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The Adventures of William Brambleberry: Aviator Mouse

The Adventures of William Brambleberry: Aviator Mouse

The Adventures of William Brambleberry: Aviator Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Adventures of William Brambleberry: Aviator Mouse

Genevieve Hopkins

Alexandra Heazlewood

Brambleberry Press, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780648153207

As war rages above the skies of the Cornish town of Perranporth, a little mouse watches the Spitfires of the RAAF Squadron 453 fly overhead and dares to dream… “One day I’ll be the bravest, most adventurous aviator mouse in all the world.”

The other mice laughed at him and told him he was too small to fly planes, but William had faith and one day, instead of just looking at them, he took the first step in making his dream come true – a step that had the most remarkable consequences.

Based on thorough research and including actual air and ground crew characters at the time, this is not only a story to encourage young readers to work towards making their dreams reality, but it will also appeal to those with an interest in military aviation and Spitfires in particular. Diagrams and accurate illustrations add authentic information and there is also the most adorable soft toy available.  It is the first of three proposed stories so young readers can look forward to learning more as they read more.

With the commemoration of ANZAC  Day on April 25, this is something different to add to that collection of Australia’s military history to appeal to those looking for a new avenue to explore, particularly families whose families may have served either in the squadron itself, or in the RAAF generally as something other than stories featuring ground troops. 

The book is available from the Military Shop and similar outlets as well as selected Australia Post shops, so an internet search would be the best way to identify your best supplier.  

Pidge’s Poppies

Pidge’s Poppies

Pidge’s Poppies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pidge’s Poppies

Jan Andrews

Timothy Ide

Ford Street, 2024

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

9781922696380

High on a ledge in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Australian Wat Memorial in Canberra, there is a blodge of bright scarlet that stands out even against the colour of the stunning stained glass windows. And if you’re lucky, your keen eye might just pick out a couple of proud pigeons in this nest made from the remembrance poppies people have placed beside the names of their loved ones in the Hall of Remembrance down below to show that they and their service has not been forgotten.

Based on a true story that took place in 2019, and bringing the story of the role that pigeons played during World War I and II to life, this is a sensitive but compelling read that offers a new perspective to the commemoration of ANZAC Day, one that acknowledges the human sacrifices made but focuses on the contribution of these little birds – the many-times great grandmother and great grandfather of Pidge and Henry- instead.

In 2019, the Australian Parliament declared 24 February each year as the National Day for War Animals, also known as Purple Poppy Day. It’s a day to pause, wear a purple poppy, and pay tribute to the many animals who served alongside soldiers and this is a poignant and stunningly illustrated tribute to all those creatures, often symbolised by Simpson’s donkey but which involved so many other species doing so many other things in so many fields. So important have they been that there is now an international war memorial for animals at Posières in France and those who have provided outstanding service or displayed incredible courage and loyalty can be awarded the Dickin Medal or the Blue Cross Medal.

Accompanied by thoughtful teachers’ notes, this would be an ideal addition to your collection, particularly if used alongside Wear a Purple Poppy, and the resources  available through  the Australian War Memorial including a digitised version of their popular A is for Animals exhibition and its accompanying publication M is for Mates which may be in your collection already because it was distributed to all schools in 2010. There is also an education kit available.

Sadly, too many of our students have first-hand experience of war, or have relatives currently embroiled in conflict, so the commemoration of ANZAC  Day, while a critical part of the calendars of Australia and New Zealand, has to be handled in a different way, so perhaps exploring the stories of animals like Pidge’s relatives who served, and continue to do so, can put the horror at arm’s length yet still observe the purpose and solemnity of the day. 

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, 2019

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760650377

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 we commemorate ANZAC Day, 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, Ukraine – 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.

First published March 24 2018

Updated April 25 2023

 

The Great Gallipoli Escape

The Great Gallipoli Escape

The Great Gallipoli Escape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Gallipoli Escape

Jackie French

HarperCollins, 2023

224pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781460764176

Sixteen-year-old Nipper and his Gallipoli mates Lanky, Spud, Bluey and Wallaby Joe are starving, freezing and ill-equipped. By November 1915 they know that that there is more to winning a war than courage, that the Gallipoli campaign has been lost, and that the reality of war is very different from the pictures and perceptions painted in the posters at home touting war as an adventure, a way out of inevitable unemployment, a ticket to see the world that few in isolated Australia would ever get, and that to fight “for King and country” was as noble as it gets for those with strong ties to England in early 20th century Australia – calls to arms that compelled many like Nipper to lie about their age so they would be allowed to join the army to defend their country.  

As with Last Man Out, this story, based heavily on accounts in primary sources like letters, diaries, oral histories and memories, takes the reader into the disease, deprivation and desperation of life in the trenches that were the origins of “diggers” the nickname for Australian soldiers, and while Nipper and his mates are fictitious, what they experienced was real.  As author Jackie French, renowned for her research and attention to detail when she crafts historical fiction, says, this is “still only one story… there are possibly one hundred thousand stories, all of which might vary in many respects, but still be true.” 

Nipper has played cricket with the Turks in the opposing dugout, dodged rocket fire and rescued desperate and drowning men when the blizzard snow melted. He is one of the few trusted with the secret kept from even most of the officers: how an entire army of 150 000 men, their horses and equipment will vanish from the Peninsula, secretly moved to waiting ships over three impeccably planned nights without a single life lost – but a plan that leaves those still alive with the very mixed feelings of seeing an opportunity for their own salvation while being reluctant to leave behind those who endured so much and gave their lives for something seemingly futile. 

“Will we be remembered for holding the line here, in a campaign that has won nothing and lost so much?” 

And that question is just one of many philosophical discussion points that takes this book beyond an historic narrative. What was and is the legacy of Gallipoli? Why do we still commemorate a failed campaign more than a century later, and why is commemorating it in Gallipoli, itself, such a milestone for so many? 

Apart from the discussion points and activities that relate directly to the book raised in the teaching notes, there are some outstanding opportunities to explore some big-picture questions and really extend students’ thinking such as 

  • How does historical fiction (as opposed to fiction set in the past) enrich and enhance our understanding of life and living during significant events and times?
  • Given that the Turks were defending their families and livelihoods from invasion by the ‘Tommies’ and their allies, were they necessarily the enemy? Were the invaders in the wrong?
  • Are there parallels between the allies invading Turkey and the Russians invading Ukraine?  What are the differences in approach this time? 
  • The lads in the stories could be the older brothers of those reading it so, if Australia were to put “boots on the ground” in Ukraine, as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan, would they be as eager to join up today as Nipper and his mates were? Why?
  • Have attitudes to conflict changed in the past century, and if they have or haven’t, why?

To me, quality historical fiction inspires the reader to think beyond the story, to the what-ifs, and the why-dids, and this book has certainly done that on both the professional and personal level because between this and Last Man Out I am learning more and more about what my grandfather experienced and why he didn’t share his stories (even if I had known to ask) and how that shaped him, and ultimately me.  How being named after Lord Kitchener impacted my father’s life so that my brother, currently on his way to Villers-Bretonneux, will then make his way again to the  anniversary of the Battle of Crete where dad was captured on his 25th birthday – just two of those 100 000 stories that had their roots in those eight months on a remote Turkish beach. How many more will be inspired to investigate their own?