Never forget by Clare Hallifax and Simon O'Carrigan

cover image

Scholastic, 2020. ISBN: 9781743835050. 32pp.
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. A unique look at World War 1, the illustrations in this book won't be forgotten easily by any reader. Dark brown colours and black outlines bring to life the story of the hardships and horror that the soldiers faced during wartime. The reader is taken through scenes of trench warfare, of wounded soldiers and the nurses who cared for them, of death and longing for the familiar blue skies of home.
It is not until the reader comes to the end of the book and reads the Illustrator's note by Simon O'Carrigan that it is realised that the illustrations were inspired by actual drawings and photographs by soldiers and war artists depicting what was happening around them. There are two pages of artwork reference material acknowledgements at the back of the book, and reading through them I was astonished at the depth of research that had gone into the book. References range from the works of well-known artists like Arthur Streeton to those of Elias Silas, a soldier. This realisation that the illustrations were based on the work of people who were on the battlefields makes it all the more poignant and the words below are a strong call for peace:
When you're lifting the fallen
amidst grieving goodbyes
it's home skies that beckon
as we ask ourselves why
those who urge us to fight
are not by our side.
Never forget.

As the section above reveals, the narrative is very powerful and could be read aloud slowly and carefully to help people realise the horror of war. The refrain 'Never forget' is repeated throughout and adds to intensity of the message about war.
There are many books about the Anzac tradition but this one stands out as original and heart-breaking. It is an important addition to any library collection. Themes: World War 1, War in art, Anzac Day
Pat Pledger