In Great Spirits: The WW1 Diary of Archie Barwick

28th October 1916.
Oh a soldier’s life is a beauty in such weather but as soon as we get back into dry billets we forget all the hardships. It’ powerful in what good spirits the boys keep. They laugh and joke over it all, as if it was the fun of the world.

Archibald Albert Barwick was 24 years old when war broke out in 1914 and he joined the AIF. Leaving his job as manager of a sheep property in NSW, he trained with the expeditionary force in the 1st Battalion and travelled first to Egypt, then Gallipoli and later the Western Front. Along the way he rose to the rank of Sergeant, was injured three times and was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre. Significantly, he also wrote prolifically, filling sixteen diaries over the course of the war, detailing his experiences and insights.

In Great Spirits: The WWI Diary of Archie Barwick offers Barwick’s diary to contemporary readers. Condensed from the initial 400 000 words to around 130 000 words in order to make it manageable, the writing is otherwise only lightly edited, so that the sense of Barwick’s personality shines through, managing to be humorous, honest and heart-wrenching by turns, so that the reader can journey with him in a very personal way.

Of interest to historians of all levels, this is also a valuable read for any Australian to get first hand insight into Australia’s involvement in World War 1 and its impact.

 

In Great Spirits: Archie Barwick's WWI Diary - from Gallipoli to the By Archie Barwick

In Great Spirits: The WWI Diary of Archie Barwick
Harper Collins, 2013
ISBN 9780732297183

Available from good bookstores or online.

Behind the Sun, by Deborah Challinor

Producing a tiny compendium, the girl stood, took out a Congreves match and struck it against the attached strip of sandpaper. The flame flared hugely, singeing her hair. Managing to swear roundly and light her pipe at the same time, she drew on it and coughed until her eyes watered. She coughed again, then hoicked and spat.
‘Beg pardon. I’m Friday Woolfe. And you should cheer up, because it could be worse…’

Harrie (Harriet) is a good girl in a desperate situation. Since her father’s death, she has been the sol income earner for her ill mother and younger siblings. In a moment of desperation she steals a bolt of cloth, planning to make clothing to begin her own business. But she’s no professional shop lifter, and she is caught, finding herself locked in Newgate Gaol awaiting trial. There she meets Friday, a worldy prostitute, who takes her under her wing. They are soon joined by thief Sarah Morgan and the naive young Rachel Winter.

Found guilty of their various crimes, the four soon find themselves aboard a convict transport ship bound for New South Wales. Their friendship grows, but it isn’t always enough to keep the girls safe from danger. Their are enemies amongst the other women on board, and there are male passengers and crew who also have the girls in their sights. When they finally arrive in Sydney they are sent toe grim Parramatta Female Factory where they await assignment, not knowing whether they will be able to look after each other any more.

Behind the Sun is a stunningly moving story of friendship and survival, bringing alive a colourful period of Australian history with an absorbing cast of characters. The key players – the four girls – are diverse, but share a common bond of wanting to survive and make their lives, and that of their friends, better. The enemies they make are well rendered, including the mysterious, powerful and vicious criminal Bella Jackson, and the sleazy Gabriel Keegan, with a vile taste for very young girls. Their other friends, too, are varied, including the ship’s doctor, fellow convicts and paying passengers.

The adventures – and misadventures – of these four young was they struggle to survive their time as convicts, is moving and, with the promise of three further titles to come in the series, readers will be keen to stay with them to see what their futures hold.

Stunning.

Behind the Sun

Behind the Sun, by Deborah Challinor
Harper Collins, 2013
ISBN 9780732293062

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Girl From Snowy River, by Jackie French

I may not have lost my legs, she thought, but I’ve lost those I love forever. The war had savaged Mum, and Mrs Mack, and every woman in the valley. The war was over but the pain was still there, for her and the families left behind, not just for the men who had been maimed.

We’re all bits that the war didn’t take, Flinty thought, gazing at the stranger’s back. But those left behind had a right to know more about the beast who’d chewed their lives and spat the remnants out.

It is 1919, and in the Snowy Mountains Flinty McAlpine is trying to hold her family together – what is left of her family, at least, since the Great War tore it apart. One of her brothers was killed in the war, and another is so scarred that he seems unable to stay at home. Her mother died, Flinty suspects of a broken heart, and her father too passed away, after contracting influenza brought home by returning troops. Flinty may be only 17, but she is now responsible for her two younger siblings and for the running of the farm and the paying of the bills.

