Here is a list of picture books to commemorate ANZAC Day and the commitment of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers and their families in the wars following. Most of the books below focus on Gallipoli and the events of World War I, however a few such as “A Day to Remember” by Jackie French & Mark Wilson and “When War is Over” also by Jackie French & illustrated by Anne Spudvilas look at each conflict ANZAC forces have been involved in.
All of the books below are a great starting point for discussion with children of all ages, however some may by upsetting for younger children. “Anzac Biscuits” and “Bessie’s War,” are nice, gentle introductions to the topic, while “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” is definitely aimed at an older audience 10+ years. Another older read is “One Minute’s Silence” which looks at the conflict from both sides. A very powerful story. Personally I would read through the books first to make sure they are appropriate for your children and as a rule of thumb I would feel happy to read most of them to students 8+ years old.
A Soldier, a Dog and a Boy by Libby Hathorn & Phil Lesnie
A moving story, told completely in dialogue, about a young Australian soldier in the battle of the Somme. Walking through the fields away from the front, he finds what he thinks is a stray dog, and decides to adopt it as a mascot for his company. Then he meets Jacques, the homeless orphan boy who owns the dog. The soldier realises that Jacques needs the dog more – and perhaps needs his help as well.
And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda by Eric Bogle & Bruce Whatley
Eric Bogle’s famous and familiar Australian song about the Battle of Gallipoli explores the futility of war with haunting power. Now Bruce Whatley’s evocative illustrations bring a heart-rending sense of reality to the tale.
A Day to Remember by Jackie French & Mark Wilson
Anzac Day is the day when we remember and honour Anzac traditions down the ages, from the first faltering march of wounded veterans in 1916 to the ever increasing numbers of their descendants who march today. Containing reference to the many places the ANZAC’s have fought, and the various ways in which they keep the peace and support the civilians in war-torn parts of the world today, this is a picture book that looks not only at traditions, but also the effects of war.
Anzac Biscuits by Phil Cummings & Owen Swan
Rachel is in the kitchen, warm and safe. Her father is in the trenches, cold and afraid. When Rachel makes biscuits for her father, she adds the love, warmth and hope that he needs. This is a touching story of a family torn apart by war but brought together through the powerful simplicity of Anzac biscuits. Anzac Biscuits delicately entwines the desolation of life on the front line with the tenderness of life on the home front.
Alfred’s War by Rachel Bin Salleh & Samantha Fry
Alfred was just a young man when he was injured and shipped home from France. Neither honoured as a returned soldier or offered government support afforded to non-Indigenous servicemen, Alfred took up a solitary life walking the back roads – billy tied to his swag, finding work where he could.
Alfred was a forgotten soldier. Although he had fought bravely in the Great War, as an Aboriginal man he wasn’t classed as a citizen of his own country. Yet Alfred always remembered his friends in the trenches and the mateship they had shared. Sometimes he could still hear the never-ending gunfire in his head and the whispers of diggers praying. Every year on ANZAC Day, Alfred walked to the nearest town, where he would quietly stand behind the people gathered and pay homage to his fallen mates.
Bessie’s War by Krista Bell & Belinda Elliott
Bessie’s War takes a look at the part women on the home front played in World War 1. Bessie is frustrated because her brothers and father are off fighting the war and she is stuck at home feeling like she can offer no help. When she discovers that the soldiers need socks she enlists the help of her whole class to knit socks for the war.
Jack’s Bugle by Krista Bell & Belinda Elliott
When Aidan Jackson, known as “Jack”, leaves his parents’ farm to fight overseas in World War I, he is excited by the promise of travel, adventure and new friends. Although Jack’s bugle is brought home from the war by his best friend, it lies idle for years and years. Will the bugle ever be played again?
The Beach They Called Gallipoli by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley
A hundred years ago, Australians and New Zealanders landed at Anzac Cove, in Turkey. This is the story of Gallipoli as see from the cove; the story of that beach, where thousands died and legends were born. Gallipoli.
One Minute’s Silence by David Metzenthen & Michael Camilleri
In one minute of silence you can imagine sprinting up the beach in Gallipoli in 1915 with the fierce fighting Diggers, but can you imagine standing beside the brave battling Turks as they defended their homeland from the cliffs above. In the silence that follows a war long gone, you can see what the soldiers saw, you can feel what the soldiers felt. And if you try, you might be able to imagine the enemy, and see that he is not so different from you.
Gallipoli by Kerry Greenwood & Annie White
Dawn approaches on 25 April 1915 and ANZAC’s Bluey and Dusty sail towards Gallipoli. As their ship gets closer, the two friends hear the noise of battle, and worry if they are brave enough for what lies ahead of them.
Le Quesnoy by Glyn Harper & Jenny Cooper
Le Quesnoy (pronounced Leck con wah) is a town in northern France. It is surrounded by high walls and deep trenches. In World War I it was occupied by the German army for four long years. In November 1918 the town was liberated by soldiers from far-away New Zealand. Because these men used a bit of kiwi ingenuity they were able to take the town back without a single civilian life being lost. This has become one of the most famous stories in New Zealand military history and the relationship between Le Quesnoy and New Zealand continues to this day.
