Alfred’s War by Rachel Bin Salleh
Illustrations by Samantha Fry
Published by Magabala Books
Date: April 2018
Most picture books are fantastic, but there are some that are just super special because they tell a story that you haven’t heard before and Alfred’s War is like that for me.
Alfred’s War is a moving tribute to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Veterans, and the sacrifices they made as they served our country. This poignant story opens the readers hearts to the Indigenous Australians contribution to the war, and the lack of support and the discrimination they were subject to on their return home.
The first pages introduce us to Alfred and how he lives, which is mostly outdoors given that many Aboriginal Australian’s during that time were not allowed to go to many places. We see his journey as he enlists, and his comrades treat him as an equal, but we also see the discrimination etch its way back once the war is over. Alfred’s reality is the same as his comrades upon their return, remembering their fallen mates and nightmares of time past. However, they were not given the same support as their fellow veteran’s and so Alfred has to remember on his own.
It was with sadness that I read this book, but also gratitude to ALL who fought the great war. The author has simply help build on children’s understanding of ANZACs through the reflection of Alfred’s story and other indigenous Australians like him. The events in the book are part of the ANZAC history, but in reality have not been talked about or acknowledged.
The illustrations have been so beautifully done, the illustrator has somehow created light pictures on a dark topic. Samantha Fry has sensitively created these illustrations and captured the camaraderie, sacrifice and loneliness of Alfred’s journey. The illustration that moves me most is one of the last pages; a picture of Alfred and his fellow ANZACs hands on each others shoulders, a look of togetherness.
I recommend this book for Primary School aged children and think each classroom would get value from having its own copy. It is not like any other ANZAC picture book I have read, and its uniqueness is what makes it stand out above the rest.
For further education there is a write up from the author at the end of the book. This explains further the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders contribution to the war and their rights within society at the time. There is also further support for the book on the Readings Australia Website, where there is really extensive teacher resources.
Thank you to Saint Copy PR and Magabala Books for the opportunity to read and honestly review this book. Please not all opinions and images are my own.