by Ken Whytock
Quite a few books for children, published over the past 12 months, have been stories about wartime experiences. With the centenary of WWI, we have been receiving many books to support the commemoration. There have been some beautiful picture books about WWI and the ANZACs but also some equally good YA books from the Australian and British publishers. Luckily I like reading this style of story
Two of the picture books we recently acquired are:
Lone Pine by Susie Brown and Margaret Warner (2014). The story begins in December 2008 with a dramatic image of a lone pine tree being buffeted by a lightning storm in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial. The rest of the book explains why and how it came to be there. The story is simply told but the images and the colours chosen to accompany the story are dramatic and emotive. They not only support the text but add to greatly to it. The last two pages in the back of the book briefly explain the Battle of Lone Pine, a brief summary about the Smith family who were involved in the story and what happened to the pines grown from the seeds.
Downloadable teacher’s notes by Bec Kavanagh are available via the Hardie Grant Egmont site here.
The Poppy by Andrew Plant (2014) The Poppy is a story of remembrance and a promise made a century ago. It commemorates a battle fought to save the small village of Villers-Bretonneux from being overrun by the German Army. Australian soldiers fought to save the village during the night and morning of April 24th and 25th (the day we now call ANZAC Day) and it was part of the final German offensives of WWI. Many Australians died and are buried in cemeteries there. The story is not one that describes the battle however but about the rebuilding of the school in Villers-Bretonneux, with help from Victorian children, after the war. It is about how the acts of these Australians are honoured and the links that have been forged by these acts. The text is simple but powerful and the beautiful illustrations are positioned so they seem like images in a photograph album. They ably support the text and add to the story. The image of the poppy, and its significance, is a powerful symbol of remembrance on every page. There are some brief, explanatory notes at the end of the book and the endpapers have a map of the Villers-Bretonneux and the Path of the Poppy Petal.
Downloadable teacher’s notes are available from the Ford St publishing site here.
The latest children’s novel I finished on the weekend was entitled Mission Telemark by Amanda Mitchison and tells the story of four teenagers trained as Special Operations agents, by the British in the Second World War, for a dangerous sabotage mission in Norway. Each of the teenage characters has different strengths and all are fully described and easy to identify with. All the teenagers have Norwegian backgrounds. Jakob is a dependable boy who is a natural leader, Ase, the only girl, is small but strong, having trained as a gymnast and Fred is physically weak and clumsy but has an encyclopaedic knowledge and a photographic memory. These three are training together in Scotland when they are joined by the last member of the team, Lars, who is a solitary and silent figure but is their outdoor survival expert. Their mission is fraught with danger, from the environment when they go back to Norway and have to survive for weeks in the freezing conditions of the Hardanger Plateau and then from the Nazis when they finally launch their sabotage attempt on the Norsk power station at Vermok, where the Germans are making heavy water. They are not expected to survive.
The story is told from two perspectives, as Jakob and Asa fill in a journal keeping track of their days in training and then on the mission. It is a great story for anyone who likes war stories, historical fiction or spy stories. The well-researched story incorporated many fascinating real details about the Second World War, including the equipment issued to soldiers, SOE advice about survival and an accurate description of the terrain.
There is an interesting interview with the author about the book here and a video where she introduces her book below.
Filed under: literature, Reading | Tagged: Andrew Plant, Australian picture books, children's literature, Children's picture books, Lone Pine, Margaret Warner, Mission Telemark, Susie Brown, The Poppy, war stories | 1 Comment »