The barrage was on.
Buildings, bricks, rocks and debris, in the air.
It is 1918, and the War is still going. While the Russians have withdrawn, it seems Germany remains strong, holding out against the allies across the Western Front. Ned and his tired soldier mates are sent into battle at the small village of Villers-Bretonneux. A win here, they are told, could help to turn the war around. But promises about the end of the war have been heard so many times, it is hard to know what to believe. All Ned wants is for the fighting to be over, and to be back home with his family. First he just needs to survive.
1918 is the gripping last installment in the Australia’s Great War series from Scholastic. Each book has seen a different author (disclosure: this reviewer wrote one of the earlier titles, 1915) tell a story set amidst key events of that year of World War One. 1918 brings the final year of the war to life through the eyes of Ned, who struggles with the horror of the war and with his concept of bravery. The role of nurses, and the behind the front treatment of wounded and sick soldiers is also explored, as well as the aftermath of the conscription referendum of 1917, providing lots of insight into the events and impact of the war on those who were there as well as on Australia as a whole.
1918 can be read a stand alone, but young history buffs might be inspred to read the rest of the series.
Australia’s Great War: 1918, by Libby Gleeson
I wish I could laugh too but I can’t because I’m supposed to be the serious one. the one who toes the line and never takes risks; who wears her school dress below the knees and keeps a Bible in the drawer next other bed. Ma raised me that way.
May Callaghan has been raised to be a good girl. Her mother is a devout Catholic, and she thinks May will do the right thing; say her prayers, live devoutly, then marry well. But seventeen year old May has a secret boyfriend. Sam is a star footballer, and the way he makes May feel leaves her questioning what her mother has taught her. Fed up life in her small town, may lies to her parents and sneaks to Melbourne to visit Sam. there her eyes are opened to a whole other world: including a liberal thinking shared household heavily immersed in the anti-war movement.
With her parents struggling through problems of their own, and Sam called up for service in Vietnam, May finds herself very alone facing the biggest challenge of her life.
Set in the midst of the Vietnam War, Hello, Goodbye is a moving coming of age story. Whilst May’s relationship with Sam, and her journey through an unplanned pregnancy, are central to the story, subplots involving issues of the impact of war, conscription, family relationships, women’s rights and more are skilfully entwined.
A powerful, emotional read.
Hello, Goodbye, by Emily Brewin
Allen & Unwin, 2017
‘I’m a spy,’ the man adds bluntly. ‘But I guess you’ve already figured that out – why else would an American be in Italy? And because of this unexpected twist of circumstances, my life is now in your hands. So it’s up to you to decide whether you owe me and will save my life. What’s my fate? Are you going to turn me in?’
The boy sighs heavily and shakes his head.
Since he was abandoned as a baby, Antonio’s life has never been easy, though his adoptive mamma loves him with her all her heart. Now, though, war has arrived and life is harder than ever. His only joy is drawing cartoons of the German soldiers, a joy which lands him in trouble. When he is rescued by an American spy, he finds unexpected pleasure in helping the man, even though it means putting his own life on the line.
The Boy and the Spy is an action packed adventure set against the backdrop of World War Two in rural Italy. As well as action, there is a a heart warming story of a boy’s struggle to belong. Young readers will be fascinated by this insight into wartime life, and the treatment of illegitimate children, worked into an absorbing adventure story.
The Boy and the Spy, by Felice Arena
Puffin Books, 2017
A few streets away, a car putting down the twisted hill. It halted outside a block of mulberry-brick flats. A small boy emerged from the back seat, out onto the pavement. He was carrying a suitcase. He stood there, looking upwards. His skin gleamed like snow.
in the middle of the road a sleek cat lay stretched out, absorbing the sunshine.
It is 1942, and Columba (who was named after a nun) is growing up in war time Sydney. A new boy – a refugee from ‘You-rope’ – appears in the neighborhood, at about the same time as a strange blue cat. Columba is intrigued by the new boy, Ellery, though he doesn’t speak English and Columba struggles to understand where he has come from and why he is here. This isn’t the only thing she struggles to understand. Why are the cloaks being put forward for an hour? Why do the adults talk about ‘taking people’s minds off things? And, with Singapore falling, and regular air raid practices, will they be safe here in Sydney?
