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My Grandfather’s War

My Grandfather’s War

My Grandfather’s War

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Grandfather’s War

Glynn Harper

Jenny Cooper

EK Books, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781775592990

On this most solemn of days on the Australian and New Zealand calendars, and as the centennial commemoration of World War I come to a close, My Grandfather’s War tells us of a more recent conflict, the Vietnam War, a war where those who served are now the grandparents of its target audience, our primary school students.

At a time when the world had almost emerged into a new era following World War II, the USA and the USSR were the new superpowers and the common catch-cry promoted by prime ministers and politicians was “All the way with LBJ”, Australian and New Zealand joined forces with the USA in this new conflict to stop the “Yellow Peril” of China moving south and overtaking nations just as Japan had tried to do between 1941 and 1945. Among the 65 000 troops of both nations committed between 1963 and 1975 was Robert,  Sarah’s grandfather who now lives with her family and who is “sometimes very sad.” 

Possibly a natio, drafted because a marble with his birthdate on it dropped into a bucket, old enough to die for his country but too young to vote for those who sent him, Robert, like so many others of his age whose fathers and grandfathers had served, thought that this was his turn and his duty and that the war “would be exciting”.  But this was a war unlike those fought by the conservative, traditional decision-makers – this was one fought in jungles and villages where the enemy could be anywhere and anyone; one where chemicals were used almost as much as bullets; one where the soldiers were not welcomed as liberators but as invaders; and one which the soldiers themselves knew they could not win. It was also the first war that was taken directly into the lounge rooms of those at home as television became more widespread, affordable and accessible. 

And the reality of the images shown clashed with the ideality of those watching them, a “make-love-not-war” generation who, naive to the ways of politics and its big-picture perspective of power and prestige, were more concerned for the individual civilians whose lives were being destroyed and demanded that the troops be withdrawn. Huge marches were held throughout the USA, New Zealand and Australia and politicians, recognising that the protesters were old enough to vote and held their futures in their hands, began the withdrawal.

But this was not the triumphant homecoming like those of the servicemen before them.  Robert came home to a hostile nation who held him and his fellow soldiers personally responsible for the atrocities they had seen on their screens.  There were no welcome home marches, no public thanks, no acknowledgement of heroes and heroism, and Robert, like so many of those he fought with, slipped back into society almost as though  he was in disgrace.  While the official statistics record 578 killed and 3187 wounded across the two countries, the stats for those who continued to suffer from their physical and mental wounds and those who died because of them, often at their own hands, are much more difficult to discover.  Like most returned servicemen, Robert did not talk about his experiences, not wanting to inflict the horror on his family and friends and believing that unless you were there you wouldn’t understand; and without the acknowledgement and support of the nation he was supposedly saving  and seeing his mates continue to battle the impact of both the conflict and the chemicals, he sank into that deep depression that Sarah sees as his sadness but which is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Disturbed by his sadness but told never to talk to her grandfather about the war, Sarah is curious and turns to the library for help.  But with her questions unanswered there, she finally plucks up the courage to ask him and then she learns Grandad’s story – a story that could be told to our students by any number of grandfathers, and one that will raise so many memories as the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Khe Sanh approaches, and perhaps prompt other Sarahs to talk to their grandfathers.

Few picture books about the Vietnam War have been written for young readers, and yet it is a period of our history that is perhaps having the greatest impact on our nation and its families in current times.   Apart from the personal impact on families as grandfathers, particularly, continue to struggle with their demons,  it opened the gates to Asian immigration in an unprecedented way, changing and shaping our nation permanently. 

Together, Harper and Cooper have created a sensitive, personal and accessible story that needs to be shared, its origins explored and understanding generated.  

Lest We Forget.

 

Armistice

Armistice

Armistice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Armistice

Ruth Starke

David Kennett

Working Title Press, 2018

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781921504914

On Sunday, November 11 2018 at 11.00am the world will stop and remember that after a long, gruelling, deadly war that shaped both history and nations alike, the guns finally stopped a century ago.

