Book Review: Anzac Animals, by Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivančić

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_anzac_animalsEvery Anzac Day, our family gets up in the cold and the dark to attend a dawn service to commemorate those who have served our country. Standing there in the dark, with the sun just beginning to whisper its arrival over the horizon, I always stop for a moment to think about all of the animals who have likewise served our country and paid the ultimate price for that service. The dogs, horses, carrier pigeons, and donkeys, who did their small part, perhaps unknowingly, to help our soldiers. So when I saw that Maria Gill had written a new book recording the stories of some of those animals, this animal-lover was delighted.

Gill and Ivančić are the same award-winning team that brought us Anzac Heroes (2016), New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame (2014), and Abel Tasman: Mapping the Southern Lands (2017). They are a great team; their combination of text, facts and artwork makes for a beautifully presented and extremely educational book.

This lovely treasury joins the likes of Jennifer Beck and Fifi Colston’s Torty and the Soldier in celebrating and remembering the animals who either fought alongside our soldiers or did their part for the war effort by bringing some small moments of happiness and compassion to an otherwise joyless place.

The book features Bess the war horse, Caesar the Red Cross dog, and Murphy the stretcher-bearing donkey, among more than a dozen others. There are facts, dates, maps and photos interspersed among the stories, followed by a very handy bibliography for those readers who need to know more. This is a great example of non-fiction for children done well; bite-sized parcels of information and facts, surrounded by fantastic illustrations and colourful diagrams.

Anzac Animals is another fabulous book from Gill and Ivančić. It will be a worthy addition to any school library or animal lover’s bookshelf. This is a fine memorial to our animal friends who deserve their moment in the Anzac Day spotlight as we give thanks and pay tribute to those who fought for our country.

Review by Tiffany Matsis

Anzac Animals
by Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivančić
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434740

Book Review: Bobby, the Littlest War Hero, by Glyn Harper, illustrated by Jenny Cooper

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_bobby_the_littlest_war_heroNow, 100 years after the Great War, stories are emerging about people and events previously unspoken of. I know with my own family, the stories were not recounted for over 50 years and it was the Grandchildren who became the listeners.

Bobby, the littlest War Hero is just such a story. For me the best part is that the tale comes as a picture book and so is available to an audience for whom the Great War is  distant history. This book makes it real.

Glyn Harper is a war historian and he uses a real event to tell the tale of a canary and his best friend Jack. The use of canaries in mining is well know, but their work during the war with the tunnelers was a revelation. Jenny Cooper brings the story of Bobby to life with the bleak browns of the battlefield and the yellow canary.

As a teacher I find a resource such as Bobby enables wonderful discussions and research. 30 years ago, such books were a rarity and it was difficult to engage my students. This book has been around many classes and I included my World War 1 entrenchment tool, to add another level to their understanding. This came back with my Grandfather and shows the fragility of life in the trenches.

As Anzac Day approaches, Bobby would be a wonderful way for a family to share ideas on war, peace and the importance of friendships.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Bobby, the Littlest War Hero
by Glyn Harper, illustrated by Jenny Cooper
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143771876

 

Book Review: Anzac Day, The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry

This book is shortlisted in the Non-fiction section of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. It is available in bookstores nationwide.

Philippa Werry is a children’s author who cv_anzac_day_the_new_zealand_storyhas written a number of books, and has been shortlisted for several awards and prizes including The New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults in 2009, for her historical novel Enemy at the Gate. Philippa lives in Wellington and participates in the Writers in Schools programme.

The acronym A.N.Z.A.C or as it was previously known A. & N.Z.A.C was chosen when they combined into one new army corps in Egypt − The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Egypt was where the New Zealand Expeditionary Force had set up its base. A New Zealander, Sergeant Keith Little, working at staff headquarters in Egypt made up an ink stamp with these initials which he called the ANZAC stamp.

The very first ANZAC Day services were held in 1916 to commemorate the Gallipoli landings of 25 April 1915. The First World War was called the Great War because people thought no other war could be as bad.

ANZAC day has been a very important day to thousands of New Zealanders over many generations. Philippa Werry also takes a look at the history of ANZAC day and how it has been commemorated through the decades. Memorials have been built in many small towns and cities throughout New Zealand and Australia. We find out, in this book, why the ANZAC tradition matters so much and about how the tradition of a dawn service first started.

