Monday, April 25, 2011

5 books that helped me explain ANZAC Day to Mr 12 and Mr 13

List by Tosca

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

- For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

I've taken part in a few dawn parades and ANZAC memorial services over the years and have read numerous books about life back then but it has always seemed as if it were all one step removed. I have felt such overwhelming sadness for so many lives lost, thinking that these soldiers were young and brave and foolhardy and probably oh so very scared. As much as I have understood why we remember such a time, I have never really felt it. At least, not until this year. Whether it's age, frame of mind or the company I had at the time, I'm not sure. I have always found it quite hard to know how to describe ANZAC Day to the nephews and I've often thought that I do it a disservice when I recite the timeline in such a dry matter-of-fact way with no actual feeling for the people involved. The 'how' and the 'who' seems easily enough said, but trying to explain what motivated soldiers to enlist - going off to war, far from family, fighting, unaware if they were going to live or die that day, the next day, the day after... - that's not so easy to do. I've no idea how much of it all my nephews truly understood beforehand and, unlike many friends and acquaintances, we have no personal knowledge of any family members who fought in the war, so other than a general sense of empathy and sadness it often seems like they (we?) view it rather objectively. This year, in an effort to be able to answer any questions they might possibly have about ANZAC Day, I raided our collections for a mix of books that would, hopefully, help explain the day itself in particular, and the war in general. I rounded up a whole heap and, with the nephews, spent a long time going through each title (where Mr 7's input was very much missed). By the end, Mr 12 and Mr 13 were rather subdued and reflective and (maybe?) somewhat wiser. Unfortunately, we couldn't spend the day together this year as the boys would be with the grandparents in Taipa, so we've made a date to take part in our local memorial service in 2012, an activity we've never done together. We don't profess that these are the top 5 of everything we have on this topic, but they are certainly 5 resources that helped.

Honourable mention:
  • The donkey man by Glyn Harper and illustrated by Bruce Potter - Story of Roly, the donkey who became New Zealander Richard Henderson's donkey during the First World War campaign at Gallipoli. Together they collected wounded soldiers from the battlefield and transferred them to Anzac Cove to board hospital ships. Junior fiction.
  • Lest we forget by Feana TuÊ»akoi and illustrated by Elspeth Alix Batt - "War is stupid," mumbled Tyson as he slammed the last photo album shut. He pushed it roughly back into the box and slapped the lid down, hard. There was no way he was going to the Dawn Parade with Mum and Poppa tomorrow. Why celebrate something so terrible? But after listening to Great-gran's story Tyson feels differently and goes to the parade. Ages 6+. Picture book for children.

  • Grandad's medals / written by Tracy Duncan and illustrated by Bruce Potter
    Every year Grandad marches in the ANZAC Day parade and wears his medals, walking proudly beside his old comrades. But this year Grandad's best mate is too sick to walk and the number of old soldiers still marching is getting smaller.

    Tosca's comment: A picture book about how a young boy's grandfather marches in the ANZAC Day parade in honour of those who fought. I love how, beforehand, the little boy talks about the great things he does with his grandad, like flying kites, and fishing and how grandad teaches him funny songs. My favourite part is where, after the parade, grandad goes to his room and puts his medals back in the box and he's sad and reflective but optimistic. It really is a lovely story.

    My grandad marches on Anzac Day / Catriona Hoy & Ben Johnson
    A small girl goes to the pre-dawn Anzac Day service with her father where they watch her grandad march in the parade. This is an excellent introduction to this highly venerated ceremony and poignantly addresses the sentiments aroused by the memory of those who gave their lives for their country. Ages 2+

    Tosca's comment: Simple pictures with large illustrations and not too much going on and told from the perspective of a young child.

    Gallipoli : reckless valour / Nicolas Brasch
    25th of April, 1915. Gallipoli was the first time Australians and New Zealanders fought in their own uniforms alongside their mates. The campaign showed how bold, how loyal, how innovative and most of all how brave the young Anzacs were. For primary school age 7+

    Tosca's comment: Snippets of information about everything including maps and an explanation of why the war happened and key players as well as a description of what life was like in the trenches. As an added bonus there are even adverts from the time.

    The Anzacs at Gallipoli : a story for Anzac day / Chris Pugsley and John Lockyer
    Explains the history behind Anzac day describing how New Zealand and Australian soldiers went to fight on the battlefields of Gallipoli. Includes personal narratives from soldiers describing the horrific conditions they were subjected too and the events which took place including, the Battle for Chunuk Bair and the Battle for Hill. Suggested level: primary, intermediate, junior secondary.

    Tosca's comment: Great pictures and information that isn't too overwhelming. There are actual quotes from soldiers and snippets about everything from soldiers embarking to the meaning of Gaba Tepe to an explanation of how hand grenades and bombs were used to clear empty trenches. There is a pic that I thought stood out from the rest and it's an image of New Zealand soldiers lying dead in the trenches - they had been shot dead by snipers. Macabre but wholly truthful. And sad.

    Wearing the poppy / A.J. Toledo
    The story of the first ANZACs is told through the experiences of one family, whose letters, diaries and memories bring to life New Zealand in the First World War. Explains how the red poppy came to symbolize a lost generation and fills in the gaps for young New Zealanders who are discovering their own family history. Suggested level: primary, intermediate. Ages 9+

    Tosca's comment: Toledo's story of an uncle who fought in World War I. Quite a sad story but there are such great pictures of the time that do a great job of putting it all in context. There are also some letters, as well, and these more than anything helped my nephews get a really good idea of life during World War I.

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