Anzac Day is only a few weeks away and so this book on people who were at at Gallipoli seems like a good one to review at this time. It also marks my 70th book review for this blog.
My Gallipoli by Ruth Starke, illustrated by Robert Hannaford (Working Title Press, 2015)
32 pages with full page illustrations
Subjects: World War One, France, Australia, Turkey, nurses, chaplains, war correspondents, Charles Bean, war artists, George Lambert, snipers, Billy Sing, Ataturk, Mule Corps, war graves, Cyril Hughes, sophisticated picture books (Year 6-12)
“From the shores of Anzac Cove to the heights of Chunuk Bair, from Cape Helles to Gurkha Bluff, the Gallipoli Peninsula was the place where thousands of men from sixteen nations fought, suffered, endured or died during the eight months of occupation in 1915. For each of them, their families and their nurses, Gallipoli meant something different. Their voices emerge from the landscape and across the decades with stories of courage, valour, despair and loss.” (Penguin Books website)
The title suggests that Gallipoli has some personal resonance for all of us, while the cover, with its portraits in individual squares, gives a clue to the way the story will be told inside. I like the way that it focuses on real historical characters, as well as nameless Anzac soldiers and Turkish people, and also includes women, stretcher bearers, the chaplain and indigenous soldiers.
I also like the fact that it doesn’t finish in December 1915, but shows the ongoing effects of the campaign, and what it might be like to revisit Gallipoli today. There are useful extra facts at the back and a map at the front. Each spread could be used as a springboard to find out lots more information.
Teachers’ notes are available here and include comments from both author and illustrator about the thinking, ideas and inspiration behind the book.
There are plenty of good reviews that will give you a idea of the book’s themes and potential readership. The Readings website says that "the rich panoply of voices in Ruth Starke’s text offers upper primary and lower secondary students a broad understanding of the Anzac Campaign and the current views of those engaged in the war as well as those at home." Other reviews appear in The Book Chook and Kids Book Review.
Which page was the most surprising for you? Which one presented a viewpoint that you hadn’t thought of before?
Ruth Starke lives in Adelaide, South Australia, and has published more than 20 novels for young people. Before becoming an author, Ruth worked in public relations and travel marketing, and at a great variety of other jobs - of which the most interesting, she says, were selling French perfume in Harrods, cooking on the radio, taking tourists to Kashmir, and interviewing Grand Prix drivers. Ruth has also written “An Anzac tale,” a graphic novel about Gallipoli.
This is my favourite of “20 questions with Ruth” on her website:
What is the naughtiest thing you did?
Accidentally swallowed my best friend's brother's prize goldfish during a “dare”.
Info about the illustrator
This is Robert Hannaford’s gallery.
In an interview in The Advertiser, he explains “How to paint a portrait” and says, “This is why I paint. I never get sick of it. Painting for me is a learning experience.”
I’m pleased to see that Ruth Starke, included a story told by a New Zealand soldier, “Private Andrew McBain” of the Auckland Mounted Rifles, and his mate Frankie, in the pages on Chunuk Bair.