Do Not Forget Australia by Sally Murphy is a poignant picture book about Henri, about France, about Billy and about Australia. It is based on the true story of how strong bonds are developed in the face of adversity, where people pull together in a show of human kindness no matter how large the distance between them.
Through the fictional characters of Henri, living in the French village of Villers-Bretonneux, and Billy, anxiously waiting in Victoria for news of his father a soldier in World War I, the story emerges.
Sally Murphy explores the impact of the encroaching fighting from Henri’s perspective,
“The roar of fighting had grown even louder – and now Henri feared what that fighting would do to the village he loved.”
When Henri and his mother return to their beloved village after the all clear is given, muted colours from Sonia Kretschmar convey the sadness the devestation has caused;
“It was as if a giant had squeezed the schoolhouse in its hand and scattered the splintered remains.”
From periods of agony, heartache and tragedy, stories of human kindness always emerge. Sally Murphy has given voice to one such act here. The Australian soldiers who fought to free Henri’s village communicate the devastation that has been caused to their friends and family at home. The result was an amazing $20,000 raised by Victorians, much of which was used to re build the school.
With the plaque still visible today this is a poignant historical picture book which has much to teach us.