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Posts Tagged ‘World War 1’

The ANZAC Puppy by Peter Millett and Trish Bowles.

January 19, 2015 Comments off

anzac puppyThe ANZAC Puppy by Peter Millett and Trish Bowles. Pub. Scholastic, 2014.

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.

Categories: Picture book Tags: ,

Jim’s Letters by Glyn Harper, Illus. Jenny Cooper.

February 9, 2014 Comments off

Jim's lettersJim’s Letters by Glyn Harper, Illus. Jenny Cooper. Pub. Puffin, 2014.

Letters at time of war were of extreme importance to soldiers at the Front and to those at home who worried at the fate of their sons, fathers and brothers. This exchange of letters does not end well but they do show a contrast of the picture painted at home and the realities of the soldier in the field. In war the first casualty is truth.

The story is told in letters between Thomas Duncan at home on the farm and his older brother Jim in Egypt and then Gallipolli. Jim’s letters are full of bravado as the young men train in Egypt and can’t wait to get into battle, then once at the Front there is a change. Finally there is the letter no-one wanted to receive.

Thomas’s return letters are about life on the farm and at home.

The illustrations are excellent. The front and back inside covers show a variety of stamps and permits from the army Censor and Egypt and the illustrations of home and in Egypt and battle are big and reflect what is happening and how participants are feeling.

Strong on emotion without resorting to the gruesome.’The returned stick in letter is a heart turner.

There will be many of these in the next two years and thankfully this is for young readers in primary and intermediate school.

These stories should never die.

When Our Jack went to War by Sandy McKay

May 13, 2013 Comments off

our jackWhen Our Jack Went to War by Sandy McKay. Pub. Longacre, 2013. 

A powerful novel told in letters from 18 year old Jack to his younger brother Tom from the battlefields of France and Belgium during World War 1.

Sandy McKay has shown the contrasting situations of the men in the trenches and how the war was portrayed by the Political leaders and the press at the time. The letters reflect this astonishing difference.

Tom’s letters from home are almost “boys own” in content and opinion. War is like a game, like hunting rabbits. You know however that this was the naive spirit and innocent enthusiasm that took young men to the battlefields of Europe for King and Country.

Jack’s letters start out with that innocence and enthusiasm. The big adventure, can’t wait to get their before it is all over, lets give the Hun a taste of their own medicine. Then the realities hit in as the slaughter begins. The men knew their leaders and decision makers were useless. They couldn’t do anything about it through fear of being shot as traitors. They took it and thousands were slaughtered for nothing.

It bothers me that Kiwi soldiers were paid less than the Aussies but more than the British. What cost a life?

Sandy McKay tells this story with class. Let the reader decide. To make the story more powerful she includes newspaper articles about the battles, about conscientious objectors and everything that was going on at home.

The last 15 pages will wrench your heart out.

High school and young adult in appeal.

The Girl from Snowy River by Jackie French

January 26, 2013 Comments off

girl snowy riverThe Girl From Snowy River by Jackie French. Pub. Angus&Robertson, 2012.

When men left the Snowy River Valley to go to war in 1914 it starved the land. The death toll carved large chunks out of many families especially the family of 17 year old Flinty, the girl from Snowy River. How did she earn that name?

Sandy Mack kissed Flinty on the cheek when he left for war and told her to write to him. She took it as an intention to marry. Like all the men Sandy returned a different person and like all the men he never talked about the war. The women just didn’t understand but they were changing too. The most telling sentence of the novel comes from a nurse in the war  ” when I see a man’s body now all I think of is pain and death”

Flinty has a horse called Empress and on a hunt for a runaway stallion worth a 1000 pounds, Flinty has the sort of ride that is told in the legendary Banjo Patterson poem The man from Snowy River.  This poem and other poems like Clancy of the Overflow and other poems greatly influence this novel.

Flinty has a timeslip encounter with a crippled soldier from the Vietnam War, called Nicholas,  near a misty rock outcrop above her farm. He knows her as the girl from Snowy River and she wants to know why. He tells her something very bad and something very good will happen to her. She wants to know more but he refuses to tell.

Flinty’s story is brilliantly told by Jackie French who in my opinion is one of Australia’s great writers.

Will appeal to secondary school students and for girls who ar 11 going on 16.

Nice day for a War Adventures of a Kiwi Soldier in WW1 by Chris Slane & Matt Elliott

November 7, 2012 Comments off

Nice day for a War Adventures of a Kiwi Soldier in WW1 by Chris Slane & Matt Elliott. Pub. HarperCollins, 2011. 

