Monday 2 June 2014

Loyal Creatures by Morris Gleitzman

I have tried to be selective about the war stories that I will read this year.

WW1 went on for four long, torturous years...and I'm beginning to think the hundred year commemorations in the publishing world could be just as long and as torturous!

There are already so many books on the market. The kids section alone is groaning under the weight of all these worthy books.

In the past few months we have had:

Meet the ANZACS by Clare Saxby - an information picture book about "how the ANZAC legend began."

I Was Only Nineteen by John Schuman & Craig Smith. All Australians know this song by Redgum (of which John was a member) about one soldiers experience of the Vietnam War.

Gallipoli by Kerry Greenwood and Annie White follows two friends, Dusty & Bluey as they off to war as members of the Australian Light Horse.

The Afghanistan Pup by Mark Wilson is the story of how one dog can change the life of an Australian soldier and a young Afghani girl trying to go to school.

Midnight by by Mark Greenwood & Frane Lessac is based on the true story of Lieutenant Guy Haydon and his horse, Midnight. Featuring the actions of the Australian Light Horse it details the final light horse charge at Beersheba.

Along the Road to Gundagai by Jack O'Hagan & Andrew MacLean is the traditional and familiar song we all know, of men going off to war, never to return home.

The Poppy by Andrew Plant is a 70 pg picture book that retells the story of the battle for Villers-Bretonneux in 1918 and the bond that still exists between Australia & France to this day because of it.

And that's just the picture books that have been published in the past few months!

However when I saw that Morris Gleitzman had written a war story about the Light Horse charge on Beersheba in 1918, I knew that his would be one of the books that I would willingly read.

In the same easy to read, young readers style of Once, Then and Now, Loyal Creatures tells the story of 16 yr old Frank and his horse Daisy.

The story is full of the Australian vernacular of the time (choof off, had a squiz, chipper, struth, right-o, clobber, tuckered out, oo-roo, chokka) and the innocence of youth (as well as the innocence of our young nation).

The tough, unhappy aspects of the fighting are dealt with deftly and lightly. The concepts, words and images are age appropriate; thought-provoking and moving without being gory and devastating. Gleitzman highlights the personal cost to individuals and shows that the enemy are just people like us.

Highly recommended for mature 10+ readers

More Australian (& a few Classic) WW1 Books for Children & Teens:

(A) A Day To Remember by Jackie French and Mark Wilson
(A) ANZAC Biscuits by Phil Cummings & Owen Swan
(A) An ANZAC Tale by Ruth Starke & Mark Holfeld
Biggles series by Cpt WE Johns
(A) The Bombing of Darwin by Alan Tucker
(A) Boys of Blood and Bone by David Metzenthen
(A) Dont Forget Australia by Sally Murphy
(A) Evan's Gallipoli by Kerry Greenwood
(A) Fromelles by Carole Wilkinson
(A) Gallipoli by Alan Tucker
(A) In Flanders Field by Norman Jorgensen
(A) Jack's Bugle by Krista Bell
(A) Light Horse Boy by Dianne Wolfer
(A) Light House Girl by Dianne Wolfer
(A) Memorial by Gary Crew
(A) My Father's War by Sophie Masson
(A) My Mother's Eyes by Mark Wilson
(A) One Minute's Silence by David Metzenthen & Michael Camilleri
Private Peaceful by Micheal Morpurgo
(A) The Red Poppy by David Hill & Fifi Colston
(A) A Rose For the ANZAC Boys by Jackie French
(A) The Silver Donkey by Sonya Hartnett
(A) Simpson and His Donkey by Mark Greenwood & Fran├ę Lessac
(A) Soldier Boy The True Story of Jim Martin the Youngest ANZAC by Anthony Hill
(A) The Soldier's Gift by Jane Tanner
(A) Tank Boys by Stephen Dando-Collins
War Games by James Riordan
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
(A) When We Were Two by Robert Newton

WW2 Books:

(A) Angels of Kokoda by David Mulligan
Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
Carrie's War by Nina Bawden
(A) Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Forgotten Pearl by Belinda Murrell
Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes
(A) Heroes of Tobruk by David Mulligan
(A) Hitler's Daughter by Jackie French
I Am David by Ann Holm
(A) Kokoda by Alan Tucker
(A) Little Paradise by Gabrielle Wang
(A) Now, Then and Once by Morris Gleitzman
(A) Pennies for Hitler by Jackie French
The Silver Sword by Ian Serralier
The Wave by Rhue Morton
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
(A) The Wrong Boy by Suzy Zail

Other Wars:

(A) Amina by J L Powers
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepytys
(A) Caesar The War Dog by Stephen Dando-Collins
(A) Emilio by Sophie Masson
The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland
(A) The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett
(A) Naveed by John Heffernan
Never Fall Down by Patrica McCormick
(A) Parvana by Deborah Ellis
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Shadow by Michael Morpurgo
(A) Shahana by Roseanne Hawke
(A) Treasure Box by Margaret Wild
The Twelth Day of July (Sadie & Kevin series) by Joan Lingard
(A) Vietnam Diary by Mark Wilson
Z for Zachariah by Robert O'Brien
(A) Ziba Came on a Boat by Liz Lofthouse

The lovely Louise at A Strong Belief in Wicker has also played around with a list of war books for children. Between the two of us, we've covered a lot of ground!


  1. Excellent post Brona! I really love your book lists- certainly many that I've meant to read there- and a select few that I have actually read. I've read the lovely Memorial. One book that I can't recommend highly enough is Michael Morpurgo's Private Peaceful. I've read it twice now, and been just as moved the second time. I'll be reading his War Horse in August for the centenary celebrations. At the CBCA conference in Canberra last month I went to the launch of Loyal Creatures, and of course bought a copy. At the conference dinner an actor did a 20 minute performance of the story- it was amazing. There wasn't a dry eye in the house at the end. Of course I haven't got to reading it yet.

  2. Thanks for the tip about Private Peaceful.
    The Loyal Creatures performance sounds wonderful - the ending is very moving to read too.

  3. The performance was AMAZING. I've got the book here, ready and raring to go.

    I blogged about Private Peaceful a while back. I hope you get the chance to read it. I haven't read all that many Morpurgos as yet- it's the best I've read by far.

  4. I like how you've modified your list Brona. I vaguely toyed with indicating whether they were Australian or not- but never got around to it- I think it adds a lot to the list.


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