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
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
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