REVIEW: The Beach They Called Gallipoli by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley

Published: 1st November 2014

Publishers: Angus & Robertson, Imprint of Harper Collins Australia

Pages: 32

Format: Hardback – purchased

RRP: $24.99

5/5 Stars

Many books have been written about the battles of Gallipoli; the men who went to war and what they faced, the letters, and the tears of those left behind. But this is a book about Gallipoli, the place, and what happened on Gallipoli Beach from April – December 1915. With beautiful and painterly illustrations by Bruce Whatley this is a book that explores the beach where the battles took place.

In focusing on the actual place of war, the book will also examine many other aspects of WW1, from the soldiers and the conditions they fought in, to the civilians at home. This is more than a book about ANZACS; this is a book about and for all of the nationalities who fought at that cove, not matter what side they were on.

The Beach They Called Gallipoli by Australian superstar children’s author Jackie French and illustrator Bruce Whatley is an impressive collaboration of history surrounding Gallipoli, the war fought there and how the beach has changed over the years. In many ways, this book does for Gallipoli what French & mark Wilson’s picture book A Day To Remember did for Australian ANZAC Day celebrations and traditions.

Jackie French is an icon Australian author known for making history accessible to younger readers and this book is no exception. Returning to one of her favourite topics, Australian History and the Wars, French takes the reader through a complex journey and history of what exactly happened at the beach and how it forever changed and shaped not only the physical landscape of Gallipoli, Turkey, but Australia’s identity and history as well. Presented in almost diary entries the book deals with predominately Gallipoli from just before the landing at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915 (the book starts at April 23, 1915) and goes to the 21st of December 1915 before moving on more generally to present day (in the case of this book 25th April 2015). It’s an eye-opening and soul searching account of the place and events that created one of Australia’s most heavily guarded and perceived myths/legends: The ANZAC LEGEND. French has taken great care with her wording to make the text simply enough for children to understand, but still historically accurate with place names, dates and the bare, confronting facts of trench life and war experience. Although her language isn’t particularly emotive in itself, the images she and Whatley’s illustrations convey are haunting and the hardships face mentally, emotionally and physically stay with the reader long after the book has come to a close; such is the power of French’s word’s and Whatley’s Illustrations.

Bruce Whatley is a renowned children’s picture book illustrator and yet his immense talent stands out for me more in this book than any other I’ve seen him work on. The Beach They Called Gallipoli isn’t a simple book by any standards. It’s factual, historical and a fantastic resource for readers who want a quick, but accurate information about the Gallipoli Campaign and it’s last impacting on Australia. To convey such huge sentiments and facts, Whatley has used a variety of illustration styles and methods, working in everything from photographs, to paintings, watercolours and pencil etchings to posters and documents from the time. The end result, is a flawless collage of Australian history that is simply priceless. It also cements the historical aspect of the book, making the entire concept and physical book feel more like a families privates scrapbook documenting their families time at Gallipoli. All of which serves as a poignant reminder of the futility of war and the horrors the men and women faced there.

The Beach They Called Gallipoli is a picture book documenting one of Australia’s most iconic and well known battles. It’s confronting and brutally honest in it’s bleak but accurate outlook of the war fought and lost by Australian Soldiers. But more importantly it’s a poignant reminder of why remembering the ANZACS in yearly ANZAC Day celebrations and tributes is just as important now as it was back then. We need to remember this stark aspect of our identity and history, and this book by French and Whatley showcases it perfectly.

I highly recommend this book, but do feel it’s not necessarily suited to younger readers. The language might be bleak and basic, but it’s based on some prior knowledge and understanding of the world outside of a five-year-old’s limited capacity. That said, this book would make a fantastic addition to any reader’s library, as the book speaks to audiences both young and old alike. I first brought this book when it first released back in 2014 and I’ve read it countless times since, and yet somehow I always managed to take something different away from the book as a whole, whether that be a new truth gained through French’s narrative, or something new noticed in Whatley’s illustrations, it’s a book that will keep on living for a long time to come.

To learn about Jackie French and Bruce Whatley, visit the following websites:

Jackie French’s Website | Bruce Whatley’s Website | Scholastic Australia | Goodreads |

Jackie French Facebook |


To purchase a copy of this, visit the following online retailers:

Booktopia | QBD | The Nile | ABC Shop | Angus & Robertson’s Bookworld



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