Tag Archives: Survivors

Becoming Mrs Mulberry – Jackie French

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Harper Collins Australia

  • ISBN: 9781867243502
  • ISBN 10: 1867243504
  • Imprint: HQ Fiction AU
  • List Price: 32.99 AUD

When this arrived, I was, as you would expect, tremendously excited – given my love of Jackie’s books, both for kids and adults. I had great plans to relish reading it over the Easter break but then the whole pesky moving house thing intervened. Last Saturday it was three weeks since the actual upload and we were starting to feel settled in our new little cottage and my treat to myself was the hair salon. And no visit to the salon is without a book in hand so it was the perfect opportunity to start this one. I read 1/3 of it while I was there – and couldn’t put it down. Then, lost myself in its glorious narrative each night until Thursday, despite two days of relief teaching making me feel even tireder than usual.

Once again Jackie has given us both history and romance, drama and mystery, all set in a familiar yet new setting. Agnes Glock, daughter of a well-regarded Sydney doctor, is a poor medical student in Edinburgh defying conventions of the early 20th century on what is suitable for females, when her upper-class friend implores her to marry Puddin’s shell-shocked brother, to protect both him and their (amazingly wealthy!) inheritance. At first aghast at the very thought, but persuaded by extraordinary circumstances, Agnes – who was raised to care for others – takes on the marriage to Douglas with absolute righteous standards.

In Douglas’ family home in the Blue Mountains, Agnes gathers together the broken misfits from the Great War, employing some, providing shelter for others, and establishing medical care. These are the survivors that nobody wants to acknowledge. They may have given more than their fair share for King and Country but the ordinary townsfolk regard them as freaks and madmen.

Four years later her husband, in name only, has barely started to recover from his ordeals, when Agnes chances upon a child who is also in dire need of help, physically, medically and emotionally. Complications arise when Agnes’ former fiance, who was presumed dead, is very much alive and now practising medicine himself back in Sydney is unintentionally enlisted in the child’s recovery. As Agnes treads a path towards fulfilment of her own dreams and ambitions, and restores both her husband and the ‘dingo girl’ to full health and life, dark secrets surround them and evil intentions threaten not only their happiness but their very lives.

This is a narrative full of drama and tension which will captivate the reader, who becomes utterly invested in the fate of these characters. I love that Jackie has not only skilfully woven diverse characters into her cast, but has not shied away from the ugliness of which some humans are capable or perpetuate, particularly underlining the frequent hypocrisy and chasm between public persona and private actions. I sense that the pious church elder who is rotten to the core in the worst possible way is no accident of writing but could easily reflect the abuses of many so-called Christians and churches.

This really is a gripping read and even as I galloped through, desperately wanting to know ‘what happens next’, it is one of those books which leave one feeling bereft at its conclusion.

Thank you, Jackie, for another absolutely sensational read. It goes without saying that I give it my highest recommendation and if you have mature senior students, it will be entirely suitable for those as well. However, be aware that some circumstances described could be very confronting for some readers, and a trigger warning/caution should be given.

I am Sasha – Anita Selzer

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sasha

Penguin Random House

April 2018

9790143785743

RRP $17.99

Some triumphant recounts of survival against all odds have come out of the horror of the Holocaust. I am always humbled in admiration for those who endured such deprivation, suffering, cruelty and pain with courage and dignity and who rose from the basest of treatment to resume living – raising families, contributing to communities, sharing their accounts, ensuring those lost are not forgotten.

To be a single mother at any time is not easy. To be so and a Polish Jew at the outbreak of World War II must have been terrifying. For Sasha and his mother Larissa the war which creeps up almost imperceptibly is, as it was for so many other Polish Jews, a litany of abuse, hate, starvation and constant fear. Fortunately, these two by divine fate and a few truly good people, both Jew and Gentile, somehow managed to keep one step ahead of the feared aktion raids by Nazis and discovery of their hiding places and identity.

Their most singular salvation however was Larissa’s inspired decision to trade her most valuable piece of jewelry for Arayan papers for a mother and daughter – whereupon her son Sasha became Sala, a teenage girl. Hidden in plain sight thus, Sasha spent three years and half of his teenage years impersonating a girl (obviously because of the Nazis’ practice of telling boys to take down their trousers checking for circumcision).

When the war ends this indomitable mother and son are able to relocate to spend some time in safety and adjusting to a new normality in some of the many European displaced person camps. Finally Sasha is able to resume his own teenage masculine self and joyously meets his future wife Mila and her family in the camp.  Both families immigrate to Australia where Sasha’s adult daughter now writes non-fiction including this account of her grandmother and father based on Larissa’s own hand-written memoirs.

