Review Blog

Feb 02 2016

Socks, sandbags & leeches: letters to my Anzac dad by Pauline Deeves

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National Library of Australia, 2016. ISBN 9780642278845
(Age: 10+) Recommended. World War One, Anzac, Home front, Propaganda. Through Ivy's letters to her father at Gallipoli during the eight months that the Anzac troops were stationed there, and after in France, we see what life is like at the Home Front, as she and her mother have to move in with Aunt Hilda, the small flat barely accommodating them. The twenty letters sent between 1914 and 1918, describe the attitudes at home, the volunteer work done, the lack of money, the making do, the work of the cheer up society, the growing prejudice against those with German ancestry, and the propaganda disseminated to the populace.
Each letter is illustrated with pictures from the times, sourced from the archives at the National Library of Australia, and indicative of society and its attitudes during World War One. For students to find out how children coped with their fathers away at war, and their family so confined by restrictions of war time, then this book will be a fascinating resource for the classroom and library. For older readers, it is an interesting factual book, as each letter reveals something about Australia at war, and for many the book will be like a memoir, a story to be read from start to finish, gaining a great deal of information about life in Australia one hundred years ago.
One letter amongst many which took my interest is about Fundraising. In the letter, Ivy tells of their visit to the local doctor's house, opened to raise finds for the Red Cross. She describes things about the house which would interest her father. Around the letter are many examples of fund raising activities with posters of the Red Cross Nurse, and a Gala Day. One poster shows an extravagant woman spending money on frivolous things, exhorting women to be thrifty, while another details the work done by the Education Department's War Relief Fund in Victoria. Each poster gives more information about the work done in raising money and awareness.
A detailed index appears after a glossary and fascinating list of illustrations, giving details of where all the illustrations came from, all designed to add weight to an already impressive resource book.
This is a book to use in the classrooms or just to dip into for an insight into how children coped with being on the home front during war time.
And a fascinating fact I came across: St Kilda Football Club changed their colours because they wee also Germany's colours, is one example of the range of information given sure to have broad appeal.
Fran Knight

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