Two stories unfold across alternating double-page spreads, one of a young girl, Rachel, and her mother on the family farm in the Australian countryside, making Anzac biscuits, and the other, set thousands of kilometres away, of a young soldier struggling to survive the winter on the battlefields of the Second World War.
‘As the wood stove warms the kitchen, Rachel and her mother are engulfed by nurturing hues of soft yellow and cream, as they play and dance, sprinkling flour and oats across the table and gather utensils and ingredients. With a turn of the page, the following full-bleed spread in washed out grey-blues, reveals the soldier, huddled against the bitter cold and falling snow, as he finds his way to a makeshift shelter of tin and canvas. In another sequence, Rachel savours the scent of Redgum logs as she stokes the wood stove, while the young soldier chokes on the smell of cannon-fire as he looks out from his bunker on to a desolate landscape. Contrasting images, sounds and textures from each setting accentuate the distance and sense of separation, geographical, physical and emotional, between the main characters. Cummings’ spare text is enhanced by the sensitive watercolour and sketchy pencil illustrations which also offer clues to the identity of the young soldier and his connection to Rachel and her mother. The two stories unite in a predictable and consolatory conclusion on the final page.
The author’s personal connection to the story is highlighted in the dedication to his father who served in the AIF from 1940-1945.
‘Anzac Biscuits’ was a 2014 CBCA Notable Book.