Anzac Day is an important time to reflect on the sacrifices that Australian and New Zealand soldiers have made for our countries. As such, there are many children’s books published to commemorate the day and teach youngsters about the significance of the Anzacs, then and in the future.
Below are some of the titles that are available.
(Note: I have previously written about other Anzac books, and these reviews can be found on my profile page.)
Forward March – Christobel Mattingley (Illustrated by David Kennett)
When most people think of the Anzacs, they immediately think of soldiers in Gallipoli (unsurprisingly, considering this is the most well-known of the battles the Anzacs fought), but this book commemorates the lives of all Anzacs who have fought for their countries. Not only is Gallipoli covered, but so are other battles of the First World War (Beersheba, Tobruk, etc), as well as the Boer War, World War II and the Vietnam War. Illustrated references to other wars are also made, although these are not identified in the text. All of the people who were involved are mentioned, including the soldiers who fought, the women who contributed in various roles and the family members who remember them. The illustrations are stark and powerful, whether they feature war scenes, memorial parades or military equipment, and have been created using acrylic paints, graphite pencil, dip pen and ink, watercolour and coloured pencils. These varying mediums make the illustrations stand out, and provide a strong backdrop for the important message being told. Probably better for an older audience who can appreciate the artwork, this book is a powerful tribute to Anzac Day and all it stands for.
Rating: 3/5 Published: March 2016
Lest We Forget – Kerry Brown (Illustrated by Isobel Knowles and Benjamin Portas)
This sweet picture story book is the perfect tool to teach young children about the significance of Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. Juxtaposing the important days in a young boys life with those of his grandfather as he remembers the war, young readers are able to learn about the similarities and differences of both experiences. From companionship on the football team to a fellowship with others in the trenches, from wearing a new uniform on the first day of school to wearing a new uniform leaving for war, each event is likened to the other, showing that what the young boy finds important is equally as significant to his grandfather. The main topic of the story, that ‘there are two types of days: those you want to remember and those you want to forget…’ really brings home the message that our national days of remembrance are particularly special, and should always be commemorated, despite the sadness they may cause.
Rating: 3.5/5 Published: March 2015
Gallipoli – Kerry Greenwood (Illustrated by Annie White)
Most children’s stories about World War I lay out the bare facts of the battles, and don’t focus so much on particular characters. If they do, they are just passing references to things that their grandfathers or great-grandfathers did. But this picture story book is a little bit different, in that it tells the story of two young friends, Bluey and Dusty, who travel to and fight in Gallipoli together. Having survived the ambush while landing on the shores of Gallipoli, the two young men fight against the Turks and experience life in a new environment. They meet and are aided by Simpson and his donkey, and suffer wounds that take them to the relative safety of the hospital at Lemnos. They experience hardship, but still manage to remain strong, enjoying the rare parcels that come from home. While Gallipoli ends differently for both of them, they eventually get home to Australia and start their own families, while remaining the best of mates. This story is narrated by Bluey’s great-grandson, but readers don’t learn this until the very end of the book- the tale of Bluey and Dusty and the things they endured is much more important.
Rating: 3.5/5 Published: March 2014
Reflection: Remembering Those Who Serve In War – Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg (Illustrated by Robin Cowcher)
This war remembrance-themed picture book follows a similar trend to others of the genre, featuring modern day illustrations juxtaposed against wartime imagery of a similar nature. From a red poppy on someone’s lapel to a red poppy waving in the breeze, from marching to a remembrance ceremony to mustering before dawn for battle, a lot of the images can be compared and contrasted to one another for maximum impact. This book covers all of the major wars that Australian and New Zealand soldiers have participated in, not just the Gallipoli landing during World War I. While the First World War does get a page of remembrance, so too does the South African ‘Boer’ War, and World War II, as well as the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Bosnia & Herzegovina, East Timor and Afghanistan. Information about each of these wars is mentioned at the end, as well as a thumbnail image of the accompanying illustration which is featured within the book. The illustrations have been created using pen and ink with watercolour washes, providing interesting imagery. Again, this book is probably better suited to an older audience, but the important message of remembrance should relate well to most young people.