Tim takes me back to my home in Lille.
We try to find my uncles and aunts but they are all gone.
Tim says he will be my family.
When Honore walks into a camp on a military airfield, he is cold and hungry. he has been drawn into the camp by the smell of a Christmas turkey. Allowed to stay, because he has no home, soon Honore, an orphan, becomes known as Henry or Young Digger, and makes himself useful around the camp. The airmen all treat him well, but one, named Tim, takes special care of him, treating him like a son. When Henri’s family can’t be located, Tim promises to look after him. So, when the time comes for Tim to return to his home in Australia, he has to find a way to smuggle Henri on board the ship.
The Little Stowaway tells the true story of a young orphan who was befriended by Australian airmen near the end of World War 1 and who w s subsequently brought to live in Australia with his carer, Tim Tovell, and his family. The story has been simplified to key events for the picture book format and uses historical photographs alongside beautiful sepia and grey-scale illustrations.
Primary aged readers will be fascinated by this intriguing piece of Australian and French history.
The Little Stowaway, by Vicki Bennett & Tull Suwannakit
Bessie says the nurses have set to work at Harefield House, scrubbing floors, dragging beds and mattresses upstairs, unpacking bed linen and stamping it with their hospital mark.
The nurses are asking local women to read to the Australian soldiers. I wonder if I dare. Bessie says she’ll read to them if I will…
When war breaks out, fourteen year old Rose O’Reilly’s life changes. A local manor house is converted into a hospital for Australian soldiers, and soon Rosie is volunteering there, keeping the soldiers company and, eventually, allowed to help with their care. Rosie loves her job, but when she’s not busy, she worries about her brother, away fighting on the Western Front. Life in war-time England is not easy, but when a new Australian soldier arrives, Rose finds some happiness.
In the Lamplight is a satisfying complement to the Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy, from the same author/illustrator pairing of Dianne Wolfer and Brian Simmons, again exploring Australian’s role in World War 1. This time the setting is England, with the main character an English girl, but with Australian soldiers being a key part of the story. As with the earlier books, the narrative uses a scrapbook like blend of diary entries from the perspective of the main character, photographs, newspaper clippings, and third person narrative, as well as the stunning black and white illustration work of Simmonds.
In sumptuous hard cover, this is a collector’s delight and will be adored by young and old alike.
In the Lamplight, by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Brian Simmonds
Fremantle Press, 2018
On Christmas morning the Boss lifted me by the scruff of the neck and dumped me in an old kerosene tin. he carried me from the outside kennel and tucked me under a strange sparkly tree. When Elsie saw me, she danced and I smelt her joy.
When a tiny puppy is born on a remote cattle station, her survival is unlikely. The runt of the litter, and with a mother who dies soon after delivering her latest litter of pups, only the station owner’s daughter has any time for her. When Christmas comes, the pup is gifted to the daughter, Elsie, cementing their bond, and Princess gets a name.Girl and dog are inseparable until war arrives, and they are separated. In the years that follow the dog has adventures around the Pilbara region as war causes turmoil to all around her and, as she helps and bonds with a range of new people, she also acquires a series of new names. But she never forgets her Elsie, and dreams of being reunited with her.
The Dog With Seven Names is a warm, tender tale of one little dog, set against the historical events of Word War Two in rural Western Australia. Told from the perspective of the dog, the narrative is both childlike and perceptive, offering a unique insight into the impact of war and the bonds between dogs and humans.
Dianne Wolfer has a knack for delivering historical fiction in a form which at once palatable, well researched, and engaging, doesn’t disappoint with this warm-hearted, loveable book.
The Dog With Seven Names, by Dianne Wolfer
Random House Australia, 2018
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