When Flinty meets a stranger in a wheelchair, she presumes he is another returned soldier – and he is – but somehow he is not from the Great War, but from a war far in her future, the Vietnam War. Just like Flinty’s brother, and Sandy, the man she loves, Nicholas is scarred by his war time experiences. They may be from different times, but somehow Flinty and Nicholas can see and hear each other, and it may be that they can help each other to heal.

The Girl from Snowy River is a dramatic, heart warming story of survival. Flinty is faced with many challenges – the loss of her parents and brother, her strained relationship with Sandy, the financial stress of trying to keep hold of the family farm, and being a girl in a man’s world – but she also faces unexpected physical challenges, too.

With reference and links to several famous Australian bush poems, The Girl from Snowy River is a wonderful celebration of the Snowy Mountain region as well as an exploration of the history of the time and issues of the impact of war, the role of women, family relationships and more.

The Girl from Snowy River

The Girl from Snowy River, by Jackie French
Angus & Robertson, an imprint of Harper Collins, 2012
ISBN 9780732293109

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Lost Voices, by Christopher Koch

Late in life, I’ve come to the view that everything in out lives is part of a pre-ordained pattern. Unfortunately it’s a pattern to which we’re not given a key. It contains our joys and miseries; our good actions and our crimes; our strivings and defeats. Certain links in this pattern connect the present to the pas. These form the lattice of history, both personal and public; and this is why the past refuses to be dismissed. It waits to involve us in new variations; and its dead wait for their time to reappear.

When Hugh Dixon overhears his father confiding to his mother that he is in trouble, Hugh is determined to help him. His father has a gambling debt which could be the ruin of the family, and young Hugh believes that he only person who can help them is his great-uncle Walter – a man he has never met and who his father will have nothing to do with. Hugh visits his uncle in the old family home, and a friendship develops. As it does, Hugh also learns of his family’s links to a notorious band of bushrangers in the mid nineteenth century. Later, events in Hugh’s own life have strange echoes of that earlier time.

Lost Voices is an evocative, absorbing book, with an intriguing double narrative. The book is divided into three parts, with the middle section telling the 1854 story of two escapees from Tasmania’s Port Arthur who return to their secret mountain hideout – but not before meeting a young Martin Dixon, who convinces them to let him accompany them to tell their tale. In the first and third sections of the book we follow the late teens and early twenties of Hugh Dixon, Martin’s great grandson, a hundred years later. If it were not for this father’s trouble, Hugh would not have met his great uncle and so learned the story of his grandfather.

Yet there are echoes between Hugh’s life and that of his long dead ancestor, particularly the pattern of uneasy relations between father and son. Martin heads off to live with the bushrangers knowing his father will not approve, but determined to follow a path of his choosing. Hugh too does this both in seeking out his great uncle’s help, but also in following a career in illustrating which his father has attempted to discourage him from. This exploration of the relationship between father and son is repeated in other connections in the book – including Hugh’s father and grandfather, his friend Bob’s relationship with a violent father and the bushranger Wilson’s relationship with his father.

There are other echoes and parallels – young men’s relationships with older women, the treatment of women and, importantly the concept of truly evil men. There is so much being explored that the experience may be different for individual readers, and the processing of these themes is likely to go on long after the reading finishes.

Whilst there is action and drama, this is not a fast paced book, taking time to read and to digest, but it is a satisfying, beautiful journey.

Lost Voices

Lost Voices, by Christopher Koch
Fourth Estate, 2012
ISBN 9780732294632

Available from good bookstores or online. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Mountain Wolf, by Rosanne Hawke

‘Listen.’ His father coughed, then groaned. ‘Find your Uncle Javaid. Go to Rawalpindi…’
‘But-‘
‘…money in my pocket…bus from Oghi…’
The breath in his father’s throat sounded like a snake’s hiss. Razaq had heard that sound before when his grandmother was dying.
‘Ji, Abu.’ Razaq kissed his father’s face. The sound in his father’s throat stopped.

When an earthquake destroys Razaq’s mountain village and kills his family, he is determined to fulfill his father’s dying wish and travel to the city to find his uncle. But Rawalpindi is a big city and Razaq doesn’t know how to find his uncle. When he is sold into slavery it seems he may never belong to a family again. While he makes friends with other children both on the street and in the homes of the wealthy men and women who control him, Razaq has little hope, apart from determination, and memories of his father.Then he is visited by a social worker, posing as a massage customer, and Razaq wonders if perhaps there is a way out.

