Midnight by Mark Greenwood
Ill. by Frane Lessac. Walker Books, 2014. ISBN 9781921977718.
(Age: 7+) Recommended. War. Animals. Grief. The very successful husband and wife team of Greenwood and Lessac has written another enthralling picture book, this time based on a true story of a young man taking his horse to World War One. The horse, Midnight does not return, but Guy, the rider does, escaping spinal damage by a whisker.
Midnight was born on a property well known for its quarter milers. The black horse with its star blaze is Guy's horse and when World War One begins he joins up, taken to Cairo on the troop carriers, only to find that he is deployed to Gallipoli, his horse left behind. But when the Anzacs are evacuated, Guy is reunited with Midnight and together they rides with the eight hundred to take Beersheba, a battle well known in Australian military history. A bullet downs Guy and when picked up by the stretcher bearers, Midnight stays behind.
A story of World War One which involves animals is not uncommon, in the growing realisation that many animals have taken part in wars over the years. A number of books, picture books and non fiction books have been written redressing this omission, and a list can be found in The Literature Base in 2013. What makes this one stand out is the detail of war in such a place as Palestine. A browse through Wikipedia's page reflects the inhospitable nature of this area of the Middle East, and gives more information about this battle. Details in Lessac's gouache illustrations reflect the situation the Light Horse found itself in, and it is one battle that needs to be remembered. Teacher's notes are available.