REVIEW: Forward March by Christobel Mattingley & Illustrated by David Kennett

Published: 1st March 2016

Publisher: Omnibus Books, Imprint of Scholastic Australia

Pages: 32

Format: Hardcover Picture book (from the library)

RRP: $24.99

4/5 Stars 

On Anzac Day in Australia, people of all ages and nationalities gather at war memorials for the dawn service and line city streets for the march. On this national day of mourning and commemoration, they honour the men and women who returned from war and the sons, fathers, grandfathers and good mates who did not.

Forward March is nothing like I thought it would be. Seeing this front cover, I expected full double page spreads and an in depth tale of the ANZAC’s plight. Instead, it is more historical and factual based, giving the bare facts and similar in many ways to Jackie French’s A Day To Remember. This isn’t a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination; it just wasn’t what I was expecting it to be.

Forward March is an informative and easy to read, well documented and basic introduction to the ANZAC Legend and ANZAC Day traditions. Covering everything from the ANZAC DAY March to the experience of those at Gallipoli and to more contemporary wars, it is a beautiful and solemn picture book ideal for young children.

Kennett’s illustrations further enhance Mattingley’s simple, but comprehensive, text by taking the reader that one step further into all aspects of the war experience. Each page is broken up into a number of boxes featuring painted images  of the soldiers, trenches, conditions, clothing and the marches. The boxed in illustrations and the book’s darker colour pallet further enhance the historical nature and faded memory representation of the war. It’s worth mentioning too that some of Kennett’s paintings are so detailed, that I thought I was looking at a faded picture on more than one occasion.

I do need to note here though, that while this book goes a long way to include contemporary military campaigns and how they relate back to ANZAC Day, like Kokoda and Vietnam etc, it does fail to mention Afghanistan which I found odd.

Although exceptionally delivered in terms of narrative and illustration, its the final three pages that are my favourite from this book by far. The final double page spread is simply heart breaking with the thousands upon thousands of soldiers’ graves and the small headstone inscription reading:

Anzacs all, warriors and peacekeepers we will never forget you.

This page packs an emotional punch that is only glimpsed through out the rest of the book through images and mentions of great-grandparents who served and those with medals at the marches. But the final single page with the full painting of the poppies in the field is the one that I found most breathtaking from the book. While the double before will stay with me as a haunting image for years to come, it’s this symbolic image that really moved me and offered hope and echoed of past traumas that will stay in the forefront of my mind when I think of this book.

Overall, I think all primary school children should have to read this book at least once in the lead up to ANZAC Day as it puts the whole tradition and memory into perspective without being particularly horrifying, but rather relying on their own shared and relate-able memories (Grandparents with medals, and past ANZAC marches.

To learn more about Christobel Mattingley, visit the following social media sites:

Author Website | Goodreads


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

Book Depository | Booktopia | QBD | Boomerang Books | Angus & Robertson’s Bookworld | The Nile | ABC Shop



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