Somme Mud, by Private Edward Lynch

High in the clear morning air ring our marching songs as we step out through flag-bedecked streets. Te windows and roofs of shops are gay with bright flags and pretty, laughing girls. The crowds line the footpaths happy in the bon camaraderie of their farewell to us. Here and there are silent women in black, mute testimony to what has befallen others who have marched before. We swing cheerfully on.
A woman breaks from the crowded footpath and arm in arm with her soldier husband, marches on with us. Ping, ping, and a shower of half pennies lands amongst us, thrown from the roof of a big verandah. We break step as we battle for the coins for glued to each is the address of a girl. Most of us collect girls’ addresses as a hobby these days. We seize the coins, wave to the roof of girls as we fall into step with our mates and forward again as the girls wave and coo-ee.

Somme Mud is one man’s war. Private Edward Lynch, or ‘Nulla’ as he is referred to, tells the story of his war. It begins with the march to join a ship in Sydney and ends with his return in mid-1919. The tone is diary-like, although entries are organised into chapters rather than dates. The excitement of setting out and the boredom of the long sea journey soon gives way to the realities of trench warfare. Nulla shares the horrors of the trenches, the survival strategies and the skiving off, the injuries and the deaths as he travels his way around the battlefields. From his first engagement with ‘Fritz’ at Gueudecort a tiny village on the Somme to the liberation of POWs after the war is over, Nulla provides an insider’s view of war.

Private Edward Lynch marched off with his mates to the First World War. No one could have prepared him, or his mates, for what was to come. Of those who returned from this war, few spoke much to their families of their experiences. Edward Lynch did. Although he apparently didn’t keep a diary, he has written an account of his war rich in detail and flavour. The story failed to find a publisher when first written but in 2006 was published and this abridged edition appears now, in 2010. Photos are scattered throughout and help the reader to visualise the places and people of the story. Edward Lynch writes in first person, and is referred to as Nulla. Somme Mud was written in the years immediately following the First World War and retains language and attitudes of the time, giving the narrative an extra layer as a reflection of the social mores. Recommended for anyone wanting to understand the First World War from the perspective of the soldier.

Somme Mud: An Australian Teenager in the First World War

Somme Mud: An Australian Teenager in the First World War, Edward Lynch (edited Will Davies)
Random House 2010
ISBN: 9781741664522

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Battlefield, by Alan Tucker

The Japs charged, but I wasn’t scared. Even though they had me outnumbered three to one, I knew I could do them. I’d beaten them every other time.
I stood my ground, watched their rifles and held my bayonet at the ready. Dad had taught me the drill: ‘Stick them in the ribcage under their leading arm, son.’
He learned to kill during the last war. He never got to bayonet anyone, although he tried the day the Germans captured him. If he hadn’t been blinded with gas he’d have been able to see straight and jab one or two of them. He says gas is a coward’s weapon. But I’d use it to free my brother.

Barry lives on the family farm near Cowra, with his parents and six sisters. Battlefield is set in the final months of the second world war. Barry’s only brother, Jack joined the army but is now in a Japanese POW camp. Cowra has it’s own POW camp. Firstly it had Italians but now it has the hated Japanese. They don’t follow the rules of war. They don’t surrender, they play by their own rules. Barry is desperate to enlist, and in the meantime, he practises being a soldier. His teachers are his father, and his sister’s girlfriend Jack who trains new recruits and reckons he’s as good as any of the recruits. His army and enemy are his little sisters. But there are rumours of a Japanese breakout from the camp and Barry wants to be ready.

Battlefield is set a long way from the war in the Pacific and even further from the war in Europe, but both come to Cowra in their own way. Barry is isolated by his father’s silence about war and by his brother’s absence. He’s a very determined character, and will be ready for anything when his turn comes. Barry’s father teaches him to shoot, but also teaches him about the dangers of guns. Jack teaches him about tactics and strategy. Barry practices soldiering every day and plots ways to get closer to the interment camp. He wants to skill himself for the real thing. Battlefield is told in the first person which brings the reader very close to Barry, but also allows the reader to experience his fallibility. There are themes about war, family, gender roles and more. Recommended for upper primary- to early secondary readers.


