John McIntyre reviews two books about our war history – Gladys Goes to War by Glyn Harper, illustrated by Jenny Cooper and ANZAC 'Heroes' by Maria Gill, illustrated by Marko Ivancic.
John McIntyre on Gladys Goes to War by Glyn Harper
Gladys Sandford wanted to volunteer as an ambulance driver [in WWI], but was told – and this was a direct quote – "This will be a short war and women will not be needed. If you really want to help the war effort you should stay home and knit socks and balaclavas". Gladys goes anyway so she can be closer to her husband and her brothers. It’s not long before she’s driving injured soldiers in Egypt. Later she convinces her superiors she can do the same in London. And sadly, great personal loss, her husband and brothers were both killed. She bounces back and that’s remarkable in itself. She was the first woman in New Zealand to get a pilot’s license and in 1927 she drove through the interior of Australia. I’m loving these stories, especially the pictures of women who can and did do anything. And they weren’t necessarily women who were political suffragettes, they just wanted to do what they thought they were capable of. For children, the natural sense of injustice. It’s just plain unfair if someone can’t do something based on their gender. For kids it really opens up the discussion around rules and perceptions and roles, and that’s probably as valid now as it was in 1916.
John McIntyre on ANZAC 'Heroes' by Maria Gill
Stunning pictures in this one, too. Stunning realism of early ANZAC heroes. The book is a collection of Australian and New Zealanders from both world wars. 15 from each country are selected by Maria Giller. And she’s one of our best writers and researchers on nonfiction for children. The collection includes the traditional frontline heroes. I’ve always had a fascination for Nancy Wake as a ruthlessly courageous heroine. But there’s many shades of heroism and there’s some real gems in this lot, too. Lieturenant Doctor Jessie Scott of Christchurch, who trained as a doctor in Scotland and spent much of the first world war running hospitals in Serbia. Total hero, never heard of her – but boy, we should have. There's Joice NanKivell Loch – an Australian journalist who helped smuggle refugees out through Southern Europe and was honoured in Greece.