Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dear Alison

Dear Alison: A new Zealand Soldier's Story from Stalag 383 edited by Simon Pollard (Penguin) ISBN: 978-014330460-9 RRP$30

Dudley Roberts Muff was captured by the Germans during the second world war. The Germans forced him to march and travel by train from Greece to Germany with 4,000 other New Zealand POW soldiers. He spent four years in an NCO camp until he was released by American soldiers in 1945. Dudley wiled away the hours writing in his journal, which he dedicated to Alison his favourite four-year-old niece. He wrote about daily life in camp and illustrated it with sketches and diagrams.
It starts, 'Dear Alison, Mummy has told you all about Uncle being a prisoner so now I must tell you what we do to pass the time.'
The entries are sometimes funny and other times sad - it is a poignant account of a soldier's time in a prisonor-of-war camp.

Editor Simon Pollard provides an introduction to the journal filling in the gaps of how Dudley was captured, his trip to Germany and journey back to New Zealand after the war.

Teachers will find this a very useful resource for studies about the war/ANZAC. It could be used in the reading and language programme or as an introduction to a social studies topic. See teacher's resource. Children 8-12 years will find it an interesting read about the war.

Dr Simon Pollard is the Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at Canterbury Museum, Christchurch. He is a spider biologist, natural history writer, photographer and author. Alison's Book is written by his great uncle, Dudley Roberts Muff. Simon often wondered what had become of his great uncle's diary and by a lucky coincidence while visiting his brother in London he came across a newspaper clipping saying that Dudley had donated the diary to Canterbury Museum. Again, through either luck or coincidence, Canterbury Museum is where Simon has worked since 1997.Through the Museum database Simon was able to track down the archival box that had been the resting place of the original diary for many years.

Dear Alison is shortlisted for the 2010 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards. Simon Pollard's book, 'I am a spider' won the LIANZA Elsie Locke Award for non-fiction book of the year and his co-authored, 'Biggest, littlest spiders' won the Mocking Bird Book of the year Award in the US.
Reviewed by Maria Gill

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