The Poppy is a new book from author/illustrator Andrew Plant. It’s difficult to describe. It’s not a standard picture book, but it’s not quite a graphic novel either. It’s set in the present, but deals with the past. It recounts actual events, but is presented in a ‘storybook’ context. Having said all that, what it definitely is… is utterly BRILLIANT!
Poppies bloom across northern France and a petal is blown up into the air. As we follow that petal, a dual story unfolds. There is the historical story of a Word War I battle fought by Australian troops on French soil. And there is the story of a continued connection between Australia and the French village of Villers-Bretonneux.
This story is remarkable because it is true — a connection of peace and friendship from an incident of war and sacrifice. This leads to what, I think, is the most moving and evocative image in the book — the petal floating between the French and Australian flags, flying side by side at the gravesite of unknown soldiers.
“The poppies nod in the winds that blow over the Somme. Their petals turn the fields red where once they were stained with the blood of the fallen.”
The artwork is not presented in the standard picture book format. It looks a little like a comic book layout, with multiple images per page, presented in various sized boxes broken up by text. But, unlike a comic, there are no talk bubbles. The design of the book is quite striking.
The artwork is glorious. The words are heartfelt and touching. There is so much depth in this book. So much to discuss. At the end of the book is a summary of the battle and the links forged between countries — perfect for classroom discussion. This is a book that every school in Australia should be studying. The inclusion of a school and young children in the narrative makes the topic approachable for primary aged kids. But I believe that secondary students could also gain much from this book.
There is a gallery of illustrations from the book available on Andrew Plant’s website. Well worth checking out.
Catch ya later, George
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