Review Blog

May 03 2010

Battlefield, one boy's war by Alan Tucker

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Scholastic, 2010. ISBN 978 1741695519.
Barry lives in a farming family near Cowra, NSW. When World War 2 broke out, his brother Jack enlisted and fighting in the Pacific War was captured and is now a POW in a Japanese camp somewhere. The family lives in hope of his release. Meanwhile Barry's sister, Gwen has become engaged to John, who is working at the local POW camp near Cowra, and Barry is agog with excitement at all the stories he hears. This man is the catalyst for his father's reminiscences about World War 1, and Barry hears stories he has never heard before. Wanting to grow up quickly to enlist and search for his brother Jack, Barry gleans all he can from John, injured in a grenade explosion.
Barry takes all the stories to heart, training himself for the day he can enlist. He carries out raids on the POW camp at night, missions to check things out, hikes to test his growing skills and stamina. He hangs on his father's and John's every story, adding them to his knowledge of what to do when the time comes.
But in August 1944, most of the Japanese prisoners at Cowra staged a mass break out. Many were killed or died from exposure. Some evaded capture for some time, hiding in the bush, and one is found by Barry and his sister, Margaret. His time has come to put into practice all he has heard, read about and learnt.
A fascinating read of the times in Australia, Battlefield, gives a sweeping picture of how the people at home fared while Australia was engaged in war many thousands of miles away. We hear of the anguish of the family at their son's capture, the lifestyle they live, the state of the POW camp, and of how younger people view the war. Slow perhaps, but a cornucopia of fascinating and well researched detail, coming inexorably to the climax of the story, Barry's finding the POW. A most useful addition to the growing number of Australian historical novels which could be read for enjoyment but also will find a place in the classroom, along with others in the series, My Australian Story.
Fran Knight

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