Maria Gill has introduced us to famous Kiwis from all walks of life, from climbers to politicians, sportspeople to movie stars. Her two previous books, New Zealand Hall of Fame: 50 Remarkable Kiwis and New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame: 25 Kiwi Champions, are fantastic books and were finalists in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. In Maria’s latest book, Anzac Heroes, she tells the stories of the triumphs and tragedies of 30 heroic Australasians during World Wars One and Two.
Anzac Heroes is an absolutely stunning book that highlights the courageous Anzacs who served in World War One and Two. There are 30 Anzac heroes featured in the book, both Australian and New Zealand, men and women, soldiers in the army, navy and airforce as well as medics and spies. There are people in the book who I’ve heard of before, like Charles Upham and Nancy Wake, but many more whose bravery I wasn’t aware of.
I love everything about Anzac Heroes, especially the design, layout and production. It’s hardcover, so you know it’s going to last for ages, especially as it is going to get read over and over again. The cover, featuring Marco’s stunning, realistic illustrations really stands out. The heroes standing on the cover dare you to open the book and discover their story. Once inside, the contents page clearly shows you how to navigate the book and who you’ll discover. The book is split up into World War One and World War Two, with background on each war which includes a detailed map (that boys especially will love) and a timeline of events. Each of the heroes has a double-page profile that details their war-time exploits, along with a handy timeline with key dates and events.
My favourite aspect of this book is the key at the top of each page. It tells you which country the person is from, which service they were in (i.e. army, navy, medic), and has photos of each of the medals they were awarded. Each hero also has a detailed explanation about why they received a particular medal. Lt. Col. Sir Peter Buck, for example, received a DSO (Companion of the Distinguished Service Order) for his role in commanding his troops. In the back of the book you’ll also find the Medal Room, which has photos of the medals tells you their names.
Maria knows her audience extremely well and makes history come alive. This is the sort of book that kids will pick off the shelf and read from cover to cover because it is so appealing. Boys in particular will sit with this book for hours, pouring over the maps and the medals. Marco’s illustrations are superb and are the perfect match for this book. I certainly felt that some of these heroes were looking right at me. You can even see the sweat beads and the stubble on their faces. When you look at the photos of some of them, you see how spot-on Marco’s illustrations are.
Anzac Heroes is a perfect nonfiction book for children. It shows you how exciting nonfiction can be. Nothing online could beat this book! Rush out and get a copy for your home and your school now.