Battlefield, by Alan Tucker

The Japs charged, but I wasn’t scared. Even though they had me outnumbered three to one, I knew I could do them. I’d beaten them every other time.
I stood my ground, watched their rifles and held my bayonet at the ready. Dad had taught me the drill: ‘Stick them in the ribcage under their leading arm, son.’
He learned to kill during the last war. He never got to bayonet anyone, although he tried the day the Germans captured him. If he hadn’t been blinded with gas he’d have been able to see straight and jab one or two of them. He says gas is a coward’s weapon. But I’d use it to free my brother.

Barry lives on the family farm near Cowra, with his parents and six sisters. Battlefield is set in the final months of the second world war. Barry’s only brother, Jack joined the army but is now in a Japanese POW camp. Cowra has it’s own POW camp. Firstly it had Italians but now it has the hated Japanese. They don’t follow the rules of war. They don’t surrender, they play by their own rules. Barry is desperate to enlist, and in the meantime, he practises being a soldier. His teachers are his father, and his sister’s girlfriend Jack who trains new recruits and reckons he’s as good as any of the recruits. His army and enemy are his little sisters. But there are rumours of a Japanese breakout from the camp and Barry wants to be ready.

Battlefield is set a long way from the war in the Pacific and even further from the war in Europe, but both come to Cowra in their own way. Barry is isolated by his father’s silence about war and by his brother’s absence. He’s a very determined character, and will be ready for anything when his turn comes. Barry’s father teaches him to shoot, but also teaches him about the dangers of guns. Jack teaches him about tactics and strategy. Barry practices soldiering every day and plots ways to get closer to the interment camp. He wants to skill himself for the real thing. Battlefield is told in the first person which brings the reader very close to Barry, but also allows the reader to experience his fallibility. There are themes about war, family, gender roles and more. Recommended for upper primary- to early secondary readers.


Battlefield, Alan Tucker
Scholastic Press 2010
ISBN: 9781741695519

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Atomic Testing, by Alan Tucker

Dad warned us we’d either love it or hate it here. Mum hates it. Or at least I think she does, because she’s done a mountain of grizzling since we arrived last Saturday. She hates the dust and the flies. And she hates that there are hardly any other women here. Dad said she’ll meet a few at the barbecue this weekend.
I love it. There are a lot of kids my age. They’re friendly because they’re all fairly new to town. They don’t call Woomera a town. They call it ‘the village’.

Moving from Townsville to isolated Woomera is a big change for Anthony’s family. His father works for the army and has been assigned to work on the top-secret atomic testing programme. His mother, who had friends, a garden and a pleasant lifestyle in Townsville, hates Woomera, and doesn’t agree with the atomic testing. For Anthony, though, life at Woomera is great. He has spent the past six years recovering from polio, and Woomera gives him the freedom to rediscover his childhood. He soon makes friends and has fun exploring the desert around the town site, playing cricket, and having loads of adventures.

Atomic Testing is a new title in the My Australian Story series and, like others titles in the series, uses diary format. Anthony is a likeable narrator, and the use of a background of childhood illness allows his adventures an extra element – as he finds added delight in doing things which for other young teens might be run of the mill, including riding a bike for the first time, and being allowed to play cricket. As well as being an interesting story, the book offers a glimpse at a significant part of Australian history which many young readers may know little about, and explores issues both of the time period and of contemporary times, including war and weaponry, family breakdown and childhood illness.

Atomic Testing (My Australian Story)

Atomic Testing, by Alan Tucker
Scholastic, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Cyclone Tracy – The Diary of Ryan Turner, by Alan Tucker

The Big T actually showed his human side today and took us all fishing. He likes to take the boat out, not just so he can be Captain Bligh, but so he can relax. And when he relaxes, so can I. That’s why Mum always comes in the boat. She knows there’ll be no arguments.

Ryan loves fishing. Sometimes it seems that’s the only thing he and his dad have in common. Dad is the deputy principal at Ryan’s school in Darwin, which isn’t easy for Ryan. His Dad is a tyrant – at home and at school.

So when a group of hippies comes to town, Ryan knows his dad won’t approve. And when Ryan makes friends with one of them, he knows there will be trouble. But his problems with his dad are nothing compared to the challenges Ryan is about to face. It is 1974, and Cyclone Tracy is headed for Darwin.

Cyclone Tracy: the Diary of Ryan Turner is a diary style novel which gives a fictionalised account of events up to, during and after the devastation wrought by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve, 1974. The narrator, fourteen year old Ryan, shares his perspective of life in Darwin prior to the event – fishing, school, going to the movies and so on – and after the cyclone gives his firs hand account of the horror of the cyclone. This is interweaved with the stories of Ryan’s family life, his friendships and his first girlfriend.

Part of the My Australian Story series, Cyclone Tracy is an absorbing read for 11 to 14 year old readers.

Cyclone Tracy: The Diary of Ryan Turner, by Alan Tucker
Scholastic, 2006