I've been reading some books about Anzac Day this week and particularly wanted to find Mark Wilson's latest book Digger. Digger isn't about the Anzac Campaign, but it is a World War One story.
Matthew lives on a farm in Western Victoria, the farm dog has a litter of pups and he is drawn to Digger straight away. Matthew and Digger form such a bond that Matthew smuggles Digger aboard his troop ship when he leaves the safety of Melbourne for the war in Europe.
Matthew will become a stretcher-bearer on the fields of France and Belgium, and Digger is right there with him. Digger helps catch rats in the trenches and becomes a favourite among the men and helped cheer the injured soldiers.
Matthew knew it cheered the men up when they saw Digger. It was as if the little dog reminded them of home, or just gave them a glimmer of hope.
I saw the fabulous ANZAC Illustrated exhibition in Newcastle recently, which featured Mark Wilson's incredible work, and the fascinating research he puts into his books. Mark uses an amazing mix of drawing and painting to illustrate Digger, a story told by a third person narrator, and also with the letters that Matthew sends to his sister Anna at home.
Mark Wilson is an extraordinary talent. He has illustrated many books, such as Jackie French's A Day to Remember (see my review), but I think I prefer the many books he writes and illustrates himself. Digger's story was inspired by the true story of Driver, a puppy smuggled onto an Australian troop ship in World War One. I'm always amazed at the stories told in children's books, Mark Wilson does not shy away from highlighting the tragedy of war (in words or pictures) in Digger- or any of his other books.
Find more war books for kids from my list here.