Tuesday 24 April 2012

Do Not Forget Australia

Do Not Forget Australia by Sally Murphy, illustrated by Sonia Kretschmar (Walker Books)
HB RRP $29.95
ISBN 9781921529863
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Just in time for Anzac Day! This beautiful book illustrated with mixed media, is a story for Primary School children (and adults that collect beautiful things) about war and remembrance. It is a wonderful learning tool and a reminder of the battle at Villers-Bretonneux.

Two boys, Billy in Melbourne and Henri in a village in France, simultaneously miss their fathers who have gone to fight in the First World War.

Henri cannot remember Australia when asked to name the continents. He only cares that his father is no longer there with him. Later, he only cares that he has to leave his home and all that he loves because the fighting has reached his village. On his return, Henri remembers Australia, because the Aussie soldiers have helped free their village which was won back on Anzac Day, 25 April, 1918. A soldier sits with him and talks about his boy Billy, far away in Australia. They exchange stories and Henri tells the man about his school being bombed.

Billy finally receives a card from his dad from Villers-Bretonneux. He had studied the battle his father had fought in. He learns about Henri and his village and is moved to help in some way.

Nine years later, Henri stands in the courtyard of the new school. All the children are wearing red poppies in their lapels. He reads the banner Do Not Forget Australia which hangs across the front. As if he ever could. At the same time, on the other side of the world, the headlines on Billy’s newspaper blaze with the announcement of the opening of a new school, built by the money sent by the soldiers who fought at Villers-Bretonneux.

In A Note from the Author at the end of the book, we are reminded that although the characters are fictional, ‘Villers-Bretonneux is very real’. It gives an easy to understand historical account of the battle and the fundraising for the people of France. It also refers to many other things connected to the site of the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux which commemorates all Australians that died during the First World War, and about the school that reopened in 1927. A valuable book for any home/collection produced with full page, full colour pictures, and an outstanding front cover.

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