Haywire by Claire Saxby
Australia's Second World War series. Omnibus, 2020. ISBN:
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. The second book in the new series of stories set during the Second World War involves a little known internment camp at Hay in western New South Wales. Here German boy, Max Gruber is interned as an enemy alien, sent from England on the notorious ship, Dunera to a place as distant from his home town as could be imagined. In Hay, Tom has just declined the opportunity to study in Sydney because his father needs him in his bakery. Disappointment covers him like a blanket as he watches the building of the camp, an enterprise his mother despises, reflecting the animosity of some of the town's folk for the Germans and Italians detained there.
Saxby neatly reveals the different positions taken by the town's folk, showing the conversation at the dinner table. The meeting up of the two boys, when Tom is delivering bread and Max is sheltering from the bullies at the camp, results in a friendship, but when Max is bullied again into doing homework for one of the older boys, he decides to escape.
In this timely plea for people to accept others for who they are and not judge by appearances or prejudices, Tom sees Max for who he is, a young frightened boy who has endured immense hardship and sent to a place beyond his comprehension.
The semantics around the words 'detention' or 'internment' or 'jail', are just so much wordplay then as it is now, and this book will encourage readers to know more of our past where internment camps were used to house prisoners despite having not been to court. That many of these men (900) chose to stay in Australia after the war, is testament more to their treatment by people such as Tom and his father, rather than the bigots in the community.
The story of the Dunera can be found here, while that of the internment camp at Hay here.
Melbourne author, Claire Saxby writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry for children, with about forty books in print. The first in the series is War and Resistance by Sophie Masson. Themes: War, Internment camp, World War Two, Hay, NSW, Series: Australia's Second World War: Book 2, Friendship.