Each year I do a focus on Anzac Day in my classroom. I'm always on the look out for great books that can communicate the New Zealand experience in the wars New Zealanders have gone to. I also am a bit of a war novel junkie and have a slight obsession with war documentaries on the History Channel.
Last year the book I purchased as my main focus was My Brother's War by David Hill.
I bought this book last year to add to my Anzac Day resource collection. I bought it at one of my favourite bookshops, Wright's Bookshop in Cambridge, which always has a great range of children's and young people's literature, a great range of New Zealand authors, and a great range in non-fiction as well. I rarely leave this book shop without a purchase.
I read this book to my class and then some children choose to read it themselves afterwards, and one child even bought the book herself. When children want to re-read or buy the book for themselves, I think that is a great endorsement to the book itself.
David Hill is a well known and established New Zealand author who has written a number of novels and is a well known contributor to the School Journal. He is a trained teacher and has been published internationally. These are the links to his Penguin Books profile and his New Zealand Book Council profile and an interview with the Christchurch City Libraries.
The blurb on the back cover reads as follows:
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.
A compelling novel about the First World War for 9-12 year olds.
The following text and the picture above comes from the Penguin Books New Zealand website:
Penguin Group (NZ) is proud that David Hill’s novel My Brother’s War has won the 2013 Junior Fiction category at New Zealand’s prestigious New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. The award was announced at a ceremony held in Christchurch last night. My Brother’s War was also the winner in the Children’s Choice Junior Fiction category.
My Brother’s War was released in August 2012 with great success. The compelling novel about the First World War – for 9-12 year olds – follows the lives of two brothers; William who eagerly enlists for the army, and his younger brother Edmund, a conscientious objector refusing to fight. While William trains to be a soldier, Edmund is arrested. Both brothers end up on the bloody battlefields of France, but their journeys there couldn’t be more different.
David is one of New Zealand’s most highly regarded authors for children and young people. His books have been published internationally and he has won awards for his writing in this country and overseas. David was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2004.
Margaret Thompson, Managing Director of Penguin Group (NZ) stated “We heartily congratulate David Hill and are delighted to share in his remarkable success.” 25 June 2013
My class was very excited when the news came through that My Brother's War has won the Junior Fiction category in the New Zealand Post's Children's Book Awards, as well as the Children's Choice Junior Fiction Award.
The thing I found intriguing about this book was exploring what happened to conscientious objectors. This link will take you to NZ History for a more detailed description of what a conscientious objector is. I knew that those who were not enlisted often received white feathers and that conscientious objectors were arrested and put in jail and did hard labour.
What I did not know was that these conscientious objectors were then forced into the army and with no training sent to the Western Front in World War I.
Those who continued to resist were then subjected to what was known as 'field punishment no.1' - a brutal punishment devised by the military hierarchy, which Edmund is subjected to in this book. TVNZ showed a movie on Tuesday 22 April 2014 called Field Punishment No.1, based on a book of the same name, based on the experiences of Archibald Baxter, New Zealand's most famous conscientious objector. In fact, Archie is also a significant character in My Brother's War.
My Brother's War is aimed at children aged 9-12, but I think even teenagers and adults will thoroughly be engaged in this book. I think it is a good book to engage boys with, however it was the girls in my class who re-read it for themselves. It certainly opened my eyes to an area of war very rarely discussed, an area that has been touched upon lightly over the years. This is definitely a good book to read aloud to a class or to give to a individual student or group of students to read independently.