Looking for some ANZAC DAY picture books?
I’ve got a few favourites….
On April 25th, Australians and New Zealanders will observe ANZAC Day.
ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
On this day, we remember those who have served and died in war.
Between 2014-2018, we are commemorating the centenary of the First World War.
As such, the Australian picture book market has been flooded with many high-quality ANZAC Day picture books aimed at teaching our younger generations about the sacrifices of our Veterans.
These books are a perfect way to open up discussions about the heavy reality of war and the importance of remembrance.
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12 of my top picks for ANZAC Day picture books
Alfred’s War by Rachel Bin Salleh and Samantha Fry
This is a heartbreaking insight into the nation’s treatment of returned Indigenous servicemen and women.
It revolves around Alfred who enlisted for the Great War as a young man.
The story opens with Alfred in the current day- homeless and an itinerant worker.
Every ANZAC Day, Alfred walks to the nearest town to pay his respects at the dawn service “…but his bravery was not a part of the nation’s remembering. He was one of the forgotten soldiers.”
Reflection: Remembering Those Who Serve in War by Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg and Robin Cowcher
This is a book that will stop you in your tracks.
On each spread, a family making their way to a remembrance service are juxtaposed with illustrations from various theatres of war.
The family march towards the ceremony. Soldiers in the Boer War march through the trenches.
The family stand and listen to the Last Post. A soldier stands on a beach in East Timor and listens to the Last Post.
The family place red poppies to remember those who have served. Poppies grow in a field in Iraq as peacekeepers aid locals.
The text is devastatingly simple but powerfully moving.
Each spread is explained at the back of the book, together with an outline of the conflict shown.
This is a powerful text that outlines the history of Australia’s involvement in conflicts around the world.
It would be an excellent classroom resource for visual literacy studies.
A truly outstanding book.
Skyward by Sally Deng
This is a creative imagining of the stories of three young women who dreamed to become pilots during WW2.
Sally Deng was inspired to create this book after coming across a black and white photo of Hazel Ying Lee posing in front of her plane.
After hours of research, Sally wrote and illustrated this book as a tribute to the female pilots who bolstered the Allied war effort.
We follow 3 young women in America, Britain and Russia as they pursue their dreams of becoming pilots.
They pursue their passion despite prejudice, racism and constant peril.
Memorial by Gary Crew and Shaun Tan
Upon their return from the Great War, soldiers plant a seed near a memorial.
This seed grows into a sprawling tree. In this moving tale, various members of a family recall the significance of this tree in their lives. The tree is now causing havoc with traffic with its sprawling roots system.
The council are calling to have it cut down.
A beautiful story, from two of Australia’s best, about the significance of memories and remembrance.
The Happiness Box by Mark Greenwood and Andrew McLean
This is a narrative based on the real life story of Australian Prisoners of War in Singapore.
Led by Sergeant “Griff” Griffin, the POWs decide to make gifts for children interned at nearby Changi prison.
Griff writes a book to give the children hope. Does it pass the censorship of the Japanese general?
This is a beautiful imagining of the circumstances under which the book was created. The Happiness Box survived the war and toured Australia. It currently resides in the State Library of NSW.
Lest We Forget by Kerry Brown and Isobel Knowles and Benjamin Portas
My granddad says there are two types of days: those you want to remember and those you want to forget …
A young boy thinks about the important moments in his life: going to school, playing soccer, the birth of his sister.
These significant life events are illustratively contrasted with his grandfather’s experiences of war.
This is an incredibly moving book that shows how our experiences can bridge the generation gap.
Our Jacko by Michael Morpurgo and David Gentleman
This is an exquisite book for the 8 – 12 year old reader.
The old tin hat has always been a part of family life in Michael’s home.
Michael then discovers that it belonged to his great-great-grandfather, “Our Jacko.”
His ancestor was killed at Ypres in 1915 and Michael uncovers the young soldier’s diary.
A powerful and moving story on the importance of remembrance and carrying on the legacy of those who served.
At 64 pages, this is a perfect mix of text and emotional illustrations for the independent reader. However, it is really a text to be shared and pondered.
