Posts Tagged ‘World War 2 stories’

Chinatown Girl: The diary of Silvey Chan, Aukland 1942

My New Zealand Story.

By Eva Wong Ng

ISBN 9781775435778

Scholastic NZ

The first thing you notice in this re-release of Chinatown Girl is its fresh new cover.  It is bright, eye-catching and appeals to the preteen and early teen reader. Twelve year Silvey Chan begins her diary on January 1st 1942. The World is at war and life throws many complications at Silvey and her family, friends and the Chinese community she belongs to.

Like other books in the My New Zealand Story series, which focus on certain events in New Zealand’s history, Chinatown Girl  provides insight into the Chinese community in downtown Auckland. Through Silvey’s diary entries we find out what it is like to be different from others, including racism with Government poll taxes for Chinese people. We read about many Chinese traditions and the constant fear as the war continues overseas, but seems to get closer and closer. At school they children practice air-raid drills just in case. We also read about rationing and the consequences of a world at war.

There is much excitement in town when the American soldiers arrive and new friendships are made. 

Silvey is likeable and inquisitive and her diary makes a good and informative read about life in 1942 New Zealand. Silvey is determined to make something of her life and I bet she does.

You can find teacher notes here if you want to take this beyond a simple read.

Anna and the Swallow Man

By Gavriel Savit

ISBN 9780552575270



Anna Lania is only seven years old when on the 6th November, 1939 her father is taken by the Germans to a prison in Krakow and she is left alone waiting for his return, which of course isnt going to happen. While waiting ever so patiently, just as a good girl should, she meets the Swallow Man. Anna’s father had taught and encouraged Anna to speak many languages and she is very skilled at pulling the languages she needs to communicate with others. This mysterious man also speaks many languages and it is this ability which first brings them together.

After a brief talk and instructions to “stay out of sight”  Anna decides to follows him, not quite sure if she was meant to or not but it is here their journey of survival begins.

Together they journey through cold harsh winters with nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat. The war is happening all around but they hover always on the edge of capture, never quite being caught. The Swallow Man tells Anna stories to pass the time as they tread on and on throughout the seasons, across different borders and back again, all while the war continues. The writing of this novel flows beautifully. It is both subtle and sophisticated. There is little dialogue but the story unwinds without the need of it and is indeed part of the mystery behind this quiet, strange man.

One of the strengths in this novel is Anna’s trust in the Swallow Man. It is honest and absolute and I couldn’t help but be moved by their relationship and intrigued by the man himself.

They avoid strangers but one day they meet a man, Reb Hirschl who joins them and the impact of this is both wonderful and dangerous. I loved Reb for his enthusiasm and philosophical look on life. He is in stark contrast to the Swallow Man and this creates its own problems.

This is a poignant, yet intriguing novel with perhaps a somewhat ambiguous ending but that itself is part of the mystery and what gives this book its power to move readers.

Watch out for this book coming in January. Aimed I feel, at Intermediate and Secondary school readers, but adults too will get much out of this novel.


An eagle in the snow

By Micheal Morpurgo

ISBN 9780008134167



I am sure there are many readers who claim to be number one fans of author Michael Morpurgo but I assure you – I am number one or least somewhere near that title. I do after all own no less than 62 of his books. (Actually I just counted them and that even surprises me – no wonder I’m broke!) The latest addition is An eagle in the snow  which is another fantastic read.

Michael has the uncanny ability to take his readers and transport them across time and place and his latest book is no exception. I’m sitting up in bed reading this morning and suddenly I am on a train trapped in a tunnel in the dark while a stranger relays the story of Billy Byron, a soldier in the trenches of World War 1.

I believe strongly that stories about the war enable us to connect to our past.  Following Barney’s story and feeling his fear trapped in the dark yet trying to be brave. And of course Billy Byron’s story  allows us to participate and gain knowledge about the wars, but from the warmth and safety of our homes. With World War commemorations it is a timely reminder of what has happened in the past, the consequences of war and how we need to encourage all we can to make a difference in our world so that this never happens again.

It as it always is with Michael’s books, beautifully written, emotive and powerful. Aimed at readers from perhaps nine up this book hits the mark. I can see this being read by many students but for teachers taking a book club or using it as a set text there is so much to unpack. Questions arise as to what is the right thing to do and how do we know, how do we make some of our choices and what ethics or beliefs do we base our thoughts on. We can only do what we can with the knowledge we have at the time but what if …?

I loved this book but that is no surprise. It is so easy to enjoy and be moved by his books. His writing flows even between the past and the present and I thoroughly enjoyed being taken on this journey. A great read. A great read-aloud too for senior primary students.

“1940. Barney and his mother, their home destroyed by bombing, are travelling to the country when their train is forced to shelter in a tunnel from attacking German planes. There, in the darkness, a stranger on the train begins to tell them a story. A story about Bobby Byron, the most decorated soldier of WW1, who once had the chance to end the war before it even began, and how he tried to fix his mistake. But sometimes the right thing is hard to see – and even harder to live with …”

Don’t forget to read the Afterword at the back of the book. A very handy chapter of facts.