REVIEW: The Anzac Puppy by Peter Millett & Trish Bowles

Published: 1st March 2015

Publisher: Scholastic

Pages: 24

Format: Soft cover (Purchased)

RRP: $15.99

3/5 Stars

In the middle of the night, in the middle of the
winter, in the middle of a war, a puppy was born.

This fictional story was inspired by the story of Freda, a
Harlequin Great Dane and mascot of the NZ Rifle Brigade
during World War 1. The ANZAC Puppy is a simple story about
the reality of war, hardship, friendship and love.


The ANZAC Puppy is the story of  Freda, a dalmatian puppy whose owner (Lucy) is forced to give away during the war. Freda is adopted by a brave young soldier Sam, who promises to take good care of the pup and takes her to war with him. He promises to bring Freda home to Lucy one day.

This narrative is cute and has all the makings of a Disney film. The story itself deals with hardship and war, but the underlying message is of hope and love and loyalty. For at the end of the war, Lucy is reunited with Sam and through a a twist of fate the pair (Lucy and Sam) are married by the end of the book. Although a nice story, that was in fact based upon real events, this book reads more juvenile (in its simplicity) than others and has a very young feel to it. This is evident (to me at least) through the focus on the style of illustrations, especially the first opening image.

Freda the Dalmatian stands out with her white fur and black spots throughout the war images like a beacon of hope. Which I suppose she was to many of the soldiers, for although she was a smart and brave dog who helped with the war effort, she was a companion and a sign of hope and life to the soldiers.

I should note here, that while I feel the story and illustrations are simplistic and semi-disneyfied (nothing wrong with that, especially since it’s a children’s book), I do understand that a great deal of work has gone into both the story and illustrations to make it read and look so appealing and simple to children. It must be said here too, that this is the story out of all these books that my younger sister wanted to read first and held the most dear for it was something she could fathom and understand clearly – a love of a pet and companion. On closer inspection of the book, I feel that perhaps this conclusion (Disney and simplistic view) could be taken back to the image of the Dalmatian in the window with the sign ‘free to a good home’ pinned behind it. This image strongly resonates with the childhood song ‘How much is that doggy in the window’ for me, so the association kind of sticks.

Another thing I want to mention here is how realistic the illustrations are. These images are clearly drawn, and are simple in the way they are presented, while being rather detailed in themselves. I know it sounds odd to say that, but its true, for each picture has been drawn with an eye for detail to produce an image that the reader (no matter the age) can both recognise and easily identify with and will remember for a long time, and yet compared to other styles and books on this subject, they are simple and homely in many ways.

As mentioned above the story of The Anzac Puppy and Freda was based on true events, for during the war, Sergeant Ashby of the New Zealand Riffle Brigade found a Harlequin Great Dane in the Staffordshire region in England while at a training camp. It is understood that Sergeant Ashby named the dog Freda after a young lady he meet. Freda survived WW1 and her original resting headstone is now housed at the Army Museum.

Finally, what stands this book apart from the rest is not only the main character of Freda and her involvement as a dog, but the simple fact that this is a New Zealand story and thus has a New Zealand perspective. While I’m sure there’s many such stories around, I’ve never seen or read one for children here in Australia that really captures the New Zealand perspective and involvement.


To purchase a copy of this book visit the following retailers:

Booktopia | Angus & Robertson Book World | The Nile |






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