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The Flying Angel by Vicki Bennett and Tull Suwannakit

Title: The Flying Angel

Author: Vicki Bennett and Tull Suwannakit

Genre: Historical, Biographical

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: March 2021

Format: Hardback

Pages: 32

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: A story inspired by the life of Sister Marie Eileen Craig

  • ·  Great teaching resource
  • ·  The perfect title to commemorate World War II
  • ·  Themes: family, friendship, war, perseverance, bravery, courage, compassion

World War II. 1945.

A group of nurses is handpicked to rescue injured soldiers from the frontline in Papua New Guinea, and transport them safely back home to Australia. Known for their courage and compassion, the soldiers call them . . . the Flying Angels.

This is a story inspired by the life of one remarkable nurse, Sister Marie Eileen Craig.

~*~

The first few decades of the twentieth century saw two wars. Sister Marie Eileen Craig’s father fought in the Great War, said to be the War to End All Wars when Marie is playing nurse with her toys in her garden. As she grows, she decides to become a nurse at the hospital – until something nobody ever saw coming happened. Another war, which would become known as World War Two, a war that would ravage the Pacific, Europe, England and Darwin. It was a time of devastation and fear at home.

Vicki Bennett’s new book explores the story of a brave young woman, a nurse, who went to help on the frontline in Papua New Guinea towards the end of the war, bringing soldiers home from war after they’d been injured. Vikki focuses on Marie’s story, and a single moment of fear when her plane almost went down. The story ends on a touching note that gives hope – because hope in a time of war and uncertainty is a powerful thing to have when everything else feels like it is hopeless.

War is brutal, and dark – and Tull Suwannakit’s illustrations inform the tone of the book, using camouflage colours and dark colours to give a sense of what it was like in Papua New Guinea, on the plane and arriving home to safety.

This is a story that is filled with compassion and bravery, and shows how powerful these two characteristics are in a time of war, whilst telling children the history of the war in an easy to access wat=y that doesn’t overwhelm them. It touches on friendship, and the unity and connection people can find in adversity, when faced with the same fears and worries in wartime.

Those same fears and worries, and the uncertainty, to an extent, are possibly reflected in the current pandemic for many people, and whilst the events will be different, we can recognise the feelings of helplessness, uncertainty and desire to see things through bravely and compassionately reflected in what Marie and Alfred go through.

This remarkable book commemorates the work and sacrifices made in war, and establishes the story of nurses and women in war for younger readers, and gives a starting point for what would be a very interesting research project for older children.

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