The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky. Pub. Allen&Unwin, 2017
This novel for Intermediate and junior secondary readers is set in Sydney after the fall of Singapore in 1942 to the Japanese when great grey warships sat in the harbour like a herd of tired elephants.
It is an absorbing and lyrically novel with a sense of dread about it and ends in a surrealistic way. It recreates Australian life before World War 2 that prompted the then Prime Minister of Australia to observe “Australia is a British land of one race and one tongue”
Columba and her best friend Hilda are about 11 years old and they live on the North Shore of Sydney. Their neighbours are two elderly sisters Miss Hazel and the harp playing Miss Marguerite who say things like “people are ignorant they don’t know any better”.
Daylight saving has been introduced and it is lights out after dark to stop the enemy seeing in the dark. Darwin is bombed in the middle of the story.
Ellery a young boy from You-rope comes to town with a watch on his wrist, a bearded father and without a word of English.
At the same time an archangel blue cat wonders into the lives of Columba and her neighbours. This cat sees all and is important in providing the serendipitous ending to this story.
Easy to read with primary sources of literature, advertisements and Government directives of WW2 Australia spread throughout the novel that will intrigue the reader and provide an insight into life at that time.
I have never read a children’s novel like this before.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Pub. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016.
This excellent novel for intermediate and junior secondary students is one that will evoke every emotion that you have. You will by happy, sad, joyful, angry, frustrated, disbelieving and everything else.
Set in London and the countryside between 1939 and 1940 during the phoney war in which not much happened, until the retreat from Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain.
Ada is 10 years old although she doesn’t know this. She has a clubfoot which has never been treated and gives her enormous pain. She cannot walk and gets around on her backside and her knees. Her mother is a horrible woman who says she is cursed by the devil and that she is too disgusting to mix with other people. She is not.
Ada has a brother Jamie who is about six and goes to school. Ada looks after him although she can never leave the house. Both children are physically and emotionally beaten and are traumatised by their poverty and treatment from their mother.
When the children of London are evacuated to the country by Government decree Ada and Jamie are allocated to a wonderful woman called Susan who has to deal with their trauma. She educates them and heals the wounds in this stunning story that will eat into your soul. Not unlike Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mr Tom.
Easy to read with short chapters and you can’t help but be with the children all the way. This book was recommended to me by Elizabeth Cross from St Margaret’s College and everything she told me about this book was true. Thank you Elizabeth.
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.
“If you tell a lie often enough, and for long enough, particularly if you live it, in the endyou forget it’s a story altogether”. In a nutshell this is what this book is all about and it is a scenario that Michael Morpurgo tells so well.
Michael is a dark skinned boy born to a French mother and British pilot who is killed in the Battle of Britain. He has two old aunts living near Folkstone who he visits with his mother several times a year. They have a dog called Jasper who he adores but nobody ever talks about his father or any of his father’s relations.
The death of his aunt Snowdrop precipitates a major flood of information that will change Michaels life forever. A story of bravery of racism and love during wartime. The ending will melt your heart.
Brilliantly told in the easy manner that Michael Morpurgo is famous for. Who said children don’t like history?
Will appeal to primary and intermediate students but junior high should take a look too. This is outstanding writing and a superb story.
After by Morris Gleitzman. Pub. Viking, 2012
This fourth part in the story of young Jewish boy Felix during World War is just brilliant and in time sequence it slots in between second book Then and third book Now. It is a gap that had to be filled as it tells what happened to Felix in the last years of the war as the Nazis aredefeated and the Concentration camps are opened up.
Felix is being hidden down a hole on the farm of Gabriek at the end of Then. Gabriek leaves to join the Partisans who are living in the forests of Poland. Felix and the horse Dom follow Gabriek and become involved with the partisans who are conducting a guerilla war against the nazis.
As the war ends Felix finds himself in charge of a group of children from all sides and we see the hatred dissapate as a new world is about to begin.
The star of the show once again is Gleitztman’s easy style of short sentences and first person narration by Felix. He puts the reader in the action and personalises the Holocaust in the simplest way for children to read. Gleitzman also creates humour amongst the horror with his matter of fact narration, home spun philosophy and his boyish way of looking at life.
Felix is forever hopeful and mankind would do well to learn from him. Just brilliant.
Intermediate and high school in appeal.
Georg is a German boywho grew up in Hitlers German with anti Jewish sentiments and a love of his country.
What he didn’t know is that his English born father was a Jew. At a school prize giving members of a Nazi youth movement expose the father and throw him off a balcony to his death.
Georg and his German mother escape and his mother arranges for his flight out of Germany packed in a suitcase to France then England. He changes his name to George and sets about losing his German accent to become and English boy.
He experiences the blitz and is then shipped to Australia to be adopted by an Australin family.
Such children were called the “lost Children” and many had miserable lives but not George. Dinkum Aussie farmers the Peaslakes and a girl called Mud help him settle.
But as the war worsens he feels guilty. He is a German and therefore the enemy.
Great story, well written with a positive ending. Primary and Intermediate readers.