ANZAC Day is the perfect time to promote war books and stories. There is such a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books on the topic, in all formats, it is hard to choose favourites. This year I have gone with the ‘War Horse of World War One’ theme. These booktalks will suit audiences from lower secondary age to adults.

Title: Bill the Bastard
Author: Roland Perry
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN: 978 1 74331 262 9

Read from page 1 to page 4, end para 5 “He bloody well sneered at me!’.

Bill threw every man that tried to ride him. Larger than the average Light Horse, usually Walers, Bill was sent with some 8000 horses as a member of Harry Chauvel’s brigade. Originally sent as a pack horse, Bill quickly gained a reputation of a survivor and also as ‘the unrideable one’ amongst both the ANZAC and British troops.

Each day in Gallipoli there was a seven-kilometre run to deliver mail and urgent supplies. The Turkish soldiers lay bets to see which sniper could hit rider or horse. Bickworth, an English soldier, had a reputation as a very good horseman. He decided to take the challenge in order to earn one hundred pounds. He was to ride Bill.

Read page 74, para. 11 “Bickworth patted Bill on his left… to page 77, end papr4 “…were already being settled.”

However, there was one man who could ride Bill the Bastard. Michael Shanahan came from Roma in Queensland and formed a bond with Bill no other man had seen before. Together they fought in many battles, at great risk. Heroes together, this is the story of Bill the Bastard.

I usually pair Loyal Creature with War Horse, so I only read from one of the books. This is the booktalk I usually give.

Title: War Horse
Author: Michael Morpurgo
Publisher: Egmont, United Kingdom, 2007
ISBN: 978 1 4052 2666 0

Six-month old Joey is bought by Albert’s father after he has had too much to drink. Joey and 13-year-old Albert quickly become firm friends. Albert’s father makes a bet with a man one night, after having too much to drink, that Joey can learn to pull a plough in one week. He comes home that night and tries to train him. Joey has had little to do with Albert’s father and does not trust him.

Read page 13, para. 3 “I must have been standing…” to page 15, end para. 1 “…on his heel to go.”

Joey and Albert are ploughing by the end of the week and Joey becomes useful on the farm until the first world war begins. The army is looking for horses and the 40 pounds on offer will save the farm. Albert does not know this is happening until it is too late.

Read from page 32, para 3, “I had just about given up…” to the end of the chapter.

Albert does make it to war, with the intention of finding Joey. It is not what he expects.

Title: Loyal Creatures
Author: Morris Gleitzman
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 978 0 670 07742 7

Michael Morpurgo asked Morris Gleitzman to write about an Australian war horse experience. The result was a moving monologue, which was re-written to produce Loyal Creatures. It involves 15-year-old Frank and his father. They drill water bores together. With Frank and his father alone, Frank’s father is unable to sign up to fight as he has to look after his son. After he receives a white feather in the mail, a sign of cowardice, the two sign up together, with their horses, when Frank turns 16. On their way to the ship Jimmy, Frank’s father’s horse slips and tears a tendon. That leaves just Daisy, Frank’s horse. After arriving in Egypt Frank’s father volunteers for the Dardanelles. Frank’s skills for finding water is needed in the desert of Egypt. They see much action, and Frank and Daisy become inseparable, making what he and the other light horsemen must do even more difficult.