23 April 2012

Do Not Forget Australia

by Sally Murphy, illustrated by Sonia Kretschmar

Walker Books Australia. Australian, Picture Book. Hardcover RRP $29.95

Reviewer – Vicki Stanton

Do Not Forget Australia is a fictional story based on the link forged between Melbourne and the French village of Villers-Bretonneux during World War One. It explores the links between Australia and France forged on the Western Front through the eyes of two boys: Henri from the French village of Villers-Bretonneux and Billy in Melbourne.

Murphy immediately catapults the reader into Henri’s world. Initially, he does not know or care about Australia. He is more concerned with the war coming ever closer to his village and one afternoon he and his mother are forced to flee.

The story then switches to Billy who fears for the safety of his father fighting over in France.

Henri returns to his village, damaged by battle and meets the Australian soldiers camped nearby. Henri appreciates their efforts in freeing his village and also empathises with their sadness over fatalities. Henri befriends a soldier, Billy’s father, who talks of his son in faraway Melbourne.

When Billy receives a letter from his father mentioning Henri a link is forged between the two boys and between Melbourne and Villers-Bretonneux. Ultimately, this leads to the rebuilding of the Villers-Bretonneux school with funds raised by Victorian school children. The full page author’s note explains the campaign to raise £20 000 to rebuild Villers-Bretonneux including the Do Not Forget Australia sign displayed at the school.

That the book is a quality production is evident right from the start with the symbolic endpapers with poppies and Australian icons. Sonia Kretschmar’s skill in portraying the two boys’ worlds with her use of colour and detail is commendable. Readers are drawn into the two boys’ worlds and feel the angst and worry, and the devastation wreaked by war without being exposed to the full horror.

Do Not Forget Australia is an important book for all Australians. It is one that should be on all school, home and public library shelves.

The Reading Stack has reviewed Sally Murphy's Pearl Versus the World, Snowy's Christmas, and Toppling in August 2009, December 2009 and March 2010 respectively.


Vicki Stanton is the editor and publisher of Buzz Words, an e-newsletter for writers and illustrators of children’s books.

No comments:

Post a Comment