In Part One, we looked at some picture story books about war, and the involvement of Australian and New Zealand soldiers. Here are a few more titles, from the same genre, that may interest you.
The Poppy – Andrew Plant
The French village of Villers-Bretonneux has never forgotten Australia, and the role it played in helping to protect them from the invading Germans during World War I. This picture story book is a tour of sorts, leading the reader on a journey through the village- past all the memorials that have been erected in commemoration of the Australian soldiers who died, as well as special items that signify the bond that lies between the people of Victoria (who adopted the village, helping to rebuild it after the war), and the people of Villers-Bretonneux.
Following a poppy petal as it floats above the town, the reader gets the chance to witness important landmarks, the French and Australian flags flying side by side, and gravesites of the fallen soldiers (many of whom were never identified). More importantly, they get the chance to learn about the significance of that bright red flower which is well-known for its association to war- the poppy.
This book is beautifully illustrated and shows the strong bond that was forged between the French and the Australians on Anzac Day, 1918.
First World War Sticker Book – Usborne
This sticker book, released in association with Imperial War Museums, helps children to understand the key events of World War I- including all the important facts and figures, the big names that made things happen, the weapons that were used and the vehicles that were commandeered by fighting soldiers. The stickers (located at the back of the book) have allocated spots within the pages where they can be stuck (if your child is very careful about putting them in their correct place). If your child is not that way inclined, however, the book will not be ruined, as there are still muted-looking pictures on each of the pages (to show where the stickers are meant to go). These still look reasonably fine even when they are uncovered, so they will not detract from the splendour of this book, or the wealth of information that can be gleaned from it. While it is predominantly British, this sticker book has plenty to keep young Australian children interested, especially if they have a fascination with World War I.
The Promise: The Town That Never Forgets – Derek Guille (Illustrated by Kaff-eine), Translated by Anne-Sophie Biguet
This is another book about the relationship between the French village of Villers-Brettoneux and Australia, but it is very different to any other that you may have read. Written by a journalist and blogger, Derek Guille, this is a narrative about a tour that he took with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 2007. From Paris, he, along with twelve musicians of the Orchestra (mostly members of the brass section, who formed a band called the Melbourne Villers-Bretonneux Brass Ensemble), took several train trips until they reached the small village. While there, they met the people of the town, visited gravesites and memorials, played music for the children at the school and saw the museum. They then journeyed to the place where Nelson Ferguson fought. He was an Australian artist and musician who was injured during the battle at Villers-Bretonneux, and one of his grandsons was responsible for creating the band, even though he didn’t play for them. In this place, at the foot of the war memorial, the band held their own private ceremony, where they played ‘The Minstrel Boy’, with one musician playing on the cornet (Ferguson’s instrument of choice). This moving tribute was witnessed by many of the village’s people, and played a very special part in the Orchestra’s tour. Two years later, in 2009, when the Black Saturday bushfires ravaged country Victoria, the people of Villers-Bretonneux banded together to raise money for the school in Strathewen, which was destroyed. This generous act was an almost exact replica of the support given by the Victorians to the French nearly 100 years before, and further highlighted the loyalty and friendship that exists between the two countries.
This is a rather wordy picture story book, so I wouldn’t recommend reading it if you’re in a hurry, but you should definitely make sure you set some time aside to take a look at it. The story is written in both English and French, so that it is accessible to readers of either language (which is quite thoughtful, when you consider the relationship that we’re learning about). The bright and distinctive illustrations by Melbourne urban artist Kaff-eine are also the perfect accompaniment to the text, and help to bring the story to life. This is an Anzac story that is looked at from a different perspective, providing quite a refreshing change from some of the other books in this genre.
Archie’s War – Marcia Williams
For those who are interested in a ‘first hand’ civilian perspective of World War I, you need look no further. This unique picture story book is a treat for all art-loving, comic-book-drawing children, and those who interested in learning more about the war from the viewpoint of a ten-year-old boy from London. The scrapbook, which was given to Archie by his Uncle Colin, chronicles life just before the war begins in 1914, and concludes just after V-Day in 1918. In it, Archie records all the important things that occur during these years, including conscriptions, women workers, people’s reactions to the Germans and food shortages. His pencil illustrations fill the pages of the book, some taking form as comic book strips or newspaper pages which he has created. The book is also slightly interactive, with envelopes to open, stuck-in pages to turn down, ‘clippings’ from real newspapers, postcards and cigarette papers, and objects (like feathers) made to look as though they have been stuck in with tape. This book is very informative, without being dull, and you’re sure to find something of interest on every page.