For valour: Australia's Victoria Cross heroes by Nicolas Brasch
Black Dog Books, 2013. ISBN 978 1 742032 31 3.
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Picture book. War heroes. In the series, Our Stories, comes this useful and fascinating account of some of the remarkable stories of the ninety nine Victoria Cross heroes. The introduction gives an account of what the Victoria Cross is and why it is given. There follows the heroic stories of men who were given this award for exceptional bravery during the Boer War, World War One and the Russian Campaign, World War Two, Vietnam War and the War in Afghanistan.
With known names such as Albert Jacka (World War One), and the latest medal winners, Benjamin Roberts-Smith and Mark Donaldson (Afghanistan) given a page spread, details can be assimilated by the readers with ease. These men come to the fore as human figures, complete with photographs augmented with bits of information which add to their story. No longer just a list of names in a book about Australia's involvement in war, these pages give the heroes flesh and blood.
Before each section is a page giving an overview of the war in which these men won their Victoria Cross, which gives an introduction which could be used more widely in discussions about war int he classroom. The war in Afghanistan would be well known to our students, but not so the Boer War or Russian Campaign or even the two World Wars and the Vietnam War.
One page which took my interest was that about Roden Cutler. I had heard of him as Governor of NSW (1966-81)but knew little of his exploits during World War Two as a communications officer where he repaired telephone lines under heavy fire, and was then shot and left to die by the enemy. His injuries necessitated the amputation of his leg but he was still able to serve as Australian High commissioner in New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Pakistan and later served as Australia's delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.
This is a fascinating contribution to books about our involvement in war, for the middle school reader.