by Susie Brown & Margaret Warner, illustrated by Sebastian Ciaffaglione - Hardie Grant Egmont, 2012
ages about 8 to grown-up / Australia, s.o.s.e.
Based on a true story, Lone Pine tells of a young soldier who is at Lone Pine with his brother while yet another brother is also at war elsewhere. The young soldier survives, but his brother doesn’t.
This is tough stuff. It’s poignantly told and is full of sadness. But out of the sadness there is also hope and love.
The soldier sends a pine cone from Lone Pine to his mother. She treasures it of course and puts it away where it lies
"not quite remembered, not quite forgotten."
Eventually, the mother plants some seeds from the pine cone and three small saplings grow. Two thrive, but one dies.
And the saplings are eventually planted out – one in Inverell, New South Wales, where the boys grew up and the other in Canberra on the site of the Australian War Memorial. (That one is still standing and you can read a little about it here.
This is a wonderful story, showing that there really can be beauty from ashes. The preciousness that a simple pine cone takes on in a mother’s life is thought-provoking, as is the symbol of the mother protecting, nourishing, hoping on and checking on the saplings. Her generous sharing with the wider Australian community also is a reminder that when we are in pain there are usually others who feel that pain too.
Then there’s the tree itself, growing out of grief, standing strong and weathering the storms that come to it, providing all it can along the way. The final page is full of hope:
"At last the sky clears.
The years pass.
The tree weathers many storms
... but the Lone Pine still stands proud and strong.
Lest we forget."
Indeed. I’ve recommended this for children through to adults even though it’s quite sorrowful in parts and can be hard to take in (especially for children). All of the beauty in this story would lack meaning without the ashes of war and lives that the beauty shines through. You’ll know if it’s the right time to read this story to your child—but do read it for yourself!