Review Blog

Mar 27 2015

We're all Australians now by A B (Banjo) Paterson

cover image

Ill. by Mark Wilson. Angus & Robertson, 2015. ISBN 9780732296476
(Age: 8+) Recommended. World War One. ANZAC. Poetry. In his poetic style, Banjo Paterson sent an open letter to the troops as they fought in the war in Europe. Angus & Robertson have published this beautifully illustrated book, setting the poem against Mark Wilson's pictures of the war they faced. Banjo was well known in Australia and many people learnt his poems by rote and could recite them at will. He was revered as a poet who captured the Australian core.
Each stanza of the poem extolling the virtues of a united Australia, is illustrated with aspects of the war they fought and complimented with images of people back home. So we have an image of the men fighting their way up the Turkish hills on Gallipoli's coast, with an image of a poster imploring recently graduated nurses to join up, and a woman watching down on them all, while a man sits on his horse under the Australian sun. Each image represents an aspect of war and home, encouraging younger readers to ponder the lives led by these people. I was struck particularly with the image of men advancing across an open piece of land, contrasting with the women doing their work back home, pulling along the coal trucks. And the nod to Walter Withers, an Australian painter at the time, is wonderful, contrasting the quiet life back home with the men packed and going off to war. Each page is filled with things to look at and ponder, to wonder and respond.
With the vast numbers of books about World War One published at the moment, it is a change to see something written at the time, a poem which underlined the feeling that Gallipoli made Australia, Australia, that it overcame the state loyalties and divisions and made people think of the reason for Federation only fifteen years before. The Anzac heroism gave Australians a reason to be proud. References to poppies, Gallipoli, Simpson and his donkey, Alec Campbell, nurses, women back home, HMAS Sydney and wattle, amongst others, will attract eager readers to look at the images shown and reason why they are included.
Fran Knight

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