Mark Wilson, Flapper, VC, Hachette, 31 Jan 2017, 32pp., $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9780734416759
Acclaimed author – illustrator Mark Wilson is known for his evocative war-themed picture books, including My Mother’s Eyes: The Story of a Boy Soldier, Vietnam Diary and Digger, the Dog Who Went to War.
Based on true events, Flapper, VC is a young pigeon who was trained as a communication vessel by Australian troops in World War II. Engulfed in the thick of the deep jungle and surrounded by enemy soldiers, Flapper faces a barrage of bullets, explosions, gunfire and heavy rain to carry the patrol’s message to be rescued home. Notes at the back tell us of Flapper, VC’s award for bravery, tributes to the other war animals and a few facts on carrier-pigeons.
This moving story is short and sweet with the singular focus on the importance of Flapper’s role, his trials and tribulations. Wilson’s illustrations strikingly reflect the intense nature of war with their sophisticated techniques, stunning detail and scene-appropriate tonal choices. However, in a conciliating contrast, his text is written with simplicity, clarity and benevolence. I did feel, though, that the narrative distinctly alternated between fact-based lines and elements of fiction, which, for me, seemed to slightly hinder the sense of consistency.
Flapper, VC is a great resource for studies on this era and animals in war, certainly encouraging fascinating research, and enjoyment, in and out of the classroom for primary school-age students.
Reviewed by Romi Sharp