Tag Archives: World War 1

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.

The Lily in the Snow: Book #3 Miss Lily – Jackie French

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Lily3

Harper Collins

March 2019

ISBN: 9781460753842

ISBN 10: 1460753844

RRP 29.99 AUD

We devotees of Miss Lily have been waiting fairly impatiently for her return and I was thrilled when my copy arrived and immediately started immersing myself once more into the world of Sophie, Nigel and Miss Lily. However packing and moving house followed up by three weeks of the dreaded lurgy meant I was only ¾ through – until last Saturday when I binge read the remaining chapters because I just couldn’t wait any longer to find out the conclusion.

The Jazz Age has begun and Sophie and Nigel generally manage to ignore it living peacefully at Shillings watching their delightful twins growing up. There are concerns such as Sophie’s belief of an impending financial crash and her need to ensure the safe continuation of her father’s corned beef empire.  But long held secrets and intrigues threaten their idyll and the most significant of these will change their lives forever.

Responding to a request from their old colleague the pair help to uncover the identity of a badly injured veteran of the Great War which brings Sophie once again into contact with the mysterious ‘John’ from her Australian home. Questions surround the paternity of the Shillngs twins and the encounter with ‘John’ must resolve these.

A mysterious and ferocious young girl, Violette, turns up at Shillings after considerable mis-adventure and is intent on killing her mother whom she believes is Miss Lily: a circumstance which throws all kinds complications into the household.

And Sophie’s old friend Hannelore instigates what is tantamount to blackmail to enlist Miss Lily’s support of the man for whom she has developed a blind and misguided fervour, a German called Herr Hitler.

The tension and mystery of the narrative are superlative and once again Jackie’s undisputed skill in weaving fact with fiction provides the reader with a plot that unfolds with high drama and exquisite anticipation. One cannot help but become completely invested with these characters that become all but real as the series continue.

As always one is living within the story and the involvement is powerful with the conclusion thrilling and filled with twists and turns as only Jackie can achieve.

I truly hope this is not the last we see of this engaging saga and now we must wait with patience to see the next instalment.

An amazing and triumphant return of the story highly recommended for senior readers and adults.

 

a PS – from my lovely cousin (sister from another mother) who is currently reading it……..

Jackie is a wonderful story teller, she makes you feel as if you really KNOW the character, or invokes emotions about how you feel about them.

Binge Reading Jackie French

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The upside of injuring both your legs badly at the same time is that you have a very legitimate excuse to stay in bed reading a lot. And fortunately my lovely friends at Harper Collins must have had some kind of premonition because the day before my accident I had received a plethora amazing books to review including the three here. Fortunately (with hindsight) I had not yet read Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies which meant I had the double delight of reading both the first and second in the series back to back (over the course of two days). The latest in the Matilda series Facing the Flame was consumed in one evening.  Aside from anything else I think the rate at which I devoured these speaks volumes for the sheer pleasure of them.

Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies

ISBN: 9781460753583

ISBN 10: 1460753585

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

 27/03/2017

RRP $29.99 AUD

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A tale of espionage, love and passionate heroism.

Inspired by true events, this is the story of how society’s ‘lovely ladies’ won a war.

Young Sophie Higgs has grown up a privileged girl being the only child of the wealthiest man in NSW, Jeremiah Higgs the king of canned corned beef. But in the rigid society of Sydney, as in England, ‘trade’ is scorned and so despite her wealth, intelligence and beauty it would seem Sophie will always be second-class by the established standards. Until that is, in order to deflect Sophie from an unsuitable love affair, she is sent to England to the home of her father’s old army friend Earl of Shillings to be coached by his cousin Miss Lily and eventually be presented at court.

In England Sophie’s world is wonderfully and gloriously opened wide as she becomes the prized ‘pupil’ of the enigmatic Miss Lily and makes new friends, is sought after by new lovers and particularly held in esteem for her wit, courage and compassion. But the glittering world of the debutante is quickly extinguished by the outbreak of war and it is here that Sophie demonstrates her real abilities and character.

As with all of Jackie’s historical novels a completely captivating and richly detailed narrative is interwoven with actual historical fact to create a mesmerising offering.  I was hooked from the very first page and would have been extremely sorry to reach the end except for the fact that I had the next volume with which to continue. How fortunate are we to have such an exceptional writer to claim as our own? The breadth of her talents seems endless.

Highly recommended for readers of around mid-teens upwards. Find teaching notes here.

The Lily and the Rose

ISBN: 9781460753590

ISBN 10: 1460753593

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

19/03/2018

RRP 29.99 AUD

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The Great War is over but that doesn’t necessarily equate to peace. Sophie Higgs is soon to come to this realisation as she re-establishes her life in Australia, taking over her late father’s business empire as an independent confident young woman. Alongside her, the circle of women who have become her ongoing support network in a society that is no longer defined by the old norms.

It is not only politics and world affairs that are clouded for Sophie. She is still torn between her love for Nigel, Earl of Shillings, the strange attraction of Dolphie the German aristocrat and in a new twist a stranger, John, who is trying to expiate his own war by carving crosses into rocks until he feels at peace.

A call for help from her old friend Hannelore sees Sophie becoming even more daring as she goes to wartorn Germany on a rescue mission from which she returns even more confused in her emotions.

Those thoughts remain until a crisis with Nigel’s health sees her racing to England via the unheard of method of flying with female pilots around the world to reach her beloved and at last the two are married with their whole future ahead of them. Or is it?

