When Singapore fell to the Japanese in World War 2, allied soldiers and civilians were interned in Changi Prison or prisoner of war camps in the jungle. In an effort to help the children in Changi Prison, the prisoners set out making presents. Sergeant Griffin and Captain Greener decided to make an illustrated book for the children, but when it was inspected by the Japanese general, it was thought to have secret messages. The children received no presents for Christmas. It was not until the Japanese surrendered and the war was over that the book was recovered, buried in a box.
Andrew McLean’s emotive pen and watercolour illustrations work beautifully with Greenwood’s well worked verbal text. This is a beautiful package, sharing a period in Australia’s wartime history with a young audience. There are many opportunities throughout for further exploration and discussion, making this easily accessible for a wide audience range. Further information about the two creators of the book featured in the story is given at the end, along with a small bit of information about Changi prison. There is also more information about The Happiness Box and what became of it.
This will do well in all libraries, as a read aloud for youngsters or a satisfying read for older readers.
Teaching notes are available through this link.
Many thanks to Walker Books Australia for supplying this book for review.