This book is a fascinating read, further enriched when I found a photograph taken beside a memorial at Lion Rock at Piha (a West Coast beach in Auckland) of the Auckland Tramping Club, as club members gathered for an ANZAC day service in 1931. Both of my parents were active members of the tramping club at that time – they would have both been in their early 20’s and were probably there. I spotted one of my mother’s closest friends Vi Sheffield in this photograph, which was a wonderful surprise.

This book is aimed at children 5–12 years of age, but for older children and even adults, this could be used as a tool to foster more research into the subject. Technology that is available today, means that a huge amount of information is now available on-line.

It is encouraging to find that even our 3-year-old granddaughter who attends a day-care here in Auckland was asked to commemorate ANZAC Day. A note went home to the parents, requesting that the children wear red clothing on the Thursday, because of ANZAC day falling on a Friday this year. An explanation aimed at her age level was given of the significance of ANZAC.

We also took her to a service at our local seaside village – a service now held outside under shelter, because the numbers of people attending has outgrown the local RSA hall.

Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story
by Philippa Werry
Published by New Holland Books
ISBN 9781869663803

Finalist Interviews: The origin of Anzac Day: A New Zealand story

books_anzacdayIf you have ever wondered where authors get their ideas, this is your chance to find out. We have asked our fantastic finalists for the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults all about their work, and they have been very generous in their responses!

Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story is a finalist in the non-fiction category of the awards.

Thank you to Philippa Werry for her responses:

1.    As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this book?
The idea behind Anzac Day came from my experiences of going to our local Anzac Day community service. Every year, people are waiting to hand out service sheets, and they collect them again at the end to re-use them on the next Anzac Day. That means that the format of the service – the words that are spoken, the music that is played, the songs that are sung – remains much the same.

I started to wonder why that was so, and why we always spoke those same words and played that same music, and I thought that exploring those ideas might give more meaning to an Anzac Day service for children who attended one. But then I realised that there was a lot more to find out: not just what happens in the service, but also how Anzac Day came about in the first place, and why we have the dawn service and the red poppy, and how memorials of different sorts help us to remember. I tried to put together a history of Anzac Day from many different viewpoints, without glorifying war but honouring the memory of those who served and died for their country, to show why it has been important in the past and why it still matters today.

2.    Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?
There were two big hurdles. One was condensing the huge amount of information available, and working out what to leave in and what to take out.

The other was the question of images. We wanted the book to be richly illustrated with a wide range of images – modern and historic photographs, paintings, maps, diaries, even stamps. So that was a huge process in itself: tracking down the images, emailing institutions and museums and libraries to find out if they were available for use, negotiating payments, keeping track of a budget. Some people were very generous and let me use their photographs or images for free, as long as they were properly acknowledged. We’d have unexpected hiccups, like an image we thought had been cleared suddenly becoming unavailable so we had to quickly find a replacement. And then there were captions to write and the acknowledgements page, which had to be tied to the page numbers and was very complicated to draw up.

I thought at the time there must be an easier way, and I did work out a few practical steps to help improve the process but I’m going through it again for another book and it is just as complicated the 2nd time round!

3.    Did you tailor this book to a particular audience – or did you find it found its own audience as it was written?
The publicity info says it is aimed at 8-to-12-year-olds, but a lot of adults have told me that they’ve read it and enjoyed it, and they all say they have found out something they didn’t know before.

4.    Can you recommend any books that you love, that inspired or informed your book in any way?
There are so many books written about war, World War One and Gallipoli in particular, and about New Zealand’s place in war. I found the oral histories very moving, like Nicholas Boyack and Jane Tolerton’s, In the shadow of war: New Zealand soldiers talk about World War One and their lives.

I also loved Anna Roger’s book While you’re away: New Zealand nurses at war 1899-1948 because my great-great-aunt, Louisa Bird, was one of the first group of WW1 nurses to leave for the war in 1915.

5.    Tell us about a time you’ve enjoyed relaxing and reading a book – at the bach, on holiday, what was the book?
We usually spend New Year at my husband’s family’s bach in the Bay of Plenty. There are always lots of people – adults and children, and lots of books lying around. People bring books that they think others would like to read and we stock up supplies from the local library. This year, one book that fascinated us all was Tūhoe: portrait of a nation by Kennedy Warne, published by Penguin. It has stunning photographs – many of places that we have visited, and gives an in depth look at Tūhoe history.

6.    What is your favourite thing to do, when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?
Swimming for exercise, walking because it helps me get ideas, movies because we have a wonderful local cinema just around the corner and cryptic crosswords because they provide a lot of fun with words.

– Philippa has a Children’s War Books Blog