Posts Tagged ‘World War 2’

Please write soon

By Michael Rosen

Illustrated by Michael Foreman

ISBN 9780702315572

Scholastic UK

I was quite moved by this book. It is an extended read, with 74 pages, illustrations on every one, but aimed at older children. Perhaps nine year olds through 12, 13. It is based on a real person, a cousin of the author’s father during World War Two.

The story begins in 1939 with a boy named Solly. He lives in London and writes to his older cousin Bernie in Poland. At school Solly is asked to share a project he has been working on and he shares letters written between himself and his cousin.

The letters detail what it is like for Solly and his family to hide in bomb shelters in London, to be evacuated and to fear what might happen if the war continues. For Bernie, he shares the sadness he feels missing his family, being persecuted for who he is, and fighting in a war against the Nazi soldiers.

The cousins share a bond through their writing. They both want the war to end and to be able to meet up with each other. They want peace at a time when war is all around them.

The illustrations are black and white with the occasional, purposeful touch of red, symbolic of hope, of love and remembrance. Poppies have an important place in this book too.

I loved watching the two cousins grow closer, the more they communicated, especially their openness to discuss their feelings, and fears. Solly talks about being sent away to the countryside, like so many children were. Bernie discusses what it is like in a Russian labour camp.

A thoughtful, respectful account of the lives of two cousins during World War Two.

At the back of the book, the author discusses war in general. He discusses Covid-19 and how there are so many people who help others, risking their own lives; soldiers, nurses, doctors and more. The author asks us to consider that remembrance days mean so much more than past wars. It means to remember and reflect on all those people, who help when the need is greatest.

ANZAC Day Parade

By Glenda Kane

Illustrated by Lisa Allen

ISBN 9781776890149

This book was first published in 2010 but this new hardback edition still has much relevance today.

As we get closer to ANZAC Day commemorations, we know that because of the current Covid-19 conditions, many memorial mornings will not be happening this year. However, it is still a day to remember those people who gave their lives, over 100 years ago.

This picture book, with its soft autumnal colours, shows a young boy asking an elderly veteran on his way to an ANZAC Day Parade, questions about the war. For the elderly veteran, the war has always been part of his life. He remembers those soldiers who did not come back from the battle with him. He remembers the young man he once was and you can see how war has impacted on his whole life. You can see the pain in the old man’s eyes through the moving illustrations. The young boy, slowly begins to understand that the war was not glory, but pain and sorrow. He lays a poppy at the foot of the memorial as the old soldier walks away.

Definitely a book to add to library collections and for teachers to read aloud to young children to open discussion on ANZAC’s, war, and why we must remember the past and the people who gave so much, all those years ago.

Wolf’s Lair : Katipo Joe Book 3

By Brian Falkner

ISBN 9781775437482

Scholastic NZ

Joseph St George begins his story as a school boy in Berlin before the beginning of World War Two. His ordinary world is turned upside down when his British father is arrested as a spy. Joe and his mother escape Berlin but when they become separated Joe is sent to New Zealand. His return sometime later, sees him caught up in a world at war and his search for his parents sees him infiltrate the Hitler Youth movement. His loyalty is all a lie, of course, as it becomes clear that in order to find his parents he must become a spy. This puts him in constant risk of being found out and life becomes more and more dangerous. Survival becomes everything.

Joe’s orders are to get closer to Hitler and this works well. He begins moving in the same circle as Hitler. Indeed, Hitler sees him as his protégé. Joe then makes connections to the best and worst of the people surrounding and protecting Hitler. Joe’s order is huge, absolutely dangerous and will be life-threatening if caught. There is always the question about who to trust. Who are the good guys, and who are the bad? As he draws closer to Hitler he becomes aware that someone is watching him but he has no idea who. He also finds himself attracted to Sofie, a fellow Hitler Youth member, but their friendship could ruin everything. As his feelings for her grow, it puts them both in danger.

Joe does things that go against his natural kindness and caring. He struggles at times with guilt, and the realisation that some of the things he does, no matter how abhorrent, are actually necessary. War brings out the best and worst of people.