The centrepiece of the Australian commemoration at the Australian War Memorial will be the installation of 62 000 knitted red poppy flowers. each representing an Australian life lost during the conflict.  While those 62 000 voices have been silent for a century, this new book, a companion to My Gallipoli, brings together the voices of many who waited for the inevitable outcome.  From the Chief Allied Interpreter, soldiers and civilians and even Corporal Adolf Hitler, lying wounded in a military hospital, the events and the emotions are given a human side rather than the stark words on the pages of history books or in the mouths of modern dispassionate commentators.

While the guns were silenced on November 11, 1918, the talking continued for seven months until the Treaty of Versailles was finally signed on June 28, 1919 and the reader learns not only of the changes that were made to the world itself but also the conditions that meant that a second world war was inevitable. 

With endpapers that show the political changes that occurred in Europe between 1914 and 1925, thumbnail sketches of those whose voices have been quoted and comprehensive teachers’ notes available  this is a remarkable book that will help our students understand the significance of the time and its centenary.  It is a must-have in any collection relating to World War I.

 

Lest We Forget.

 

Message in a Sock

Message in a Sock

Message in a Sock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Message in a Sock

Kaye Baillie

Narelda Joy

MidnightSun, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781925227383

One hundred years ago and Australian soldiers are fighting in the waterlogged, mud-filled, rat-infested trenches of the Western Front and almost as great an issue as the enemy’s bullets is trench foot where the feet literally rot from being constantly cold and wet.  So the call goes out for 150 000 pairs of socks and the women and girls left back home start knitting.  

Click clack click clack click clack – no matter where you went, needles were working and socks were rolling off them –  long woolen ones that went up to the knees for added protection and silk knitted into the heels to make them extra strong. 

Tammy’s father is one of those away fighting and her mother one of those at home knitting. Day and night, whenever her hands aren’t doing something else, they are knitting. Tammy’s job is to wash the socks before they are sent away and into each of the ten pairs her mummy knits, she places a special message to her daddy.  

Dear Daddy, Bless your poor feet.  Every stitch is made with love to help bring you safely home.  From Tammy.

Then the socks are wrapped in special paper and taken to join all the other pairs about to be shipped.

Will her daddy get a pair of socks knitted by Mummy with their special message?

Based on a true exchange between Lance Corporal A. McDougall and a young girl,  Message in a Sock is another touching and intriguing story that helps put a human face on World War I making it easier for young children to understand this nation-shaping conflict and why the commemoration of its centenary is so important.  Told by Tammy herself, young girls can put themselves in her place and imagine what it would be like to have their father in mortal danger each day, far away in an unimaginable place and how even something as seemingly insignificant as putting a message in a sock can have such an enormous impact.  The tiniest stone thrown into a small pond can still make a ripple that spreads ever outwards.

With its muted colours but detailed pictures that contain so much interest, this is another unique story from a time long ago that like the impact of Tammy’s message in a sock, has the ripple effect of impacting understanding and perhaps lives. An essential in your ANZAC Day collection.

Stripes in the Forest

Stripes in the Forest

Stripes in the Forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stripes in the Forest

Aleesah Darlinson

Shane McGrath

Big Sky, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925275711

Stripes in the forest, stealth in the shadows.

The last female thylacine tracks through the forests of Tasmania, lands this top predator once owned and roamed at will.  But now she watches the strange creatures who are invading the land with their firesticks as they hunt and kill, not caring about the impact they are having on the environment and its creatures.  She finds a mate and pups are born, but life becomes ever more precarious.  Will she be the last of her kind?

The fate of the thylacine (aka the Tasmanian Tiger)  has been an enigma since the last one died in Hobart Zoo in 1936, just two months after protection was finally granted in a bid to save them from extinction.  Did the pups in this story survive?  Were there more to be born? Even today, there are questions being asked and talk of genetic resurrection.

Darlinson brings to light the possible story of the final female in this story for younger readers who want to know more about this intriguing creature while McGrath’s illustrations help them imagine a different Tasmania, one that is full of menace and fear as European settlement continues to encroach on the indigenous inhabitants.