Truly compelling reading with an intensity that will capture readers both male and female, this memoir also includes photographs.

This is a not-to-be-missed book and definitely an addition to your upper primary and secondary shelves.

The Explorer – Katherine Rundell

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explorer

Bloomsbury

September 2017

ISBN 9781408885284

RRP $16.99

We all know some young explorers; the ones who love adventure, the ones who watch Bear Grylls for the survival tips, the ones who pore over atlases and illustrated books of exotic places.  These are the ones who will adore this new book from Katherine Rundell with its adventure, courage, resilience and spirit.

Four children are in a plane crash and find themselves stranded alone in the depths of the Amazon rainforest. Fred, Constantia along with brother and sister, Lila and Max are not the stuff of which the usual jungle survivors are made but as the plot moves along each has a different strength to bring to their joint survival. Of course being so young their chances would be slim no matter how great their competence were it not for the fact that they stumble upon evidence of another earlier person who had lived in the spot in which they find themselves.

Fred, who has always devoured the accounts of the great explorers, is wildly excited about the meagre finds which indicate an explorer has pass this way before and the children collectively are reassured when they find a map. So begins their adventure proper with the building of a raft, scrounging for food and water and setting off down the Amazon following the directions.

To their immense surprise they find themselves in a lost city of stone where indeed an old irascible explorer is in residence. His reluctance to accept them into his space or help them mellows over the ensuing days and eventually when things go terribly wrong he comes to their rescue with a self-sacrifice that is immeasurable.

All in all this was a thrilling adventure, well-paced and with echoes of earlier grand novels for children. Indeed, Rundell says she was inspired not just by her own trip to the Amazon but Eve Ibbotson’s hugely popular  Journey to the River Sea.

This is a fabulous read for both boys and girls from around eight years upwards and for those who might be looking for a class read-aloud or group reading it would be an excellent choice indeed.

Highly recommended for your middle to upper primary readers.

Download a teacher pack here.

 

ANZAC Day 2017

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Two books which it seemed appropriate to save for this year’s commemoration – both of them not to be missed.

 

Kokoda: Younger Readers edition – Peter FitzSimons

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OCT 25, 2016 | 9780734417435 | RRP $14.99

Hachette Australia

Imprint: Lothian Children’s Books

Journalist Peter FitzSimons has proven himself as Australia’s top non-fiction writer, consistently leading bestseller lists. The original edition of Kokoda was described as ‘engrossing narrative’ (Sydney Morning Herald) and its success with the audience spoke for itself.

In some inspired publishing, this edition has been produced for young adult/teen readers and will be a valuable addition to any library, particularly in the study of Modern History and Australia/Asia relations.

In 1942 young Australian soldiers – so young that many were still teenagers – were confronted by a campaign that was so seemingly impossible that it still beggars belief.  Faced with the Imperial Japanese forces these legendary diggers took on some of the wildest and untamed terrain in the world and became a force with which to be reckoned.

Take a look inside here. It is quite simply un-put-downable.

Highly recommended for secondary students from Year 7 upwards.

Sachiko – Caren Stelson

sachiko

ISBN: 9781467789035
Imprint: Lerner PG – Carolrhoda Books
Walker Australia-HEDS
November 1, 2016

Australian RRP: $27.99
New Zealand RRP: $29.99

No doubt many of us would think we are pretty familiar with the tragic history of the atomic blasting of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. We’ve shared many recounts and also more fictionalised accounts of this terrible time.

This non-fiction totally changed my understanding of this event and its hideous aftermath.

Sachiko Yasui was six years old when Nagasaki was ripped apart on August 9th 1942. In the process her family and their after-life was also torn to shreds.

The clouds parted

Pikadon!

Toshi. Aki. Ichiro. They are gone now.

So is Misa.

My father.

My mother.

I nearly died too.

So Sachiko began a talk to primary school children fifty years after the event. Through all her struggles in the intervening years she had kept quiet about her family’s tragedy and the ongoing problems she and her parents faced.

Since that time she has continued to share a message of the importance of peace to schools and groups.

Caren Stelson spent many hours in interviewing Sachiko and researching primary sources to construct what is the most moving history of this disaster I’ve ever experienced.

She has used photographs of both Sachiko and Nagasaki to illustrate the non-fiction narrative as well as including copious references, notes, glossary and more.

Again, this is an important book for the study of modern history but more than that it is a testament to the faith that can endure and salvage a person’s life from circumstances more dire than any of us can imagine.

Highly recommended for readers from around 12 years upwards.