An illustration from <i>An Anzac Tale</i>.

An illustration from An Anzac Tale.

AN ANZAC TALE
Ruth Starke, illustrations Greg Holfeld, Working Title Press, $29.95

ANZAC BISCUITS
Phil Cummings, illustrations Owen Swan, Scholastic, $24.99

EVAN'S GALLIPOLI
Kerry Greenwood, Allen & Unwin, $15.99

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GALLIPOLI
Alan Tucker, Scholastic, $16.99

Young history buffs will love these latest war-inspired offerings timed for release near Anzac Day. Although the books are all set in the past, their relevance remains for modern families with loved ones serving overseas. Their non-fiction elements also make them excellent study resources for the classroom.

The most striking is An Anzac Tale, which is unique in format and depiction of its characters. The book is superbly presented as a hardcover, full-colour graphic novel. Instead of human soldiers, the main characters, Roy Martin and Wally Cardwell, are portrayed as kangaroos. Other Australian native animals, such as koalas and wombats, also feature.

The challenges facing the main characters are those faced by our soldiers at Gallipoli: battles, disease, hunger and death. Snippets of information are delivered in easily digestible and relatable facts woven into the narrative. An Anzac Tale stands out as a work of art and a dedication to our fallen heroes. This fresh approach to the traditional Anzac story is sure to pique the interest of young readers aged eight and over.

Anzac Biscuits is a picture book, also suitable for older children or classroom discussion as its theme of war does not suit preschoolers or bedtime reading. Throughout the story we see an alternating narrative and double-page illustrations between Rachel and her mother at home baking Anzac biscuits in a warm, cosy kitchen and a soldier at war, struggling through battles, blizzards and the horror of all that surrounds him.

On the final pages we see the connection between Rachel and the soldier in a touching and poignant reveal. The sensitive, careful development of the climax will bring a tear to the eye.

This simple story, filled with love, tenderness and even joy despite the theme, offers an insightful juxtaposition of how lives are affected by war and how simple things can unite people separated by circumstance.

In Evan's Gallipoli, Evan Warrender is 14 when he sets out to Gallipoli with his father, Abraham, an evangelical pacifist. The two hope to offer comfort to the Allied soldiers fighting there.

Abraham struggles to cope with the intense battles and soon ends up in a shell-shocked daze. This results in young Evan having to ensure their safety and survival. Before long, they are behind enemy lines not knowing who to trust as they trek across war-torn Europe trying to make it back to Australia.

Told in diary format, this gripping story highlights the hellish conditions suffered by soldiers, volunteers, nurses and civilians on both sides of World War I conflict. Brimming with facts, intrigue and a twist, Evan's Gallipoli is enticing reading for ages 12 and over.

In Gallipoli, Victor March, also 14, sets off on the adventure of his life to defend his country. This narrative, too, is written in diary format, with Victor's entries starting before the August 5, 1914, declaration of war. Victor is an unskilled mine worker forced to leave school to support his impoverished family. Like many others, he views enlistment as an opportunity for change and betterment.

Readers follow Victor through his training, his formation of friendships, his landing at Gallipoli and the hardships he faces there. He is obviously too young to be serving, despite his parents' approval, but within days of arriving at Anzac Cove, he transforms from boy to man, from soldier to hero.

In many ways, Victor represents every boy who fought at Gallipoli.

The pervading messages of this novel are courage and mateship. This matter-of-fact, realistic account imparts critical information about the Anzacs and their struggles. It also offers valuable lessons for today's readers.