Jackie has left this tapestry with some small waving threads that will have every reader hanging out for the next instalment.  Again a superlative storyteller takes us on a magical, romantic and adventurous journey and my recommendations remain glowing for the mid-teens upwards.

 

 

Facing the Flame – #7 The Matilda Saga

ISBN: 9781460753200

ISBN 10: 1460753208

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

20/11/2017

$29.99 AUD

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I didn’t need to re-read the last in the series to be utterly enthralled by this latest right from the get-go. In fact, this was a complete binge, read in one night because it was just too good and too gripping to put down.

Jed Kelly is the happiest she has ever been. She’s married to Sam, and pregnant with their first child. Her hearth and home are a haven. Young Scarlett is doing well at uni and carving out a newly independent life.

Then cracks start to appear. The dry weather is worsening with many old-timers predicting the worst of fires ever. The man she fears most re-appears in Jed’s life, intent with malice and revenge. A young girl blinded in an accident is creating issues at the River View facility. But Gibbers Creek is one tough and tight community where there is immense support for each and every one of their whole.

When the tiny spark finally escalates into the worst imaginable fire, the community is galvanised into action and though Jed passes through a frightening and dangerous episode and one could say her baby almost has a baptism of fire, the loyalty, intuition and the indomitable spirit of old Matilda resonates through the township and surrounds.

This is a cracking story filled with rich characters both old and new and imbued with all that we hold dear about Australian love of country and mateship.

Highly recommended for readers of around 14 upwards.  If you don’t have the complete series yet, this is one worth investing in for your collection particularly for Middle/Upper school and wide reading of Australian spirit/identity.

 

Five Children on the Western Front – Kate Saunders

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fivechildren

Allen & Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9780571310951
Australian Pub.: November 2014
Publisher: Faber
Imprint: Faber Child Trade
Subject: Children’s fiction
Suitable for ages: 9-12

If you, like me, love E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It stories, then this new book will thoroughly delight you.

Time has passed and the children are grown up – well the four ‘Bigguns’ are grown up. Lamb is no longer the baby of the family. Little sister Edie takes on that role.  To their great surprise, Lamb and Edie discover the Psammead in the gravel pit at the bottom of their garden and realise that all the marvellous stories told to them by the Bigguns are true!

No one, least of all It, knows why or how he has reappeared but as the Great War begins its dreadful havoc, both the older and younger Pembertons begin to see that the return of the Psammead has been for real purpose for themselves and for the strange magical sand fairy.

Beautifully written and echoing the style of the originals, retaining their flavour of time and place but still extremely appealing to modern readers, this novel would make a fine addition to your collection for the upcoming centenary commemoration of the ANZACs. It is both humorous and poignant, and while there are certainly tragic events they are couched in such a way that readers will not be left distraught. Young readers will gain a deeper understanding of what the Great War was like, not just for soldiers but for those who were nursing or working in other capacities, as well as for children and family at home.

Your more adventurous readers of around 12-14 looking for something different will enjoy this.

Highly recommended for your collection.

One Minute’s Silence – David Metzenthen. Illustrated by Michael Camilleri

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One Minute’s Silence – David Metzenthen. Illustrated by Michael Camilleri

ISBN 9781743316245

Allen & Unwin Children

23 July 2014

Hardback. 48 pp.

RRP $29.99

One Minute's Silence

As we approach the end of the year and Remembrance Day, as well as the ongoing centenary commemoration of World War 1 and the ANZACs’ role, this powerful and deeply moving picture book will be a must-have for your collection.

We are all aware of David Metzenthen’s skill as a writer and now combined with dramatic and poignant illustrations by Michael Camilleri, this is a book that begs to be shared across many year levels.

Beautifully told from both the Australian and Turkish perspectives, Camilleri chose to depict the combatants, using Year 12 students from the Sophia Mundi Steiner School as models, in contemporary dress and using both genders. This has the effect of visually demonstrating that ordinary young people were caught up in a bloody conflict of extraordinary proportions.

The traditional ‘one minute’s silence’ is used as the recurring motif throughout the text as moments of huge impact are recounted solemnly and with elegant simplicity.  The repetition of circular shapes and cogs connect to the passing of time in each minute’s duration. Among the many visually stunning illustrations the double page spread showing the many small contorted bodies under the dark ground, as the ANZACs depart is heart-stopping. It reduced my normally boisterous Year 10s to complete stunned silence, such is its profundity.

Camilleri’s illustrations are detailed finely  and by rendering them in monotones evoke the period of time – as does the choice of the sepia tones such as those on the cover. This also conveys the bleakness and despair of the Gallipoli campaign (or indeed any conflict) and the intense emotional impact on those involved. The reader can easily empathise with both sides in this desperate situation.

My boys were intrigued (naturally!) by  the diagrammatic style illustrations of the shrapnel bomb and the rifle.  Though clearly illustrated in the film/comic strip style action, the shooting of a young soldier is subdued, though obvious, and hence reduces the horror for younger readers.

In one minute of silence you can imagine sprinting up the beach in Gallipoli in 1915 with the fierce fighting Diggers, but can you imagine standing beside the brave battling Turks as they defended their homeland from the cliffs above…

Truly a reflective and evocative picture book, One Minute’s Silence is, I predict, potentially an award-winning book for next year’s lists.

Highly recommended for both Primary and Lower/Middle Secondary.

 

click here for Teacher’s notes and here for Michael Camilleri’s commentary.

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