#AWW2016 Review – Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms by Anita Heiss

barbed wire, cherry blossoms


Set during the Second World War, Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms tells the story of Hiroshi, a Japanese Prisoner of War, and Mary, a young Wiradjuri woman living at Erambie Station, an Aboriginal mission.

At the beginning of the story, Hiroshi is held, alongside many others, in the No. 12 Prisoner of War compound in Cowra, NSW. But being kept prisoner is shameful for the Japanese soldiers, who have been raised to either fight or die for their country – even to the point of committing suicide should they be captured – and so a decision is made amongst the prisoners to stage a rebellion and escape from the the compound.

In the melee, and immediately afterwards, many of the Japanese prisoners die: some are killed, some take their own lives, and many are recaptured. But Hiroshi manages to escape, and he is taken in by the Williams family at Erambie. Looking after a Japanese prisoner of war is not easy when the very act of hiding him could put them all in a lot of trouble, and the people living at Erambie are already struggling to survive, living as they are under the Protection and Assimiliation Acts, and always under the watchful eye of the mission Manager.

As Hiroshi soon discovers, life in the Prison Compound was better than the life the Australia’s Indigenous people experience on the missions.

Hiroshi is hidden in the family’s air-raid shelter – a risk in itself, as if there really is an air-raid, it is not only the Williams family who will need to shelter there, but also their neighbours. The Williams eldest daughter, Mary, is given the once-daily task of delivering food and water to the man. These visits must be kept short, so as not to strike up anyone’s curiosity, but over time Mary finds she is staying longer and longer, as she and Hiroshi share stories about their lives.  Love blossoms between them – but will they be able to stay together, and overcome the restraints imposed by Hiroshi’s culture, and the living conditions imposed on Mary and her people by the Australian government?

This was such a sweet story. Anita captured the reality of life as a Japanese soldier so well, and presented life at Erambie station in a way that made it real. So often we think we know what has happened in the past, but actually being fully aware of the experiences of people living in that time is not. This is where fiction really sheds light on situations and experiences where text-books cannot.

Highly recommend this great read.







Book Week Challenge – A-Z of Characters from Australian Children’s Stories

This post is a few weeks late, I know. The last fortnight I’ve had a run of sick children, my son, then my daughters, then my son again, then me and hubby. I haven’t read a lot over this time, though I do still have a couple of books that I’ve read, but haven’t yet reviewed, that I need to type up and post in the coming weeks, but they all require a little more brain power than I’m capable of giving at the moment.

Instead I thought I’d share with you our book week activity. As a homeschooler, I still try to incorporate all the awesome things the kids loved about school, and Book Week is definitely one of them. After searching out some ideas online, this year we sat down and made a list of all the characters we could think of for each letter of the alphabet. We tried to focus on books by Australian Authors, though you’ll see that a few non-Australian characters have snuck in there as well.

mm-chronicles A – Ash (Mapmaker Chronicles by AL Tait), Ashala Wolf (The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina), Andy (The Treehouse Series by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton), Alfonso (Cat’s Ahoy by Peter Bentley)

B – Blinky Bill (Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall), Booger Boy (Captain Underpants by Dav Pilky), Bilbo (The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien)

C – Cuddlepie (Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs), Cleaver (Mapmaker Chronicles by AL Tait)

D – Damon (Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody)

E – Elspeth (Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody) and Ellie (Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden)

F – Figgy (Figgy in the World by Tamsin Janu), Frodo (Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien)figgy

G – Grandma Poss (Possum Magic by Mem Fox)

H – Hush (Possum Magic by Mem Fox), Harry Potter (Harry Potter by J K Rowling

I – Isabeau (Witches of Eileanan by Kate Forsyth)

J – Jericho (Mapmaker Chronicles by AL Tait), Jill (The Treehouse Series by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton)

K – Koala Lou (Koala Lou by Mem Fox)

L –

M – Mary, Margaret (Who Am I by Anita Heiss), Marly (Meet Marly by Alice Pung)

N – Nana (Figgy in the World by Tamsin Janu), Nell (Sail Away, The Ballad of Skip and Nell by Mem Fox)

O –

P –obernewtyn

Q – Quinn (Mapmaker Chronicles by AL Tait)

R – Rushton (Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody)

S – Skip (Sail Away, The Ballad of Skip and Nell by Mem Fox), Snugglepot (Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs)

T – Terry (The Treehouse Series by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton)

U –

V – Very Hungry Caterpillar (The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle)

marlys-businessW – Wilfred Gordon Macdonald Partridge (Wilfred Gordon Macdonald Partridge by Mem Fox)

X –

Y – Yousra (Marly’s Business by Alice Pung)zaza

Z – Zain (Mapmaker’s Chronicles by AL Tait), Zaza (Zaza’s Baby Brother by Lucy Cousins)


Though we tried our best, we couldn’t come up with a character for every letter.

Can you think of any children’s book characters for the letters we missed?