War stories for children

With Anzac Day and is centenary getting maximum airtime at the moment, curious youngsters may well be wondering what all the fuss is about.

Thankfully, some of Australia’s most talented children’s authors and illustrators (and some international ones) have crafted some heart-warming stories to help little ones make some sense of war and its complexities.

Here’s a small sample of what’s on offer. A browse through your favourite book store will throw up many more titles.

Ride, Ricardo, Ride by Phil Cummings and Shane Devries (Scholastic, $24.99)

Ricardo loves to ride his bike through the village. Her rides under endless skies, quiet and clear. He rides every day. But then, the shadows come and Ricardo can’t ride anymore. Phil Cummings is a master story-teller and, in this book, suitable for children aged four plus, uses simple languages to tell a haunting tale of war and its impact on a little boy. It forms a great starting point for discussion on how war affected children, families and communities.

The Anzac Puppy by Peter Millett and Trish Bowles (Scholastic, $15.99)

In the middle of the night, in the middle of winter, in the middle of a war, a puppy was born. This fictional story was inspired by Freda, a Harlequin Great Dane and mascot of the New Zealand  Rifle Brigade during World War I. It is a simple story about the reality of war, hardship, friendship and love. And for Australian readers, it is also a reminder of the effort our New Zealand friends played alongside us during the Great War.

Lest We Forget by Kerry Brown, Isobel Knowles and Benjamin Portas (ABC Books, $24.99)

When a young boy visits his grandad, they talk about the important days in live - trying on his new school uniform, playing soccer with friends and the day his baby sister was born. At the same time, through Knowles and Portas’ wonderful illustration, we see Grandpa’s parallel story - wearing his brand new soldier’s uniform, standing with his mates in the trenches and looking at a photo of the new baby he’s hasn’t yet met. This book is a lovely way to introduce children aged five plus to the significance of Anzac Day and the importance of remembrance.

Anzac Biscuits by Phil Cummings and Owen Swan (Scholastic, $24.99)

This a a wonderful book that links the the familiar Anzac biscuit with the story from whence it came. Rachel is in the kitchen, warm and safe. Her father is in the trenches, cold and afraid. When Rachel makes biscuits for her father, she adds the love, warmth and hope that he needs. This is a touching story of a family torn apart by war but brought together through the powerful simplicity of Anzac Biscuits.

The Last Anzac by Gordon Winch and Harriet Bailey (New Frontier, $24.99)

This book is based on the true story of a small boy’s visit to meet Alec Campbell in the year 2001. To James, Alec Campbell was a hero. He was right. The old man, the last living ANZAC, and all of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought at Gallipoli, were heroes – everyone’s heroes. Alec, who died in May 2002 at the age of 103, enlisted in 1915 when he was just 16. He had put his age up to 18 in order to be accepted by the army and agreed to fight at the front, wherever he was needed.