Archive | February 3, 2015

You wouldn’t want to be in the trenches in World War One

You wouldn't want to be in the trenches in World War One

You wouldn’t want to be in the trenches in World War One












You wouldn’t want to be in the trenches in World War One

Alex Woolf

David Antram

Book House 2014

pbk., 32pp., RRP $A12.99


Subtitled “A hole you’d rather not be in” this is an ideal introduction for younger students to World War I.  The reader is given the persona of one Tommy Atkins, an underage but enthusiastic English lad determined to do his bit for King and Country and then in a chatty commentary which is filled with facts and accompanied by appealing cartoon-esque illustrations is led through the process from joining up to training to being in the trenches on the Western Front.  Life in the trenches is exposed for what it was – rats and lice, bully beef, bread and biscuits, cold and wet and being under fire.

While remaining factually true the presentation is one that tells what happened but without the gory bits, the parts that we as adults know but kids don’t have to yet. For example, Tommy is wounded at Messines but the next part is about being back in England with family.  Scattered throughout are handy hints such as “To detect enemy tunnelling, drive a stick into the ground and hold the other end between teeth to feel any vibrations.” 

This is an ideal addition to your WWI/ANZAC collection, just right for the reader who wants to know what happened but for whom fiction doesn’t appeal.  While the guide age group is Years 5-8, a mutre student in Yr 3+ would find it an engaging read. 

Being Jack

Being Jack









Being Jack

Susanne Gervay

HarperCollins, 2014


pbk., 167pp., RRP $A14.99






Jack’s back!!! In the final episode of this contemporary realistic fiction for younger readers that includes I am Jack, Super Jack and Always Jack, Jack is back along with his Mum who has beaten cancer, sister Sammy, Rob his surf-crazy stepdad, Nanna of the purple undies, best friend Anna and Christopher from the Tran Bakery, as well as Ponto his potato/onion experiment which may one day feed the world – or not.


For an almost-13 year-old, Jack has dealt with some really big issues in his life – being bullied, his mum’s illness, her remarriage – but there is one more mountain to climb.  Jack’s last memory of his dad is his back as walks down the street saying he’s not coming back and for Jack to be good.  Jack can’t quite bring himself to see Rob as his dad now, and as he sees his friends interacting with their dads he starts to wonder about where his is. But how will wanting to find him affect his mum and his relationship with Rob?  With the help of Nanna he starts to search, but when he does find him the reunion is not all that he wants it to be. 


“I thought you’d call one day, Jack.”


“I thought you’d call one day, Dad.”


Intertwined with his search Jack also finds himself in the centre of a bullying pack again – this time it’s his close friend Christopher who bears the brunt of it via social media – and Jack has to use all the understanding and skills he has learned when he was the victim to bring about justice and a resolution.  All the time, he is learning as much about himself, his relationships with family and friends and his place within them as he is about the world around him. And you just know that as he celebrates his thirteenth birthday he is going to have the knowledge and resilience to get through his teens safely.


Gervay has created such a realistic family and such endearing characters that they could be any reader’s family and that adds immensely to the appeal because it is so easy to empathise and put yourself in Jack’s shoes and try to make the right decisions.  If you had the evidence against your arch enemy that Jack does, would you consult them about using it before you did?  This is just one of the dilemmas that Jack faces which really just hold up a mirror to the real life issues that we all have to face at times.  Jack’s uncertainty, anxiety and desire are part and parcel of the life of our students and for them to be able to read about themselves in such a well-written and entertaining way will not only help them feel they are normal but also help them understand that books and reading are for them.


This is a series that needs to be in every collection and promoted to staff and students alike as must-reads. Written with a blend of humour and drama, they have such powerful messages about survival wrapped up in such a well-crafted series that you just know this has come from real life.