The year is 1943 and while New Zealand lies far from the front-lines, there are signs everywhere of the threat of war. American servicemen are prominent in the city and with news reports updating the steady march of the Japanese in the Pacific, 11 year old Bert, with the help of his sisters Betty and Meg, decides to convert the disused and largely forgotten bakery hidden in the hills near their house into a bomb shelter. There, they encounter a young Kiwi soldier who has deserted the NZ Army and so begins a game of subterfuge with very real and devastating consequences for them all.
The story itself is compelling, with the threads of loyalty and betrayal running through the heart of it yet if the book is dissected further, there are so many linguistic features and themes that would generate great discussion in a classroom setting including the effects of war on ordinary people, the role women played during this time, the relationships between family members and the issue of morality when confronted with a complex, adult problem.
Reading level: 9-13 (note: adult themes relating to sex, while not expressly stated, are contained in the book)
Released: August 2015