Books to remember them by

By Sue Baxalle, Isobel Marriner

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April 25 may be a public holiday on both sides of the Tasman, but a batch of new picture books and novels will ensure its meaning is not forgotten for another generation of young readers. Isobel Marriner and Sue Baxalle review five new Anzac releases.

Auckland Infantry troops arrive at Gallipoli at daybreak under heavy shell fire, in the campaign that would later be commemorated on Anzac Day. Photo / Supplied
Auckland Infantry troops arrive at Gallipoli at daybreak under heavy shell fire, in the campaign that would later be commemorated on Anzac Day. Photo / Supplied

A Day To Remember by Jackie French
HarperCollins $29.99

This hard-cover book for younger readers tells the story of Anzac Day, from its origins and its development over the years. While Mark Wilson's pencil, ink and acrylic illustrations on paper and canvas are a focal point and the styles evoke the changing times, this is far from being a picture book, with plenty to read - either solo or with a parent.

Although it has a definite Australian bias - French being from that side of the ditch - the New Zealand influence in our common military history is not overlooked.
For example, we learn that New Zealand was the first to instigate a public holiday to honour the Anzacs, in 1921. Australia only followed suit in 1927.

From the beginnings on the Turkish beach at Gallipoli and the trench warfare of northern France and Belgium, French gives snapshots of the battles of the Great War and its sequel - World War II, which saw the Anzacs fighting German, Italian and Japanese forces.

Then there are the Korean and Vietnamese wars and Middle Eastern and Afghan conflicts of more recent years.

French presents a compelling account of the Anzac influence and the importance of commemoration.

Here Come The Marines by Lorraine Orman
Scholastic $18.50

Scholastic has repackaged Lorraine Orman's 2005 novel A Long Way From Home into their My New Zealand Story collection of diary-based tales, this time round entitled Here Come The Marines. It tells the story of 14-year-old Lillian, sent to rural Warkworth in 1943 to stay with her grandparents to recover from tuberculosis while her 18-year-old sister Joyce serves as a farm worker - a better option than being sent to work at the freezing works or the Avondale Asylum by Manpower.

Their father is fighting in North Africa and their mother works as a nurse at home in Auckland.

Orman crams an amazing amount of detail about life in wartime into this slim volume, managing to be both interesting and educational.

From everyday details such as the sisters' hot, dusty three-hour bus trip from Auckland to Whangateau (between Warkworth and Leigh), to Gran's annoyance at Grandad taking the last of the week's tea ration to his Home Guard meeting, and racism - against Maori boy Mick Hohepa and Lillian's friend Caroline with the Germanic surname, Schmidt.

Boring country life soon becomes exciting for the girls with the arrival of United States Marines, training at a nearby camp. Joyce falls in love with Lou from Des Moines, while 14-year-old Lillian develops a crush on his mate, Thomas. But the pair are sent to Wellington ahead of deployment in the Pacific. Lillian's father comes home on leave a damaged man, unable to adjust to life in New Zealand and equally unwilling to return to war. He joins the campaign to stop his mates being sent back to war.

Telling Lies by Tricia Glensor
HarperCollins $19.99

Based on her own father's experience in 1942, Wellington writer Glensor has recreated a rural village in Occupied France and a family who help a British airman whose plane crashes nearby. Except the airman turns out to be a New Zealander, Paul.

Told through the eyes of 15-year-old Simone, we are shown what it was like to live in Occupied France and the work of the Resistance.

She convincingly relays the paranoia, fear and hardship of day-to-day life and the quick thinking required by people of all ages when faced with the ever-present German soldiers.

A page-turning adventure of life and death, Telling Lies is to be recommended.

When Empire Calls by Ken Catran
Scholastic $19.50

In a thoughtful book (for younger readers, perhaps 8-12) Catran introduces us to James, who unwillingly stays at home while his brothers sail off to the Boer War to fight for the "glory of empire".

At first fiercely patriotic, he learns of the realities of battle from his brothers' letters home.

He is also taken under the wing of local shopkeeper and misfit Croaky Fred - a disenchanted but decorated Maori Wars "hero" who presents a different viewpoint to ponder.

Earth Dragon, Fire Hare by Ken Catran
HarperCollins $24.99

Here Catran deals with the post-World War II "emergency" in what was then Malaya.

A much darker book, for more mature readers, this also questions the circumstances of war, threading together the stories of Ng, whose family is slaughtered by the Japanese, and Peter, whose father dies at the hands of disaffected Indian soldiers in Singapore.

Peter finds no solace at home and enlists in the army. Ng, alone in the jungle, is forced to join up with Communist forces during the war and later as part of their struggle against the British overlords - the "emergency".

As their Chinese horoscopes predict, the paths of both young men are inevitably destined to cross.

The Auckland Museum has the official Book of Remembrance open again this year for the public to post messages during the ANZAC period.

The public can also download the Dawn Service programme here.

- NZ Herald

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