While Australia has lost 27 mammal, seven frog and 24 bird species to extinction since the first European settlement in 1788, and another 506 species are considered endangered, vulnerable or threatened, the thylacine is the one that has captured the imagination and is the perfect introduction to investigating the concept of extinction and human impact on the environment. Unlike the dinosaurs which were wiped out by a natural disaster, extinction and endangerment is now linked directly to human habitation so using Stripes in the Forest as a starting point to ask why the men were intent on shooting every thylacine they saw and then investigating what happens to both fauna and flora when such an important part of the food chain is gone can be  a key part in creating awareness of the need to nurture our environment for our youngest readers.  A perfect example of using fiction to lead into an investigation that will go way beyond just the initial reading of the story.

Experience has shown that there is great interest in the thylacine but not a lot written for younger readers so this is a must-have for the collection.

Teachers’ notes fitting the Australian Curriculum can be found here

 

My Australia

My Australia

My Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Australia

Julie Murphy

Garry Fleming

NLA Publishing, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279163

Over a century ago Dorothea Mackellar wrote her iconic poem My Country and shared the beauty of Australia’s diverse landscape as she wrote about the amazing contrasts that make it unique.  Now Julie Murphy has used a similar theme to share her interpretation of its remarkable environments and habitats from the “wild wind-carved mountains” to the “white salty foam.” 

But this version is not a collection of words to be memorised and analysed and trotted out in response to literature assignments – this is a journey around and across this country that is lavishly illustrated in almost photo-like style by wildlife artist Garry Flemming, making it both an audial and visual celebration of what is on offer.  Followed by several pages with easily-readable explanations of each of the biomes in the stories, which themselves are accompanied by photos held by the National Library of Australia, this book would not only be the perfect souvenir for the traveller but also opens up the country for those who have not yet travelled.

The final words can be the beginning of something as magnificent as this country.

Here in my country I’ll live and roam

My spirit sings here – this is my home.

But home for me is very different to the home of my family and my friends – we stretch from mountains to cities to seaside and the views from our windows are vastly different, and where we live shapes how we live.

Young children tend to see the world immediately around them as indicative of what the whole world is like, so this would be a perfect kickstart to broadening their horizons through teaming up with schools in a totally different landscape perhaps through a Travelling Teddy exchange or a Through My Window art collaboration, both of which not only connect the kids but help them to look closely at their own environment so they can share it with others elsewhere.  Where we live also shapes how we live and what we consider to be normal routines so comparing and contrasting things such as school and leisure time activities can also open doors and minds to difference. My Australia expands to become Our Australia.

 

Bill Baillie – The Life and Adventures of a Pet Bilby

Bill Baillie

Bill Baillie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Baillie – The Life and Adventures of a Pet Bilby

Ellis Rowan

NLA Publishing, 2018

104pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279200

In the harsh, hot Western Australian desert, several hundred miles inland from Perth lies the town of Goongarrie, where, at the turn of last century, Tabitha, a painter, came to paint the wonders of the landscape and its inhabitants.  Despite its remoteness there were people there and each day they brought her “curious plants and queer beasts” to examine and paint.  

Among those “queer beasts” was a little creature – naked, five inches (12.5 cm) long at most, long legs with a strange eyelet mouth that had been attached to a teat in its mother’s pouch before she was killed in the sharp teeth of a deadly trap. Looking like he had given up and decided to die, it felt the warm, comforting hands of Tabitha around him and in that moment both were determined that he would live.  Bill Baillie’s life and adventures with this itinerant painter had begun!

And what a life it was – becoming famous and known as ‘Master Bill Baillie of Goongarrie” he travelled everywhere with Tabitha for the rest of his life, his energy unbounded, his curiosity unsated,  especially at night time which was his day, and his love for her unequalled. Getting into precarious situations, dodging a host of bilby enemies who wanted to eat him and travelling on trains and boats and wagons from Perth to Melbourne, Bill Baillie was Tabitha’s constant companion until his inevitable, sad death in her arms just two years later. 