My Grandad Marches on ANZAC Day by Catriona Hoy & Benjamin Johnson
This picture book for the very young is a simple, moving look at Anzac Day through the eyes of a little girl. She goes to the pre-dawn Anzac Day service with her father where they watch the girl s grandfather march in the parade. This beautifully illustrated book explains what happens on Anzac Day and its significance in terms a young child can understand It is an excellent introduction to this highly venerated ceremony, and poignantly addresses the sentiments aroused by the memory of those who gave their lives for their country.
The Last ANZAC by Gordon Winch & Harriet Bailey
To James, Alec Campbell was a hero. He was right. The old man, the last living ANZAC, and all of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought at Gallipoli, were heroes — everyone’s heroes. Alec, who died in May 2002 at the age of 103, enlisted in 1915 when he was just 16. He had put his age up to 18 in order to be accepted by the army and agreed to fight at the front, wherever he was needed. Heroic indeed!
James was very fortunate to meet Alec Campbell and find out about his experiences. He gives us a special view of this humble and remarkable man, the year before he died. Based on the true story of a small boy’s visit to meet Alec Campbell in the year 2001.
My Gallipoli by Ruth Starke & Robert Hannaford
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.
Lest We Forget by Kerry Brown, Isobel Knowles & Benjamin Portas
My granddad says there are two types of days: those you want to remember and those you want to forget … A young boy visits his granddad and thinks about the important days in his life: his first day of school, playing soccer with his team, the day his baby sister was born. Yet through the illustrations the reader sees a parallel story of the grandfather’s experiences at war: wearing his brand-new soldier’s uniform, with his fellow diggers in the field, looking at a photo of the baby he’s never met.
Simpson and his Donkey by Mark Greenwood & Frane Lessac
A poignant account of the story of John Kirkpatrick Simpson and how he and his donkey, Duffy, rescued over 300 men during the campaign at Gallipoli. Backed by detailed research, the text includes a brief biography of the man, details of his work at Gallipoli and also the little known story of how, without realising, he rescued his childhood friend from South Shields, Billy Lowes. The text also includes fact files on Simpson and Billy Lowes, maps and additional historical background information such as how Duffy received a VC.
An ANZAC Tale by Ruth Starke & Greg Holfeld
When Australia pledges its support to Great Britain at the outbreak of World War I, mates Roy Martin and Wally Cardwell are among the first to enlist. But what the friends first thought would be an adventure soon turns to disaster. The day after the landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915, more than 2000 of their fellow Anzacs are dead. As the campaign drags on, life for Wally and Roy and their new friend, Tom, becomes a battle of endurance against a plucky enemy, a hostile landscape, flies, fleas, cold and disease. The story of the Anzac campaign, including the battle of Lone Pine, is interspersed with scenes of Australians at home to show the shift from popular support of the Empire at the start of the war to profound disillusionment as the casualties begin to mount.
In this graphic novel, Ruth Starke and Greg Holfeld have combined to create an extraordinary and original work for upper primary students on the subject of Gallipoli and the Anzac campaign.
The Horse Soldier by Mark Wilson
“Bandy jerked her head. I felt her shiver and neigh to the other horses. Then a hand went up in the distance, and the soldiers urged their horses into a canter.” When the shadow of war descends on Australia in 1914, a boy and his horse set off for war in the Middle East. With water rations gone, they charge the enemy across six kilometres of open ground to reach the wells at Beersheba. In one moment of dash and bravura, both Jason’s and Bandy’s destinies are set as the battle unfolds, with heroic and tragic consequences.
Digger by Mike Dumbleton & Robin Cowcher
Digger is the story of one toy kangaroo, one Australian soldier and two girls, in two countries on opposite sides of a world at war. It’s a quiet reminder of the casualties of war, and a tribute to the French schoolchildren who once tended the graves of Australian soldiers who died on the Western Front in the heroic battle for Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918. A beautiful and heart-warming story set during World War I.
The ANZAC Billy by Claire Saxby, Mark Jackson & Heather Potter
During World War I, Australian and New Zealand soldiers on the front were sent Christmas care packages in a tin billy. The Anzac Billy is the heartwarming story of a little boy packing a billy with all his father’s favourite things – added to by mum and grandma – even though he realises there is no way that the billy can actually go to a particular soldier.
When the War is Over by Jackie French and Anne Spudvilas
Now the war is over,
And they say the world is free,
Though somewhere guns are snarling,
You’ve come back to me.
War may never truly end, but there can be homecomings.
From two of Australia’s most highly regarded children’s book creators, Jackie French and Anne Spudvilas, this is a powerful and moving book. Created from a poem, When the War is Over doesn’t focus on one particular war, but covers a wide period from WW1 to current-day peacekeeping around the world and highlights important aspects to draw in readers.