Review Blog

Apr 19 2013

The fair dinkum war by David Cox

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Allen & Unwin, 2013. ISBN 9781743310625.
(Age: 5+) Highly recommended. During World War two, David Cox was only a young boy and this title tells of his experiences during the war. Having moved to the city at the end of Grade One, the author begins by recounting a number of everyday events which made up his life through to the end of Grade Five. After sharing the experiences from the daily lives of many country children, he details the ways in which things changed when the American army rolled into town. Children began to play at being soldiers and adults discussed their fears with other adults diligently keeping their concerns from the youngsters. Despite this, air raid shelters, trenches, black outs and the Austerity Program became part of their lives. He describes the changes which occurred as a result... cars became less utilised as people reverted to riding bicycles or walking... and extended family gatherings saw many of their members arriving in the uniforms of the armed forces. Relationships were formed between the townspeople, the 'Yanks' and the Javanese soldiers. Although many families survived with absent husbands and fathers, Cox shows a positive spirit was nonetheless present amongst the people and was finally rewarded as peace was declared.
With the National Curriculum bringing about a major focus on Australian history, there seems to be a rush in producing picture books to match the various strands. Cox has done so brilliantly with the release of this and his previous title, The road to Goonong. For younger children, this will be helpful in showing the differences between how they themselves live compared to the lives of their grandparents and great grandparents. Older children could look more at the timelines shown in this book and focus on the events of the war as they match those shown in the book. Themes of perspective (adults, children, 'Yanks', Javanese etc.) resilience, positivity, building relationships and caring for others from different backgrounds are all part of this title and could be further teased out with students. With Cox's sensitive approach in the text and his cartoon style illustrations (which bear similarities to those of Quentin Blake) and the use of gentle, warm colours, this is a title relevant to children of almost any age.
Jo Schenkel

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