Brian Falkner is a New Zealand children’s book writer, whose books have been published in 14 countries – so he is an international success story! His latest book, Katipo Joe, is a thrilling World War II read for young people aged 12+.
Katipo Joe is fiction but is inspired by true events. Joe is the main character, and we first meet him as a 12-year-old boy living in Berlin in 1938 with his diplomat parents. The Nazis are on the rise, and Joe gets to see firsthand the mistreatment of local Jews, before his world is completely turned upside down. He is shocked to learn that his parents are spies, not diplomats. And then his father is captured by the Gestapo, and he and his mother only just make it out of Germany.
His mother sends him to New Zealand, while she goes to London, and the story picks up again in 1941, when Joe makes it across the ocean as a stowaway, in an incredibly dangerous journey. But when he gets to London Joe discovers that the address on his mother’s letters doesn’t exist. So he is in the middle of the Blitz, with bombs raining down, and all alone.
But then things get even more tense. He finally spies his mother outside Winston Churchill’s War Rooms and after following her, he becomes worried she is a German spy. Then, before he has the chance to connect with his mother, he is recruited by MI5 and is sent on a dangerous mission to Paris to assassinate an infamous Nazi official.
Katipo Joe is a page-turning, action-packed read. It’s a story of heroism and tragedy, and friendships forged in the midst of struggle. It’s a great way for young people to learn about the Second World War through Joe’s adventures, as the book features real events and people from the war.
Scholastic New Zealand
Reviewer: Karen McMillan