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Review – Zero hour: the ANZACS on the Western Front by Leon Davidson

April 18, 2011

Finalist in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 2011

Reviewed by Darren

 While the legends of the ANZACs were written on the beaches at Gallipoli, it is only in recent times that the full true story has come out. This book brings to the reader many issues not covered in other books about New Zealand during  World War One, such as:

  – that the New Zealand army would suffer greater casualties after Gallipoli, during the fighting on the Western Front in a further three years of hard fighting.

  •  – that although the ANZAC spirit existed, New Zealanders and Australians were in many ways more different to each other, than similar.

 – that there was a very clear change in the way war was perceived by the New Zealanders and Australians, as the war continued.

 This book is a social history – while it contains poignant anecdotes of war, its politics and its casualties, it also brings out the realities of war in pain, death and the sheer brutality of it.

The book does read very well, particularly if you’re interested in history with facts and figures,  and with military outcomes and strategies. It will appeal to both adults and young adults.

So at the end of the day, this is a must read for the military history buff, the New Zealand history buff, or a reader who enjoys a good yarn.  It also keeps history alive, after the passing of those who lived it.

Author profile

Leon Davidson is a writer of non-fiction for young adults. He has also worked as a furniture-maker, a chicken-plucker, a telephone sales operator for a bank, and now juggles writing with teaching. His first book, Scarecrow Army, about the experience of the Anzacs at Gallipoli, was the non-fiction winner of the NZ Post Children and Young Adult Book Awards in 2006. It was also an Eve Powell non-fiction winner for the Children’s Book Council of Australia.

His second book, Red Haze (2006) is about the experience of New Zealanders and Australians in the Vietnam War, and received the LIANZA  Elsie Locke Non-Fiction Award at the LIANZA Children’s Book Awards. The work was also shortlisted in the non-fiction category for the 2007 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, was listed as a 2007 Storylines Notable Non-Fiction Book, and was an honour book in the Eve Pownall Award category for Information Books at the Children’s Book of the Year Award. A reviewer in the Australian Book Review calls it: ‘…a book for a young audience that corrects much of the starry-eyed jingoism but that will nevertheless leave its readers with pride and a warm glow on Anzac Day.’


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