The Blue Cat is an enchanting piece of writing. Historical fiction with just a tiny twist of magical realism, it is a gentle story of the confusion of a child faced with frightening, not-quite-understood events. With an insight into how the childhood experiences of Australians during the war years, and to harbourside Sydney life, this is an entrancing read.
The Blue Cat, by Ursula Dubosarsky
Allen & Unwin, 2017
There was a man standing in the alcove that led out onto the Golden Gallery’s walkway. His attention was fixed on the explosion, which meant he hadn’t seen her yet. At first she thought he was a fire watcher, stationed up the top of St Paul’s to protect it from burning. But, no, this man was a twilight visitor – a man of the dead, not the living – she could tell by his ashen hue. Everything was a muted shade in her world; it was how you could tell the living world from the the world of the dead.
It is 1940 and Flossie Birdwhistle is the turnkey at London’s Highgate Cemetery, charged with keeping the souls that rest there at peace. When London is subject to enemy bombardment every night, this is an even more difficult task than usual. During one raid, when Flossie sets out to fulfill the request of one of her charges, she sees something surprising: a German soldier, who, though as dead as she is, seems to have abilities and interests from the other side of the grave. It is up to Flossie, and her friends, the turnkeys of London’s other cemeteries, to figure what he is up to, and how to stop him.
The Turnkey is an intriguing novel set in the midst of the second world war, populated with ghostly characters, as well as a handful of those still living. the concept of the dead being looked after by one of their own, and of them still carng for the world beyond the grave is appealing, and history lovers will enjoy seeing World War Two London and Germany from a very different angle.
The Turnkey, by Allison Rushby
Walker Books, 2017
Just then, Jack discovered a sodden parcel wedged between the plane’s ribs.
He tore off the string binding and red wax seals. Inside was a bloated leather wallet, bursting with small packages wrapped in tissue. He emptied the contents of one into his calloused hands. What he saw stole his breath away …
As a plane prepares to ferry Dutch refugees out of Java to escape war-torn Java, the captain is passed a valuable package to carry to safety. But the plane is attacked, and crash-lands, the passage temporarily forgotten in the quest for survival. When Jack Palmer, a sailor and beachcomber, comes across the abandoned wreck of the plane he can’t help but be curious about what he might find on board. What he does find is beyond anything he could imagine.
Diamond Jack, the first title in the new History Mysteries series by Mark Greenwood, is a junior novel exploring the events surrounding the crash of a Dakota aircraft and subsequent disappearance of a parcel of diamond on board. Using the known facts and people involved, interwoven with a fictionalised version of what might have happen, the story provides an intriguing glimpse into the past. Young readers will be drawn into the mystery as they also view and learn about a chapter of Australian war history.
With historical photographs, maps and notes including a timeline, this is history children can connect with.
History Mysteries: Diamond Jack, by Mark Greenwood
Penguin Random House, 2017
But I did, I did! There was no way I was letting go of it. It was my scrapbook, my scrapbook about the little princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose – the one I’d been named after. I’d been keeping it for years, cutting out and sticking in pictures of the little princesses and all their doings from magazines and newspapers. It was very special to me, that scrapbook, and I wasn’t letting go of it for anything.
It was the reason I was still alive.
It is 1940, and Margaret Rose lives in London, far away from her cousin Lizzie in Australia. But when Margaret Rose’s family home is destroyed in an air raid she finds herself bound for Australia on a ship. Lizzie’s family are happy to take Margaret Rose in, but Lizzie isn’t so sure. Her cousin is getting all the attention, and Lizzie’s life is changed by sharing her bedroom and her classmates.
The war takes a little longer to reach Townsville, in Australia’s far north,and Mrgaret Rose is safer there. But as the war rolls on, it also draws closer to Australia, and both girls share the realities of war time life.
