Tuesday 19 March 2013

An Anzac Tale

An Anzac Tale by Ruth Starke, illustrated by Greg Holfeld (Working Title Press)
HB RRP $29.95
ISBN 9781921504532
Reviewed by Vicki Thornton

Roy Martin and his best mate Wally Cardwell are among the first to enlist when Australia goes to war at the beginning of World War 1. Eager to fight for King and country, they soon discover the adventure they thought they would have is nothing but a disaster.  One day after the unsuccessful landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915, more than 2000 of their fellow ANZACs are dead.

The two mates and their new friend Tom, soon have to endure a battle against a tireless enemy, hostile surroundings, and the onset of flies, fleas, cold and disease.

This graphic novel is extraordinary for many reasons. Ruth Starke has captured the ‘aussie’ spirit of get up go really well. Australian slang of the time, words such as ‘little tacker’s ‘six bob tourists’ all add to the sense of the era.

The illustrations by Greg Holfeld help to create a unique book. The use of animals personalising the story, native animals for Australia, and the caracal lynx for the Turkish soldiers, helps the reader take a step back. This allows the horror of  war and what actually happened to penetrate.

The careful choice of language and what is told is taken hand in hand with the select illustrations. A combination of pen and ink and colour washes, used most effectively.  Most memorable is the double page spread of a confrontation between the ANZACs and the Turks…not a word is necessary and the thorough use of the illustrations says more than words ever could.

This book would be a great introduction of young readers to the topic of Gallipoli and the ANZAC campaign. With maps, timelines and pages of information, with the easy-to-read aspect of a graphic novel, it would also appeal to boys and reluctant readers.

A truly amazing and powerful picture book.

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