The suspense is palpable. I could almost hear the bombs in the background and feel the fear. This is a solid, gritty read and at times, quite confronting. While Joe’s story may be fiction, many of the events and people are real. This makes the series more realistic, more believable. Joe grows as a character, but he also retains a vulnerability, especially around people he cares about, which makes him more likeable. His flaws and strengths are real.

I loved the first two books and have been hanging out for the third for ages. I was hooked from the moment I sat down to read. I couldn’t put the book down. I sat on my bed reading instead of getting ready for work. I was in danger myself, for being late as I just wanted to know what was going to happen next in Joe’s world.

Like the previous books in this series, there is action, suspense, danger, history, a bit of a romance and a few surprises too. I’ve said it in previous reviews of this series, but this really has everything. Great writing, great story, from a great writer.

There are a number of photos in the back of the book of the real people in this narrative, which provides interesting details.

Totally recommend this YA series. I would love to see these books as a movie or TV series. An audio version would also be great.

The King’s Medal

By Maria Gill

Illustrated by Alistair Hughes

ISBN 9781990003349

Upstart Press

I think what this book highlights, is how stories can be shared across the generations. Here we have a grandfather relating his account of how he, and other soldiers, helped save the Greek King from being injured or killed, while they escaped from the German soldiers during World War Two.

The ANZAC’s had to climb steep mountains and avoid being shot at by the Nazi paratroopers. The grandfather shares his memories with his grandson, while showing him the medal he was awarded by the King.

The back pages offer more information about the ANZAC’s heroics and how a group of villagers also helped the King. There are also descriptions and illustrations of other medals from the war.

The illustrations and the colour choices perfectly showcase that particular period of time.

Author Maria Gill is well known for her creative-nonfiction picture books and this is another one to add to any school library collection. It is informative, but an easy read to enjoy at home as well.

Check out the trailer below.

Always

By Morris Gleitzman

ISBN 9780143793243

Penguin Books

I don’t know where to start here. I am feeling a whole range of emotions after reading the seventh and final book in the series about Felix Salinger.

Author, Morris Gleitzman has diligently, and powerfully told us the story of Felix, a young Jewish boy who escaped an orphanage in order to save his parents. His naivety was obvious but through the different books, he grew to understand the world around him. A world of hatred, war, racism but his own strength was always kindness and hope. From the first book I have followed every journey he has been on. I have read his stories as he grew into a young man, and then as he grew old. I have worried about Felix, I have cried for Felix but mostly, I have loved Felix. Even after 15 years since the first book Once was published, I remember him because he feels like someone I really know. He feels like a long-time friend, and now he feels like a grandfather. Despite everything Felix has been through, he remains kind, caring, strong but always with a touch of sadness that only people who have been through what he has, will ever understand. I know Felix is fictional, but he is so real to me and his impact will stay with me always.

His story throughout the series, is often harrowing with death, war, loss, grief, but the books are compelling. You can’t put them down in case you miss something.

In this final book, Felix is now a retired doctor and an old man, and his granddaughter Zel (named after Zelda, the young girl whose death has haunted him all his life) is heading off soon to study and follow in his footsteps to become a doctor. One day there is a knock at his door and he is greeted by Wassim, a young boy who hands him a note and tells him he needs his help. A young boy who knows war too, just a different war. A long ago connection to his past has put them together for a reason but that brings danger. It also shakes up the past and after a series of terrible events, Felix and Wassim follow some clues, board a plane and return to where Felix’s story first began. More danger follows them but they become stronger together and soon they are not just fighting for survival today, but fighting ghosts from the past.

Both Felix and Wassim narrate different chapters, each giving us a sense of their own fears and thoughts, but also observations of each other. This allows us to see their vulnerabilities, but also their strengths. As their stories unwind, the two grow to care for each other, support each other and need each other.

I don’t want to give things away, but if you have read the other books, you really need to read Always. It is harrowing, heartbreaking but heartwarming. Everyone needs a Felix Salinger in their life.

