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When of hundreds of Japanese captives arrive at Featherston POW camp, the tiny town is divided. Tensions run high and then, on 25 February 1943, disaster strikes. Three boys witness it all. A compelling new novel by an award-winning author.

When of hundreds of Japanese captives arrive at Featherston POW camp, the tiny town is divided. Tensions run high and then, on 25 February 1943, disaster strikes. Three boys witness it all. A compelling new novel by an award-winning author.

'We knew straightaway that something was happening. Extra men in khaki uniforms stood at the main gates. Behind the wire, figures in blue sat on the ground. None of the usual moving around, washing up, wrestling, anything like that. Just rows of prisoners, sitting silently.'

It's 1942, and the tiny farming town of Featherston is about to receive hundreds of Japanese soldiers into its prisoner-of-war camp. Ewen, whose dad is a guard there, can't stop wondering about the enemy just down the road. Some say the captives are evil and cruel and should be treated harshly – or shot. But when Ewen and his friends ride out to the camp to peep through the barbed wire, the POWs just seem like . . . well, people.

Then a new group from a captured warship arrives and the mood in the camp darkens. Guards and inmates begin to clash. As tension builds the boys are told to stay away. But on 25 February 1943, Ewen and his friends are there at the moment the storm breaks – and terrible, unforgettable events unfold before their eyes.

A compelling novel by a master storyteller.


Taranaki writer David Hill loves to write about ordinary children in extraordinary circumstances.

Jim Chipp, The Wellingtonian

David Hill is one of this country’s most prestigious writers for children, particularly boys. His books fictionalise key past events, such as the Wahine disaster in No Safe Harbour. No surprise then that his latest, Enemy Camp, is set during World War II. Except this time the titular camp isn’t located in Germany or the United States, but rather in small-town Featherston, where Japanese prisoners are interned. Enemy Camp’s localising of big history really pays off, bringing home to 9-14 year-olds how New Zealand played its part in important historical happenings... Importantly, Hill personalizes the demonised foe, allowing young readers to see Japanese captives as much victims of war as anyone fighting on the Allied side. ...Enemy Camp is both an enjoyable read and imperceptible history lesson.

Siobhan Harvey, Waikato Times

David Hill has already given us so much New Zealand history in a readable and engaging way. This story continues his excellent eye for detail while still telling a gripping tale. Included are so many of the events which occurred in the last years of WWII: Polio, blackouts, shortages, racial tension and the daily lives of small town New Zealand. David Hill captures the honesty of the age group and the sense of curiosity which grips lads of Ewen’s age. This book would be an excellent read-aloud to a class, or a family. It will also capture the interest of those hard-to-find-a-book-for boys. I sat and read the whole thing, so gripped was I by the unfolding events. The true measure of this book comes from my 90-year-old father. I suggested he might enjoy it, remembering the incident as he did. Not only did he find himself fully engaged, he was quite smitten with the accuracy of the setting and events. In his words, "That is one more task I no longer have to do before I die. I wanted to write about childhood in the war years, but David Hill has done it for me.” I do not think there could be a greater accolade for the writer and his book. My grown up children are all in line to read it next. They grew up with David Hill’s books and still want more.

Kathy Watson, Booksellers NZ Blog

Enemy Camp was easy to read, clear, and compelling . . . David Hill has always had a great knack for bringing story and character to life in a way which really engages the reader, and Enemy Camp is no exception. . . Hill brilliantly creates the feeling of the late 1940s in New Zealand . . . through dialogue, particularly between the boys who are the main characters, but also through his ability to provide great insight in a few words. . . . and I think that younger readers will be caught up in the story regardless of their historical knowledge. . . . All the way through this excellent book there is great attention to detail . . . Good craftsmanship is everywhere evident. Hill has a knack for creating character in a few well-chosen words, and his descriptions of Clarry struggling to walk are extremely moving. Once again, David Hill has written a cracking good story which will engage readers. It would, in my opinion, work well as a class text, as there are many good points to trigger discussion and further research.

Sue Esterman, NZ Books

The daily diary format makes it really accessible, but what really shines out of this story is the reality. I'm not sure this is an event that New Zealanders know a lot about...but this is our history written into a really exciting adventure story for 10- to 16-year-olds.

John McIntyre, Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan Children's Book Review

this compelling coming-of-age tale explores what it means to be human.

Tots to Teens

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    February 29, 2016


    272 pages

    RRP $16.99

    Online retailers

    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Dymocks
    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    February 29, 2016

    Penguin eBooks

    288 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle AU
    • iBooks
    • Google Play EBook AU
    • Kobo
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks

Awards and Recognition

  • New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults
    Finalist in the Junior Fiction and Children's Choice categories of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults
  • Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Award
    Notable Book
    Storylines Notable Book