how ordinary people doing good things led to powerful, enduring wartime bonds

‘They didn’t even know us,’ said Adele. ‘But they died trying to help us.’
Henri thought of his new soldier friends.

by Sally Murphy and Sonia Kretschmar - Walker Books Australia, 2012
ages 4 to grown-up / powerful lives, s.o.s.e.

Do Not Forget Australia tells a true story through the eyes of a young, fictional French boy, Henri. His village, Villers-Breetonneux, was all but destroyed by the first ever tank battle between the British and the Germans.

The Germans won, but Australian brigades followed the British and won the town (on 25 April, 1918 – Anzac Day). 

Henri and Mother flee the town before the worst of the fighting and return to find their home village all but destroyed. They stay to rebuild and one of the Australian soldiers befriends Henri. They talk about the soldier’s boy Billy and about Henri’s school which has been destroyed. 

Back in Australia, Billy and his friends and others in the community begin fund-raising to build a new school and nine years later the school is ready, complete with a sign in the playground that reads “Do not Forget Australia.”

There’s an end note giving a brief history of the town and the school which leaves the story free to be told as a story. It's a very nice read— interesting and personal—and one of the things I really love is the different light shown between France and Australia in the illustrations. 

France has that European softness even when the war is over and the school has been rebuilt and Australia has a clear brightness to its light.

Of course, this is a great piece of history and it's ideal for teaching a little about World War 1 in Europe, but it's also a great story to show how ordinary people can do good things. It helps us to learn about overcoming adversity / caring for others / having a world view / World War 1 / families and how they cope in extreme circumstances / building something that lasts, and kindness.


Names in this book: Henri, Adele, Billy