Mountain Wolf is a powerfully confronting tale of childhood slavery and of social justice. Exploring a seedy world which readers will wish was not real, Hawke offers an insight into life for the poorest, least powerful members of society – orphaned displaced children. Whilst there is nothing uplifting about the scenario, the story manages to offer some hope, both for Razaq himself, but also for humanity in general, through the kindness of strangers and family.

Suitable for highschool aged readers.

Mountain Wolf

Mountain Wolf, by Rosanne Hawke
Harper Collins, 2012
ISBN 9780732293871

his book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

A Day to Remember, by Jackie French, illustrated by Mark WIlson

From that first Anzac Day to commemorations in the years that followed, and through to the ceremonies of today, and even beyond, this book traces the growth of the Anzac legend and the development of the day

Each year on 25 April, the nation stops to remember.
This is the history of that day.

On April 25 1915 8000 Australian and New Zealand soldiers waded ashore on a Turkish beach, beginning a campaign which was ultimately unsuccessful in terms of the war, but which began a legend which has united Australians for almost 100 years. From that first Anzac Day to commemorations in the years that followed, and through to the ceremonies of today, and even beyond, this book traces the growth of the Anzac legend and the development of the day which now serves to remember not just the men who fought at Gallipoli, but all the men and women who have served the country in war, and all who have been affected by war.

French handles the topic with a mix of straight fact, useful reminders about the importance of the day and raising of issues along the way. Because the book spans almost 100 years of history, it touches on many issues, including the contribution of Aboriginal soldiers, Vietnam War protests, conscription, and more. Some of these are issues which young readers may be unfamiliar, which offers opportunity both for education and for discussion.

Illustrations, by Mark Wilson, use a variety of techniques, including pencil, ink and acrylic on canvas and on paper, and using in places images of historical documents, to reflect the varying time periods. Wilson includes scenes of war and battle, as well as of civilian faces and places, to give a broad image of Australia’s varied engagement in war. In doing so he gives an honest insight into a wide spectrum of issues and considerations, again giving food for thought and discussion.

This is a useful teaching tool, but also deserves a place in home libraries, helping children to understand the significance of Anzac Day.

A Day to Remember

A Day to Remember, by Jac kie French, illustrated by Mark Wilson
Angus & Robertson, 2012

ISBN 9780732293604&

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Liar Bird, by Lisa Walker

Cassandra Daley is a PR expert who will do whatever it takes to help her clients – even if she has to resort to a few dirty tricks. But when her fibs are found out, she is left disgraced, and has to look for a new job. A job in the country could be just the thing.

I curled up under my shawl, listened to the alien sounds of the bush and wondered how I’d ended up here, miles from my natural habitat. Headphones in my ears to block out the noise, I finally fell asleep to someone singing about a bus to Bondi.
Some hours later I woke up with a start – sweating. It was the dream, the one I’d had every night since it happened – a large and menacing long-footed potoroo lurked outside my window. It opened its mouth in a sinister smile, showing long, sharp teeth. Where to now, Cassandra? it said.

Cassandra Daley is a PR expert who will do whatever it takes to help her clients – even if she has to resort to a few dirty¬† tricks. But when her fibs are found out, she is left disgraced, and has to look for a new job. A job in the country could be just the thing. But Beechville is pretty hard to get used to – there are frogs in Cassandra’s toilet, people who love her one day and avoid her the next, and a disappearing boss. Then there’s the pretty hunky ranger who seems to have it in for her – in spite of which she finds herself increasingly attracted to him.
Cassandra finds herself connecting with the town and almost enjoying her jb – until the night she finds out the town’s secret. Suddenlys he’s back in the limelight with the press – this time in a good way – and she has to figure out just what is important to her. Is it possible she’ll always be a liar bird?

Liar Bird is a funny look at PR, conservation and city v country, with polished city-girl Cassandra gradually finding her more down to earth alter-ego Cassie as she struggles to adapt to life in a small town. Her voice is refreshing and readers will enjoy the way she talks to her resident tree frog as she recounts the story, as well as the range of characters with whom she interacts. But, while the story is chiefly funny, it also explores issues of honesty, self-identity and conservation, engaging the reader in considering these.

This is a debut novel, with Walker’s dexterity evidence her name will be seen again.
Liar Bird

Liar Bird, by Lisa Walker
Harper Collins, 2012
ISBN 9780732294120

This book is avaialble from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Rudie Nudie, by Emma Quay

This is a book that youngsters will giggle at and will want read over and over – but, be warned, they’ll also want to mimic the rudie nudie fun. And why wouldn’t they?

