With its wreath of red poppies, the stunning cover of Anzac Girl is a perfect introduction to this story about a brave young nurse and her experiences during World War I. Longlisted for the Book Links Award for Children’s Historical Fiction in 2021, Anzac Girl is a good example of the melding of fictional storytelling and historical elements in a narrative nonfiction picture book. This intertwining begins with the endpapers, which feature a collage of photographs, letters, cuttings from newspapers and magazines, along with Jess Racklyeft’s endearingly simple portraits of the two main protagonists – nurse Alice and her sweetheart Harry.
The combination of a fictionalised retelling and historical material continues in the body of the book, combining narrative text with quotes from Alice’s diaries, along with evocative illustrations and a combination of photographs, ephemera and realia. Racklyeft’s clever placement of images on the page also adds to the emotional impact of this story about the horrors of war, but with a moving romance with a poignant ending at its heart.
Anzac Girl provides many discussion points on the realities of war, particularly World War I. Written by Alice’s great-granddaughter Kate Simpson, it gives an insight into the role of women in wars and provides an inspirational role model, as in military circles Alice Ross-King – who also served during World War II – is Australia’s most decorated woman.