A visually stunning short book in large elongated format about a New Zealander’s experience in WW! based on the diaries of Cyril Elliott who survived 3 years on the Western Front in Belgium and France.

Using the Diaries the authors have given a graphic portrait of the war from the front in all it’s horror. The cold and damp, the noise, the rats, the smell, the gas, the fighting the cammararderie and the understated NZ sense of humour in horrific circumstances.

Original documents such as a pay book, army instructions, public notices, maps and photographs from the front and from Egpyt enhance the diary entries. Other diary entries are converted into graphic novel images which further emphasise the horror of the war.

The cartoons from New Zealand at the Front are most powerful. Two soldiers are talking –“heard of Bill lately?”  “yes he’s gone back to NZ with both legs off”  “lucky buggar”.

Read it and play the Pogues “the band played waltzing Mathilda” You will cry your eyes out.

Secondary, young adult in appeal but boys will be drawn to it.

Brave Bess and the ANZAC Horses by Susan Brocker

October 31, 2012 Comments off

Brave Bess and the ANZAC Horses by Susan Brocker. Pub. HarperCollins, 2010.

A well written, well researched novel about a little known battle field of World War One in which NZ soldiers and their horses took a vital part.

It is of course Palestine against the Turks a war in which Lawrence of Arabia made his name. TheNZ Mounted Rifles and the Australian Light Horse Brigade fought alongside each other with a variety of animals to assist them because of the desert conditions of the region. Horses, camels, bullocks, pigeons and dogs played their part and without them the war could not have been won.

This story is personified in the character of Bess the only horse to go away from NZ and return. Over 10,000 horses left NZ and overall over 8 million were killed on both sides. Staggering.

Bess is a brave horse who trusts her human rider, especially in battle when the bullets are flying and the noise of death is all around. bessbecomes a hero in the battles to drive the Turks away from the Suez canal and the Holy lands.

Great story that Michael Morpurgo would have struggled to write better. A beautiful scene is when the camels reach the coast and bathe in the sea up to their humps….like a herd of Loch Ness monsters. Wonderful.

Primary Intermediate and Secondary school pupils will like this book. I did it was great and only took me 2 hours.

The photographs of the horse and soldiers enhance the plot and give the book realness.

I have just been reliably informed by Fred MacDonald President of the Friends of Bess that 4 horses returned to NZ. This pleases me immensely but the error does not detract from Bess’s story or those of the brave men and horses who fought in Palestine in the Great War. The other horse were:-

Major General Sir Andrew(Guy) Russell – “Dolly”,Buried At Tuanui;Hastings
Colonel Charles Guy Powles-“Bess”,Buried At Forest Road Bulls Died 29-10-1934
Late Captain Richard Wardell Riddiford-“Beauty”,Buried At “Westella”,Fielding;Died 1924,
Late Lt. Colonel Goeorge Augustus King-“Nigger”,Buried At Tuanui,Hastings;Died 1924.
The Horses Arrived On Board S.S. Westmeath Ex Liverpool Via The Panama Canal, At Kings Wharf;Wellington On Saturday 20 Th July 1920.

My Brother’s War by David Hill

September 13, 2012 Comments off

My Brother’s War by David Hill. Pub. Puffin Books. 2012.

Welcome back David Hill, his first book for some time and I can see why it has been so long. This novel is one of the finest researched books on World War One that I have read. In fact I would go as far to say that it is some of the finest writing I have read from Davis Hill and I have read just about all his novels.

It tells the story of two brothers who take a different attitude to World war One and to war in general. The elder brother William feels he is honour bound to fight and preserve freedoms threatened by the evil Hun. Younger brother Edmund takes a loftier stance and becomes a CO or Conscientious Objector.

Both brothers have it tough but none so alarming as the treatment dished out by the military and general citizens to Edmund the CO. Both brothers have cause to reconsider their initial reactions to the war.

To cut a short story long Edmund is sent to France in spite of his beliefs and is sent to the front line suffering all manner of indignities. William takes the easier coarse to the barbarious war and the atrocious conditions in the trenches and appalling decision making of his British masters.

I have read no finer description of fighting in the rain, the mud, the blood, the panic, the smell, the rats,  the weaponry, the stupidity, the comradeship  and the tactics of trench warfare during World War One as the bloated bodies pile higher.

The novel is so powerful that David Hill can be excused the slight sentimentality of the ending but then again soldiers did protect those at home  with chipper letters from the hell that is war.

Secondary and young adult in appeal.