ANZAC Day is fast approaching and as one of the most important dates in our country’s history it is one that we honour as a nation.  As the years pass and the original soldiers who fought valiantly have left us, it has become even more important to keep the memory and stories of all they went through alive – especially in our younger generations. 

A great way to introduce and explain a topic like war to our children is through books.  Gentle stories and simple picture books can help share age-appropriate concepts without being too confronting or scary.  Stories of bravery, honour and sacrifice and the consequences of war, are ones we shouldn’t shy away from with our children, especially given the current situation in Ukraine.  

Here are a few of our ANZAC favourites:

ANZAC Ted by Belinda Landsberry is suitable for very young readers and is a beautifully written story of a little boy’s teddy bear that was passed down to him from his grandfather. ANZAC Ted is battered and torn from his war experience, but he served a greater purpose, keeping soldiers company and giving them comfort.  Told in rhyme, this story explores ANZAC spirit, loyalty and love.   

My Grandad Marches on ANZAC Day by Catriona Hoy and Benjamin Johnson is a simple, moving look at ANZAC Day through the eyes of a young girl. She goes to the pre-dawn ANZAC Day service with her father where they watch her grandfather march in the parade. This beautifully illustrated book explains what happens on ANZAC Day and its significance in terms a young child can understand and sensitively addresses the sentiments aroused by the memory of those who gave their lives for their country.

Roly The ANZAC Donkey by Glyn Harper is based on real people and events.  It is the heart-warming story of Richard Alexander Henderson, a soldier in the New Zealand Medical Corps, and the donkey he discovers wandering and hungry on a Gallipoli road. Richard and Roly form a strong friendship and, working together, they save the lives of many wounded soldiers from the battlefields of Gallipoli.  This is an inspiring read for children and highlights friendship and courage.

A Poppy for Pa is based on author Rebecca Laing Zammit’s family experience and this gives the story a personal and relatable feel.  Pa has a lot of great stories to tell, but his greatest story explains why he wears a red poppy.  This simple but moving story about Gallipoli explores the hardships of war, the loving relationship between a grandparent and grandchild, our remembrance practices and why we say ‘Lest We Forget’.  

ANZAC Biscuits by Phil Cummings is a touching story of a family torn apart by war but brought together through the powerful simplicity of Anzac biscuits.  Young Rachel is warm and safe in her kitchen at home while her father is away at war, in the trenches, cold and afraid. When Rachel makes biscuits for her father, she adds the love, warmth and hope that he needs.  Grown ups may need a tissue or two for this one.

Gallipoli by Kerry Greenwood follows the lives and friendships of two mates who travel to Gallipoli as members of the Australian Light Horse to fight as ANZACs.  Through battlefields, hardship, fear,  injury and death they return home and although they are changed their friendship remains and is stronger than ever.  This story covers all the challenging aspects of war but the beautiful watercolour illustrations help keep it light for younger readers.

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda is actually the lyrics to the well-known song by Eric Boyle.  Although it was originally written in response to the Vietnam War at the height of the anti-war movement, Boyle set the song during World War I at the Battle of Gallipoli.  This picture book is very definitely aimed at older readers, the upper primary to teenage age bracket, as the words of the song are quite confronting, and the illustrations bring a challenging sense of reality to the story.  A timely story for every generation to share.  

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