REVIEW: ANZAC Biscuits by Phil Cummings & Illustrated by Owen Swan

Published: 1st March 2013

Publisher: Scholastic Books Australia

Pages: 32

Format: Soft cover picture book – purchased

RRP: $15.99

3/5 stars

A mother and daughter at home in Australia around the time of World War 1 are baking Anzac biscuits and the mother is explaining their history. This is interspersed with scenes and reports of what it was like to be a young soldier [the child’s father] at the battle site. Strong emotional impact , understandable and useful for approx 5-12 year olds.

Australian author Phil Cummings has teamed up with illustrator Owen Swan to create a unique and special ANZAC story for young children.

Unlike many books which focus only on the war experience of the solider fighting on the front line, this picture book is told through the perspective of a child (Rachel) and her mother as they bake ANZAC biscuits to send to her father who is away fighting the war. However this happy little tale is broken up every second double page spread by the story of Rachel’s father and what he is experiencing while fighting for the freedom that Rachel and her mother enjoy back home. Together these two narratives create an all encompassing, and yet still limited, small glimpse of what it would have been like back then for both sides (those fighting and those left behind).

Owen Swan has deliberately used a limited colour pallet for this book, simply sticking to various shades of sepia, black, white and grey’s to portray the historic nature of this turbulent time in Australia’s, and indeed the rest of the world’s, history. His homely illustrations of Rachel and her mum are warm and soothing, with love ozzing from every aspect of the page, while the soldier’s experience is one of sorrow as he deals with the harsh realities of the war and misses his family terribly back home. I love the combination of this warmth of the home and sorrow and darkness of the war that really hounds home the book’s message of family and love. What’s more, I adore the fact that we see a family make the Anzac biscuit’s with love and so much care through out the book, and then are able to see the miserable solider at the end unwrap his suprise of love and hope at the end. The way Swan has the box of biscuit’s glowing makes it seem like the biscuits are biscuity-gold, and in many ways they would have been for those fighting overseas. A kind and gentle reminder of those back home and the love and tenderness awaiting the return.

Phil Cumming’s text is simple and sparingly used throughout this narrative, instead the story relies heavily on Swan’s elaborate and clever illustrations to fill in the many gaps and bring the story to life. All of which comes together to create a fantastic resource for primary school teachers and parents with young children to teach them about the war. The use of such basic text means that the book transcends all ages and is a great introduction for younger children to the war, especially as ANZAC Day comes around each year.

At it’s heart, ANZAC Biscuit‘s is a story about love, kindness, family and hope. It’s a story of one of many families who were separated during wartimes and left to cope the best way they can. For Rachel and her mother, it’s through the baking of delicious treats that her father can enjoy and remember them by while away. For Rachel’s father, it’s a story of hope and a constant reminder of what is waiting for him back home one he is able to get away from the war front.

Simply put ANZAC Biscuits is a clever picture book that is ideal for young readers. The images and narrative are not overtly scary, nor do they seek to hide the realities of the World War 1 time period.

To learn more about Phil Cummings, visit his website here.

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

Book Depository | QBD | Booktopia Angus & Robertson’s Bookworld

 

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