Saturday 9 March 2024

Pidge’s Poppies

Pidge’s Poppies by Jan Andrews & Timothy Ide (Ford Street Publishing) PB HB RRP $27.95 9781922696380

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Jan Andrews is former Chair of Australian Poetry, the national body for that art form. She is deeply interested in language, history, and children’s development.

Timothy Ide is an Adelaide based illustrator. His published works include Medieval Monsters and other Creatures, Born to Fly and The Lanternist.

This story is based on a true story about a pair of pigeons at the Australian War Memorial. It remembers the vital role pigeons played in both world wars.  Andrews has crafted a delightful story about Pidge and Henry who are best friends. The title Pidge’s Poppies uses alliteration, and including the word poppies is clever because poppies are a symbol for those who never returned from war. The words are efficient and poignant at the same time.

Andrews encourages the reader to think deeply about the role pigeons played in both world wars. Do they only remember people, or other animals too? Her words allow the illustrations to speak, and the story building is well done. The setting -- at the Australian War Memorial -- is central to the story. History is expertly woven into the text, and I like how the years are stated to define the different world wars. Then she remembered stories about her even-more-times great-grandfather who had gone to the First World War in 1914. The story is strengthened by the facts that are included. Pigeons can always find their way home. I love how Andrews simply and clearly explains things to the reader yet still moves the story along. I can remember the pigeons at the Australian War Memorial being in the news: Jan Andrews has crafted a heart-warming well researched story.

Ide’s illustrations show a deep understanding of the text. The multi-layered illustrations create the visual story with much skill. The illustrations really shine a light on the story. The pigeons are lifelike in appearance and movement. The colours used vary according to the time frames. I love the sepia effect when the story travels through the world wars. The vivid red of the poppies sing and pop on the spreads they appear. Visually many poppies together show the sad loss of life without one word needed. I love too how the many poppies are the pigeons’ nest as they welcome new babies.

My favourite illustration is the page that dramatically shows many pigeon feathers flying in the air with splashes of red to symbolise the bombs and flying bullets for loss of life. It dramatically shows the impact of war without it being too much to a child reader. The front cover is striking, Pidge is front and centre with a poppy in her beak and the going down of sun is powerful.  This story reminds us of all of the vital role pigeons played in both world wars and their sacrifice. The endpapers have a lovely pale sky blue with many pigeons in flight.

Pidges’s Poppies is a picture book that’s a perfect choice for schools to use on Anzac or for Remembrance Day. The history captured is important and the War Memorial is beautifully represented along with the war history.  It is suitable for 4 - 8 years and it will appeal to children, parents, teachers, and librarians. This book is a good fit with the Australian school curriculum and shows some important history of our wonderful nation.

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