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The Fighting Stingrays by Simon Mitchell (Penguin Random House Australia)
Set in Queensland’s Torres Strait, this fast-paced book tells of the Fighting Stingrays: three resourceful young friends, Charlie, Masa and Alf. When Japan enters the war in 1941, the trio’s lives change overnight. All the Japanese residents are declared enemy aliens and are rounded up to be interned. This prompts the Fighting Stingrays to spring into action, determined not to accept the imprisonment of their friend Masa.
Mitchell’s gripping narrative revolves around the adventures of its three young heroes. Yet The Fighting Stingrays is more than a ripping yarn. It offers readers a vivid snapshot of the Torres Strait during the war. Mitchell deftly captures the inter-ethnic and class relationships on Thursday Island, a town where Aboriginal, Asian and European people are often segregated. His characters come to question the differential treatment of these groups while deepening their bonds of friendship and prevailing over adversity.
Mitchell’s characters are drawn from real life, inspired by the stories told by his grandmother, Robin Rogers nee Hockings, once a resident of Thursday Island. He also uses newspapers from the National Library of Australia’s digital archive, Trove, to brilliant effect, making The Fighting Stingrays full of rich and authentic historical detail as well as exciting incidents, sure to educate young readers even as it delights and entertains.