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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

THE POPPY By Andrew Plant. Melbourne, Ford Street Publishing, 2014

With Anzac Day just around the corner, what better time to publish a book with a World War I theme?

But this is not about Gallipoli or even World War I in general. It takes an incident that happened during that war, which may not be well known to Australian children, but that forged a permanent bond between Victoria and the French town of Villers-Bretonneux. Villers-Bretonneux was destroyed by German attacks and just before Anzac Day, Australian troops won an unlikely victory there, while losing a third of their members.

After the war, Victorian schoolchildren donated their pennies towards rebuilding the Villers-Bretonneux school, which is still there, called the Victoria School in honour of the children who helped it be rebuilt. There are carvings of Australian animals, streets with names such as Victoria Street and a motto: Never Forget Australia. And a memorial that reminds viewers that not only soldiers died in the war.

The poppy has become an icon of that war and it appears throughout the book. The art is lush and beautiful, the information simple but effective for young children to read and learn. It’s a nice idea, too, to cover a story of which children were a part.

Recommended for any school library or for a gift for your child that explains Anzac Day in terms they can understand.

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