The ANZAC Billy
Mark Jackson & Heather Potter
Black Dog Books, 2019
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
At first they said the war would be over by Christmas, but another Christmas is coming and it’s time to fill a billy for Dad who is overseas with the rest of the Australian troops, somewhere in Europe. Into the tin, which is not only airtight and sturdy enough to withstand the sea journey but can also be used by the recipient for cooking, the little boy puts his favourite things – butterscotch, a fish, the last walnuts from the tree, a bar of chocolate and a pair of hand-knitted socks. His mother and grandmother also put in things, more practical than the little boy’s but packed with just as much love. And then it is time to send it on its way – will it reach the little boy’s father or find a home with another soldier? Whichever, there is a letter and that’s what matters.
This is a tender family story, one known by so many families in so many places at the time, of waiting for a father, a husband, a son to come home from war safe and well. Meticulously researched and illustrated in great detail in water colours as gentle as the story, it provides yet another glimpse into what life was like a century ago as families came to terms with what it meant to have the men overseas, and the sending of these special hampers was common.
The centenary of World War I has provided us with a wealth of stories for young readers, each unique and each helping the young reader to understand life in this different and difficult time, bringing history to life in a way that resonates with them. As well as the teachers’ notes available for this book, there is much to explore and compare in this story to life 100 years on and the opportunity to speculate about what might go into a soldier’s billy today.
An essential inclusion in your ANZAC collection.