Posts tagged history

W.A.R.P.: The Reluctant Assassin book trailer

The reluctant assassin is Riley, a Victorian boy who is suddenly plucked from his own time and whisked into the twenty-first century, accused of murder and on the run. Riley has been pulled into the FBI’s covert W.A.R.P. operation (Witness Anonymous Relocation Program). He and young FBI Agent Chevie Savano are forced to flee terrifying assassin-for-hire Albert Garrick, who pursues Riley through time and will not stop until he has hunted him down. Barely staying one step ahead, Riley and Chevie must stay alive and stop Garrick returning to his own time with knowledge and power that could change the world forever.

If you’re a copy of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series you need to grab a copy of The Reluctant Assassin, the first book in Eoin’s new W.A.R.P. series.  Reserve your copy at the library now.

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My Brother’s War by David Hill

My Brother’s War by David Hill is a finalist in the Junior Fiction category of the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  This was one of the books that I hadn’t read at the time it was released, but I read it recently as part of my challenge to read all of the 2013 finalists. 

My Dear Mother,

Well, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve joined the Army!

Don’t be angry at me, Mother dear. I know you were glad when I wasn’t chosen in the ballot. But some of my friends were, and since they will be fighting for King and Country, I want to do the same.

It’s New Zealand, 1914, and the biggest war the world has known has just broken out in Europe.

William eagerly enlists for the army but his younger brother, Edmund, is a conscientious objector and refuses to fight. While William trains to be a soldier, Edmund is arrested.

Both brothers will end up on the bloody battlefields of France, but their journeys there are very different. And what they experience at the front line will challenge the beliefs that led them there.

My Brother’s War is a compelling story about two brothers who have very different opinions and experiences of the First World War.  William feels very strongly that he needs to play his part in the war and so he enlists in the army.  The people in his town commend him for being brave and doing his part.  He believes he is doing what is right to protect his country and the people he loves.  He can’t understand his brother and thinks that his refusal to enlist is ‘wrong and stupid.’  His brother, Edmund, is a conscientious objector who believes it is wrong to go to war and kill other people.  The story switches between their two points-of-view so you see the huge differences in their experience of war.  The story is mainly told in the third person, but each of the characters write letters to their mother which gives more of an insight into their thoughts and feelings.

You experience the build up to the fighting and the horrible conditions of the battlefield through William’s story, but it was Edmund’s story that shocked me.  I knew a little about conscientious objectors before reading this book but Edmund’s story really opened my eyes to how horribly they were treated.  Conscientious objectors like Edmund were labeled cowards and treated like second-class citizens.  Edmund constantly refuses to obey army orders, but in the end really has no choice.  He’s put on a boat and taken to France where he is forced on to the battlefields.  In the training camps he is locked away with little food and water, and he also faces excruciating punishment for not following orders.  Edmund is incredibly strong-willed though and stands by his principles.

A quote from Edmund towards the end of the book sums up war perfectly , ‘I never knew some men could do such dreadful things to one another, and I never knew some men could be so kind and brave.’

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A Winter’s Day in 1939 by Melinda Szymanik

Taken from their home, forced to leave their country, put to work in labour camps, frozen and starved, Adam and his family doubt that they will ever make it out alive. Even if they were to get away, they might freeze to death, or starve, or the bears might get them. For the Polish refugees, the whole of the USSR becomes a prison from which there is seemingly no escape.

 

A Winter’s Day in 1939 is a story of family, the harsh realities of war, and the fight for survival against the odds.  Adam and his family are ripped from their safe, comfortable life in Poland and transported to prison camps in Russia, in freezing conditions and with little to eat and drink.  They get transported in dirty, stinking train carriages with a stove and a pipe as a toilet, live in cramped barracks with many other families, and are forced to work for the good of Russia.  People die of exposure to the freezing conditions and disease is rife.  In these conditions you need to have to will to survive, and for Adam and his family, this is what is keeping them going.

The story is narrated by Adam, so you see everything through his eyes.  You feel how much he wants to survive and how important his family is to him. You get a real sense of how desperate their situation gets as time goes by, especially when it comes to food.  When a clerk at one of the evacuation centers apologizes to Adam for the lack of food, Adam says ‘He sounded sorry about it but that was no help to us.  You couldn’t eat ‘sorry.” You want so much for Adam and his family to survive the war and be able to return home, but you don’t know if their story will have a happy ending.

One of the things that stands out in Melinda’s story is the sense that Adam, his family, and the other refugees around them, hadn’t done anything wrong, yet they’re treated the way they are.  Adam says this himself, ‘We were being punished but I hadn’t done anything wrong.  None of us had.’ These people have been thrown out of their homes and sent to prison camps for no reason what so ever.

A Winter’s Day in 1939 is a war story that hasn’t been told before and it will have an affect on readers of all ages.  Stories like Melinda’s help us to remember all those people who died during this horrific period of history and I’ll certainly remember Adam’s story for a long time.

