This magnificent and touching children’s picture book is published by Allen & Unwin today to coincide with the centenary anniversary of the WWI Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, on the Western Front in April 1918.
Robin Cowcher’s gorgeous water painting images fill the pages to bring Mike Dumbleton’s text to life. This is the tragic story of Australian soldiers at war and an ode to the French children who tended their graves.
When young Annie’s older brother James is sent to war, she gifts him her stuffed kangaroo as a present. She names the kangaroo Digger, because that’s what her brother is now. Together, James and Digger enter the battlefields and both are injured.
While James recuperates on a farm in France, a young local, Colette, stitches Digger back together for him but it’s not long after James and Digger return to the war that Digger is returned to Colette alone. The young French girl mends the kangaroo again and sends it home to Annie with a promise to always visit James with fresh flowers.
The trauma of death is not explored in Digger but, rather, the comfort of knowing that a loved one is being looked over. The book is targeted to children aged 5-8, perhaps too young to fully understand the concept of death, but Digger is a gentle and loving way to begin those important conversations with a child.
This is a beautiful tribute to our soldiers and the children of France during the first World War. It’s also sad and heart-warming, and it introduces such an important topic that families need to discuss.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 9
Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: February 2018
RRP: $24.99 hardcover