Ken Catran is one of New Zealand’s most prolific authors for children and young adults. He’s an incredibly flexible writer because he writes for different age groups and in different genres. One of my favourite books by Ken Catran is the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 2011 finalist, Smiling Jack. A lot of Ken’s books deal with war and the way that it affects those both at war and at home.
Ken has recently had two new books published which focus on New Zealand’s role in war. These two new books focus on two wars that most New Zealanders know very little about, the second Boer War (1899-1902) and the Malayan Emergency (1948-60).
When the Empire Calls – published by Scholastic New Zealand
It is 1899 and the Boer War has just begun in Africa. The Boer War is the first overseas conflict that New Zealand as a nation is involved in. Young men and women are eager to sign up to help the British Empire. Patriotism sweeps through New Zealand, even reaching small farming communities like Huia.
James McDonald is a teenage boy who lives on a farm in Huia with his parents and brothers and sisters. When his two older brothers sign up James is left to help his father run the farm. Left behind by his brothers and two sisters who are training to be nurses James has to assume extra responsibility and also grow up quickly. The reality of war is illustrated vividly by James’ brother Edward in his letters home and James begins to worry that he may never see his brothers alive again.
“Croaky Fred” who owns Fred’s Grocery Emporium is a person who believes that war is neither glorious nor justified. He challenges James to question his assumptions and ideas about the war. Fred’s outspoken views are considered unpatriotic by many townsfolk, who are unaware that Fred is himself a war hero who knows only too well the horrors of war. Unfortunately for James and his family, Fred’s concerns and dire predictions don’t turn out to be unfounded.
Earth Dragon, Fire Hare – published by HarperCollins New Zealand
New Zealand’s forgotten war, fought in the deep green jungles of Malaya. In 1948, Britain and her allies are pitted against Communist terrorists in a struggle for freedom. On opposing sides are Peter Hayes, a young Kiwi soldier, and Ng, a dedicated guerrilla. They are enemies but, as the bitter conflict deepens, both will ask questions. Who fights for freedom? Who is the oppressor?
And then a chance horoscope links them … to meet in battle. Destiny also decrees that Peter and Ng will become unlikely comrades. But in this treacherous and bloody war, nothing is as it seems – not even trust. The path to honour and the search for peace promise to be hard-fought and come at the highest cost. EARTH DRAGON, FIRE HARE is the ultimate tale of war.
Enter my Anzac books giveaway to win a copy of When Empire Calls and Earth Dragon, Fire Hare.