Tag Archives: The Great War

When the War Came Home – Lesley Parr

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Bloomsbury Australia

March 2022

ISBN: 9781526621009

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing. Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $14.99

A year ago I reviewed my first Lesley Parr historical fiction and absolutely loved it – I book-talked it for weeks afterwards to my kiddos, many of whom also enjoyed it hugely. So I was most excited to receive this new title, about to be published, and equally as fascinating, engaging and emotive.

This new tale is set post The Great War and 12-year-old Natty is a very truculent protagonist who has moved with her mother to the Welsh countryside. Her mother, Ffion, has been sacked from her factory job after sticking up for workers’ rights and, unable to afford the rent on their very humble lodgings, the pair must go and live with family, Natty’s aunt and uncle. For Natty, it’s a combination of everything that makes her so miserable and antagonistic – feeling like a charity case, having to change schools, living in the countryside and, above all, having to share a room with her cousin, Nerys, – the ultimate paragon and insufferable know-it-all. She gets on much better with her older cousin, Huw, but his terrible mental state after returning from the war has reduced his capacity to moderate his moods and to re-connect with his family and friends.

Then Natty encounters some of the convalescing soldiers hosted in the village and her friendship with them, along with her determination to help, especially, Johnny whose amnesia has robbed him of his entire life. Natty becomes more and more sure that not only might she be able to help Johnny solve the mystery of his past, but perhaps, along the way, she can help Huw as well.

If that’s not enough, Natty and Nerys become reconciled through their joint campaign to demand equitable access for all the students at the local school, and in doing so, Natty develops a true understanding of her mother’s passion for equal rights and justice.

It’s a great read for sure and, more than that, explores so many important themes that will provide fodder for much rich discussion with your readers.

I highly recommend it for your readers from around Year 5 upwards, particularly those eternally fascinated with stories of children in difficult circumstances.

Pre-order now here

Interned – Pamela Rushby

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Walker Books

March 2022

ISBN: 9781760653019
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99

I absolutely love Pam’s writing, and her historical fiction is especially satisfying in my eyes, particularly when she incorporates history of Brisbane and Australia. I moved to Queensland in 1985 and while that’s a long time ago, and I’ve been teaching here since 1993, there is still so much history of which I am aware so I always delight in finding out more.

Yes I did know about internment during both wars and I also knew that in many instances it was completely irrational, unjust and callous. I certainly didn’t realise that (in this instance) during the First World War so-called ‘aliens’ – Germans in whatever guise the Australian government determined – from outside Australia, but in British territories e.g. Singapore were not only interned but then subsequently sent to Australian camps for whatever duration. What the actual ???? I mean, I’ve just been reading commentaries on the dangers of us reading books with a contemporary lens and being judgemental but realistically, isn’t it somewhat ludicrous that someone born in Australia but with German (as it were) grandparents could be considered ‘foreign’ and ‘dangerous’ or alternately, a German national living in Singapore long-term should be sent to Australia? Riddikulus!

Ok rant aside, I absolutely loved this one. I opened my weekly parcels this morning (after a fraught first week with students at the new school) to discover this beauty and took it to the hair salon this arvo – where I just devoured it!

Gretta has lived in Singapore since she was little in an enviable existence with a big house, servants, the best of everything in fact. When the British soldiers arrive and take control of all foreign influence in Singapore, Gretta and her parents are interned and subsequently sent to Australia.

Tilly has grown up in Brisbane with her younger brother, Australian mum and German father, living over their bakery in Red Hill. When Tilly’s dad is interned – although an Australian citizen, naturalised after many years- her mum’s mental health suffers, and Tilly and her brother Franz need all their ingenuity to make things work, particularly when their mum insists on ‘following’ her husband to the little town of Bornabba in rural NSW.

As you can predict now, Gretta and Tilly end up living next door to each other and despite a rocky start become fast friends.

This fascinating narrative unravels real life accounts, actual events, the drama and danger of the Spanish Flu pandemic that followed the Armistice, the grief, injustice, determination, and optimism in the turmoil of the Great War. I read with astonishment that Tilly’s family walked from Red Hill to the Botanic Gardens !! – and the descriptions of the appearance of both Sydney and Brisbane. Of course I realise both cities looked vastly different in 1916 but it is still hard to visualise (goes to look up distance between Red Hill and Brisbane Botanic Gardens). I was also aghast at the Lutheran pastor (3rd generation) who was incarcerated. *shakes head*

Particularly if your school does ‘read around your topic’ but most certainly to recommend to your readers of historical fiction, those studying the Great War, or sensitive topics such as racism, propaganda and of course pandemics – and just for a cracking good read – I highly recommend this for readers from around Year 6 upwards.