Review Blog

May 11 2012

A day to remember by Jackie French

cover image

Ill. by Mark Wilson. HarperCollins, 2012. ISBN 9780 7322 9360 4.
(All ages) Warmly recommended. War. Picture book. In showing us the history of Anzac Day, Jackie French is also promoting a plea for peace as the Australian Defence Forces concentrate more on keeping the peace in countries, both near neighbours and those far away. From the first Anzac Day, April 25, 1915, when thousands of Australian and New Zealand troops were landed at Gallipoli in a vain attempt to reach Constantinople, the day has been recognised as a day to remember the valiant deeds of those brave few. Over the years, Anzac Day has come to include all the men and women of all the forces, and Jackie French gives us a deft potted history of just how that day has developed. Through spare prose she tells us of the few who gathered around the Cenotaph in Sydney in 1927, leading to a few more the following year, building up to a Dawn Service and a march. For some years the tradition faltered, as attitudes to our involvement in war changed, but a resurgence of interest and in particular, a rethinking of the sacrifice made by these people, has served to reinvigorate the day's observance.
Today many make a pilgrimage to Gallipoli, many thousands make the day a special day in their family's year, and many more watch the march on television.
Mark Wilson has effectively used photographs and illustrations from the past to render his impressions of our involvement in war for the younger reader. Letters, newspaper accounts, old photographs, pictures, medals and the occasional sprig of rosemary along with the odd poppy, are drawn with pen and ink, and acrylic paint to produce the sweeping illustrations of war and its aftermath. Each page is markedly different as time flows on, the placement of the script, the pictures, and scope of what we are seeing, all give a resonance to the subject at hand, and impel the reader to look more closely at the images presented An astute teacher or librarian would invite the art teacher to discuss with the students the varying styles of work Mark Wilson presents, and ponder the reasons for his using such markedly different techniques.
I always marvel at the depth of research undertaken by Jackie French in her historical books, and this is another which underlines her considerable skill. I love the snippets of information she includes, giving the sometimes known information something extra to ponder and discuss.
Fran Knight

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