Review Blog

Nov 01 2014

The beach they called Gallipoli by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

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HarperCollins, 2014. ISBN 9780732292263
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. World War One, Gallipoli, War, Environment. Kitted out with army uniform, great boots and a bayoneted rifle, fifteen year old Alec Campbell stares out at the reader from the front cover of Jackie French's latest picture book. People who have read about this war will know that he was one of the underage boys who enlisted, but unlike many others, he survived. Reading this book the reader can only wonder how anyone survived this particular battlefield.
Each page has French's brief words, encapsulating what happened at Gallipoli on the dates highlighted. Pared down to sentences, phrases, and sometimes single words, these give an account of the events that occurred on this beach and in its hills. The background, first appearing on the cover, of the low hills of Gallipoli beach, begins with the villagers who fished there prior to the outbreak of war. Their use of the sea and the beach is in stark contrast with what happened only a few months later, when thousands of soldiers were landed with orders to take the high ground where the Turkish Army waited.
On each page, Whatley has a drawing of the scene in the top left hand corner, then drawings and photographs on what appears to be torn paper, underlining the transient nature of the engagement. The mix of different media, makes the reader search out each picture, taking in the detail and the message underpinned by the image. Maps, artifacts, images of dead soldiers, munition, trenches, headstones, animals and barbed wire cover the pages, leaving readers in no doubt about the changes made to this little beach. French takes us forward to the beach today, a place of rest for the nearly nine thousand Australians killed (and 80,000 Turks, 44,000 Allies, 2,700 New Zealanders), a site of pilgrimage for many, a place where everyone can reflect upon the utter futility of war.
Fran Knight

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