Tag Archives: David Hill

NZ Post Children’s Book Awards – 2013

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Congratulations to all finalists and Prize Winners in this year’s NZ Post Children’s Book Awards.

There were some surprises in this year’s winners, and some books that I felt deserved more recognition than they got.  I am only commenting on the Junior Fiction and Young Adult Fiction categories, as these are the ones for which I have read all of the finalists.  For the results click here

My prize list would have looked something like this:

The book I enjoyed the most and would like to pick up again:

Reach – Hugh Brown.

The book that has been most read and passed around by children in my three English classes:

The ACB by Honora Lee – Kate de Goldi

and

Honours in this category to

Red Rocks – Rachael King

The book that had the most compelling narrative:

Into the River – Ted Dawe

The book that is well written and informative, with a fresh perspective, but is it really written for kids (it won Junior Fiction):

My Brother’s War – David Hill

NZ Post childrens book awards

Some thoughts I have about the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards.

* Are three judges enough? Many judging panels for book awards are larger.  Does five sound unreasonable?

* Should there be more judges who are in touch with what children are actually reading? (This year’s panel were a very fine team of pe0ple, with Bernard Beckett – high school teacher and writer of Young Adult novels; Eirlys Hunter – writer, writing tutor at Victoria University and in Wellington Schools, and Lynn Freeman – wonderful host of National Radio’s The Arts on Sunday – which is always worth a listen).  My quibble is not with them, but where are the representatives for younger readers, and particularly those at the challenging ‘tween’ stage (specifically, Year 8, 12 and 13yrs)?

* Do we need a category for Middle Readers?  Young Adult, as a category, seems to have evolved into a beast of its own, important, but not relevant to most teachers and librarians who will not be able to put the books on their shelves, or in their classrooms, because of the explicit content.  Middle readers are very different to Junior Readers, in that they are wanting to read dystopian fiction that challenges the status quo and explores the separation from families that begins to happen at this age.  But, they don’t particularly want or need the serious relationship, drug and alcohol, and other stuff explored in young adult books.

* What really makes a great book?  For example, in my classroom of late, a series that has caught the imagination of the children and has been devoured by most of them is, ‘Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading’, ‘Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credits’, and ‘Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Summer Vacation’.  I have waiting lists for these books – with boys names on them!  Lots of names.  They are humorous.  They are full of action.  They deal with real issues in a very matter of fact way.  They are getting kids who haven’t been readers enthusiastically recommmending them to their friends.  I know this doesn’t make them great books necessarily, but they are well-written and they have a witty, current voice.

* Have we done the war theme now?  I kid you not…go back through the last few years of the NZPCBA and you will find acres of material on the war (WW1, WW2 – mostly).  Let me illustrate (in case I exaggerate, and have to eat my words).

2013:  My Brother’s War category winner– (1914-1918 – conscientious objectors, and war), Earth Fire, Dragon Hare finalist (1948 – 1954 Malayan Emergency)

2012: Nice Day for a War Overall winner and category winner (WW1)

2011: Zero Hour: The Anzacs on the Western Front category winner (WW1)

2010: Dear Alice Category winner (WW2)

…You get the picture.  I admired Mandy Hagar’s ‘The Nature of Ash’ to some extent, and Jane Higgins’ ‘The Bridge’ very much, for being New Zealand stories that place themselves in possible futures.  I’d like to see a little more dystopian, speculative fiction out there and being taken seriously.  I think also of Joy Cowley’s ‘The Hunter’, which plays with time in a uniquely New Zealand way.   Let’s get some real variety into the book award finalists lists.  Where’s the humour and fun edginess of Melinda Szymanik’s ‘The Were-Nana’?  I ramble, but I’m looking for diversity here.  Other favourites from the past, for me, include ‘The 10pm Question’ – Kate de Goldi, and ‘Juggling with Mandarins’ – VM Jones.

