Peter Millett (text) Trish Bowles (illus.) The Anzac Puppy Scholastic (NZ), 2014, 32pp., NZ$19.50 A$17.99 pbk ISBN 9781775430971 SCIS 1651150
Based on a true story, this is a moving tale about the impact of a dog mascot on men at war. War time is economically difficult and here, a young girl Lucy, has to abandon her young puppy Freda by the side of the road in a box. Her parents struggle to make ends meet. A young soldier Sam, on the way to war, sees the box and decides to take this lovely Great Dane puppy with him, but promises to bring it back after the war is over. Joy lights up Lucy’s face. Unexpectedly perhaps, the commanding officer lets the dog be part of the platoon as a mascot, allowing the dog to give as much love as it gets.
Powerful images of wartime fill the double-page spreads but Freda the dog creates a strong sense of togetherness for the men. At the end of the devastating war, young Sam has survived and keeps his promise. Sam also proposes to Lucy and they marry.
As the webpage indicates (as well as the appendix in the book), the story of Freda the dog became an icon of respect for animals and the soldiers and their mutual stories. Go to the Waiouru War museum and locate Freda’s dog collar! The artist has added considerable depth and atmosphere to the story. The final illustration reiterates dog/child/parent bonding that resonates with the beginning of the story. The child is called Freda. In this sense the picture book is like a beautifully woven cloth.
reviewed by John McKenzie