Meet the Anzacs by Claire Saxby
Ill. by Max Berry. Meet series. Random House, Australia,
2014. ISBN 9780857981929.
Recommended. The Meet series of picture books appear to be a response to the addition of History to the Australian curriculum recognising the contributions of significant historical individuals. This title instead focuses on that group of young men who helped shape the Anzac legend.
The text gives us a sense of the excitement and motivations of the volunteers as they gather from all over the country to join up and begin basic training. We sense the pride of the families and general excitement of the men as they set sail and the sense of a holiday atmosphere on the ships despite a training schedule as they head not for Europe, as expected, but Egypt. We then experience the growing impatience of the troops as they continue training in desert camps, shadowed by the pyramids, and developing as a combined Australian and New Zealand force, finally setting sail again for Gallipoli. The story ends with the men squeezed into the landing boats heading for the beaches and the final sobering sentence;
'War was like nothing they could have imagined '.
Max Berry has used muted colours in his painted illustrations depicting a range of perspectives from crowds cheering, broad landscapes to the legs of soldiers marching off to war. The soldiers are depicted at a distance so they are representative of all and any of the many ages, cultures and backgrounds that made up the original Anzacs.
Whilst there is a plethora of books being produced in anticipation of the 100 years Commemoration beginning this year, this title will be welcome in schools and homes as an explanation of the mood of the country and the soldiers prior to the reality of World War 1.