Posts Tagged ‘Jennifer Beck’

The ANZAC Violin: Alexander Aitken’s story

By Jennifer Beck

Illustrated by Robyn Belton

ISBN 9781775433910

Scholastic NZ

 

 

“A true story of a rescued violin and an extraordinary musician, Otago’s Alexander Aiken”

Author Jennifer Beck and illustrator Robyn Belton have previously worked on a number of picture books before. Each book has been first-rate and their latest collaboration is no exception. The story based on the true accounts of New Zealand solider Alexander Aitken, take us through his time in the trenches during World War One. They were harsh and difficult times, full of danger, death and desperation. In 1915 a former schoolmate of Alex’s won a cheap violin in a shipboard raffle. Unable to play music himself, he gave the violin to Alexander who had some musical ability. It didn’t take long before Alexander was playing everyday and getter better and better. Amid the chaos of war Aleaxander Aikten brought music to fellow soldiers and gave them hope for better times ahead. As the story unfolds  we soon learn more about Alexander and his violin. 

 

The violin becomes important to all the soliders, many help to hide it from authorities, protecting it from harm and damage. 


I love this double-page spread. The reflection of the soldiers in the sea has a haunting, almost mourning quality to it . The violin in its black case stands out, reminding us that despite the dark days there is always hope.

“The violin was my companion in this dug-out; I slept with it by my side.”

The end pages with their photos, maps and writing are very much in journal form and it feels familiar, like we are sharing the diary of an old friend. The colours have a warm yet earthy feel with sepia tones reminiscent of the times. The layout with all its details brings us closer to Alexander and supported with photos Alexander becomes very real to the reader.

Having the real life story of people played out in picture book format makes them and their history accessible to a younger reader.  The sophistication of the story, the historical facts and the wonderful illustrations make this a must have for any library or home collection. A truly wonderful, thought-provoking picture book set during World War One where the focus is music and hope and not just the war itself.

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Torty and the soldier : a story of a true WW1 survivor

By Jennifer Beck

Illustrated by Fifi Colston

ISBN 9781775434849

Scholastic

 

 

 

Meet Torty! Shes one tough little tortoise with a beat-up shell and some missing toes. Torty survived a great war that raged in Europe 100 years ago. Torty was rescued back then by a young Kiwi soldier. She is a World War One survivor.

This is a beautiful and impressive picture book but it goes beyond a simple read. Jennifer Beck tells us the story of an injured and very lucky-to-be-alive tortoise rescued during World War 1. The fact that this tortoise is still alive today, over 100 years later is remarkable, especially as she endured many more brushes with death over the years.

This is a story of longevity and how something good came from such a terrible time. New Zealand Soldier Stewart Little first met the tortoise when he watched in horror as she was being run over by a French gun wagon. His rescue of the tortoise, which he later named Torty, began a relationship which would last decades. As somewhat of a stowaway, Torty arrived in New Zealand where she had even more dangerous and almost deadly adventures.

This is also a story of hope and how one little act of kindness can change lives.

The illustrations are simply beautiful. The cover impacts on the reader immediately with nurturing hands reaching out and cradling Torty so we know she is the focus of the story. The cover layout is reminiscent of a headline from a newspaper declaring something important, something we all need to know. The end pages hold maps showing us the voyage from Salonika to New Zealand shores, adding a touch of sophistication to the picture book. I love the mix of full-page illustrations and those with lots of white space. This creates a mixture of illustrations capturing certain moments throughout Torty and the soldier’s lives. The sepia tones at the beginning with more colour added as the story moves through the years is a great way to show children and students how time moves on, emphasizing the remarkable fact that Torty is still alive today.

This really is a stunning book and even though young readers can read and enjoy this story on their own, I feel it will reach a much wider audience as it will open up discussion on so many levels.

Check out there teacher notes here. Well worth a look. I will be using this book and the teacher notes with my year six book club later this term.

Love it.  A must-have for any school library.