You will need tissues. Lots of tissues, but that is as it should be. Felix and his friends, his story, his life, is unforgettable. He will stay with me always.

Katipo Joe: Spycraft Book 2

By Brian Falkner

ISBN 9781775436607

Scholastic NZ

Grrrrr!

So I have just finished the second exciting book in the Katipo Joe series about Joseph St George, a Kiwi teen working for the British Intelligence during World War Two and now I am desperate for the next book. Brian Falkner I hope you are frantically writing the next book because I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Joe is the son of diplomats and spent much of his youth living in Germany where he speaks perfect German and English making him a good choice for spy. His father is taken prisoner by the Gestapo in the first book and he soon realises his mother is a British spy and she goes missing. Joe does everything he can to find her and his strength and abilities capture the interest of the British where is recruited as a spy himself. His spy abilities and powers of deception see him eventually recruited into the Hitler Youth movement where he becomes one of 12 teens being prepared to work for Hitler.

We follow the daily routines, tests and dangers of the 12 teens who work diligently towards an end goal with the support of Eva Braun, companion to Adolf Hitler.

The book has everything. Action, death, survival, betrayal, all neatly packaged in a tense, thrilling fast-paced adventure that will keep you turning the pages. In order to infiltrate the cause, Joe must become someone else. Doing so is dangerous and one slip-up could result in capture and probable execution. The trouble with being a spy, is knowing who to trust, if anyone.

The places and background happenings are based on facts. Some of those facts are quite harrowing but Joe has to convince others he has the stomach to deal with them. Some scenes left me feeling quite yuck but the reality is, those things really did happen. Joe is believable. He is flawed, at times doubting his own ability, over thinking things and he makes mistakes. Costly mistakes which he struggles with.

This is a solid read, gritty and gory in places but definitely one to read and remember. Joe as a character continues to grow but so too, does his willingness to step over that line. Death is simply part of how life is during the war. Falkner is one of those writers who captures the reader and keeps them hooked. This is a definite young adult title and series.

Hurry up, Brian!

Katipo Joe: Blitzkrieg

By Brian Falkner

ISBN 9781775436447

Scholastic NZ

 

Schoolboy, Spy, Assassin; Joe is all these things and more. Award-winning author Brian Falkner’s latest book is a must-read. It is full of action, heroism, and definitely intense. It is a solid read with strong characters and one of those stories you just have to keep reading to see what happens next. Joe’s world is turned upside when his father is taken away by the Gestapo, leaving Joe and his mother on the run. Separated and left on his own, Joe finds himself in danger at every turn. He meets a number of different people, some become great friends; people he can trust with his life, but others put him in even more danger. The story is very well written, and well-researched with lots of detail creating a very believable setting and time for Joe and his story. Between each chapter there is a page from adult Joe’s memoir providing further insight into Joe and his time as spy during World War Two

The reality of war is brutal and inescapable but 12 year old Joe copes with everything that is thrown at him with a growing maturity.   The story shifts between occupied Paris and the bombed ruins of London. As the son of diplomats Joe speaks fluent German and this may be his greatest asset.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book with its edgy, seat-of-the-pants pace. I totally believed in the characters, their different personalities, flaws and all. I so want there to be more books about Joe.

This really is an excellent read.

At the back of the book there is a very useful glossary and some photos of the times.

 

Joseph St George is a young New Zealander, the son of diplomats in 1930s Berlin. But the Nazis are on the rise and the world is on a spinning path to destruction. Joe’s world is about to change, violently.

After a narrow escape from Germany with his mother, Joe is recruited by British Intelligence and given a mission to infiltrate the Hitler Youth movement.

From vital convoys across the frozen North Atlantic, to the terror of the London Blitz, to the shadowy world of the French Resistance, this is Joe’s world.

Inspired by true events, Katipo Joe is a story of incredible heroism, unlikely friendships and unbearable tragedy, set against the backdrop of World War II.

