Review Blog

Mar 25 2013

Gallipoli by Alan Tucker

cover image

My Australian Story. Scholastic, 2013. ISBN 978 1 74283 693 5.
(Age: 11+) Recommended. World War One. ANZAC. Historical. Diary. I began to read this book with some trepidation as I have read some 30 books for children and young adults concerning war and particularly Anzac over the past twelve months, as the centenary anniversaries of the beginning of World War One and the Anzac landing approach in 2014 and 2015 respectively. I was not disappointed as Tucker's story in the My Australian Story series deals with Anzac through the eyes of a young man of fourteen which will appeal to the middle school reader, and along the way allow them to ingest many details about the whole campaign.
Moonta boy, Victor is eager to enlist when war breaks out and with his parents' permission travels to Adelaide, passing the test due to his strength and fitness. Camped at Morphetville he describes the training and new friends in his diary, eager to go to France to fight, although disquiet is apparent with news that his family friend, Hans, has been taken to Torrens Island, the detention centre, because he is German.
Landed in Egypt his diary describes the tedium of training and not knowing what is happening, until finally they are packed off into ships and wait orders to land at Gallipoli, part of the 10th Battalion of the AIF.
Everyone knows that this day and the subsequent eight months spent on that peninsula in Turkey were miserable, resulting in over 8000 Australian deaths (and 2700 New Zealand deaths) with an ignominious withdrawal almost as meticulously planned as the initial landing.
Through Victor's imagined diary we see his growing maturity and dismay with all that is going on about him, we see death and disease, the longing for home, the news from the home front, the day to day boredom punctuated by hard fighting, brutality on both sides, the comradeship and humour generated by their close living quarters, and in the end the utter futility of war.
The voice of this young man will keep the readers reading, imagining what they would do in his place, seeing things afresh from the view of someone their own age. I was amazed at the amount of detail Tucker was able to subtly infuse in this tale. Each page I came across things I had not read before. This book will make an excellent class set to study the landing and its consequences for this conflict is seen as a turning point in the nationhood of both Australia and New Zealand. But have some maps ready, as surprisingly no map was included, although a most useful glossary and explanatory notes by Tucker are added at the end.
Fran Knight

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