Tag Archives: First World War

Alfred’s War – Rachel Bin Salleh/Samantha Fry



Magabala Books

April 2018

ISBN: 9781925360608

RRP $19.99

The Australian War Memorial archives suggest that between 1 000 and 1 300 Indigenous men and women served during World War 1 (just as an unknown number had volunteered for the Boer War earlier in the century) despite not even being accorded as citizens of their own country. For the most part their service, actions and heroism have been largely ignored and conveniently forgotten during the past hundred plus years. It is apparent that at least 70 Indigenous soldiers took part in the doomed Gallipoli campaign with at least 13 having died there, these statistics having only been confirmed during the past two years. As well as the general lack of recognition for anything achieved by First Australians, certainly a great difficulty was the lack of detail of Aboriginality included on military records (for the most part).  Be that as it may, the evidence is clear. There were a significant number of First Australians serving the country that despised, who were paid and treated with equity during this service, and then subsequently relegated back to inferior status on their return. Another shameful episode in our combined history.

Afred’s War is a poignant and powerful tribute to these forgotten war veterans. The reader follows Alfred’s wanderings around the country and his participation on the fringes of ANZAC Day commemorations. There’s been no returned soldier’s settlement land for this digger, nor support for a permanent disability arising from his wounds. Instead he’s chosen a solitary life walking the dusty back roads with his swag and billy, picking up work where and when he can.

Yet his contribution to the war effort and his loyalty to his country was just as valuable as any other soldier, despite his country’s rejection even denial of his and his peoples’ basic human rights.

The book is simply written but is just as effective for all that and an exceptional way to introduce a discussion on human rights, citizenship, First Australian history as well as the Indigenous contribution to the Great War.

Teaching notes can be found here.


Highly recommended for your collection as an important addition for ANZAC and Remembrance Day.


Queenslander, Douglas Grant, arguably WW1’s most well-known Indigenous veteran.


The Silver Hand – Terry Deary



Bloomsbury Australia

July 2018ISBN: 9781472929488
Imprint: Bloomsbury Education
Series: Flashbacks

RRP $14.99

We all know Terry Deary’s expertise in bring history to life – witness the success of Horrible Histories. Now he turns his hand to a lesser explored part of history in the closing days of the First World War, examining this through the eyes of two children.  Aimee Fletcher is the daughter of a French woman and an English father, living in Bray, Northern France. Aimee’s father is M-i-A and her mother, as she discovers, is a valued member of the White Lady group – a dedicated and successful espionage network working to defeat the Germans. Marius is a young German boy who has learned much about healing from his grandmother and determines to go to help the soldiers if he possibly can.  These two meet as the ebb and flow of Allied/German occupation in the last days of the war play out.

With formidable skill Deary presents significant historical figures to young readers including a young angry Adolf Hitler, Baron von Richtofen aka the Red Baron and General Haig as the battered German army, starving and disassembled, try to claw back some dignity and the Allied forces push them further.

Amidst this the two youngsters are caught up in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game of spies, traitors and valuable information and play their part with a growing respect for each other.

Readers will gain a useful background to the motivation behind the Great War and its ultimate resolution – which sadly, also lead to the Second World War, whilst seeing it in terms of personal experiences.

This would be a superb addition to a ‘read around’ fiction collection for the First World War as well as for those children who enjoy historical fiction.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

Not a book – a movie



Many of you will have read articles particularly fairly recently about the real life bear who inspired A. A. Milne’s classic stories about Winnie-the-Pooh. A recently published picture book sparked some of these.

I was so delighted to pick up the DVD of the movie ‘A Bear Named Winnie’ at the local  Km*** last Friday for the princely sum of $4.

There is so much to like about this lovely film – with character roles played by Stephen Fry, David Suchet and Michael Fassbender – which tells the story of how a young Canadian, Lt Harry Colebourn, of the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, rescues a black bear cub. The endearing animal immediately bonds with him and despite the sometimes chaos that can be caused by such a creature in an army camp, manages to smuggle Winnie (Winnipeg) to England when he is mobilized to the front.

This is a World War 1 story with a real difference enabling viewers to glimpse the work of the veterinary corps, our Canadian compadres and the amazing friendship between human and animal.

Harry realises he cannot take Winnie to the front in France so she is placed in the London Zoo for the duration of the war under the care of a very crusty (but actually marshmallow) head keeper played by Stephen Fry.

When Harry returns from active service traumatised and withdrawn it is Winnie who rescues him in turn. After his recovery he has every intention of taking Winnie back to Canada but when he realises just how loved she is by children and adults alike who visit the zoo, he leaves her in their care where she lived happily until 1934.

In 1926 when A. A. Milne and his small son visited the zoo and became entranced by Winnie’s charm and her gentle playful nature was afterwards immortalised for endless generations of readers.

With a rating of PG this would be a worthy addition to your literary (and historical) film collection – get to that store now!

The Poppy – Andrew Plant


The Poppy – Andrew Plant

Ford St  Publishing Pty Ltd

March 2014


RRP  $26.95 HB $16.95 PB

ISBN 9781925000313 HB 9781925000320 PB

Another stunning new picture book for everyone’s Anzac Day collection, particularly suitable for younger readers 9+ but also eminently suitable to use with older students as an exploration of this particular aspect of the First World War. Many will already know of the history of Villers Bretonneux, a village in Northern France, where Anzacs achieved the impossible and saved the village from complete annihilation by the German invaders. Not without a great cost, the Anzacs suffered huge casualties in their successful action. You will find much rich historical material around this significant piece of history, including a documentary which I recall watching in recent years, now available on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4DXU9m-dRo in episodes.

Through over 70 beautiful colour paintings and a simple but moving text, Andrew Plant has retold the story, focussing on the part played by Victorian schoolchildren who helped rebuild the village school after the war. This single act of compassionate action has resonated through time as the Victoria School continues to be a focal point of Villers Bretonneux, for both locals and for those making a pilgrimage. In the ‘pay it forward’ style, the village children responded in kind when the devastating Ash Wednesday totally destroyed Strathewen Primary School in 2009.

The individual illustrations boxed in a black background tell much of the story, making this a highly effective visual text. Andrew Plant has handled this piece of history with a gentle finesse, creating a non-fiction text that will speak volumes to all readers.

As the centenary commemorations of the First World War and the Anzacs begin, this book will prove an invaluable addition to any collection and is a fitting tribute to those who not only sacrificed their lives, but those who did whatever they could to help Villers Bretonneux recover from the tragedies.

Highly recommended for all readers 9+ – This one is a must for your 2014 collection.