Review Blog

Jun 15 2012

Archie's letter by Martin Flanagan

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Ill. by Ainsley Walters. Scholastic, 2012 ISBN 978 0 9807948 7 8.
(Ages 10+) Warmly recommended. War. There is a huge range of books about Australians at war coming out, probably being printed in time for the 100th Anzac Day in 1915. Many are about the Anzacs and the beginning of the legend, some about other theatres of war, telling stories from personal perspectives and a few are about animals in war.
This book relates to the Prisoners on War held by the Japanese after the Fall of Singapore in 1942. Many men were transported to camps and some sent to Burma where they slaved over the building of the Burma Railway to enable Japan to service their troops. Thousands died along this line, many were Asian slave labour but 2,500 were Australian troops. This book attempts to reveal some of what the men suffered, first in the POW camps, where Weary Dunlop was the medical officer, then onto the Burma Railway and finally in a POW camp in Japan.
Martin Flanagan's father, Archie, wrote a poem about his experiences in the Middle East and this is reproduced along with strong illustrations depicting the scenes described and photographs of the Flanagan family.
This little book gives a personal face to the stories student have heard about Changi, Weary Dunlop, Burma Railway and POW camps. Its brief outline of where Archie went allows students to see where many Australians fought and died close to Australia, defending this country against the southern drive by the Japanese.
This book will be a useful supplement to student reading about the war, giving a personal perspective which will draw the students in.
Archie's letter at the end of the book will be especially poignant to the readers.
Fran Knight

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