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

Saturday 27 April 2019

Review: The Anzac Billy

A boy is preparing a billy full of Christmas to send to his father who is a soldier in WW1. 

Each day he places an article in the tin to form a connection to home. There is butterscotch and a tin of fish, the last walnuts from their tree, a bar of chocolate and a pair of hand-knitted socks. 

Saturday mum’s contribution goes in: a razor, safety pins and soap for his undies. Sunday is for Nanna’s. She puts handkerchiefs, and a pencil and paper for his letters home.  

Although they prepare the Anzac  billy for the dad, there are so many billies being loaded onto a ship, nine billies to a layer, three layers to a box, and so many soldiers, the boy understands that his particular one might not reach his dad. He doesn’t mind. It’s the importance of his letter reaching his dad in time for Christmas that matters the most.

Claire Saxby has as always, researched her subject thoroughly to create a moving tale of love, longing and the loneliness of being far from your loved one.

The exquisite illustrations are in watercolour and pencil. The same combination of colours - delicate shades of brown, bluish green and white are used throughout the book. This uniform approach corresponds with the constant hope and yearning the family has for the father’s return.

Most of the illustrations are presented in full page double spreads where the reader is part of the scene being played out. I felt like I was standing in a corner observing, and feeling the same emotions washing over the two mothers and child as they stay busy to fill in time till they are reunited with their loved one.

It is obvious that the illustrators have immersed themselves in the text to have provided such an impressive and realistic visual interpretation of the author’s words.

This is a divine publication full of movement and nostalgia, beautifully reflecting the daily lives and thoughts of people during the War years. I adored the image of the rows of soldiers standing on the deck looking out to sea, all lost in thought. The crests of waves appear wild and white-tipped matching the men’s mood, perhaps their heartbeat. In the corner of the opposite page, a soldier sits with his Anzac billy open reading a letter.

Both end pages in blue background and items, depict the contents of the boy’s Anzac billy.

Title: The Anzac Billy
Author: Claire Saxby
Illustrator: Mark Jackson & Heather Potter
Publisher: Walker Books, $24.99
Publication Date: 1 April 2019
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781925126815
For ages: 5+
Type: Picture Book