.

An on going controversy through this period was the non use of parachutes by the airmen even though the technology existed. Top brass cared little for the parachute as they considered the pilots would fight harder if the knew they would die. It was the sort of decision making that was a feature of WW1 made by heartless officers who had never fought themselves and cared nothing about casualty rates.

Brian Falkner does not miss a beat in this superb novel for intermediate and high school students. YA,s and adults will also get a lot out of this excellently researched novel.

Torty and the Soldier- a Story of a True WW1 Survivor by Jennifer Beck, illus. Fifi Colston.

March 15, 2017 Comments off

tortyTorty 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.

Categories: Picture book, War Tags: ,

Armistice Day. The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry

March 9, 2016 Comments off

armistice dayArmistice Day. The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry. Pub. New Holland, 2016.

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.

Leaving for the Front: A Boy’s Story by Michelle O’Connell

December 17, 2015 Comments off

leaving for frontLeaving for the Front: A Boy’s Story by Michelle O’Connell. Pub.   2015

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.

Evie’s War by Anna Mackenzie.

July 9, 2015 Comments off

evie's warEvie’s War by Anna Mackenzie. pub.Longacre, 2015.

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!

Kiwis at War: 1915 Wounds of War by Diana Menefy.

May 9, 2015 Comments off

1915 wounds of warKiwis at War: 1915 Wounds of War by Diana Menefy.  Pub. Scholastic, 2015.

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.