Next year is the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of the 1914-1918 Great War.  I am sure that has not slipped the mind of publishers, and I’m guessing a flurry of ANZAC books, but we really do already have some great ones, and some not so great ones.  If there is a flurry, I do hope that quality wins through and we find some new narrative persectives (as David Hill did, this year).

The most important thing to me is that the books that win their categories, and the overall prize, are books that children and young adults will read, and that will encourage them to read more.  I am sure that this years ‘Into the River’ could have an audience in the 15+ age groups, and ‘Reach’ falls well into the YA category.  I also felt that ‘The ACB with Honora Lee’ and ‘Uncle Trev and his Whistling Bull’ are well pitched as Junior Fiction.  ‘My Brother’s War’ is an excellent book, which, in my opinion would be best represented by a Middle Years category.  Congratulations to all writers in this award.  It was a fine vintage!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Hugh Brown, Kate de Goldi, New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards, New Zealand Writer, Prize winners, Ted Dawe, Uncategorized

My Brother’s War – David Hill

Dulce et decorum est

‘This item is from The First World War Poetry Digital Archive, University of Oxford (www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit); © [Copyright notice]’.

    My brother's War

So, I finished on Anzac Day, which seemed appropriate – and here are my thoughts.

I did really like this book.  Quite a lot. If I could give a 4.5…..

This book is an amazing journey.  Set in New Zealand, in 1917, it is the story of two brothers, and the choices they make once the  1916 Conscription Law is passed.  Older brother, William, enlists and younger brother, Edmund, is a conscientious objector.  (After two years of having their young men go to war, never to return, there were plentiful objectors to conscription, as can be seen in this  Te Ara photo and article ) Because of their disagreement, the two brothers have not spoken for over a year.

William is treated as a hero by many of the townsfolk, and Edmund as a coward – although there are people along the way who quietly sympathise with his view and support him.  Their mother and sister, left at home, have to cope with this view of the boys, and there are a few allusions to how difficult this could be, at times.

There are seven sections to the book: At First, Before Sailing, On Ship, Getting Ready, The Trenches, First Attack, Second Attack.  The boys’ parallel journeys are told in each section both with an authorial bird’s eye view from each character, and through letters from Edmund and William, home.

Something I really did like about the book was the length of time it took for the characters to begin to question their views about wars and the army.  There’s no sudden revelation, and in the end there is not one right view.

In the trenches, Edmund has been refusing to obey any army commands.  The trouble is, it is hard to decide what is a command and what is humanity and compassion.  Edmund, unlike Archie, decides that he will choose to be humane and help the stretcher bearers bring in the wounded from No Man’s Land.   One of the men asks Edmund which ‘lot’ he is with:

Edmund shook his head. “I’m a conscientious objector.  The army put this uniform on me.” The soldier who’d offered him the cigarette glared. “So why are you doing this, if you’ve got such high and might ideas about war?”

“My ideas aren’t high and mighty,” Edmund told him. “They’re just mine. And I’m doing this to try and save lives, instead of destroying them.” The man who’d challenged him was silent. 

What a time to be having a discussion like this, Edmund thought.  He almost laughed, and felt a shudder run through his aching body.  He was close to breaking point.  he and most of the others around him.  How much more of this could a human being stand?

The descriptions of the trenches and life in the army for both William and Edmund are heartbreakingly realistic.  Anyone who has read Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks – will understand the true horror of the Battle of the Somme.  And, of course it brought to mind ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ – Wilfred Owen.

David Hill says he was inspired to write this book after reading ‘We Will Not Cease’ – Archibald Baxter.  I feel the need to go and read that now.

This book will provoke some intense discussion in classrooms, no doubt, alongside the opportunity to really do some research into those who went to war, or those who stayed behind, using primary source and secondary source material.  I know it will enhance the understanding of ANZAC day for many of the people who read it, as well as encouraging some critical and reflective thinking about war.

anzac poppies

Other views:

Leave a comment

Filed under Children 10+, Children 12+, Four stars, New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards, New Zealand Writer, Uncategorized