Lest we forget: Books to remember the ANZACs

Last year in the lead up to Anzac Day I had some of our wonderful New Zealand authors and illustrators join me on the blog to talk about their Anzac books and what Anzac Day means to them.  You can read their posts by clicking on the links below.  You can also read about my favourite Anzac books and Philippa Werry’s fantastic new non-fiction book about Anzac Day, Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story.

Christchurch City Libraries has a great info page about Anzac Day and Gallipoli for children, with basic facts and links to some interesting websites.

Guest Post: Glenda Kane on Anzac Day Parade

Today I’m joined by Glenda Kane, author of the picture book, Anzac Day Parade.  Glanda tells us about her Anzac memories and why she wrote her story.

My husband is Australian and I’m a Kiwi, so we’re Anzacs. Having travelled a lot, we realise we’re pretty lucky to live in this peaceful corner of the world.

We have three sons who love playing war games. To them, it’s fun. But I wanted them to understand that, in real life, war is not a game.

“There he stood on the sun-parched hill, a straggler from 18th Battalion.”

I’d attended an Anzac Day service at the Auckland Cenotaph with my family. Afterwards, I noticed an old man dressed in his best jacket – complete with medals – leaning on a walking stick, staring out towards Rangitoto. A small boy was looking at him with an expression of awe.

At that moment, I wondered what the old soldier was seeing as he gazed into the distance. What was he remembering? What had he been through? And what did the little boy think?

I’ll never know who they were. I just went away and made up the story.

“Did ya shoot them dead,” asked the bright-eyed boy. “Did it feel real cool to kill?” With a voice bereft of joy, he sighed: “No son, it was no thrill.”

When the illustrator, Lisa Allen, needed an old soldier to become her model, we contacted 92-year-old Crete veteran Noel Dromgool and his wife, Peggy. They allowed us to photograph Noel while he reminisced about training, battle, defeat, and his long internment in a prisoner of war camp.

We were privileged to hear his stories over the course of an afternoon. We left with immense respect for a man and his mates who sacrificed so much for their country and for future generations – us, and our children.

Quite a long time passed before the book was printed. Finally, I phoned Noel and Peggy to tell them it was published. There was no reply. Eventually I called another number listed under ‘Dromgool’ in the phone book. It turned out to be Noel’s son.

I explained who I was and said I wanted to show his father the new book. “Bad news, I’m afraid,” he said. “Dad died.” I wanted to cry. Instead, I asked if I could send the book to Peggy. “I’m afraid she died, too.”

The youngest soldiers from the Second World War are now at least 85 years old.

If anyone has a grandparent or great-uncle or neighbour who fought in the war, talk to them; ask them questions; write down their story. Do it now. There isn’t much time left.

I’m proud to say that when Noel’s son saw Anzac Day Parade he said he thought it was “pretty bloody good,” and that his dad would’ve thought so, too.

I hope young readers think it’s pretty good as well.

Guest Post: Feana Tu‘akoi on Lest We Forget

Today I’m joined by Feana Tu’akoi, author of the picture book, Lest We Forget.  Feana tells us about her Anzac memories and why she wrote her story.

When I was a kid, war horrified me. The terror, hardship and ruined lives – it seemed like such a stupid way to sort out our countries’ differences. I didn’t want any part of it. And I definitely didn’t want to celebrate it.

But I was a brownie and then a girl guide in small town South Canterbury. So, every year I had to march in the ANZAC parade.

I hated it – all those speeches, raving on about the brave soldiers who fought for victory. How could it be a victory when so many people died? What about the fathers, brothers and sons, on both sides, who never came back? What about the people who did come back, but were permanently damaged? I thought we should have been able to find a better way.

When my family moved to the North Island, I stopped going to the parades. But then I studied history at university. I talked to people who were involved in World War II and I realised that things weren’t as black and white as I’d thought.

Lots of people actually wanted to go to war, for lots of different reasons. They thought that they were protecting their families and helping to make the world a better place.

So my husband, Sione, and I went along to a Dawn Parade. I was shocked. Nobody talked about how glorious war was, or even that it was the right thing to do. They just talked about how important it was for us to remember, so that we could all continue to live in peace.

That was when I realised. We weren’t there to celebrate war. We were there, Lest We Forget. And that’s why I wrote this book. We need to remember the past, so we can make better decisions in the future.

I think that the next generation is smart enough to do just that. And that’s why I dedicated this book to my kids.

Feana Tu‘akoi, March 2012.

New Zealand at war: New books from Ken Catran

Ken Catran is one of New Zealand’s most prolific authors for children and young adults.  He’s an incredibly flexible writer because he writes for different age groups and in different genres.  One of my favourite books by Ken Catran is the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 2011 finalist, Smiling Jack.  A lot of Ken’s books deal with war and the way that it affects those both at war and at home.

Ken has recently had two new books published which focus on New Zealand’s role in war. These two new books focus on two wars that most New Zealanders know very little about, the second Boer War (1899-1902) and the Malayan Emergency (1948-60).

When the Empire Calls – published by Scholastic New Zealand

It is 1899 and the Boer War has just begun in Africa. The Boer War is the first overseas conflict that New Zealand as a nation is involved in. Young men and women are eager to sign up to help the British Empire. Patriotism sweeps through New Zealand, even reaching small farming communities like Huia.

James McDonald is a teenage boy who lives on a farm in Huia with his parents and brothers and sisters. When his two older brothers sign up James is left to help his father run the farm. Left behind by his brothers and two sisters who are training to be nurses James has to assume extra responsibility and also grow up quickly. The reality of war is illustrated vividly by James’ brother Edward in his letters home and James begins to worry that he may never see his brothers alive again.

“Croaky Fred” who owns Fred’s Grocery Emporium is a person who believes that war is neither glorious nor justified. He challenges James to question his assumptions and ideas about the war. Fred’s outspoken views are considered unpatriotic by many townsfolk, who are unaware that Fred is himself a war hero who knows only too well the horrors of war. Unfortunately for James and his family, Fred’s concerns and dire predictions don’t turn out to be unfounded.

Earth Dragon, Fire Hare – published by HarperCollins New Zealand

New Zealand’s forgotten war, fought in the deep green jungles of Malaya. In 1948, Britain and her allies are pitted against Communist terrorists in a struggle for freedom. On opposing sides are Peter Hayes, a young Kiwi soldier, and Ng, a dedicated guerrilla. They are enemies but, as the bitter conflict deepens, both will ask questions. Who fights for freedom? Who is the oppressor?

And then a chance horoscope links them … to meet in battle. Destiny also decrees that Peter and Ng will become unlikely comrades. But in this treacherous and bloody war, nothing is as it seems – not even trust. The path to honour and the search for peace promise to be hard-fought and come at the highest cost. EARTH DRAGON, FIRE HARE is the ultimate tale of war.

Enter my Anzac books giveaway to win a copy of When Empire Calls and Earth Dragon, Fire Hare.