Saturday 24 February 2024

Anzac Ted, 10th Anniversary Edition

Anzac Ted, 10th Anniversary Edition by Belinda Landsberry (EK Books) PB HB RRP $29.99 9781922539755

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

The first edition of Anzac Ted was Belinda Landsberry’s debut picture book. Published internationally, it was short listed for the 2016 Western Australian Young Reader’s Book Awards. Landsberry’s second picture book Once I Was Loved, is also published by EK Books.

A tattered old bear called Anzac Ted looks scary and gets no Show and Tell votes. But he holds an important story that his young owner treasures. You see, Anzac Ted belonged to his grandfather. When his grandfather was a young soldier going to war, Anzac Ted went inside his suitcase for luck and to bring him home. While at war, Anzac Ted visited many soldiers and gave them peace. He became their mascot and helped bring them home.

This story is as fresh and relevant today as it was ten years ago. Belinda Landsberry’s heartfelt words take a young reader from modern day world to a bygone era with a bear who went to war. She shows that although not shiny new Anzac Ted is special and holds an important secret. Her words bring both sadness and understanding about war. When Grandpa Jack enlisted, he was only twenty-one. He kissed his wife, he loved his life, and hugged his baby son. The rhyme is extremely well done and poignant. Landsberry shows that the freedom we enjoy today was hard won by young men. I think the story really shows children how special the Anzacs were. I know he isn’t pretty and some people roll their eyes but if they see, like you and me…  The layered meaning in the text is powerful and shows that old things and people have valuable life stories. If we only seek to find them out and understand them. The inclusion of detailed backmatter strengthens the book.  It’s an impactful celebration of the Anzac spirit. 

The illustrations are powerful and move from modern day world of full colour to muted brown tones much like sepia paper that feels aged, like old photographs or a movie reel. I love the double page spread of the silhouetted soldiers walking across a paddock and peeking out of the top of a backpack is Anzac Ted. Another clever illustration shows Anzac Ted battle-sore and scarred by war. This is a much gentler way of showing what war can do rather than showing injured soldiers in a children’s book. But the illustrations do show barbed war, explosions, and how young the soldiers were. The body language of the characters speaks as strongly as the words do. The last page is powerful and moving and hits the heart deeply with the image of a soldier standing at the last post. It dances with the text beautifully: His name is…Anzac Ted. The use of both single page illustrations to double page ensures the words and text go together seamlessly.

Anzac Ted is an important picture book for children 4 to 8 years. It is a book to treasure and is held in high regard by teachers because it’s a great teaching resource that matches the school curriculum.  The topic is told so sensitively that it captures hearts and minds of all ages not just children. It’s appealing to parents, teachers and librarians.

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