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This is the story of an unusual and unexpected friendship that developes between a soldier and a peasant in the war torn French countryside of the First World War.
A redesigned and rejacketed editon of the 1997 New Zealand Children's Book of the Year Award.
At the heart of the story is a little Bantam that children instantly warm to.
I was excited when I seen this book come up for review as my son is fascinated with chickens we have some bantam hens of our own and he just loves to chase them around and gather the eggs. Also Anzac day means a lot to us being part of our history and history that our grandparents were around for. We usually go to the Anzac dawn parade but our son 2 wouldn't really know what it is all about yet so having books like this will be cool for him to in time learn about the wars and the soldiers.
I loved the way the book was written about the soldier finding the one little bantam hen and taking her as a pet. She became a mascot which was pretty special and provided the soldiers not only with company but with eggs each day. I liked how at the back of the book it talks about how soldiers sometimes took on pets for company during the war and this story although not a true story was based on true events of a postcard that was sent home with a photo of bantams. The addition of the facts at the end were really interesting and a nice touch.
I also loved the illustrated pages at the front and the back of the book of postcards, and recipes, and photo's from during the war that just provide something additionally fascinating to look at. We haven't given the anzac biscuit recipe a go but we will be sure to as we love anzac biscuits. In fact the whole book was beautifully illustrated loved the simple yet complex drawings of the bantam and the soldiers as did my son who straight away sat and pointed out all the ickens (Chickens) in the book with each page we turned.
This book has become a bit of a favourite at bed time and I find it great that he is getting such enjoyment out of a book that will potentially be teaching him some history of our country. I think the addition of animals like this make these types of books accessible and enjoyable for children of all ages.
I just sat down and read this book with my four year old. He enjoyed it and had lots of questions about the soldiers and what they were doing. It was a nice gentle way of introducing him to the topic of the wars and the people from our country who served in them. As I was reading, I was a little worried that it could be too much for a four year old as I don't want to put too much sad information into a little boy. He did have lots of questions but it didn't seem to worry him and he was very keen to be involved with the reading of the book. I do think that the story if aimed at a much higher age group, but my four year old tends to cope well with books above his age level. My 2 year old kept coming up to us while we were reading the book and pointing to the bantam and saying "cock-a-doodle-doo". This shows that the book could be enjoyed on different levels by a wide range of ages. I think we could revisited around the time of Anzac Day each year as a discussion point for our children about what has happened in our history.
I love the simple line drawings with the added water colours. The illustrations bring to life the feeling of the era in which the book is set. The photos and memorabilia at the front and back of the book bring some reality of the times to the reader. The use of real handwriting on the postcard draws the reader in and gives a very real connection to the soldiers in the story. As I read it, I couldn't help but feel for the soldier who was writing the card and I was thinking about how he would have been feeling about his family so far away.
I love the fact that there is a recipe for Anzac Biscuits in the front of the book. I will try that recipe out when I make Anzac biscuits with my children for Anzac Day. I think that we will probably talk about why they are called Anzac biscuits and I am sure many more questions will come about from my inquisitive four year old.
The book is written for children but it is not dumbed down. It uses the correct terms for the items it is describing e.g. regiment, battlefield etc. It leaves room for extension with a child who has questions about the terms and words. It doesn't have any slang in it and therefore could be useful for immigrants with English as a second language. It would give a taste of the history that our people have gone through and it would form a good basis to a discussion without being too complex in nature. This book could form the beginnings of a topic study at school about the history behind Anzac Day.
The authors note at the end brings a more somber effect to the story. Before reading this, there was a certain feel-good factor to the fact that the boys came home and the bantam was fine. The authors note, tells the real historical story of the soldier and adds a dimension to the story that can really be appreciated by the adults. I could definitely say that as an adult reading the book, I was drawn into the story and appreciated it for myself as I read it as well as watching my son enjoy the book and learn from it.
What a fantastic book. I would highly recommend this book and it is one that I will read over and over with my children.
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