The Soldier’s Gift by Tony Palmer and Jane Tanner
Published by Penguin Viking Publication
Emily loved her big brother Tom. When Tom took Emily up the hill to see the cypress tree her mother planted before Emily was born, Emily knew something was wrong.
Emily never knew her mother, so Tom told her stories under the cypress tree, and Emily laughed heartily. When Uncle Francis came to visit that day, with stories of the war, he cautioned Emily’s father that Tom should enlist, or he would be called a coward.
Tom promised Emily he would send her letters. Some were funny. Some were serious. Some were sad. Tom wrote of how he remembered their times under the cypress tree, and in one letter, he enclosed some seeds from the pine trees in Turkey where he was stationed.
One day the letters stopped coming, and Emily’s father came home from work early. He didn’t have a letter from Tom. He had a telegram about Tom. Tom was never coming home.
Uncle Francis came to offer his condolences, but Emily could not hear it it, and her father refused to speak to anyone about Tom, including Emily.
Emily wanted to remember Tom, so she planted the seeds in secret, and cared for them until they grew into saplings. On day, dad came looking for her, and he found on the hill near the cypress tree. Emily was worried her father would be angry, but instead he helped her care and tend the trees, and he laughed with her, like he did before Tom had gone to war.
From the front pages of the book, you can’t help but be taken by the stunning illustrations, depicting the era so vividly. Tom and Emily’s story is heart-felt and sorrowful, because inevitably we know that many sons were lost in that gruesome war. The end pages of the book give an excellent view of Australia during that time. I particularly liked that it detailed the damaging effects upon not just the soldiers who participated, but the women and children who were left to make a life for themselves, when the soldiers left, and continued to when many didn’t return.
I believe this would make a great addition to any classroom, especially for ages 6-10, to help further generations gain understanding and wisdom, about a war that should never be repeated.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Tony Palmer
Illustrator: Jane Tanner
Title: The Soldier’s Gift by Tony Palmer
Publisher: Penguin Viking
Published: July 2014