The Anzac Billy

This evocative non-fiction-narrative picturebook will be a great addition to any child’s bookshelf and to the shelves of infant and junior classes, giving, as it does, a human, emotional connection to World War I and highlighting the Anzac commitment to the Great War.

It is a very attractive book with beautifully drawn images filling every page. The illustrators have given an immediate ‘historic’ feel to it through their sensitive use of watercolour in sepia and blue-grey tones throughout. Given the potentially harrowing subject matter (one thinks Gallipoli, though the battle is never mentioned), the structure is comforting and the language reassuringly nursery-rhymelike. The child at the centre of the story is seen filling a billy (short for billycan, think ‘Waltzing Matilda’) day by day, Monday to Friday, with treats and necessities. Some are bought in the local shop and some come from home, such as the ‘just-knit pair of socks’ we may have spotted his nanna knitting on another page, all to send to his soldier father for Christmas. It is humorous too: ‘On Tuesday I put in his favourite yucky fish.’ On Saturday, it is his mother’s turn to put something in and on Sunday his nanna fills the last spaces. The voice of the small child retains the narrative as the story moves beyond their home, and the illustrations show the billys being packed and loaded onto ships. The child’s concern is that the billy won’t reach his father on the other side of the world, yet his message to whoever does get his billy is warm and poignant. The story closes on a positive note with an uplifting, wordless image of his father’s return.

Book Cover - The Anzac Billy
Publication Date
May 2019