Book Review: Best Mates, written by Philippa Werry, illustrated by Bob Kerr

Philippa Werry is a children’s writer and author of Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story, which is a finalist in the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Bob Kerr is a painter and illustrator living and working in Wellington.

Best Mates is a story of comradeship and endurance in the face of adversity.cv_best_mates

Three young boys, Harry, Jo and the narrator are best mates. They all lived on the same street and all went to the same school, playing and growing up together. They joined the New Zealand Army at the same time to fight for their country. They were being sent to Gallipoli. They saw it as a “big adventure.”

They sail by ship from New Zealand to the other side of the world. They then sail in the early morning out of Lemnos Harbour and then on to Anzac Cove in Gallipoli, where they are met with gunfire as soon as they landed on the beaches, with many being wounded or dead. They dug trenches to defend the peninsula from the Turks but conditions were very primitive and as a result, Joe got sick. He was then removed by stretcher to a hospital ship. Harry is then hit by enemy fire and ends up being wounded, but died a short time later of his injuries. He is buried by his comrades on the hill overlooking the sea.

Many years later the three friends are reunited, when the two surviving men fly from New Zealand to lay poppies on Harry’s grave in Gallipoli.

It is fantastic to see the numbers of young people attending parades increasing. It is heartening to know that the story of ANZAC has been preserved for the younger generation, to read and learn.

Bob Kerr the illustrator has done a wonderful job. The illustrations are simply drawn, but show the ugliness of war; the carnage, the reality, the grief and comradeship.

To all young people who read this book, think about what war really means, how families are broken forever by their young men never returning home.

Age range 5 – 12 years.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Best Mates
Written by Philippa Werry, illustrated by Bob Kerr
Published by New Holland
ISBN 9781869664114