Review: The Horses Didn’t Come Home

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The Horses Didn’t Come Home by Pamela Rushby is a beautiful story of loyalty and courage that highlights the bond between the Australian Light Horse soldiers and their horses. This Australian novel tells the story of the victorious cavalry charge at Beersheba in the Sinai Desert in 1917 during World War I, which is in contrast to the horrific events at Gallipoli.

The story begins with 16-year-old Harry and his family on aQueenslandproperty in 1914. Army officers arrive at Henderson’s Run seeking horses for the Light Horse regiments forFrance,England,Egypt and the Middle East. Harry and his friend Jack decide that they want to serve in the Australian Army as Light Horsemen. When Harry’s horse becomes lame prior to departure, Harry’s sister Laura allows him to take her beloved horse Bunty.

The story is told through two characters’ points of view – Jack and his sister Laura. Much of Jack’s story is told though letters to his family, even letters to Laura from Bunty informing them of his training and battles during his two year deployment in Egypt and the Middle East.

The book’s title pinpoints the story’s ending. The Horses Didn’t Come Home is an accessible and beautifully written historical war novel for students in Years 7-10. It is sure to provide readers with new knowledge and understanding about Australia’s Light Horse regiments during World War I and the infamous cavalry charge at Beersheba.

I highly recommend this book.

Mrs Morris.


Review: The Best Day of My Life Deborah Ellis

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Deborah Ellis’, best known at OLMC for her Parvana trilogy, depicts the disparity between Indian social classes in her latest novel The Best Day of My Life through the eyes of a young orphan girl, Valli. Daily life for Valli in the coal mining area ofJharia,India, is hard to say the least. She fights to overcome hunger, overcrowding and her uncle’s abuse. Valli earns a meagre living collecting coal and she is not allowed to attend school. Her greatest fear is being thrown to the ‘monsters’ in the nearby leper camp. This is truly a story of courage, hope and resilience.

On the best day of her life Valli discovers that the people she believed to be her family were not. Seeking a better life Valli stows away on a truck headed for Kolkata (Calcutta).  She calls upon her innate bravery and resourcefulness to survive by begging and ‘borrowing’, unaware that she too is infected with leprosy. Fortunately Valli meets a doctor to offers to treat her “magic feet” in a leprosy hospital. But first she must decide whether she can trust this doctor and overcome her fear of lepers who she once considered as “monsters”. Over time Valli becomes compassionate for her fellow leprosy suffers and finds her place in a community filled with support, love and care. Importantly Valli sees hope for her future.

The novel is a highly recommended read for students in Years 7-9. The author has included notes on leprosy and a glossary of Indian terms. With its short chapters The Best Day of My Life is an accessible and easy read for students and is a compelling tale of a person’s strength over adversity.

Mrs Morris.


Review: No Safe Place Deborah Ellis

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No safe place

No Safe Place emphasises the strength of human character and determination during times of adversity. Ellis, renowned for her Parvana trilogy, successfully captures the horrific experiences of young characters attempting to escape atrocities associated with war.

Orphaned 15-year-old Abdul flees war-torn Baghdad to a squalid, makeshift migrant community in Calais, France, with high hopes for a better life and opportunities in England. Following an altercation at the camp, Abdul escapes and in desperation sneaks onto a people-smuggler’s boat headed for England. He remains unseen until well at sea. On the boat Abdul meets Rosalia, a 14-year-old Romani girl who has escaped the white slave trade; 13-year-old Cheslav, a Russian military school runaway and 10-year-old Jonah, the people-smuggler’s abused nephew. Once isolated and hardened by their experiences, the four children form a friendship amid battling rough seas and a violent people-smuggler, who is eventually thrown overboard by the refugees.

While sailing toward England and enduring rough conditions, Abdul’s story merges with the stories of the other refugees, Rosalia and Cheslav, who dream of freedom and a life away from brutality and treachery. Flashbacks delving into the past experiences of Rosalia, Cheslav and Jonah draw the reader to a deeper understanding of their harrowing lives that now sees them with Abdul on the boat contemplating a brighter future. Together their myriad of stories of loss, despair and prejudice related in No Safe Place will evoke disbelief and sympathy from readers. During the treacherous boat journey the reader continually wonders whether the group will make it to England and what will happen if they get there.

No Safe Place is a story of courage and friendship based on the true experiences of refugee children seeking to find a place for themselves in the world. Strong and powerful themes emerge, including society’s attitudes to refugees, racism, desperation and hope, resilience, human rights and the importance of home. This well-written novel keeps the reader hooked until the end. With a fast-paced and vivid storyline, realistic characters that allow the reader to connect with their heart-felt stories and feel empathy for their plight, it is an easy-to-read and accessible novel for students in Years 7-9.

Copies of No Safe Place are available at the OLMC Library.