Friday, April 11, 2014

Children’s Books for ANZAC Day 2014

Children’s Books for ANZAC Day 2014
by Susan Stephenson,

Originally, ANZAC Day in Australia was to remember the ANZACs - soldiers who fought in Gallipolli during World War 1. Generally though, ANZAC Day is a national holiday set aside on April 25 for us to remember all Australians and New Zealanders who have lost their lives in wars and conflicts. Because many parents, teachers and librarians do their best to help children understand the spirit of ANZAC Day, I want to introduce some books you might appreciate.


Midnight is a children’s picture book by Mark Greenwood and Frane Lessac. It was published by Walker Books Australia in 2014. RRP $Au27.95.

A foal is born at midnight, on the homestead side of the river. Coal black. Star ablaze. Moonlight in her eyes. On October 31, 1917, the 4th and 12th Regiments of the Australian Light Horse took part in one of the last great cavalry charges in history. Among the first to leap the enemy trenches was Lieutenant Guy Haydon riding his beloved mare, Midnight. This is their story.

I really enjoyed the narrative non-fiction format Midnight is written in. I am a Story person myself; so too are many kids. The narrative style helps them come to grips with the facts they learn in this book. Obviously based on meticulous research, and dedicated to the Light Horsemen and their horses, Midnight is above all a story of one man and his horse. The Charge at Beersheba is brought to life for us through the eyes of Guy Haydon and Midnight. Lessac’s striking illustrations perfectly complement Greenwood’s evocative text.

The Poppy

The Poppy is a children's picture book by Andrew Plant (Ford Street Publishing 2014) RRP $26.95 via Pan Macmillan Australia.

Stunningly illustrated in over 70 paintings, The Poppy is the true story of one of Australia's greatest victories, and of a promise kept for nearly a century. On Anzac Day, 1918, a desperate night counter-attack in the French village of Villers-Bretonneux became one of Australia's greatest victories. A bond was forged that night between France and Australia that has never been broken. Villers-Bretonneux is 'The town that never forgets'. What was achieved that terrible night - and what happened after - is a story that, likewise, Australians should never forget.

The Poppy is not so much a story as a description of a significant event in Australia’s history. Accompanied by more than seventy paintings that manage to convey both the sombre reality of so many lives lost, and the joyous celebration of a link forged between two countries, The Poppy makes another excellent children’s picture book for schools that need to augment their ANZAC Day resources. Although not specifically about Gallipoli, the fact that it sprang from a WW1 event and that it shows the positives that can come from conflict definitely make it qualify, in my opinion.
(I’ve previously reviewed another publication Andrew Plant illustrated, The Little Dinosaur.)

Meet the ANZACS

Meet the ANZACS is a children's picture book written by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Max Berry and published by Random House Books Australia, 2014.

With perfect timing as we approach the centenary commemorations of World War 1 and the Anzac legend, this new picture book in the Meet… series (which includes Ned Kelly, Saint Mary MacKillop, Captain Cook and forthcoming Douglas Mawson) has been beautifully executed with younger readers in mind. The simple but eloquent text describes the beginning of the Anzacs as young men in Australia and New Zealand enlisted and their subsequent travels and experiences leading up to Gallipoli. (Quote from Sue Warren's review at Just So Stories.)

Find another review of Meet the ANZACS and The Poppy via Barbara Braxton's The Bottom Shelf.

Simpson and his Donkey

Simpson and His Donkey, written by Mark Greenwood, illustrated by Frane Lessac and published by Walker Books Australia, 2008, is not a recent children's picture book, but I urge you to consider it as a wonderful resource for ANZAC Day.  Here’s a quote from my earlier review: “But this is not just a story about a battle. It shows us the human side of war, the courage, the waste of human life, the brotherhood engendered among men fighting for a common cause. When Jack was just a lad in England, before he sailed off to Australia and adventure, he vowed never to forget his young mate, Billy. Billy was one of more than three hundred men whom Jack rescued at Gallipoli.”

An Anzac Tale

For older children, I recommend a graphic picture book I reviewed last year, An Anzac Tale. Here’s a quote from my review: “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.”

Light Horse Boy

This children's picture book was written by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Brian Simmonds and published by Fremantle Press (2013.) It's been shortlisted in the 2014 Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year Awards.

"Reading Jim’s letters is like reading letters from someone you know (your own brother, or a friend). Through Jim’s eyes we see how war affected young Australian soldiers and their horses serving in World War I, and how hard it was for friends and family left behind. Highly recommended." (Quote from Rebecca Newman's review at Soup Blog.)

Find more wonderful books with an ANZAC theme via the CBCA's Reading Time.

Find other children's book reviews at The Book Chook via the Reviews button in the right sidebar.


  1. Susan
    Great you have some titles I haven;t seen:) checking them out
    have some more here for you for next year

    1. Thanks Erin! You have some new to me there for sure!


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