Featherston, 1942. To an older generation, the events which unfolded in this internment camp for enemy Japanese are well known. This book tells the story for today’s 9-14 year old’s through the eyes of Ewan, whose father is a guard at the camp. The camp prepares to receive hundreds of prisoners of war from a captured warship. No one knows how they will behave and what measures might be needed to contain them. With Ewan’s friends and family, we are drawn in to the events which resulted in an episode known as the Featherston Incident. This resulted in 48 dead and another 74 wounded.
David Hill has already given us so much New Zealand history in a readable and engaging way. This story continues his excellent eye for detail while still telling a gripping tale. Included are so many of the events which occurred in the last years of WWII: Polio, blackouts, shortages, racial tension and the daily lives of small town New Zealand. David Hill captures the honesty of the age group and the sense of curiosity which grips lads of Ewan’s age. This book would be an excellent read-aloud to a class, or a family. It will also capture the interest of those hard-to-find-a-book-for boys. I sat and read the whole thing, so gripped was I by the unfolding events.
The true measure of this book comes from my 90-year-old father. I suggested he might enjoy it, remembering the incident as he did. Not only did he find himself fully engaged, he was quite smitten with the accuracy of the setting and events. In his words,”That is one more task I no longer have to do before I die. I wanted to write about childhood in the war years, but David Hill has done it for me.”
I do not think there could be a greater accolade for the writer and his book. My grown up children are all in line to read it next. They grew up with David Hill’s books and still want more.
Reviewed by Kathy Watson
by David Hill
Published by Puffin