Anzac reads for history fans

Hello everyone, here is an extra little post for any historical fiction fans out there. As a tribute to the country I call home, I thought to end this month featuring some more Anzac titles. The selection of titles in this post are written by both popular Australian and New Zealand children’s authors.

Anzac read four quarters 1914 bombed building girl and soldiers running and with rifle and dog
Selection of ANZAC reads

Title: Australia’s Great War series (1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918)

Authors: Sophie Masson, Sally Murphy, Alan Tucker, Kelly Gardiner, Libby Gleeson

Publication details: Scholastic Australia, 2014 – 2018

What these books are about: These five stories are all different. Each start with different characters from all corners of the globe and they all end up fighting for the Great War either on the battlefields or at home. Our main characters all have a common thread in their place of birth, Australia. Each book tells of one aspect of each year the war was fought and is filled with a poignant tale of hardship and sacrifice.

My review: Much of these stories come from the front line so they all had some aspect that was quite hard for me to take in. The sacrifices these young men took to fight for King and country is intricately described and expertly researched. Each author brought a vivid picture into my mind. It was hard going for a bit, so I’m sorry to say, I had to speed-read some chapters!! Although this series is quite heavy with the details of battles and such, the most important thing for me was that they taught me history! A history I had only learned partially. The historical notes at the end of each book was extremely helpful for me in this sense. I hope you find some nugget of information among these like I did.

My rating: 4 ⭐

Please note that most of this series is intended for older ‘tween’ readers.

Title: A rose for the Anzac boys

Author: Jackie French

Publication details: Angus & Robertson; Australia, 2008

What this book is about: It is 1915. War is being fought on a horrific scale in the trenches of France, but it might as well be a world away for 16-year-old Midge Macpherson, at school in England learning to be a young lady. But the war is looming closer: Midge’s brothers are in the army, and her twin, Tim, is listed as ‘missing’ in the devastating defeat of the Anzac forces at Gallipoli. Desperate to do their bit – and avoid the boredom of school and the restrictions of society – Midge and her friends Ethel and Anne start a canteen in France, caring for the endless flow of wounded soldiers returning from the front. Midge, recruited by the over-stretched ambulance service, is thrust into carnage and scenes of courage she could never have imagined. And when the war is over, all three girls – and their Anzac boys as well – discover that even going ‘home’ can be both strange and wonderful. Exhaustively researched yet written with the very lightest of touches, this is Jackie French at her very best.

My review: Bringing tears to my eyes again after reading it for a second time, I still marvel at Jackie French’s story. She took me from England; where Midge was at school, to the French countryside where she helped her friends run a canteen serving the casualties of battle, back home to New Zealand, and ending up in Australia. I marvel not only at Jackie’s ability to take me back to the past, but also to convey the depths of courage and sacrifice those young men and women of World War One endured. In her notes at the end she says that this book is dedicated to those women who not only cared and saved, but those who survived and fought for education and the right to vote. ‘They are the forgotten army’. This was such a poignant read, one that has the ability to teach us of all the sacrifices everyone made during those years, and inspire us to learn from the past to build our world for tomorrow.

My rating: 4 ⭐

Title: Anzac Boys

Author: Tony Bradman Illustrator: Ollie Cuthbertson

Publication details: Barrington Stoke; Edinburgh, 2015

What this book is about: When Bert and Frank Barker are taken from the Children’s Home in London, the priests promise them a better life in Australia. But what really awaits is hard work, separation, and the realization that no-one cares if they live or die. Then war breaks out, and fate brings the brothers together again – in a place more horrific than either of them could ever imagine. A stunning novel of World War One, and the Gallipoli Campaign, inspired by a true story.

My review: An astonishing and poignant read!! The fact that it’s based on a true story was quite remarkable. Although quite short in length and dyslexia-friendly in it’s format with illustrations, the story was a bit of a difficult read for me. The urgency of the war and the descriptions of the hardships those men endured at Anzac Cove were written exceptionally well. This is a really good read for anyone who wanted to understand that time in history in a very easily readable form.

My rating: 4 ⭐

Titles: Kiwis at War series: 1914 – Riding into war, 1915 – Wounds of war, 1916 – Dig for victory, 1917 – Machines of war, 1918 – Broken Poppies

Authors: Susan Brocker, Diana Menefy, David Hair, Brian Falkner, Des Hunt

Publication details: Scholastic New Zealand Limited, 2014 – 2018

What these books are about: This series of historical reads focus on New Zealanders or ‘Kiwis’ who ended up as soldiers on the front line, nurses on the hospital ships and observers in those early war planes. Each story has a different main character with their own set of unique challenges to face but some of the supporting cast appear from earlier books.

My review: To begin with, I must say that much of these were heavy going. Similar to the Australian series, the battle scenes were a bit hard to take for me. Despite that, I felt that each of these stories gave me a better understanding of the lives of New Zealand’s young sons and daughters who went off to war one hundred years ago. Each of these I felt reflected not only aspects of life back then but an ingenious collaboration of creative work from a group of New Zealand’s finest children’s writers. At the end of each one the authors give us a historical timeline along with notes of their own, and the one thing that struck me the most was the attention to detail and how much of them were based on actual events and people. I won’t be giving away any details, but I hope this review inspires you to read this remarkable set of books and gives you the same feeling of humility and poignancy it gave me.

My rating: 5 ⭐

Please note that most of these titles are intended for older ‘tween’ readers.


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