Review Blog

Mar 23 2009

Off to war: Soldiers' children speak by Deborah Ellis

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2009. ISBN978 1741756791
(Ages 11+) I reviewed this book for Magpies in a manuscript version, so it's great to see it in its final version, with its cover cleverly focusing on a child seeing his battle clad father off to war. What better cover to have on a book in which Deborah Ellis has interviewed a range of children about their fears and hopes for their families when one or both parents are in Iraq or Afghanistan.
It is scary reading. Many of the children report that their parents have become more aggressive since returning, and my heart went out to the child who reported her father had not spoken to her since coming home. War and its effects are well documented for soldiers, but this must be a first, interviewing the kids and how they feel. One child has her pillow sprayed with her father's aftershave so she can sleep, and many children reported not telling their own fears to their parents, because they did not want them to be worried. A large number knew little about the places their parents were or what they did, but many reported enjoying the camps and excursions organized for kids of overseas parents.
The children interviewed ranged in age between 5 and 17, with many being about 12. It is salutary reading, how the lives of these children have been changed because of their parents' decisions. Most did not want to join the army when they grew up. Using this in a class where books are being read of children at war, would be a fitting addition to your class' knowledge and understanding.
Fran Knight

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