One, two Rudie Nudie,
Rudie Nudie in the bath.
Squeaky clean and splishing, splashing, sploshing –
Rudie Nudie laugh.

So begins this delightful celebration of being naked (nudie!) and delighting in the freedom of childhood in the time between bath and bed. Two young children (the older seems to be a girl and the younger a boy) bath together, then, before being dressed, escape their towels and run and romp over different surfaces including the smooth floorboards, the furry carpet and the slightly prickly doormat. The pair jump and pirouette and run for cuddles before finally allowing their parents to catch and dress them ready for bed.

Rudie Nudie is a celebration of childhood and of freedom. The children’s nudity is natural and presented in a way that leaves nothing for anyone to complain about – there are no genitals on display, for example. This is a book that youngsters will giggle at and will want read over and over – but, be warned, they’ll also want to mimic the rudie nudie fun. And why wouldn’t they? This pair is having fun, and is warmly nurtured by a pair of parents who watch and support the fun.

A book about living.

Rudie Nudie

Rudie Nudie, by Emma Quay
ABC Books, 2011
ISBN 9780733323355&

This book is available from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

The Bicycle, by Colin Thompson & Various Artists

This is a picture book with a difference – and what a wonderful difference it is. Rather than containing a storyline, it contains several stories, each rendered in a double page spread, with or without a quote , all around the theme of the bicycle.

In a perfect world, this book would not exist. But we do not live in a perfect world. Even if we all learn to live in peace, there will still be millions of people who need our help.

This is a picture book with a difference – and what a wonderful difference it is. Rather than containing a storyline, it contains several stories, each rendered in a double page spread, with or without a quote , all around the theme of the bicycle. Created as an inspirational fundraiser for the Save the Children fund, the book explores all aspects of the magic of the bicycle, chosen as the central motif because it symbolises fun and adventure for children.

Contributing artists, including Quentin Blake, Shaun Tan and Freya Blackwood have each created a double page spread, each in their own style. Some are whimsical , such as David Miller’s wonderful paper sculpture of an elephant riding a unicycle, others more serious, such as Jan Bowman’s night scene where two cyclists ride through the darkened streets of London, their bike lights illuminating their way. Some have no words, others a quote from literature or famous figures, and others quotes from children whose lives have been made better through the donation of bicycles, such as 14 year old Dany from Cambodia who says: I promise to study harder and take good care of my bicycle as my best friend. We will go to the upper grade together.

Introductory notes from author/illustrator Colin Thompson and from Suzanne Dvorak, CEP of Save the Children Australia explain the concept of the book and the important work that the fund does.

The Bicycle is a celebration of the bicycle, and of the wonderful impact of acts of charity.

The Bicycle

The Bicycle, by Colin Thompson

ABC Books, an imprint of Harper Collins, 2011
ISBN 9780733329876

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond.

Selby Sprung, by Duncan Ball

How many adventures can one little dog have? Lots, especially if that dog is Selby the talking dog, back in this the sixteenth Selby book. This time Selby falls out of a plane, almost gets eaten by a savage Shark Man on death Island, and has to stop a runaway train.

I want to warn you that something terrible happens, and you’ll see when you get to the end. I’m not dead or anything, so don’t worry, but after all these years and so many close calls about keeping it a secret that I know ho to talk –
I better not tell you any more or I’ll spoil it.

How many adventures can one little dog have? Lots, especially if that dog is Selby the talking dog, back in this the sixteenth Selby book. This time Selby falls out of a plane, almost gets eaten by a savage Shark Man on death Island, and has to stop a runaway train. But, worst of all, he is being pursued by the Evil Genius Morrie Artie, who is desperately combing Australia to prove that the talking dog really exists – and to use him in all sorts of ways. Is Selby’s secret about to be revealed to the world?

Selby Sprung offers all the fun and adventure that young readers have come to expect from the series, with humorous adventures, twists and turns and all round silliness. Illustrations (by Allan Stomann) scattered throughout the book add visual appeal, and some chapters are written in diary format by Selby himself.

As with previous titles, this one stands alone, but will encourage readers new to the series to seek the others out.

Doggone good stuff.

Selby Sprung

Selby Sprung, by Duncan Ball
Angus & Robertson, 2011
ISBN 0780732292638

This book is available from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.