Given that Wednesday (25th April) is Anzac Day it seems appropriate that bookgenremonthly’s Australian focus for April extends itself into Australian and New Zealand stories of war. There are MANY quality novels that can help young adults understand the impact of war but for this blog entry I am going to mainly limit myself to WW1.
For WW1, two of my favourites are David Metzenthen’s Boys of Blood and Bone and Jackie French’s A Rose for the Anzac Boys.
Boys of Blood and Bone is framed around the contemporary story of Henry Lyon and a parallel WW1 story of Andy Lansell. Eighteen year old Henry goes on a road trip to the NSW coast and breaks down in Strattford. Here he meets an old lady called Cecelia who shares with him the story of Andy. I found it a fascinating read but know that students have struggled with the depth of description (especially the battlefront) and keeping track of both stories and their characters. Overall, Boys of Blood and Bone is a story about mateship, responsibility and the tragedy of war.
As much as I have enjoyed many of Jackie French’s historical novels, I think her ability to simplify the events of significant historical episodes makes her novels more suitable for primary age children rather than young adults. However, this does not mean that there is not a place for her books for some students. I liked the romantic and adventurous overtones of A Rose for the Anzac Boys and believe it would appeal to many (girls) as they follow the story of Midge and her friends Ethel and Anne. From a war perspective, I particularly liked the descriptions of the Western Front and the emphasis on the importance of women to the war effort. I also liked the reference to some of the characters from another of French’s books – the WW2 home front book Soldier on the Hill. Having read Soldier years ago it was nice to see how characters “live on” beyond one book and into another without writing a prequel or sequel.
Worthy of a mention is New Zealand’s Ken Catran. Catran’s Sniper – Jacko Moran the first of the Moran series that then moves into WW2 and Korea (Robert Moran), Vietnam (Jimmy Moran)and the present day (Theresa Moran). These are worth reading for the depiction of the harsh reality of war and the effect on the physical and mental well-being of not only those who serve but their family members and those who care for them. However, it is a series that needs to be read in order and with some willingness to look into the historical context. Interestingly and quite fortuitously, I have just stumbled upon the My Best Friends are Books blog http://bestfriendsrbooks.wordpress.com/ and in it found that Catran has just released books about The Boer War and Malaya. More to add to my reading list!!!
In the Herald Sun (April 21, 2012), in an article entitled War Stories, Fiona Purdon reviewed various Anzac Day releases, of these I look forward to reading Michelle Cooper’s FizOsbornes at War and Sonya Hartnett’s The Children of the King. Not yet available digitally, it is an article worth reading.