Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com
When Australia pledges its support to Great Britain at the outbreak of World War I, mates Roy Martin and Wally Cardwell are among the first to enlist.
But what the friends first thought would be an adventure soon turns to disaster The day after the landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915, more than 2000 of their fellow Anzacs are dead. As the campaign drags on, life for Wally and Roy and their new friend, Tom, becomes a battle of endurance against a plucky enemy, a hostile landscape, flies, fleas, cold and disease. The story of the Anzac campaign, including the battle of Lone Pine, is interspersed with scenes of Australians at home to show the shift from popular support of the Empire at the start of the war to profound disillusionment as the casualties begin to mount.
I have to admit, I am still blinking away tears as I write this. Despite the "animal" characters, this is a moving and I feel accurate account of the ANZAC story told from the perspective of an average soldier. It's obvious a great deal of research has gone into this book: the uniforms, the authentic tone of the dialogue, the sentiments expressed by the soldiers, the history revealed - even the slight deviations noted - all contribute to putting the reader right in the thick of the action.
Greg Holfield has done a brilliant job with the art work. There's a wonderful retro feel to it. Even the endpapers have what look to be authentic documents, faded and in the spidery handwriting of the time. At first I wondered about his decision to portray the characters as animals, but it didn't take long for me to become wholly absorbed in the story, and for the heroes particularly to become very real to me.
Like lots of Australians, a big part of remembering the ANZAC campaign and Gallipoli for me is vowing never to let such a terrible catastrophe happen again. As teachers and parents, I believe it's vital for us to share the ANZAC story with our kids. An Anzac Tale puts children into this time and place in Australia's history in a format that's accessible to the majority of them. Senior Primary and Junior High School students, particularly boys, will grab An Anzac Tale for sure. For teachers and librarians, there's the added bonus of thought-provoking discussion questions and activities from Working Title.
Last week I told you about The Treasure Box. I've also reviewed Simpson and his Donkey. These are three excellent books to consider before ANZAC Day. Next Wednesday, we continue with the historical theme with a guest review of Lighthouse Girl.
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