Dreaming Soldiers, a book review

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Title: Dreaming Soldiers
by: Catherine Bauer
illustrated by: Shane McGrath
Publisher: Big Sky Publishing

Jimmy and Johnno are best mates. The two young friends do everything together, sharing adventures and growing up side by side in the dust cattle yards on an Australian Outback Station. When World War 1 strikes, the head overseas to fight on the battlefields of the western Front. Two boys from different cultures. A friendship for life.

Author, Catherine Bauer, has penned a superb picture book based on the lives of Jimmy Watson (an Indigenous Australian) and Johnno Hogan, at an Australian Outback Cattle Station in 1914. We follow the boys’ carefree and fun childhood, where they solidify their friendship as they navigate waterholes, camping, horse-riding, fly swishing, listening to dreamtime stories and the forever words from Johnno’s mum, ‘Don’t you two get into trouble!’
But as Jimmy and Johnno get older, the best friends are separated as Johnno attends ‘big school’, then university. However, each holiday break, Jimmy and Johnno were always reunited, returning to carefree days of friendship and fun.

One day, when Jimmy and Johnno go to town for supplies, they enlist for the Australian Army. ‘Don’t you two get into trouble!’ a teary-eyed Mrs Hogan said. And then they were gone. As the reader turns the following pages, the reality and darkness of war sets in. And there you will see Jimmy and Johnno together, best mates, looking out for each other so they don’t get into trouble.

Illustrator, Shane McGrath, has portrayed the spirit of each page with depth, reflecting the mood of the text. His artwork is divine as he captures the strength of Jimmy and Johnno’s friendship.

I love stories like this one, breaking boundaries, breaking fear of the unknown because of skin colour, helping others to see each person, not by their colour, but by their kindness and empathy for others. We all matter.

Catherine Bauer has included an important information page titled, ‘Indigenous Australians at War’ after the last page of the story. It’s an absolute must read.

Dreaming Soldiers is filled with well-chosen words, but there is one sentence in the story that is most poignant. It reads like this: But this time was special too because, for the first time, Jimmy was treated just like everyone else.

Dreaming Soldiers is most certainly in my top five Anzac Day and Remembrance Day books to read to children and students.

Teacher Notes: Dreaming Soldiers by Catherine Bauer Teacher Notes

Purchase a copy: Big Sky Publishing – Dreaming Soldiers

Title: Dreaming Soldiers
by: Catherine Bauer
illustrated by: Shane McGrath
Publisher: Big Sky Publishing Big Sky Publishing
ISBN: 9781925675535
Subject: Children, WWII
Pages: 32

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Reviewed by Julieann Wallace
(Dip T, B. Ed, Author, Illustrator, Tea Ninja, Cadbury Chocolate Annihilator)
https://www.facebook.com/julieannwallaceonethousandwords/
https://www.julieannwallaceauthor.com/

Julieann is a published author and illustrator who is continually inspired by the gift of imagination and the power of words. When she is not disappearing into her imaginary worlds as Julieann Wallace – children’s author, or as Amelia Grace – YA and fiction novelist, she is working as an editor, book designer, and book magician for other authors. Julieann is a self-confessed tea ninja and Cadbury chocoholic, has a passion for music and art, and tries not to scare her cat, Claude Monet, with her terrible cello playing.

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