Author – David Hill
Age – 13+
This story is told in diary format by a young 12 yr old boy (Ewen) in 1942-1943, when New Zealand is fearful of Japanese invasion, American troops are training nearby, (meeting the locals and going out with the girls), and the home guard is made up of inexperienced teens and old men.
Ewen isn’t happy about having to write a diary for school. His teacher says they are living through ‘special times’ and they should record it. But the more Ewen writes, the more he realises how much is happening around him in normal family life in NZ in the 1940’s.
Ewen is a realistic character – a typical kiwi kid. He’s a good mate to his best friend Barry, a loving son to his mum and dad, concerned about Barry’s little brother who has polio, and not impressed with snobby Susan Proctor at school.
But Ewen does some growing up throughout the novel, learning about the Japanese POW’s at the camp his dad works in, and one prisoner in particular.
Lt Ito is a proud, stern soldier who teaches Ewen and his friends not only about Japan and their language, but about inner strength, humility and honour.
As tensions rise within the camp, those tensions flood through the community, and Ewen and his mates also learn about prejudice and hate. When things reach breaking point, they see what these emotions can do. A terrible event but understandable in such times and circumstances. There is a distressing scene when the boys see the tensions explode and bullets fly.
Another great book by a a multi award winning New Zealand Author, based on a real event and a Japanese POW camp that was near Featherston in early 1940’s, that held up to 800 Japanese prisoners of war.
(War, Conflict, Family, Friendship, Historical, School, NZ, New Zealander, Kiwi)