The Poppy by Andrew Plant
Ford St, 2014. ISBN 9781925000313 HB. ISBN 9781925000320 PB.
Highly recommended for all readers 9+ . Another stunning new picture book for everyone's Anzac Day collection, particularly suitable for younger readers 9+ but also eminently suitable to use with older students as an exploration of this particular aspect of the First World War. Many will already know of the history of Villers Bretonneux, a village in Northern France, where Anzacs achieved the impossible and saved the village from complete annihilation by the German invaders. Not without a great cost, the Anzacs suffered huge casualties in their successful action. You will find much rich historical material around this significant piece of history, including a documentary which I recall watching in recent years, now available on YouTube in episodes.
Through over 70 beautiful colour paintings and a simple but moving text, Andrew Plant has retold the story, focussing on the part played by Victorian schoolchildren who helped rebuild the village school after the war. This single act of compassionate action has resonated through time as the Victoria School continues to be a focal point of Villers Bretonneux, for both locals and for those making a pilgrimage. In the 'pay it forward' style, the village children responded in kind when the devastating Ash Wednesday totally destroyed Strathewen Primary School in 2009.
The individual illustrations boxed in a black background tell much of the story, making this a highly effective visual text. Andrew Plant has handled this piece of history with a gentle finesse, creating a non-fiction text that will speak volumes to all readers.
As the centenary commemorations of the First World War and the Anzacs begin, this book will prove an invaluable addition to any collection and is a fitting tribute to those who not only sacrificed their lives, but those who did whatever they could to help Villers Bretonneux recover from the tragedies.
This one is a must for your 2014 collection.