“Tabitha’ is actually Ellis Rowan herself who was determined “to find and paint every wildflower on the continent”, and she initially wrote this story in 1908 at a time when having a native creature for a pet was considered a curiosity rather than a concern.  Using remarkable skill that keeps the reader intrigued and wanting to know more about these almost mythical creatures, Stephanie Owen Reeder has abridged the original using more accessible vocabulary and shorter chapters while omitting none of the drama of this curious relationship.  Rowan’s descriptions of the environment as viewed through the eyes of a painter are exquisite and the reader is transported to that vast lonely landscape with its brilliant colours and on-the-surface desolation brought to life.  Many of the original illustrations by Rowan and Hans Praetorius have been left in while others from the NLA’s collection of bilby paintings have also been included.

As is usual with NLA publications, the story is complemented by  several pages of further information, all based on the library’s relevant collections including the Rowan collection itself.  

Bilbies are an endearing but endangered species brought to our attention as the Australian symbol of Easter to raise awareness of the damage done to the environment by the introduced wild rabbits so the release of the charming story is fitting, with Easter on the horizon.

 

 

Reflection: remembering those who serve in war

Reflection: remembering those who serve in war

Reflection: remembering those who serve in war

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflection: remembering those who serve in war

Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg

Robin Cowcher

Walker Books, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781922179050

Left! Left! Left! Right! Left! We make our way in the dark.

On the one hand feet make their way to a commemorative service; on the other soldiers’ boots take them to the battlefront. 

As ANZAC Day approaches and the centenary commemorations of World War I continue, this book reminds us that Australians have been involved in wars since before we were even officially called Australia and that our presence is known and respected in wartorn countries even today.

Each double-page spread with its simple text and evocative illustrations juxtaposes the people at the commemorative ceremonies with soldiers in conflict throughout our history. From the title page where the family hurries out the door into darkness through to the endpapers with the iconic poppies that we associate with remembrance in this country the reader is taken on a journey through our military history in such a sensitive way. 

As the Dawn Service moves through prayers,  the raising of the flags, the lighting of candles, the placement of wreaths and poppies, silences and the familiar bugle call of The Last Post and Reveille so too we move through time –  The Boer War, World Wars I and II. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I and II, Bosnia & Herzegovina, East Timor, Afghanistan – whether as combat troops or peacekeepers, Australians have had a role committing hundreds of thousands of men and women, each of whom deserves our respect and gratitude. While each page just has one factual statement of what is happening, the  illustrations bring a depth and dimension that inspire emotion and memories as the two marry together perfectly. From the sprig of rosemary somehow surviving the stomp of boots on the first page to the ghost-like images marching with the people on the last, there is a sense that this is an enduring commitment by military and civilian personnel alike.   One could not stand without the other.   

Thumbnail sketches of each conflict are provided at the end of the book and teachers notes’ are also available for those who want to use this as the first step in a deeper investigation for both History and English. It may even inspire some students to investigate the role that their family has had in the Services and given our multicultural population there may be students who have personal experiences to share that might give a unique insight that can’t be gleaned from picture books, no matter how stunning they are.

Something a little different to share this ANZAC Day, not only to remember the huge contribution that has been made but also to acknowledge those who have served and continue to serve so that those students who have had or still have family in the military forces understand that they are included in the thoughts and prayers.  The services are not just for the sacrifices made long ago on faraway battlefields by generations unknown, but for everyone who has served in the short 120 years of our united history.

We hear the sweet songs of morning. And we remember them.

 

Dingo

Dingo

Dingo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dingo

Clare Saxby

Tannya Harricks

Walker Books, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925381283

Australia’s high country, nestled amongst the ginormous boulders and gum trees, as the sun sets and the pinks and purples of dusk steal across the landscape, Dingo lies waiting, pointed ears twitching and tawny eyes flashing.  Around her, her pups and her pack still sleep as she watches and waits as hunting time draws near.  Here in the cool mountain regions she will hunt now and tomorrow at dawn, rather than through the night like her desert and hot-climate cousins. While she will eat insects, eggs and some plants she needs meat to maintain her energy as she may roam as much as 40 kilometres  in an evening. But possums climb, wombats burrow and kangaroos are too large so the pickings can be lean on snow-covered winter plains.

