by Philippa Werry
& Kieran Rynhart
Standard picture-book format – 30 pages with full page illustrations, simple text. But what is the target age group?
The colours are mainly muted, with the emphasis on greys, browns, sepia, the people pictured mostly adult, not smiling, sad.
Even more unusual in a picture-book apparently intended for young children are the images of warfare and weaponry.
So to the text by Philippa Werry – first person ‘thoughts’ by the figure central to the images. A stone soldier standing on a plinth, hat in hand, rifle slung over his shoulder. He remembers –
“the sand of the desert, the bustling streets of Cairo, the beaches and steep cliffs of Gallipoli, the ruined villages of France.”
Since then he has stood on his mounting and seen life since – back in this, his homeland, over the decades between then and now. Not dwelling on the horrors of the trenches and battlefields, but viewing the anguish of those who lost loved ones in those far places, seeing the figures of fellow soldiers who returned but with body-parts missing – passing time marked year by year by Anzac Day observances.
From his vantage point he is an observer – in contrast to his form, largely avoiding taking a concrete stand on the morality or otherwise of past events. In this case there is something of an enigma in the title.
Who is he, then? Rather than being the portrayal of a specific warrior or representation of an unknown warrior, the figure identifies himself as “I am memory.”
So it’s a book not so much for children as for families. Parents, even better perhaps grandparents, are needed to introduce, read, explain history and concepts.
While the wording of the text is chosen for easy reading, there’s poetic lyricism in the lines and depth in the ideas.
The text and the illustrations by Kieran Rynhart are well integrated in this thought provoking book.
Author: Philippa Werry, Kieran Rynhart illustrator
Publisher: Scholastic NZ