Thursday 16 April 2015

Anzac Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front

Anzac Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front by Allison Marlow Paterson (Big Sky Publishing)
HB RRP $24.99 PB
ISBN 9781925275148

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is an impressive-looking book for young readers, from its striking cover and internal design to the internal text which is broken up into chunks of information presented as postcards, newspaper clipped or letter texts, or in break-outs. Most books for young readers focus primarily on Gallipoli (in keeping with the 100th landing of the Anzacs this year). But this covers the Western Front. Further, it is a unique story, being the tale of five Australian brothers all serving in WW 11 and, too, it is told by the grand-daughter of one of the three surviving brothers.

Photographs, maps, letters and facts tell the story of the Marlow boys – George (Geordie), twins Allan and Percy, Charles (Charlie) and Albert, four of whom enlisted in the 38th Battalion. They were among over 330,000 Australians who served in the First World War, more than 60,000 dying.
Researching meticulously through over 500 letters (some unpublished), maps, and other war memoriam, Paterson tells the story of the family’s background that led to the five brothers leaving their family farm in Northern Victoria headed for the battlefield. Interwoven with personal stories (sixth brother Jim turned away due to poor eyesight, Charlie getting his teeth fixed in order to enlist), Anzac Sons tells of the war both in a broader sense, but also how it affected those left behind in Australia (such as the Marlow parents, Charles Senior and Sarah).  

We follow the progression of the war from Australia to the Somme and on to Fromelles, later to places like Pozieres. In break-out boxes we read of causalities and see photographs – black and white and coloured – of interesting places and events. There’s Charlie and Pearl, for instance, on their wedding day prior to Charles leaving for overseas, unaware his new wife is expecting. (Later we see Pearl with baby Eva, both gorgeous looking Marlows!)

There’s so much information in this book that is compelling and fascinating and so full of heart that any reader – children six to teens (and over) -- will want to linger over the written and visual texts. At the end of the book is a sub-heading, ‘We Will Remember Them.’ This book is a valuable way of personalizing war through one family’s sacrifice, but showing, too, how Australia’s sons and daughters participated with great bravery despite horrendous odds. It’s a book that ought to be in every school library, and hopefully too in many home libraries.

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