Ethel was right. No one would let them go and nurse in France, not for years and years. But they might just let them do this. And maybe she’d meet soldiers over there who’d fought with Tim, or who knew someone who had. And even if no one knew anything about Tim at all – well, she’d be fighting in the same war as him and Doug. She’d be doing something. Something for King and country!
It’s a long way from New Zealand to England, and sixteen year old Midge Macpherson misses the family farm and her native land desperately, but not as desperately as she misses her twin brother, Tim, who is serving in the war. Stuck in boarding school while Tim and their older brother fight, Midge is desperate to be doing something useful. So when her friend Ethel suggests they got to France and set up a canteen for the soldiers, she readily agrees.
In France, Midge offers cocoa and sandwiches to soldiers off to the front, but as the war moves closer, she finds herself more directly involved in the war. First, the canteen starts to help the thousands of injured men being shipped off to hospital. Then, because of the driving skills she learnt back in New Zealand, Midge is recruited to drive an ambulance. Just like the ‘boys’, Midge experiences first hand the terrible realities of war. And, when it is over, she must face her old life as a much changed person.
A Rose for the ANZAC Boys is a beautifully written tale of three girls’ experience of World War1, and also highlights more broadly the often untold story of the vast numbers of women who fought and served in the war. At the same time, the story explores the toll of war on both men and women. A lengthy author’s note at the end of the book provides background information about World War 1 and about the women who served there.
This is an important story, told through third person narrative and through letters exchanged by various characters. The use of a sixteen year old protagonist will make the story more real and more confronting for teen readers.
A Rose for the ANZAC Boys, by Jackie French
Harper Collins, 2008
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