History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack











History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

Mark Greenwood

Puffin Books, 2017

88pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


March 1942 – the Japanese have reached Indonesia and there is a constant stream of flights shuttling refugees from Java to the safe haven of Broome on the north-west coast of Western Australia.  Russian flying ace Captain Smirnoff is piloting one of the last planes to leave Bandung Airport, an old DC3 stripped back to the bare minimum to allow for as many passengers as possible including five Dutch pilots, a trainee flight engineer, a mother and her 18 month old son.  

Just as they are about to take off an official jumps on board and hands Smirnoff a package, tell him to “Take great care of this.  Someone from the bank will collect it when you land.”

Unfortunately for Smirnoff, his crew and his passengers, the Japanese have switched their target to Broome and just an hour from their destination they are shot down. Despite injuries and continuing Japanese fire, Smirnoff manages to bring the plane down on the edge of  the beach…

What happened next – the survival and rescue of the passengers; the finding and the contents of the mysterious package and the enigmatic  man who became known as Diamond Jack are the centre of this intriguing true tale that still remains unanswered 75 years on. Should he have done what he did?  Is “finders keepers” really the rule to live by?  

Rudyard Kipling once said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten” and in this new series from self-confessed history-hunter Mark Greenwood there are stories told that would otherwise have been forgotten, if they were ever widely known in the first place.  Short, engaging reads written in short chapters, large font and liberally illustrated they are not only perfect for the young reader moving on to independent reading but also those who may not have yet unlocked the key.  Greenwood writes an introduction that personalises the story as though he is talking directly to the reader, drawing them into this tale that is about to unfold and then, the tale told, he talks about the sources he has drawn on and provides a lot of extra information so not only is the story authenticated but there is scope for further discovery.

Something special to add to the collection and promote an interest in times past in a way seldom done. Australia- a country full of stories!

One Red Shoe

One Red Shoe

One Red Shoe









One Red Shoe

Karin Gruss

Tobias Krejtschi

Wilkins Farago, 2014

hbk, 28pp., RRP $A24.95



To the international photo journalist it’s just another call about another attack on a school bus, part of day-to-day life on the Gaza Strip as the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians continues …”Strange, how ordinary the message sounded.”  Little does he know that it will change his perspective forever.  As he runs past children who are so used to violence, carnage and death that they continue their game of hopscotch uninterrupted and play basketball against a backdrop of bombed out buildings, he doesn’t realise how the impact of doing his job – following the victims and the paramedics into the hospital trauma ward to give “the people at home the most accurate information possible” – will change him this time.  For this time the victims are children, and one in particular who keeps saying his name over and over … “Maybe children in wartime learned early on to repeat their names even if they are unconscious, so relatives can find them” … and this one touches a nerve.  Through his camera lens he sees that the boy is wearing one red basketball boot, the same as he had given his nephew safe at home.  But there is only one – where was the other?  His nephew loved his pair so surely this boy would too, and hadn’t just lost it.  While its whereabouts might not be known, it’s not hard to work out what’s happened to it.  Little boys’ legs and grenades are not a good combination.

As he continues to shoot his pictures and the medics continue to fight to save Kenan, something strange happens … something that causes the photographer to make an important phone call and a promise. Suddenly, this conflict just got personal.

This is one of the most powerful picture books I’ve read for some time.  Told in a minimalist style, almost like a photo essay would be, the imagery is so striking that the minds connects the dots without the need for superfluous words.  Monochromatic with just the splash of the red shoe, their style and perspective, angles and lighting not only reinforce the idea of the narrator seeing the events through a lens but also add to the drama and emotion of what is being experienced.  From endpaper to endpaper there is nothing extraneous, but the astute eye will pick up tiny details that offer so much insight into who this man is, his thoughts and emotions.

This is a picture book for older students, right through to the senior years of secondary school.  It has so many places in the Australian Curriculum and Ian McLean’s teachers’ notes   offer many suggestions that demonstrate how it could be used across all levels from about Year 5 up.  An exceptional book that has so much for so many.