White Bird

By R. J. Palacio

ISBN 9780241397244

Penguin Books

Penguin Random House

I read the book Wonder a number of years ago and loved it. I have it as year six book club title and the children love it too. So it was a no brainer to buy a copy of White Bird which shares with us the backstory of Julian’s grandmother. For those who read Wonder, you will remember that Julian was a bully and very unkind. While there is no excuse for such horrible behaviour, we can see in Whitebird that Julian later regretted his actions. For homework Julian has to write an essay about someone he knows and he chooses his grandmother. At first she is reluctant to share her story but she goes ahead and we are taken back to the 1940’s and a world at war.

Wow! Where to start? I loved this book so much. I cried so much I couldn’t see the words on the page.

Julian’s grandmother Sara Blum, was a young Jewish girl living in occupied France, who believed her life was good and a bit like a fairy tale. Her family had nice things, food, a home, and spent time together as a family in the fields of bluebells. One day the Nazis came to school wanting to collect all the Jewish children. They ran through a forest trying to escape but Sara hid in a room upstairs in the school where a crippled classmate found her and led her to safety. Together, this boy Julien, and his family helped hide Sara in a barn and kept her safe.

Throughout the story we see bullying, kindness, trust, and mistrust, courage, hope, the futility of war and the impact it had long after the war was over. We meet strong, kindhearted people risking their lives, as well as nasty ones, ready to shoot on sight. Throughout the years in hiding, it is the friendship between Sara and Julien that is most moving of all.

This is powerful and at times uncomfortable to read but it’s a must read.
Written and illustrated as a graphic novel by R. J. Palcio you can see that the author knows exactly how her characters respond to situations, she knows their stories, their thoughts and fears and captures them in her illustrations so well, that we also know and can relate to them. We can feel Sara’s sadness and we can feel Julien’s frustration at his disability, especially as he remembers how fast he could run before polio ruined everything.

This is ideal from middle grade right through to secondary. There is so much to consider, so much to unpack and just so much more than a story about a young girl hiding and trying to survive in Occupied France. It is a story of hope.

Julian’s grandmother has a message for us all “Never again”.

 

 

 

You can read White Bird as a stand alone but if you want a little more out of it then read Wonder if you haven’t already.

ANZAC Animals

By Maria Gill

Illustrated by Marco Ivancic

ISBN 9781775434740

Scholastic NZ & Scholastic AU

 

Maria Gill and Marco Ivancic deservedly won the prestigious Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award in 2016 for their book ANZAC Heroes. They continue to bring quality books and ANZAC Animals is destined to be another hit.

Maria Gill’s research for her non-fiction books is her trademark. She finds the stories, painstakingly does her research for accuracy and then writes her books taking time to polish to perfection. ANZAC Animals delivers another well-formated non-fiction book. All the text features are there; introduction, contents, glossary, charts, photographs, index etc. with the addition of maps and timelines. The layout is well placed and easy to read. 

ANZAC Animals is a collection of true tales of animal heroes and mascots from World War One and World War Two.

The collection is both fascinating and delightful. I love the story of Lulu the chicken mascot who would warn soldiers of approaching enemy aircraft with her noisy shrieking so that they had time to hide safely.

Or the story of Torty the tortoise, who became a listening ear to James Stewart Little as he described the horror of the things he saw during WWI. Believe it or not Torty is still alive today – 100 years later.

This is an extraordinary collection of tales about animals in war.  There are dogs, horses, mules, pigeons, and even a monkey. They all had one thing in common. The animals were the companions of soldiers. They helped soldiers cope and in many cases, helped them survive the atrocities of war.

One of the most famous is of  the story of Murphy the donkey who carried injured soldiers to safety. The stories of soldiers have long been told but sometimes animals are heroes too and this book is all about the animals and what has made them all so special during some of the worst of times.

The illustrations are very impressive and very life-like. The colours and tones are beautiful. Every hair, whisker or feather is so real you wish you could almost leap into the page and pat the animals.

An excellent book and a must-have for any library. 

Check out author Maria Gill’s book trailer and see for yourself just what is so special about this book.