'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

ANZAC Books Worth Knowing

An impressive spate of Anzac books has been released this year - perfect for kids but also important for adults. Along with some fabulous releases from the past few years, here is our pick for Anzac Books worth reading to your kids.

My Mother's Eyes: The Story of an Australian Boy Soldier by Mark Wilson (Lothian, $16.99, 9780734411914, ages 7-12)

A fifteen-year-old Australian farm boy lies about his age to enlist to war and is caught up in the horrors of World War I in Egypt and on the Western Front, where 5,500 Australian troops were lost in two days at Fromelles alone.

This boy's story in this unique, stirring picture book is based on true stories of the twenty-three teenage soldiers, one only fourteen who fought with the Australian army in World War I, as recorded at the Australian War Memorial (their names among a list of 60,000 Australian soldiers killed in that war).

The author's grandfather was a boy soldier who, unlike the hero of the book, did survive to return home. Told in the boy's own simple language and with extracts from his letters home, the story is extremely moving and evocative of the real tragedy of that worst of all wars.

Lone Pine by Susie Brown and Margaret Warner (Little Hare, $24.95, 9781921541346, ages 7-12)

When a soldier on a World War I battlefield sends a pine cone home to his mother, he could not know that his simple gift would become a symbol of history and remembrance.

Suzie Hamers' and Margaret Warner's sensitive text is evocatively illustrated by Sebastian Ciaffaglione, and tells a story that is about both personal experience and a nation-defining event.

My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day by Catriona Hoy (Lothian, $16.99, 9780734410368, ages 5-10)

Told through the eyes of a small girl who goes to the pre-dawn service to watch her grandfather marching in the parade, this picture book introduces children to the story behind Anzac Day, and the importance of traditions and remembering.

Archie's Letter  by Martina Flanagan (One Day Hill, $16.99, 9780980794878, ages 8+)

On Anzac Day 2010, a 96-year-old man in Hobart, a returned soldier from World War II, wrote a letter to the local paper thanking the people who were going to that morning's dawn service. Who was this man? Why did he write this letter?

Archie's Letter tells the story of an ordinary man who went off to fight in World War II. His experiences included surviving the Burma Railway, where he was under the command of Australian war hero, Weary Dunlop.

Archie's Letter also tells how he dealt with his wartime experiences; how, at the age of 91, he agreed to meet a group of elderly Japanese women interested in world peace; how he could never forget the young men who were with him during the war and who didn't come back.

Simpson and His Donkey by Mark Greenwood (Walker Books Australia, $29.95,  9781921150180, ages 7-10)

A poignant account of the story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick and how he and his donkey, Duffy, rescued over 300 men during the campaign at Gallipoli.

Backed by detailed research, the text includes a brief biography of the man, details of his work at Gallipoli and also the little known story of how, without realising, he rescued his childhood friend.

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