Review Blog

Feb 25 2009

A rose for the ANZAC boys by Jackie French

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Harper Collins.
Louis Braille Audio, 2008. Read by Caroline Craig, 6 CD's, 7 hours
Ages 12+
Jackie French's award winning story of the significance of ANZAC Day to generations of people is brought to life by Caroline Craig's calm and involving voice. She readily takes on the voices of a range of people presented in the story: the young girls in France, Midge, Ethel and Anne, Lachlan as he walks with his grandfather to the memorial in their small town, the wounded soldiers returning from the front, Tim's voice as Midge reads his letter. Each dissimilar group of people is differentiated by small changes in Caroline's voice, without making the differences too obvious or resorting to stereotypes. Her tone and pace are perfect for the story and it seems to take a lot less time than 7 hours.
The girls in their school in England are well aware that war is at hand. They have brothers and friends fighting in France, have heard of the privation they are enduring. Midge's aunt writes to her and the letters convey much of the devastation that is Gallipoli. Through these letters French is able to give the readers an amazing amount of information and detail which otherwise would have seemed imposed. Her aunt's last letter, and the fact that Midge's brother Tim is listed as missing, galvanises Midge and her friends to do something positive for the war effort.
The girls are well aware that they have little power, their lives regimented and contained in this early twentieth century society. The information French gives, as with all her historical novels, is subtly included. We learn that VADs are not allowed to go overseas until they are 23, the science teacher at school spent 2 years at Oxford, but of course, was not allowed to sit the exams, that the girls are not able to learn to drive. But these three girls decide to do something.
Their efforts land them in France giving refreshment to the wounded brought through by train from the front. In this way, French is able to both give a rattling good story, and give middles school students a sound message about World War One, showing its significance to Australians and New Zealanders. A beautifully read story which will grab the readers.
Fran Knight

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