Book List: ANZAC Reading

Tomorrow marks 108 years since the landings at Gallipoli in 1915. Editor Linda Jane Keegan tells us about some ANZAC-related books from the last few years, followed up with links to all of The Sapling’s previous book lists, interviews, and discussions on ANZAC and other war stories. May we remember them.

The True A.N.Z.A.C Story of Violet’s Scarf, by Colleen Brown & Emma Lay

Violet’s Scarf tells the story of a girl in New Zealand during WWI who sends a hand-knitted scarf in a parcel to soldiers overseas. It’s a beautifully illustrated snapshot of the time, showing both Violet’s busy home life on a farm contrasted against the dangerous reality of war. The tone and colour of the images feel like they match the era and mood.

It’s a beautifully illustrated snapshot of the time, showing both Violet’s busy home life on a farm contrasted against the dangerous reality of war

The writing is clear and engaging. It doesn’t go into gory detail about the war but also doesn’t shy away from the hard realities. Several pages in the back go into further detail about the Red Cross parcels, how long it took for parcels to arrive at their destination, and about Violet and her brothers in the war. It was neat to see a photo of the original tag on the parcel which is currently kept in the Hocken Library in Dunedin.

The endpapers include maps with things to find, and my seven-year-old also enjoyed tracing Violet’s activities, the train tracks, and the ship’s journey with his finger within the book. I really enjoyed reading a war story that touched on this aspect of sending support to the soldiers, and would make a lovely accompaniment to other ANZAC and war stories.

The True A.N.Z.A.C Story of Violet’s Scarf

Written by Colleen Brown

Illustrated by Emma Lay

Self-published (2023)

RRP: $25.00

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Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story, by Philippa Werry

First published in 2013 (New Holland), this revised edition (White Cloud Press) continues to be an excellent overview of what ANZAC means and why it matters. It thoroughly covers Gallipoli, New Zealanders in WWI as a whole, and ANZAC commemorations. The pages are filled with informative and easy-to-follow text, in a format full of photos and images from diaries, advertisements, newspaper clippings, stamps and more. The layout and design makes for appealing reading with the use of text boxes and quotes separated from the main text. There is a glossary and bibliography, and all the website links have been checked to make sure they are still up-to-date and relevant. My only qualm is that macrons haven’t been added when writing about Māori in the war, although it is pleasing to see sections covering both Māori and Pacific Islander involvement in the war.

The pages are filled with informative and easy-to-follow text, in a format full of photos and images

Overall I think this is a fantastic resource that sets a solid foundation for learning about the origins of ANZAC Day and should be in every classroom. It is a great base from which children —and adults!—can expand their knowledge on this subject. Philippa Werry is, as Sarah Forster put it, “one of our best authors of history for children.”

Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story

By Philippa Werry

Published by White Cloud Press (2023)

RRP: $24.99

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This is Where I Stand, by Philippa Werry

This is Where I Stand is a beautifully illustrated and moving tribute to ANZAC soldiers and, I feel, all soldiers everywhere. I reviewed it highly here, and I stand behind every word.

This is Where I Stand

Written by Philippa Werry

Illustrated by Kieran Rynhart

Scholastic NZ (2021)

RRP: $20.00

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Bess The Brave War Horse, by Susan Brocker & Raymond McGrath

This is the true story of one of the 10,000 horses sent from New Zealand to battle zones in WWI. It is told from the point of view of Bess, the horse, in an accessible and engaging way. Thalia reviewed it here.

Bess the Brave War Horse

Written by Susan Brocker

Illustrated by Raymond McGrath

Scholastic NZ (2019)

RRP: $28.00

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The ANZAC Violin, by Jennifer Beck & Robyn Belton

The ANZAC Violin is a narrative non-fiction picture book covering the true story of Alexander Aitken playing his violin to the other soldiers during the war. It is a beautifully illustrated vignette of finding solace during a difficult time. Illustrator Robyn Belton tells illustrator Jenny Cooper about it in this interview.

The ANZAC Violin

Written by Jennifer Beck

Illustrated by Robyn Belton

Scholastic NZ (2018)

RRP: $27.99

Buy now

More books and discussion on ANZAC and war history

Sarah Forster put together an excellent list a few years ago of New Zealand books about war and pacifism

Melinda Szymanik wrote about why we should be reading war books with kids

Illustrators Robyn Belton and Jenny Cooper talked about war stories they’ve illustrated

Whiti Hereaka wrote about the invisibility of Māori in WWI commemorations

Authors Maria Gill and Glyn Harper interviewed each other about their WWI books

Matariki Williams on how to talk to our children about history

cartoon character with long hair smiling

Linda Jane is the lead editor of The Sapling, a parent, and a writer of picture books, poetry, and other tidbits. Her background is varied, including work in ecology, environmental education, summer camps, and a community newspaper. She is Singaporean-Pākehā, queer, and loves leaping into cold bodies of water.