Battlefield, Alan Tucker
Scholastic Press 2010
ISBN: 9781741695519

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Anzac Heroes, edited by George Low

From the shores of Gallipoli, to the outback of Australia, to the muddied battle fields of France, the ANZAC legend spreads far and wide. This book is a collection of the best ANZAC stories from Commando magazine. For years the magazine has played host to many exciting stories from World War I and II, but rarely do they publish stories of the ANZACs, so this book exists to collect these stories of the Aussies and the Kiwis together in one volume. The stories are presented in comic form, with great black and white artwork telling the stories of the ANZACs in a way no written work alone could.

This collection is great for ages 10 and older, but anyone can enjoy these timeless stories of the ANZAC legend. The fact files between and during stories make this an informative and entertaining read. This is perfect for a long period of reading, with each of the twelve stories being completely self-sustained.

A thrilling collection.

Anzac Heroes: The Best 10 Anzac War Stories Ever!, by George Low (ed)
Crows Nest, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Document Z, by Andrew Croome

Evdokia knew that the crowd was here for her. Hunting her. She was certain these people would kill her before they’d let her through the terminal and onto the plane. This might be it, she realised. Defector’s Wife Dies in Airport Shootout.

In Canberra in 1951, two new arrivals at the Soviet embassy are party loyalists. But Australia has much to offer, and embassy manoeuvrings see the pair regularly on the outer. Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov find their life a constant balancing act. In the meantime, ASIO staff are working to determine which embassy staff might be working for MVD, Moscow intelligence. Within three years of their arrival, Vladimir has defected and Evdokia is to be sent home to Moscow to face punishment.

Document Z is a fictionalised exploration of the Petrov affair, combing history, bringing the characters at its heart to life, whilst offering an insight into some of the possible behind the scenes events and motivations.

By itself it is an absorbing work of literature, but when read with deference to its historical basis, it is intriguing. Winner of the 2008 Australian/Vogel Literary Award this is a wonderful debut novel.

Document Z: A Novel

Document Z: A Novel, by Andew Croome
Allen & Unwin, 2009

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Great Aussie Inventions, by Amy Hunter

Have you heard the saying ‘Necessity is the mother of all invention’? It means that when a solution can’t be found one must be made.
When the early settlers arrived they found a very different country to anything they knew. They had to be clever if they were to survive.

Aussies are great inventors. Visit any Aussie town, any Aussie farm and inventions can be found. Where there was a need, there was an inventor, trying to find an easier or better way to do things. Great Aussie Inventions is a large, portrait format paperback full of Aussie inventions. Some of the inventions are well-known to Aussies, but others have achieved wider prominence. The Hills Hoist is uniquely Aussie, but others like the inflatable slide raft used on planes, have gone global. There are inventions from 1856, all the way through to 2001 when Dr Fiona Wood invented spray on skin to help heal burns. Extras include a contents page, an index, glossary, timeline and resource page.

Great Aussie Inventions is pitched at middle primary readers. The cover features a wild-eyed inventor child whose head is overflowing, almost exploding with great Aussie ideas. There’s a suggestion that from the wildest ideas come useful inventions. Some inventions were almost accidental, like the discovery of penicillin, while others were designed to meet an unmet need. The inventors are scientists, farmers, shearers, horseracing fans, water conservationists. The message is clear – anyone can be an inventor. The text style is light and humorous, the illustrations even more so. Great Aussie Inventions provides a taster of Aussie inventors and their creations as well as dipping into Australian history. Sure to find an avid readership.

Great Aussie Inventions

Great Aussie Inventions, by Amy Hunter, ill David Rowe
Black Dog Books 2009
ISBN: 9781742030760

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Letters to Leonardo, by Dee White

Dear Leonardo
Talk about serendipity. Just found out it would have been your birthday today too.
And that’s not all we have in common.
Your dad took you away from your mum. How weird is that?
How did you deal with the missing bits in your life?

