Award winning Australian duo, author Jackie French and illustrator Bruce Whatley, have created an interesting and somewhat different junior non-fiction book to commemorate the approaching 100th anniversary of ANZAC Day – The beach they called Gallipoli / Jackie French & Bruce Whatley.
Why different? Because this is a book about the beach of Gallipoli itself and the events that took place on it – which then naturally flows on to examine the many other aspects that are usually focused on, like: the soldiers, the fighting, the conditions, the sobering realities of war and more.
The book takes us, page by page, chronologically through time, from April to December 1915, on that now legendary beach. The written passages are short but to the point and the artwork is a mixture of illustration, original photos and archival images combined in a kind of collage style.
So, as this is a book review, I suppose I should say whether I liked it or not. I feel somewhat conflicted in saying this but … well, to be honest, not that much. I find the narration to be a very jarring mix of a very simple, short sentence style (which would suggest it is for younger readers) which contains much more mature words and phrases, like “They cut the brush for fences to hide for a short while from death. But death came hunting.” This would be interesting, even poetic, in an adult title but it makes me somewhat uncomfortable and unsure which age groups this would be appropriate to read to.
Also, and this is my main issue, the artwork. My problem is that it incorporates photos of real soldiers lying dead, littered across the battlefield, some literally face down in the dirt. Yes, this is a book about a hard, messy, brutal war and I don’t believe in sugar coating such topics or making them seem exciting and as entertainment, but … I really think such things can be conveyed to children through line drawings or other forms of illustration. There are only a few such photos, but for me that was a few too many.
These things are, as always, a matter of personal taste. If you would like to have a look at this interesting title I would just recommend reading it through first yourself and then decide if your children are old enough to understand such complex, thought provoking, and sobering themes.
Like to make a comment or disagree with my review, please leave a comment.
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