4 out of 5 stars

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History

ImageFor my latest book I’ve been researching a lot of history, right back to 1096 AD when the Crusading Knights left Europe and retook Jerusalem. Did you know that before the First Crusade there was a People’s Crusade that was made up of fewer knights and many pilgrims including women and children. Around 40 000 left on that pilgrimage (they weren’t called Crusades back then) and they were wiped out in what is now Turkey.

Is there any moment in history that you find interesting or inspiring?

How about one of these:

* Signing the Treaty of Waitangi

* Discovery of New Zealand by Tasman, Cook or Polynesian voyager

* The First or Second World War

* King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

* Rome and the Roman Empire

* The Ancient Greeks

* The Ice Age – men lived alongside mammoth, sabre tooth, giant sloths etc. (I wrote a teen series set in this period – The Chronicles of Stone.

* Early settlers in New Zealand or Australia

* First powered flight by the Wright brothers or Richard Pearce

History offers some great material for writing. So does the future. Perhaps I’ll write something about this on my next blog.

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Dear Papa by Anne Ylvisaker

Dear Papa by Anne Ylvisaker is about a family who live during the Second World War. Isabelle Anderson is nine years old when she begins writing to her father, who died a year ago.

The Anderson family has changed since her father’s death; Isabelle’s two older sisters have got boyfriends, her little sister Ida doesn’t seem to remember their Papa, and her Mama has sold Papa’s gas station to the next-door-neighbours. Everyone is beginning to move on after the tragedy, but Isabelle is confused. Why are her family trying to forget Papa? She writes to her father constantly, keeping him up to date with the changes that are occurring.

As the months go by, the family starts to be dragged apart even more. Mama insists on sending Isabelle to her religious aunt and uncle in the country. Isabelle yearns for her family, and writes to Papa for comfort, plotting to escape from her prison and find her way home.

The war has altered Mama to the point that she is unrecognisable. She has got a job, has moved into the home of a man called Frank, and gets cross with Isabelle if she mentions Papa. Will Isabelle ever be able to say goodbye to Papa and accept her new life?

Dear Papa is a wonderful book. Something that I found interesting was how it was written in the form of a collection of letters from Isabelle to her mother, siblings, aunt, and of course Papa. I think this was a fantastic way to write the book, because by reading the letters you learn about various characters from Isabelle’s point of view.

When Isabelle moves to live with her aunt and uncle, I almost feel sorry for Aunt Jaye and Uncle Bernard when Isabelle decides that if she misbehaves, she will be sent back home. She then misbehaves as much as she can, while her aunt and uncle despair. It’s interesting reading a story from a nine-year-old’s point of view; everything seems so bizarre to her.

This book is an awesome historical fiction novel. I give it a 9 out of 10. It’s funny, fascinating, happy and sad at the same time; a curious mix that means you have no idea what will happen next. I loved Dear Papa, I know that you will too!

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon.

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If you like The 39 Clues you’ll love The Infinity Ring

The Infinity Ring is a new interactive series like The 39 Clues.  It’s one of those books that comes with extra bits and pieces so that you can find out more about the story and the characters.  The Infinity Ring series is all about time travel so you follow the characters through different time periods.  Each book comes with a Hystorian’s Guide, which is your key to unlocking the next adventure in the online game.

Book 1 is called A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner and it’s out at the end of the month. 

History is broken, and three kids must travel back in time to set it right!

When best friends Dak Smyth and Sera Froste stumble upon the secret of time travel — a hand-held device known as the Infinity Ring — they’re swept up in a centuries-long secret war for the fate of mankind. Recruited by the Hystorians, a secret society that dates back to Aristotle, the kids learn that history has gone disastrously off course.

Now it’s up to Dak, Sera, and teenage Hystorian-in-training Riq to travel back in time to fix the Great Breaks . . . and to save Dak’s missing parents while they’re at it. First stop: Spain, 1492, where a sailor named Christopher Columbus is about to be thrown overboard in a deadly mutiny!

Reserve your copy of The Infinity Ring: A Mutiny in Time at the library now.

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Ideas for stories are all around us

Often when people discover I write stories they want to know where my ideas come from. I tell them that it’s from the things I love and the things I’m interested in. When I wrote The Drover’s Quest, I’d already read many history books about the West Coast gold rush days and I was interested in what life must have been like “back then.” I remember reading about a group of bush bandits called the Burgess gang who murdered gold prospectors, and from there a germ of a story festered in my mind until The Drover’s Quest formed.

 

This has been true for many of my books. An idea will bubble away and slowly grow. I always keep a notebook to jot down these ideas. For example, a haiku (poem) at the site of an old Japanese prisoner of war camp near Featherston in the Wairarapa inspired another book I wrote called Dreams of Warriors. The haiku reads:

 

Behold the summer grass

All that remains of the

Dreams of Warriors

 

Not many people today know that NZ had a POW camp in World War 2 where we imprisoned captured Japanese soldiers. This story is about a special friendship that grows between a Japanese prisoner and a New Zealand girl, born out of their common love of horses. Do any of you have a favourite book with this familiar theme of unusual or unlikely friendships (for example, the pig and spider in Charlotte’s Web)? My favourite of all time is The Snow Goose, by Paul Gallico.

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