But she is smart and determined and her nose tells her that there is dinner nearby – rabbits! With her superb night vision it’s not long before there is tucker for her pups.  But it is not enough for them all so back into the darkening forest she goes, this time with her mate…

This is a new addition to the narrative non-fiction Nature Storybook series that opens the world of Australia’s fauna to young readers by telling the story of one creature and accompanying it with facts about the species in general.  Despite dingoes making their homes in many of Australia’s habitats, including the harshest, and having been here sometime between 5000 and 18000 years ago, generally there is little junior literature about them for those who want to know more.  Books about koalas, kangaroos and wombats abound, but dingoes seem to have missed the spotlight somewhat so this beautifully told and sublimely illustrated book is a welcome addition to the collection.

Saxby, also the author of Koala , brings her ability to create pictures with her words – not for her “the sun is setting”, rather it’s “the low-slung sun” – to create magic on the tongue, while Harricks has captured the colours and the contours of the mountain environment in oils with her bold strokes – I was immediately in a landscape that is so familiar.

A peek inside…

Koala is among the 2018 CBCA Notables; it would not surprise me to see this one there next year.

Bird to Bird

Bird to Bird

Bird to Bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bird to Bird

Clare Saxby

Wayne Harris

Black Dog, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925381122

When a bird drops a seed to an English forest floor, who could imagine that that would be just the start of a journey that continued for generations across thousands of kilometers from its starting point?

A combination of minimal text from Clare Saxby, sublime illustrations from Wayne Harris and the reader’s imagination bring this story of nature, history, creativity and recycling together in a way that captures the imagination and inspires wonder. How could something as small as a seed have such a big future? That it could grow into a sapling then a tree which is harvested and become bunk beds on a convict ship bound for Australia.  And when that job was done its life was not over – it becomes a loom then a lean-to and then…

So often we explore life cycles with little people and we create a simple circle of birth>growth>reproduction>death, but we seldom explore much further.   Does the tomato that forms after pollination just drop to the ground or is it picked fresh and become part of a delicious recipe, or is it stored on a supermarket shelf picked over and not chosen, eventually becoming part of a compost heap?  Does a baby spider fly though the breezes to land far from its home-web and start a new colony or is it the victim of a foot or a can of bug spray?  Saxby has a much gentler conclusion for the seed her bird dropped but this story could spark a lot of investigation and imagination and new stories!

Teachers’ notes are available.

Digger

Digger

Digger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digger

Mike Dumbleton

Robin Cowcher

Allen & Unwin, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760296735

A century ago.  Young Australian men were volunteering to got and join the forces fighting in World War I, seeing it as the greatest adventure of their lives and a way to escape the humdrum and hard times of home.  When James left, Annie stitched the name ‘Digger” on her favourite patchwork toy kangaroo and gave it to him as his farewell present. 

“A Digger for a digger”, she said.

Off went James and Digger  together, across endless, tireless seas and vast starry night skies to the battlefields and trenches of France.  And when the order came to advance, Digger was in James’s pocket.  He was there too, when James was evacuated to a French farmhouse to recover from his injuries, and Digger was mended too, this time by Colette who carefully replaced all his broken stitches. And he was still there when James was well enough to return to his unit.  He is even there when the worst happens… 

Inspired by and written as a tribute to the French schoolchildren who once tended the graves of Australian soldiers who died on the Western Front in the heroic battle for Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918, this is a touching story gently told and illustrated that brings the human side of war to life as well as commemorating the connections made that still live on

As the final centennial commemorations of this terrible time draw to a close, this is a special book to share as it demonstrates how the thinnest threads can connect us through the toughest time, and love and harmony and safe haven can grow from the smallest things.

A superb addition for Remembering Gallipoli

Every story has a hero

Every story has a hero