Friday, 12 August 2016

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

I'm never usually sure about picture books that are illustrated songs. I wonder what purpose they really serve. But I had no such qualms reading And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. It's amazing and totally obvious what purpose it serves. I hope it is widely taken up in our schools. 

And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda is an iconic anti-war song written by Eric Bogle in 1971. Eric had arrived in Australia from Scotland aged 25 only two years earlier, and it was in 1971 with the Vietnam War ongoing and very unpopular at home that Eric saw his first Anzac Day march in Canberra. He knew that the time was right for another anti-war song, but he decided to set it in Gallipoli rather than Vietnam. 

"Gallipoli, on the other hand, is deeply imprinted on Australia's national DNA."

A statement that still rings true. Bruce Whatley has done an incredible job with the illustrations. He's used a muted brown and khaki palette throughout most of the book, with small highlights of colour, to represent the murky hell of the Gallipoli peninsula. 

Picture Source

Sadly there isn't an illustrators note included in the book, but Bruce has indicated on his website that this is another book illustrated using acrylic and his (non-dominant) left hand. Bruce Whatley creates such extraordinary images with his left hand, I find it completely astonishing. 

There is an acknowledgement at the front to say that many sources were used as inspiration including photographs from the Australian War Memorial Archives, the Imperial War Museum and newspapers from the time. 

If you can't find a copy of the book, and you should, then the book trailer is almost like reading it. 

There are countless versions of the song, but I think The Pogues is possibly my favourite.

A great video of Bruce Whatley showing kids how to draw (sadly using his right hand). Oh but here he is encouraging us (well kids really I suspect) to use our left hands. He says that "You've got no expectations with your left hand". Well I have no expectations with my right hand actually, I don't expect to be able to draw anything reasonable with it. I wish I could, but I just can't draw. Perhaps I could start drawing with my left hand and use that as an excuse to say why it's so bad... But it's quite fascinating that he would make compositional decisions that he wouldn't normally make when he is working with his left hand, and his work is more emotional. 


Brona said...

I've been fascinated by Whatley's right hand/left hand abilities ever since I first heard about it with Flood too.

And I agree, this book is one those ones where the song translates well into the page.

I'm Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Interesting. I sometimes eat with my left rather than my right. Perhaps I should try drawing, too.