Review Blog

Apr 12 2019

The Anzac Billy by Claire Saxby, Mark Jackson and Heather Potter

cover image

Black Dog Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781925126815.
(Age: 5+) Highly recommended. Themes: Anzac Day, World War, 1914-1918. During World War 1, soldiers From Australia and New Zealand were sent carefully wrapped gifts in a tin billy for Christmas. Even though the care package could not be sent to an individual soldier, the little boy in The ANZAC billy, chooses things that he knows that his father would like and concludes with a letter:
If by chance this billy
Reaches you and not my dad,
I hope you enjoy these treats, sir,
But please send my letter on.
Happy Christmas!

Claire Saxby's prose is lyrical and full of emotion. A little boy narrates the story, telling the reader what he is adding to the billy day by day. Butterscotch goes in on Monday, yucky fish on Tuesday, walnuts on Wednesday, chocolate on Thursday, socks on Friday and on Saturday and Sunday Mum and Nanna add some essentials like a razor, soap and handkerchiefs.
The water colour illustrations by Mark Jackson and Heather Potter are stunning and filled with authentic details of life during World War 1. They will provide the reader with an in-depth understanding of the historical period. When the reader first sees the billy being filled, the background is of a kitchen, with a wood burning stove, canisters on the shelf, a wooden safe to keep food cool and a kerosene burning lamp. The photograph of the little boy's father shows a very young man, and this will tug at the heart strings of any adult reading it, knowing how young the soldiers were and how many lost their lives. The shop where the little boy buys the chocolate bar is full of shelves stocked with the most interesting produce and outside in the street, the reader can see a new automobile, the pram that the bay is in and the clothes of the times. Little details like the family cat that appears in most pictures and the Christmas decorations add to the loving atmosphere that pervades the story.
Read aloud in the classroom or at home, this would make a poignant and heart-warming story to commemorate Anzac Day and an excellent reference book for life in the early 20th century. Teacher's notes are available from the publisher.
Pat Pledger

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