On his fifteenth birthday, Matt gets a book from his dad, and a card from his mother. The only problem with that is that he has long believed his mother is dead. Now he needs to find out why his dad has lied to him for the past ten years and why his mother hasn’t contacted him before now.

At the same time, Matt has been given a school assignment involving writing a series of letters to a historical character. Because of his love of art, he has chosen Leonardo da Vinci, but as he learns more about the artist he discovers they have more in common than a love of art. Writing letters to Leonardo gives him a chance to lay bare his feelings as he searches for sense and truth.

Letters to Leonardo is a stunning debut novel from Victorian author Dee White. The blend of first person narrative with letters gives the reader a wonderful insight into Matt’s thought processes and emotions. Matt’s journey is full of action, emotion and twists and turns which keep the reader riveted from chapter to chapter, wanting everything to turn out okay. In a story dealing with the effects of mental illness on a family, it is soon obvious that it won’t be all happy endings, but White manages to offer hope and understanding, as well as a wonderful dose of realism.

Aimed at teen readers, this is powerful tale.

Letters to Leonardo

Letters to Leonardo, by Dee White
Walker Books, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Simpson and His Donkey, by Mark Greenwood & Frane Lessac

In time for ANZAC Day 2008, Walker Books Australia have released a very Australian picture book telling the well known story of Simpson and his donkey. Born in England, Simpson was far from home in Australia when World War 1 broke out. He enlisted and found himself not in England, as he’d hoped, but in Egypt and then Turkey, where he worked as a stretcher bearer. In Gallipoli, Simpson found stretchers in short demand, so he enlisted the help of wild donkeys to rescue over 300 wounded men and to transport water to thirsty soldiers. Sadly, as Simpson went once more onto the battlefield he was shot and killed.

This retelling of Simpson’s story is told in simple language but not at the risk of trivialising the story or the war itself. Greenwood has a knack of making history accessible for children. In turn, illustrator Frane Lessac, brings the story to life with gouache illustrations filled with little details and rich colours.

This is an important story beautifully represented in a form suitable for educational use and also private reading.

Simpson and his Donkey, by Mark Greenwood and Frane Lessac
Walker Books, 2008

The Scarlet Mile, by Elaine McKewon

From its beginnings as a dusty, water-deprived goldrush town, to its current place as a thriving city, Kalgoorlie has been the home to a similarly thriving prostitution industry. Prostitutes have come from around Australia and from overseas to work in brothels in the town, and its red-light precinct has become a famous tourist attraction.

The Scarlet Mile is an examination of this industry from its inception until the present, focussing on the social aspects of its history. Who were the women who came there, what part did they play in the town’s social and economic fabric, and what were the implications for them and for the rest of the population. There is discussion of the legal processes – the by-laws and police acts which impacted on the industry and the legal proceedings which arose from them – but the real focus is on the human aspect, with first person accounts peppering the book

This is an outstanding social history.

The Scarlet Mile: A Social History of Prostitution in Kalgoorlie, 1894-2004, by Elaine McKewon
UWA Press, 2005

The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, by Chris Coulthard-Clark

More than just a record of the battles in which Australia and Australians have been involved, The Encycopaedia of Australia’s Battles, provides an intresting insight into Australia’s history as a whole.

As well as detailing the many battles Australians have joined on war fields overseas, the book details the many battles fought on Australian soil in the two hundred years since white settlement. These include battles fought between European settlers and Aboriginals resisting colonization and battles such as those on the goldfields, including the Eureka Stockade.

The book includes chronological entries of over 300 battles in which Australians or Australian troops have been involved – at sea, in the air and on the ground. Each entry provides the date and location, the main units and commanders involved and an account of the course of the battle. ENtries are illustrated with maps, drawings and photographs.

The author, historian Chris Coulthard-Clark is an expert in Australian defence history. A graduate of Duntroon and the Australian Defence Force Academy, he has worked as a government policy analyst, historical consultant and a research editor.

The Encyclopaedia of Australia’s Battles is an outstanding resource for historians, writers, teachers, and anyone with an interest in Australian history.

The Encyclopaedia of Australia’s Battles
, by Chris Coulthard-Clark
Allen & Unwin, 2001