WERRY, Philippa (text) Bob Kerr (illus.) Best Mates: Three Lads Who Went to War Together New Holland, 2014 unpaged NZ$19.99 pbk ISBN 9781869664114
The author here has told a carefully crafted story of three mates who go off to war in search of adventure. Indeed, the ‘Boys Own Adventure’ story was a popular genre at the time and no doubt was a strong motivator for many lads (as my own father would testify). However, trench war in Gallipoli was no adventure but a daily grind of disease and death. As the text here puts it, ‘Back home it was winter but over here it was stinking hot. Flies were everywhere and there was never enough water. Joe got sick…’ This is a poignantly told story where simple bare sentences are sufficient.
The double-page illustrations are essential to the telling of the story and use colour contrast to foreshadow the story outcomes (the farewell and the arrival in Egypt) and to highlight characterisation (the death of Harry). This is an excellent text to introduce ANZAC Day to junior school students. John McKenzie