When James goes to fight in the war in France, Annie gives him her small kangaroo made of material scraps, onto which she sews the name Digger. Digger stays with James on the long sea voyage, life in the trenches and into battle. When they are both injured a young French girl Annie’s age, Colette, patches Digger up. With James and Digger both recovered, they return to battle. Sadly, Digger is soon returned to Colette by a friend of James with a request that Digger is patched again and sent home to Annie.
This is such a heart-wrenching book. There are many quality picture books of World War I and the plight of Australian soldiers. Inspired by the French children tending graves of the buried Australian soldiers near Villers-Bretonneux and dedicated to the Australians buried on the Western Front, this book will join the others.
There are many aspects I love about this picturebook. The endpapers, patterned with the patchwork of Digger and the names of characters from the story, prepare the reader. This book is both sombre and heart-warming at the same time. The colour used is important in dictating mood and feeling, and direction and line are also used to tell the story visually. The two girls, on the other side of the world to each other, are linked through James and Digger, showing the importance of the Australian soldiers to the French children during this war and for many years to follow.
This is an important book, telling an important story in a beautiful way, both visually and verbally. Highly recommended for all school and public libraries.
Many thanks to Allen and Unwin for supplying this book for review.