My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day by Catriona Hoy and Benjamin Johnson
This is my “Go-To Book” when preparing my Kindergarten or Grade 1 students for our remembrance assemblies.
I get teary every time I read it to a class.
It provides a moving look at Anzac Day from the perspective of a little girl.
She goes to a Dawn Service to watch her Grandad march in the parade.
It is a poignant reminder about the importance of remembering, sharing traditions and passing on memories.
It is a perfect introduction to the rituals and traditions that make up a remembrance service.
I also use it to highlight the different symbols that surround this highly venerated ceremony, e.g rosemary, the medals worn by the veterans.
Anzac Day Parade by Glenda Kane and Lisa Allen
A wide-eyed boy meets a Veteran of the 18th Battalion at the War Memorial.
The young boy wants to hear exciting tales about the glory of war and death.
The old man, bereft of joy, relives the tragic realities of what was faced at the Battle of Crete.
A picture book suitable for the 8-12 age bracket, it is filled with many discussion possibilities.
The Anzac Puppy by Peter Millett and Trish Bowles
This fictional story is based on the life of Freda, a Great Dane who became the mascot of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade during World War 1.
Lucy is a young girl who must abandon her puppy, Freda.
A soldier adopts Freda and takes her with him to the war front.
Sam promises Lucy that he will bring Freda back.
Freda becomes an important source of comfort and companionship for the soldiers.
The relationship between Sam and Freda is central at all times but the horrors of war are alluded to.
At the end of the War, Sam returns to Lucy with Freda.
Everybody lives happily ever after when Sam and Lucy marry.
Digger: The Dog Who Went to War By Mark Wilson
Mark Wilson has written a number of war stories all worth seeking out.
This particular text is another which highlights the contribution of animals on the war front.
It tells the story of Matthew, who smuggles his puppy aboard a ship bound for the war fields.
Matthew works as a stretcher bearer and his feelings about the horror he sees are beautifully shown through letters he writes home.
Newspaper cuttings are also used to convey the events facing the young soldiers.
This is a heart-achingly moving tale not just about war, but also the loyalty between Dog and Master.
The ANZAC Billy by Claire Saxby, Mark Jackson and Heather Potter
A boy and his family prepare a billy stuffed with Christmas goodies for his dad serving on the front line. This book serves as a heart-warming and heart-wrenching insight into the effects of the War on the families left behind.
What picture books would you recommend that delicately explore the realities of war?
What are your favourite ANZAC Day picture books?
Team reading ANZAC Day picture books with this painted paper poppy craft.
Pin 12 ANZAC Day Picture Books for later:
I live when picture books or illustrations speaks about deep subjects. Finally they don’t need a lot of words, The drawings are very powerful and speak for themselves. That’s the point of picture books, no? xx cathy
They are “deceptively simple,” no?
What a great way to help children learn about ANZACS – I’m a huge fan of picture books, even as an adult, I can’t wait to see what you ladies come up with!
Thanks for all your support, Sammie xxx
You ‘re not an adult… Well not a real one! I bet you like those books!! XX cathy
Hooray for picture books! I’m such a fan, especially for helping to explain to little ones about life events and first-times like going to the dentist, hospital, etc. Miss T’s pre-primary class last year read ANZAC Ted which proved very popular with the kids. Lovely idea for a link up – you can never have enough books xx
Yes they are very helpful to speak about hard subject. I use them in my work everyday. To talk about divorce, having a new baby in the family, even about death of a grand parents. This is so helpful for a kid! xx cathy
Oh I so hope I can find a few of these here in the states! I’m not only a huge fan of picture books but love vintage reads as well. And I don’t think we’ve yet read a book focused on Anzac Day (similar to our remembrance day and a great topic for kids to be aware of in all countries). Saw your shout-out for the linky on Instagram and had to pop over to see the lists!
Thanks so much for popping by. These books definitely have universal themes. So excited to see books from all across the globe- it’s a Round-the-World trip via picture books! Hope to see you again on the last Friday of April too, Jacquie xx