This delightful picture book will engage children and adults alike; beautifully illustrated and with just the right amount of detail for a younger audience, it is a timely publication as the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I approaches.
Based on true events, The Anzac Puppy tells the story of a New Zealand soldier, Sam, and Freda, the puppy he takes with him to the Western Front. Both Sam and Freda endure the hardships of trench life over a long period of time, and grow into adulthood together. The story has a lovely ending that brings things full circle.
As I’m a teacher, I asked my class of new entrants to help me review the book. They enjoyed it very much, thought the pictures were beautiful, they appreciated the ending, and they liked that Freda was a brave dog who helped Sam to be brave too.
Wondering if slightly older children would gain more from the book, I read it to the class of 6-and-a-half-year-olds next door. They were much more interested in the depiction of war than the younger children, and were keen to start conversations about the war, why it happened, and their own family experiences of WW1. Some of the boys were less appreciative of the ending (one went so far as to pronounce “bleuch” very loudly!), but again, the children were impressed by the bravery of Freda, and they were fascinated by the true origins of the story.
The Anzac Puppy stands on its own as a lovely picture book to share with children aged 5 to 10, as themes of courage and bravery always appeal. It also serves as an excellent starting point for conversations about the many commemorations that will take place in New Zealand and overseas to mark the significant anniversaries of WW1, and helps to convey a little of the sense of horror that our servicemen and women must have endured in the trenches. Recommended – on both counts!
Reviewed by Rachel Moore
The Anzac Puppy
by Peter Millett and Trish Bowles
Published by Scholastic NZ