A statue of a World War I soldier stands watch over a town square. The statue gives readers an insight into his memories of the war, as well as what he has seen from his pedestal as the years have passed.
Author Philippa Werry's strong focus on New Zealand history and stories shines yet again in this picture book. Her text is lyrical and emotive, while still being age appropriate. Werry conveys the realities of war without glorifying it, nor dulling it down. The story includes Anzac Day, including the protests, and the impact of Covid-19 on 2020's day of remembrance.
As well as the important subject of the book, Werry uses lovely language, perfect to help inspire and capture young readers. Small creatures scuttle, shadows slide, there's a cool moonlight. Unknown words like glint, clink, linger. These writing conventions, combined with the story, combine to make This Is Where I Stand a likely powerhouse in the classroom. This is the perfect book for any school, or indeed any family, that will generate discussion between generations.
Illustrator Kieran Rynhart has created artwork that is incredibly detailed and haunting, adding another layer to the story. The double spread page of the soldier at nighttime captivated us for a long time, peering into the shadows to see who else might be hidden within the murky depths of night. The colour palette Rynhart uses is spot-on.
Design wise, there are little elements that really make the book pop too. It seems so simple but bright red endpages offer that flash of Anzac poppy red we all know. An embossed title in metallic gold mirrors a statue plaque. These may seem like insignificant aspects, but it shows the amount of attention, detail, and love that went into this book.
This Is Where I Stand is a beautiful, poignant story that allows us to reflect on not just Gallipoli, but on war and peace.
Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell