Tuesday 24 March 2015

Meet the Anzacs by Claire Saxby

Meet the Anzacs by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Max Berry (Random House, 2014)

ISBN 978 0 85798 192 9

32 pages with full page colour illustrations

Subjects: World War One, Australia, Egypt, Cairo, Turkey, Gallipoli, Anzac Cove, picture books (Year 5-8)

This is one of a series of books about “the extraordinary men and women who have shaped Australia’s history”; others to be met in the same series are Ned Kelly, Mary MacKillop and Captain Cook, with more titles coming soon.

The foreword says this is the story of how the Anzac legend began. Unlike many other books, this one finishes on 25 April 1915. It starts with the men going to sign up as war is declared, and I’m pleased that it includes a mention of the “NZ” part of ANZAC: “In New Zealand, men were doing the same.” The story doesn't focus on any particular soldiers; instead, much of it is told through snatches of talk and conversation as the men sail across the world to Egypt, visit the pyramids, play cricket in the sand, pack up and travel across the Mediterranean, finally landing at Gallipoli.

I like the cover, which is similar in some respects to the cover of Best mates (three young men with their arms around each other’s shoulders!) The books were both published at about the same time, so this is sheer serendipity or else a reflection of something important about the theme of both books. There is also a timeline at the end.

You can see some of the pictures if you click on the Free sample on this Random House page, or on the excellent YouTube clip about the book, which cleverly intersperses the artwork with original photographs taken during the war.  "A picture book is a bit like an ice berg", Claire says, "in that you have to have an understanding of all this material to then be able to write lightly across the top of it in the few words that you have available there."

This review on Aussie reviews calls it "a wonderful introduction to the soldiers who forged the ANZAC legend." 

The Teachers' resources include author and illustrator interviews, classroom activities and discussion questions.  

About the author
You can read about Claire Saxby on her website and her blog, Let's have words (great title) which has a blog post about the launch of Meet the Anzacs.

I like the bit in the About me section where she says: "Words have fascinated me as long as I can remember. I have always loved reading. I used to go home from boarding school and read for days on end, only emerging to swim and eat."

Another book in the same series, also by Claire Saxby, is Meet Weary Dunlop

About the illustrator
Max Berry’s website says he was born in 1987 in Katherine, NT, Australia; he did a Bachelor of Design in 2005-2009, and lives and works in Sydney. He’s won a string of prizes, including being a finalist in 2012 and 2014 in the Gallipoli Art Prize. I’d never heard of this before but it began in 2006, runs annually until 2015 and is administered by the Gallipoli Memorial Club (whom I’d never heard of before, either.)

Have you read it?
Have you read this book? Let me know what you think!

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