The last ANZAC by Gordon Winch

cover image

Ill. by Harriet Bailey. New Frontier, 2015. ISBN 9781925059298
(Age: 5+) ANZAC, World War One, Remembrance. The true story of Alec Campbell, the last ANZAC who died in 2002 is told through the eyes of a young boy, James who visited him in 2001.
The details of Alec's life as a recruit are told in bare simple prose, outlining the unadorned facts of his enlistment at sixteen and the time training in Egypt before being sent to Anzac Cove. Each section of his story as a young teen is interspersed with his interview with James. The illustrator has vividly contrasted the young man in his uniform carrying a rifle that seems to tower over him, with the images of an old gentle man having a cup of tea with his wife and James and his dad, dunking his biscuit in his tea. That contrast reinforces the gap between our perception of what Anzac was like for these men and their reality. That reality is revealed in many of the images shown in this book, including the letters and photographs included as the endpapers.
There have been so many books produced for this centenary year that for some schools it will be difficult choosing which to buy. Each book takes a different slant and shows things which others do not. I was intrigued with the information about Alec as a water carrier, with the scenes of the soldiers eating oranges, of Alec in hospital and his arrival back home. Each image adds another layer of knowledge about this war for younger readers, and as it is about a real person, will add some resonance to those looking at this book.
Fran Knight