Review Blog

Mar 19 2013

Vietnam diary by Mark Wilson

cover image

Lothian, 2013. ISBN 9780 7344 1274 4.
(Age: 8+) Recommended. Picture book. Vietnam War. Historical story. Mark Wilson's rendering of the war in Vietnam is astonishing. The pencil sketches, like the one on the front cover, instill in the reader that frozen moment of war, a sketch done by a war artist similar to those we see at the Australian War Museum in Canberra or in books about war.
The frozen moments build to a crescendo of feeling, which explodes on about page 30, when a young man's eyes peer out at the reader, fearful, shocked and horrified. This full page pencil drawing is truly momentous, and stands out amongst the other brilliant pieces of drawing and painting that Wilson presents. His use of watercolour and crayon, pencil drawing and other mixed media are astounding, rendering the mix that is war often softening it with the quiet of home.
In this book we see two stories side by side, on the one hand these brothers are very alike, but when it comes to the Vietnam War, one, at university, protests, while the other, still at home, is conscripted and agrees to go to Vietnam. Through the images and spare writing we see the two, not understanding each other, but in the end the objector comes to see his brother's gallantry and sense of duty in what he is doing.
All the while in the background we see and hear of the Vietnam War, a war in which Australia was part, forty years ago, but having repercussions today. For classes studying the Vietnam War, or war in general, or Australia's part in the history of this region, this book will prove to be a valuable addition to the library.
This book compliments his other books about war: My mother's eyes, and Angel of Kokoda, and you will see other examples of his fine illustrative techniques in the Extinction series (I saw nothing etc), The castaways of the Charles Eaton, and Yellow-eye.
Fran Knight

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