The poppy by Andrew Plant
Ford St, 2014. ISBN 9781925000313.
(Age: 9+) Recommended. World War One, Villers-Bretonneux, Diggers, Picture book. The first of many such books to be published in 2014 and 2015, for the one hundred years anniversary of the beginning of World War One, and one hundred years since the first Anzac Day in 1915, this will be put alongside Sally Murphy's Do not forget Australia (Walker Books) and The promise, written by Derek Guille (Scholastic).
Picture books about our involvement in war have appeared consistently in the past several years, so there are plenty to chose from when stocking the library or putting on a display for one or other of the memorial days during the year.
The poppy recognises the commitment and effort made by the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian troops on April 24 1918, in holding back a German advance on the little French town of Villers-Bretonneux. Their courage and sacrifice is recognised by the town, and this book recalls the night many gave their lives. The children of the town chase after a poppy floating over the Rue du Victoria, the Victoria School with Do Not Forget Australia sign in every classroom. Beginning at the war cemetery outside the town, the route of the children and the poppy shows the readers just how Villers-Bretonneux remembers Australia and what was done on that day.
The bold illustrations outlined in black, stare out of the pages, as the children run along, freely because of the efforts made by these men. Several pages are standouts for me; the beginning and end pages reflect each other in giving a view from high over the hills around the town, the middle pages recall war with threatening clouds coming over the horizon rather than showing images of war, and the town itself is shown with its Australian references. As a tool in a class where war is being discussed, or freedom, or remembrance, this can be added to the fine array of books already published.