ANZAC Day is fast approaching and as one of the most important historical dates in our country’s calendar it is one that, understandably, our nation honours accordingly. It is a date that will forever be carved into the hearts and minds of Australians and New Zealanders and, as the years have passed 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 youngest generation who may feel less patriotic towards an event that occurred over 100 years ago.
A great way to introduce and explain a topic like war to our children is through books. Gentle stories and basic picture books can help to get the message across without being too confronting or scary for them. Stories of bravery and honour, as well as the consequences of war, are ones we shouldn’t shy away from with our children. For as the poppy stands start appearing and the media begins the build up they are a great way to explain the importance behind this annual day that is dedicated to all of our soldiers past and present. Through books we can help our children understand what those soldiers went through and what current soldiers do for their country and others today.
There are actually many ANZAC Day books for kids that have been written specifically with children in mind. Here are some of the ones that you may want to explore with your children along with an indication of which age group they may be most appropriate for.
Our picks for the best ANZAC Day Books for Kids
My Grandad Marches on ANZAC Day, Catriona Hoy (3 years +)
This picture book is a fantastic introduction to the smallest of children to ANZAC Day and the honouring of soldiers who went and served in different wars for our country. Told by a young girl as she awakes early to attend the dawn service where her grandfather marches each year, it is a beautifully illustrated and delicately emotive story.
Why are they marching, Daddy?, Di Burke (4 years +)
This is a great ANZAC Day picture book for very young children. The story is about a young boy asking his father during a march the reason behind it and his father’s gentle explanation is simple and easy for young readers to follow.
ANZAC Biscuits, Phil Cummings (5 years +)
A very cleverly written and illustrated story that tells not only the tale of a solider at war but also gives a glimpse into the family he is leaving behind. Both stories are told on alternate pages of the book with the mum and daughter baking ANZAC biscuits for their solider dad on one page and him fighting in the war on the other. The two alternate lives are linked by similar imagery in both (ie, smoke from wood fire on one page and smoke in the war fields on the other etc) in one of our favourite ANZAC Day books for kids.
Meet the ANZACs, Clare Saxby (5 years +)
Meet the ANZACs tells the tale of how the ANZAC legend began. Following the lives of the soldiers as they trained together before the war all the way through to the experience itself, this tale manages to be honest whilst still remaining age-appropriate. This ANZAC Day book is a great depiction of bravery and mateship throughout the war.
Lest We Forget, Kerry Brown (5 years +)
A clever book about a young boy and his grandfather who together are reminiscing about important days in their lives – both ones they want to remember and ones they would rather forget. The comparisons between the boy’s memories (first day of school, sister’s birth and walking to school on a hot day) and his grandfather’s from the war (heading to first day at war, new baby and trekking with wounded soldiers) open conversation between the generations.
ANZAC Ted, Belinda Landsberry (5 years +)
This ANZAC book for children is suitable for the younger readers and is a beautifully written tale of the original ANZAC soldiers. Told in rhyme, the story is a general overview of the war and the soldiers that fought in it.
ANZAC Day Parade, Glenda Kane (5 years +)
This is a great book for getting little ones to understand that for those who lived through and served in the war, the ANZAC Day parade is one full of sad memories and pain. The story tells the tale of a young boy and old soldier who meet at an ANZAC Day parade. Whilst the young boy is excited to know all the glories of war the old solider is reserved and sad in his memory of the war’s reality.
A Day to Remember, Jackie French (6 years +)
This is a book about ANZAC Day as it is seen through the many generations today. It has a strong focus on respecting and remembering what our soldiers went through. Whilst it touches on the different places in which they have fought it also speaks of the support and peace soldiers offer to civilians in war-torn countries today.
Lone Pine, Susie Brown and Margaret Warner (6 years +)
Telling the true story of the lone pine tree that stands in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial, Lone Pine is a book that illustrates how this one tree connects so many different nations and generations through their remembrance of ANZAC Day.
Gallipoli, Kerry Greenwood (6 years +)
This ANZAC Day book follows the lives and enduring friendships of two mates who travel to Gallipoli as members of the Australian Light Horse to fight as ANZACs. Through battlefields, injury and death they return home and although changed their friendship remains. Although the story does cover all aspects of the war the illustrations help keep it light for younger readers.
The ANZAC Puppy, Peter Millet (6 years +)
One night, in the middle of winter, in the middle of a war, a puppy was born. Based on the incredible true story of Freda, the Harlequin Great Dane, who ended up serving as the brave mascot for the New Zealand Rifle Brigade during World War I, this fictional tale is both moving and heartwarming.
Do Not Forget Australia, Sally Murphy (6 years +)
Based on a true story, this book tells the tale of the French village Villers-Bretonneux and how it was liberated by Australian soldiers during World War I. On their return, the soliders managed to raise funds to re-build the school house that was destroyed during the fighting and to this day signs hang throughout the town that boldly state “Do Not Forget Australia”. The true story is brought to us through the fictional characters of Henri (a school boy in France), Billy (a school boy in Australia) and Billy’s father (Billy’s father who is a solider fighting for Villers-Bretonneux).
Simpson and his Donkey, Mark Greenwood (7 years +)
The retelling of the story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick and his donkey, Duffy, who together saved over 300 men in just under a month during the campaign at Gallipoli.
And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda, Eric Bogle (8 years +)
This book is actually the lyrics to the well known song by Eric Boyle and, although it was originally written in response to the Vietnam War, Boyle set the song during World War I. Although a picture book, both the confronting words of the song and the illustrations lend this more to an older primary to teenager age bracket.
I Was Only Nineteen, John Schumann (9 years +)
This is another picture book based on the lyrics of an iconic war song and, much like ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’, the haunting words and images make for an emotional and responsive read.
Books are the perfect way to introduce children to new themes, as well as to teach them more about almost every topic imaginable. We love books at Brisbane Kids, which is why we’ve also put together guides to the best Easter Books for Kids and 10 Great Brisbane Children’s Books.