book cover Kokoda Track: 101 days
by Peter Macinnis

Paperback | 180 pp | Years 5-6

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[ Developing values | Overview | Author profile | Useful websites | Focus questions]

Developing values

  • Each of us is part of a country that has a past, present and future.
  • Our present is built on the events of the past.
  • Our lives are influenced by the times and places we live in.
  • A hero is an ordinary person who does an extraordinary thing in extraordinary circumstances.
  • Not everything we read or view is the complete truth and we need to evaluate sources for accuracy, bias, currency and completeness.
  • Through knowledge and understanding, it is possible for enemies to become friends.


After Japan entered World War II on 7 December 1941, they began what seemed to be an endless march south-eastward, quickly overpowering Burma, Malaysia, and the great British stronghold of Singapore. On 19 February 1942, Darwin was bombed mercilessly and a few days later, Wyndham and Broome. It seemed as though a Japanese invasion was inevitable.

In May 1942, the Japanese were determined to invade Port Moresby, capital of Papua New Guinea and only a short hop across the Torres Strait to Australia. By ruling Port Moresby they could have controlled access to Australia's shipping and air lanes, and prevent the USA from doing so. However, the Japanese were forced to retreat after being defeated by the Australians and Americans in the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Nevertheless, the Japanese were determined to take Port Moresby and make it a major base so they decided to capture it from behind by crossing the rugged Owen Stanley Range.

What followed in July, August and September 1942 has made the name 'Kokoda' famous in Australian military history.

In this book, the author has tried to untangle the confusion of truth and propaganda by naming the significant dates of the campaign and using fictional inserts to represent the perspective of the soldiers and the incredible conflicts – physical, mental and emotional – that they were engaged in.

Author profile

Peter Macinnis got his start in writing with text books. He has also been writing science talks for radio since 1985. More recently, he has also been writing science content for an online encyclopaedia. Although Peter has now officially 'retired from teaching', science teaching was his main job for more than thirty years. He also spent some of this time in the education sector – as a public servant, and in two museums.

Most of his books are written for adults and look at the curious stories behind everyday things. Recent titles have covered sugar, rockets, and most recently, poisons and poisoners.

Peter began his post-school life planning to be a forester, which is what took him to Papua New Guinea.

He has an independent mind, which is why he admires Jim Cowey. Like Blamey, Peter was an officer of cadets, but let it go after a year because he could not take his 'pompous colleagues seriously'.

He has uncertain views about war. In 2002, he visited Gallipoli and wondered at the stupidity of those military geniuses who sent our young men to die there. A few weeks later, he left Auschwitz with the view that there was such a thing as a just war. But when he left Dresden (fire-bombed late in World War II) three days later, he wondered how he could have got it so wrong.

Macinnis believes that:

War will continue as long as the military geniuses and get-rich-quick schemers are not forced to learn what it is like to scream, bleed and have to shoot back. Until that day, war will go on, and nations will waste the best of their young people to win greater glory and riches for people who will stay far from the front line.
But, even if you are against war, you have to admire those who make a stand and fight - and that goes as much for the Japanese troops who were betrayed by their commanders as it does for the Australians, who were treated, if anything, even worse.

Peter's hobbies are walking - preferably in wilderness places - reading, writing, travel to unlikely foreign places, small invertebrates, and talking. He lives in Sydney with his wife who is also a science teacher. He is currently working on a history of 19th century science, and a book on how we came to be obsessed by neat and tidy lawns.

You can find out more about the author at

Useful websites

Focus questions

Before reading the book

  • What and where is the Kokoda Track?
  • Do the cover illustrations provide any clues as to what the book might be about?
  • Is it fiction or non-fiction?
  • What is the difference?
  • Why might this series be called 'The Drum'?
  • What is your opinion of war?
  • Is it really just a great adventure?
  • Can there ever be a war that is justified?

During and after reading the book

  • What is the main theme underlying the account of the conflict?
  • How did the actions and aspirations of Blamey and MacArthur help or hinder the soldiers' efforts?
  • Can you determine the author's opinion of Blamey and MacArthur from his writing?
  • What have you learned from reading this book?
  • Have any of your opinions about war been changed?

© Curriculum Corporation 2006