Currently we’re learning about World War 2 in the Pacific region. We spent an extended amount of time on the European region because there were so many good books to be read that we just couldn’t stop ourselves. We won’t be spending as much time in the current region as there are so few books written about it for children. It always makes me sad, and quite a bit frustrated and angry, that Australia has such a limited amount of children’s literature written about it’s own History. So when I found a brilliant title, I just had to share it.
“The Forgotten Pearl” is by Belinda Murrell is about a teenage girl called Poppy and her family, the Trehearnes, who live in Darwin during the time of the Japanese bombings in World War 2. The story leads you through Poppy’s teenage years and experiences; you also follow her family and friends as they too experience the war and you get an overall feel of what it was like to live during that time.
This book gives a pretty thorough taste of what Australia was like during those war years. We read about the big events, like the bombing of Darwin and Broome, the midget submarine attack in Sydney Harbour and the progression of the war; and the everyday experiences, like rationing, air raids, the presence of American soldiers, the war effort and women going to work. This book makes a great pre- or post read aloud about the war era as there is so much material to discuss and launch from.
I read the story aloud to my little men and we loved it. It had a smidge of romance, that was very tactfully and sweetly presented, and tolerable enough that the boys weren’t gagging, and plenty of ‘on the edge of your seat’ action to make up for it. Yes, there are some gruesome elements – the injuries that Poppy witnesses in Darwin after the first attack are not pretty, but they are tame in comparison to reality – and some frightening moments when you’re not sure if they are going to make it out alive. But we think these elements are necessary in a book about war, otherwise it sanitises it too much.
We also watched the documentaries “Battle of Australia” and “Sydney at War” prior to reading the book, which helped us create more accurate visual images of the events, in our minds, as we read along. I highly recommend these documentaries as additions to this book. They certainly heightened our experience of the story.
My only problem now is where to next.
Hunting up quality books from an Australian perspective is always one of my biggest challenges.
Quality Australian authors, we need more books!
(Please don’t recommend the “My Australian Story” series to me. I have them all on my shelf but they have two problems. Firstly, after reading a few of them, they are monotonous as they all use the same diary style of writing. And secondly, they are poorly written in comparison to the books we usually read and make awful read alouds. We’ve suffered through a few of them and prefer to avoid them where possible. Sometimes it’s not possible. I used to like them back when I was a teacher and knew no better, but we’ve since been spoilt by quality literature. So there goes half of the options for Australian historical literature.)