Susie Brown & Margaret Warner
Little Hare, 2014 (First World War centenary edition)
hbk, 32pp., RRP $A24.95
In 1915, on a Turkish hillside a lone pine stood in a barren wasteland above a fierce battle being waged between the Turks and ANZACs, a conflict that has become part of Australia’s history and identity.
In 1934, a sapling grown from that lone pine was planted in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia’s national capital.
In 2014, that tree still stands tall in beautiful, lush surroundings in memory and recognition of the events of 1915.
In 2015, it will be a focal point of the centenary of those events.
Lone Pine is the true story of that journey. From a soldier looking for his brother, a mother mourning the loss of her son, a gardener understanding both the significance and the vision, a Duke performing a ceremonial duty we learn of how a tiny pine cone from that solitary tree has become such a symbol in our commemorations. Told in simple prose against a backdrop of muted but magnificent artistry which you can view on the artist’s website , the story is both moving and haunting. The soldier’s mother plants three seeds but only two saplings survive, just like her sons; fierce storms batter the sapling the day it is planted at the AWM, just as war clouds started rumbling around Europe once again; it survives to stand tall and strong despite the storms it has to weather, just as our hope for peace does. The continuity of life through the pine tree echoes the seasons and cycles of human life.
Jointly written by a teacher librarian and a teacher, there is a real understanding of how to engage the target audience and tell a true story that is not just a recount of an historical event. Accompanying the story are notes about the events it depicts including more information about the tree itself which reinforce the theme of the renewal and continuity of life. As well as the sapling planted at the AWM, its twin was planted as a memorial to the fallen brother in Inverell, and even though this has since been removed because of disease, its son lives on at Inverell High School, planted by the fallen soldier’s nephew. Two trees propagated from the pine at the AWM were taken to the Gallipoli Peninsula and planted there by a group of ANZACs in 1990.
There is much more about the tree and its descendants at the Australian War Memorial and teaching notes are available that will take the students well beyond the story of a remarkable tree. For those who have access to the NSW school magazine Touchdown, the April 2013 teaching guide also has activities to support the story.
With the centenary of both World War I and ANZAC Day drawing closer, the resurgence of the significance of ANZAC Day in the understanding of our young, and a pilgrimage to the Dawn Service at ANZAC Cove becoming a must-do, life-changing event, the story of the lone pine deserves to be better known, and this wonderful book HAS to be a part of any school library’s ANZAC collection. Its quality was acknowledged when it was listed as a Notable Book in the 2013 CBCA awards – not a common feat for first-time authors!