Sunday 5 April 2015

Caesar the War Dog: Operation Green Parrot

Caesar the War Dog: Operation Green Parrot by Stephen Dando-Collins (Random House)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-0-85798-471-5
Reviewed by Jaquelyn Muller

Award winning history writer Stephen Dando-Collins has appealed to my love of action stories in this latest instalment about Caesar the War Dog in Operation Green Parrot.

As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landing and our lives are constantly overrun with modern war imagery, communicating to kids about the realities of military operations is a complex balance. Dando-Collins uses his experience in historical and military writing to reveal a story that is honest yet sensitive to a 9 – 12 year old age group.

The fourth book in the series takes the reader on location in Mexico, on a thrilling ride with Caesar and his army handler Sergeant Ben Fulton, the Australian contingent of the UN Global Rapid Reaction Responders (GRRR) unit.

The rattling action of the opening few chapters quickly introduces the main characters and the storyline involving bomb attacks, Mexican crime cartels and anti-terrorism manoeuvres. The explanatory nature of the text negates the reader to have read all previous books in the series, but its high sensory feel will leave younger readers wanting to discover Caesar’s other adventures.

The use of Caesar as the central character softens and allows for light-hearted moments in an otherwise harsh topic. The relationship between Caesar and his handler Ben and his family, not only illustrates a relationship that readers of this age may relate to, but also documents the sacrifice that defence personnel and their family’s make to allow them to perform active duty. Through this we see loyalty, bravery, humanity and respect between people and animals.

The pace Dando-Collins creates gives us the feeling we are along for the ride and his informed clear explanations of military terms, projects a ‘news broadcast’ feel during the action sequences.

This series is going to appeal to more boys than girls no doubt, but any young reader with an interest in action stories and animals will find this more than fits the bill. There are some fascinating stories about real life army dogs at the back of the book, which further illustrate how these animals have become such a valued and respected icon of our military history.

In addition to the three other Caesar books, Stephen Dando-Collins has written a similarly war themed book Tank Boys, for slightly older 12 – 16 year old readers. Other titles in this genre for consideration are the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis, which places young fictional characters in significant war events from history. 

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