Lest we forget: Books to remember the ANZACs

Last year in the lead up to Anzac Day I had some of our wonderful New Zealand authors and illustrators join me on the blog to talk about their Anzac books and what Anzac Day means to them.  You can read their posts by clicking on the links below.  You can also read about my favourite Anzac books and Philippa Werry’s fantastic new non-fiction book about Anzac Day, Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story.

Christchurch City Libraries has a great info page about Anzac Day and Gallipoli for children, with basic facts and links to some interesting websites.

Win The Crystal Code by Richard Newsome

The Crystal Code is the latest book in Richard Newsome’s action-packed Billionaire Series.  I absolutely love this series and if you know anyone who loves books packed with action, adventure and mystery you have to push this series on them.  Once they’ve read the first chapter they’ll be hooked!  You can read my review of The Crystal Code here on the blog.

To celebrate the release of The Crystal Code I’ve got a copy to give away, thanks to the wonderful people at Text Publishing.

Thanks to everyone who entered.  This competition is now closed.

Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield

I can only think of a handful of books, among all the books I’ve ever read, that I’ll carry around in my head and my heart for the rest of my life.  Sometimes it’s the characters, the setting, or the feel of the book, and sometimes it’s the combination of all those things at exactly the right time.  When I first read the synopsis of Vikki Wakefield’s latest book, Friday Brown, I had a feeling that it was going to be one of those books.  As soon as I started reading it, I knew I wouldn’t be the same when I’d finished it.

I am Friday Brown.  I buried my mother. My grandfather buried a swimming pool.  A boy who can’t speak has adopted me.  A girl kissed me.  I broke and entered.  Now I’m fantasising about a guy who’s a victim of crime and I am the criminal.  I’m going nowhere and every minute I’m not moving, I’m being tailgated by a curse that may or may not be real.  They call me Friday.  It has been foretold that on a Saturday I will drown…

Seventeen-year-old Friday Brown is on the run—running to escape memories of her mother and of the family curse. And of a grandfather who’d like her to stay. She’s lost, alone and afraid.

Silence, a street kid, finds Friday and she joins him in a gang led by beautiful, charismatic Arden. When Silence is involved in a crime, the gang escapes to a ghost town in the outback. In Murungal Creek, the town of never leaving, Friday must face the ghosts of her past. She will learn that sometimes you have to stay to finish what you started—and often, before you can find out who you are, you have to become someone you were never meant to be.

Friday Brown is simply one of the most powerful, beautifully written stories I’ve ever read.  It’s one of those stories that you really lose yourself in and emerge several hours later, with your heart aching and a sense of loss.  You know that you’ll never forget the story, the characters, and the way they made you feel.

Vikki’s characters are always extraordinary and she introduces us to a menagerie of different characters in Friday Brown.  There is a sense of mystery about each of the characters in the book, as they all seem to have something they’re hiding or trying to forget.  I like the way that Vikki peels back the layers of her characters throughout the story and, even at the end, you still feel like you don’t know everything about them.  Although we don’t see much of Friday’s mum, her and her family curse are quite an imposing figure throughout the book.  Friday is forever running to escape the memories of her mother and the family curse that killed her.  If there is one character that I wish I could meet in real life it would be Silence.  He’s one of the most mysterious characters, but also the most loveable.  He’d had such a tough life and I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him everything would be alright.

Apart from Vikki’s characters, I think the thing I liked most about Friday Brown was the mood of the story.  From the first chapter, you get the sense that things aren’t going to end well.  You know that the family curse is hanging over Friday’s head, and this adds a darkness to the story.  You wonder if the curse will catch up to her or will she be able to break it.

Vikki Wakefield’s first book, All I Ever Wanted, was a stunning debut, but Friday Brown has really highlighted her incredible talent.  I would rate her as one of my favourite authors, especially of contemporary YA fiction, and I can’t wait to read what she writes next.  Whatever she does write, I know it will be incredible!

Friday Brown is a book that everyone should read, both teens and adults alike.  You will fall in love with Vikki’s amazing story and make some extraordinary friends along the way.

5 out of 5 stars

Guest Post: David Hill and Fifi Colston on The Red Poppy

This year there are a bumper crop of books about New Zealand’s involvement in war being published to coincide with Anzac Day on April 25.  The Red Poppy is one of them that really stands out for me because of it’s well-told story by David Hill and it’s stunning illustrations by Fifi Colston.  It’s a story full of tension, but ultimately about the friendship between enemies and the loyalty and bravery of one little dog.

I asked both David and Fifi if they would be able to tell me a little about their book and what it meant to them:

David Hill

The Red Poppy is a senior picture book which tells the story of a young soldier in a terrifying battle on the Western Front in France, during World War 1. Jim McLeod and his battalion have to attack across the open ground, into the face of artillery and machine-gun fire from the German trenches. With them goes the little black messenger dog, Nipper, whose job is to carry back requests for help, to save wounded men. As they charge across the open ground, past a place where red poppies grow among the shattered trees and buildings, Jim is hit by a bullet. He falls into a deep shell-hole, at the bottom of which lies a wounded German soldier. What happens between the two men, and the part played by Nipper in trying to save them, is the rest of the story.

I’ve dedicated my part in The Red Poppy to my uncles who fought in both World Wars. Their stories of the great battles and the courage of soldiers fascinated me from when I was a kid, and finally I had the chance to honour them in a story. Mud and huge guns and fear and the red poppies that have become the symbol of Anzac Day are all in this book.

Fifi Colston

My husband’s grandfather Rothwell, wrote postcards to his fiancé Hilda, from 1914-1918. Particularly poignant were two from France; they said simply “Am O.K” and “Keep smiling!” I was in the process of scanning and blogging these cards for the family (http://wartimepostcards.blogspot.co.nz/) when Scholastic asked me if I would look at a very special story to illustrate. I had decided some time ago that the next book I illustrated had to really mean something to me on a very personal level. Illustrating a book is a labour of love and I wanted to make a body of work that would enthrall me and push me to produce as excellent work as I could. For that I’d need to relate to the story; it had to move me. Then I read David’s manuscript. Jim’s letter home never mentioning the horrors of the trenches struck an immediate chord with me; those cheerful words from a young man, disguising the reality of his situation. Rothwell did come home from France to be a husband and father, but was far from ‘o.k’; dying just a few short years later from the cruel ravages of his war experience. Illustrating this book has been a journey through his time for me. I visited war museums, studied WW1 uniform, grew red poppies, photographed mud and rubbed chalk pastel until my fingers bled. I have learned much and my artwork is a tribute to him. It’s been a real pleasure working with David, Diana and Penny at Scholastic and Penny Newman the brilliant book designer who created the vision with me.