The Last Anzac

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the-last-anzac

Gordon Winch (text),  Harriet Bailey (illus.),  The Last Anzac,  New Frontier Publishing,  1 March 2015,    $24.99 (hbk),  32pp., ISBN 9781925059298

This is an account of the visit paid to the last surviving ANZAC Alec Campbell by James and his father in 2001. Alec enlisted as a sixteen-year-old having lied about his age. After time in Egypt he was sent to Gallipoli where he didn’t take part in the fighting but carried stores and water from the beach to the trenches. After six weeks he became ill and was sent home to Australia. To James he was a hero.

Brief lines of text alternate between describing Alec’s time in the war and James’ visit in 2001. As in all good picture books a lot is left unsaid. The scene showing Alec in the hospital shows many other injured soldiers, some with limbs missing, or blinded, some cheerful, some very ill indeed but the text only refers to Alec.  Bailey has successfully used contrast to highlight different aspects of life in the trenches – one page shows happy soldiers with a mountain of oranges while the opposite page shows them huddled in the snow eating bully beef. This approach makes the book a useful classroom resource even though there isn’t much of a story.

Muted colours on matte paper reflect the time of the ANZACs but make the contemporary scenes vague and timeless. The endpapers are a marvellous compilation of texts from the trenches and are a vivid reminder of the harsh realities of war.  This introduction to the ANZAC story for young children offers some touching insights into an important part of Australia’s history.

reviewed by Mia Macrossan

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