Lizzie and Margaret Rose is a story of war, of family and friendship set both in London and in Townsville, as well as on the ship travelling between the two countries. Told in the alternating first person voices of the ten and eleven year old cousins, it provides an inside look at the effects of war, and particularly World War 2, on children and on day to day life.
While thoroughly researched and complemented with back of book notes, the story is front and center rather than being used to string together lots of facts,, making it really satisfying.
Lizzie and Margaret Rose, by Pamla Rushby
Omnibus Books, 2016
There was something rather splendid about this woman who would not have looked out of place in the pages of a magazine, but whom fate had put here, in the the East End, in a tube station with a cigarette in her mouth and a small child. It set her apart from the wretched mother and her five starving children.
Diana Meadows is lost. She and her three year old daughter Abigail have come up to London on secret business, and somehow caught the wrong bus. Now she’s in the East End and the air raid sirens are blaring. Not far away Nancy Levin and her own daughter, Emily, are cooking chips for dinner when they, too, hear the siren. They know what to do, having done it many times before, and gather their belongings before heading off to the shelter.Both women’s husbands are off at the war – Diana’s Gerald is serving with a tank regiment in North Africa, while Nancy’s Joe has just left to return to the navy after surviving a torpedoing. The husbands believe their wives and daughters are safe. The two women spend the night camped beside each other in the cramped underground space. Though they don’t speak, each observes the other – and their lives become linked before the all clear sounds.
The Safest Place in London is a gripping, shocking tale of war time life and the lengths mothers will go to to protect their families. With the chance to observe the thoughts processes of both characters, and to see what happens beyond the terrible night in the shelter, readers will grow to know them, and perhaps to understand their actions.
Lots to think about both during and after reading.
The Safest Place in London, by Maggie Joel
Allen & Unwin, 2016
While the match was, at one level, an exhibition for the Diggers and the curious onlookers, for the players it was something else – a chance to run around in the open air, to play the game they loved and test themselves in the way that they knew, body on body, running, jumping and kicking. It was a wonderful antidote to the dull routine of training and the anxiety of anticipation about what was ahead.
Australian Rules Football has a long history here at home, but has often been an enigma to people in other countries. For one day in 1916, though, football took centre stage when two teams of Australian soldiers played an exhibition match in London. The teams, drawn from soldiers waiting to be called to the Western Front, comprised men who had played football in teams across Australia, some of them big name players. In the weeks leading up to the match they trained hard and, on the day, for just a few hours, they could play the game they loved almost as if they were back home in Australia.
The Game of Their Lives tells the story of the game, and of the men who played in it. Starting before the war, and tracing through to the years following, readers are introduced to the players, umpires and officials as well as to men who made the game possible, including General Monash and YMCA man, and Australian swimmer, Frank Beaurepair. There is also close exploration of the impact of the war on sport at home in Australia, particularly the pressure for sportsmen to enlist, and the conscription debate.
For anyone with a love of football or war history.
The Game of Their Lives , by Nick Richardson
Pan Macmillan, 2016
They were fifty miles to victory and defeat, fifty miles to collapse and renewal, and fifty miles to a new place for Australia among the nations of the world. They were among the most significant fifty miles in our history.
After four years of conflict in Turkey, Palestine and Europe, both sides of the Great War conflict are weary and seeking to end the conflict. For the men of the five Australian divisions stationed in France, the end seems a long way away, though, and while they are battle weary they are able to come together under Major-General John Monash and play a decisive role in claiming the last fifty miles – the miles which will see an end to the war.
The Last Fifty Miles is an accessible, detailed account of Australia’s involvement in World War 1 and particularly its role in the final months of the conflict on the Western Front.
Readers are offered insight into the reasons for the war, the main personalities involved on both sides, and the impact of the war on Australians at home as well as those serving.
Suitable for amateur history buffs or anyone wanting to better understand the Great War.
The Last Fifty Miles, by Adam Wakeling
Penguin Books, 2016