REVIEW: ‘Lest We Forget by Kerry Brown; Illustrated by Isobel Knowles & Benjamin Portas

Published: March 1, 2015

Publisher: Harper Collins Australia

Pages: 32

Format: Hardback Children’s Picture Book (Purchased)

RRP: $24.99

4/5 Stars

Timed for the centenary of the Gallipoli landing, this powerful story about a boy and his grandfather will help even the very young understand the significance of ANZAC Day. ‘My granddad says there are two types of days: those you want to remember and those you want to forget.’ A young boy visits his granddad and thinks about the important days in his life: his first day of school, playing soccer with his team, the day his baby sister was born. Yet through the illustrations the reader sees a parallel story of the grandfather’s experiences at war: wearing his brand-new soldier’s uniform, with his fellow diggers in the field, looking at a photo of the baby he’s never met. With illustrations from two extraordinary new talents, Isobel Knowles and Benjamin Portas, this powerful story from author Kerry Brown will help even young children understand the significance and importance of our national days of remembrance.

 

Lest We Forget is a beautiful ANZAC story to help kids and adults of all ages to understand the importance and significance of the ANZAC’s sacrifices 100 years ago and even today. It’s a fantastic century anniversary reminder of why ANZAC day is still so important to celebrate today.

“My Granddad says there are two types of days:

those you want to remember

and those you want to forget.”

Presented in a white hardback picture book, the narrative is told from the dual experience of a little boy’s Grandfather’s experience in the war and his (the boy’s) current life in the world as it is today. It’s interesting to note however, that as far as narration goes, the story is told through the young boy’s words and experiences, which Kerry Brown has cleverly chosen to represent both today and the harsh reality of war when combined with the illustrator’s contrasting and darked depictions of the Granddad’s story. Fort example, the young boy remembers the excitement and trepidation of his first day of school:

I remember my first day of school. I had a brand -new uniform and Mum polished my shoes until I could see my face in them.

Which Isobel Knowles and Benjamin Portas have teamed up with the appropriate school shoes and uniformed pictures for the boy and his mum and lots of white, empty space. But when you turn to the next full double page spread, Knowles and Portas have full page illustrations of what one can only assume is Granddad when he first dressed in his uniform and left to join the army. As well as using darker colours of the uniforms, and the surrounds, the two images here are boxed in by a dark brown-green border. So through the use of the narrative the pair are showing similar events, but at extreme opposites of the happiness scale.

Another clever aspect of the story is the absence of names. By not naming the Granddad, Mum or the child narrating the story, the narrative is left wide open for the reader to slip themselves in the story, and thus provokes similar memories of your own. What’s more the constant contrast of what the modern day generation and kids know life to be like Vs. the experiences of the brave young men and women known as the ANZACs and later the Diggers proves to be a more subtle way to introduce (and reinforce to older kids) just what exactly ANZAC DAY is all about and why it is important to remember even the darker, less inviting memories from our nations past.

As a whole Lest We Forget is cleverly written in a dual layered narrative, celebrating all that we have achieved in the 100 years since the war, while remembering those brave acts that the ANZACS and the Diggers carried out so that we could live the lives we do today. It’s a heartfelt reminder to everyone in the annual ANZAC DAY debate, that we need to remember what happened in the past, even if it is something we’d prefer, or is easier, to simply forget.

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