Millard and Lesnie, Australians, present a picture book about the Great War with beautiful, green-dominated watercolors and a spare text with occasional end rhymes.
Tom Shepherd tends his sheep, and his red-haired wife, Cherry, spins and weaves his wool—but then she finds she must make him a greatcoat of it to wear to war. (The endpapers are the very weave of the coat.) Tom goes from his pregnant wife and his sheep to the horrors of the front, where he loses his life trying to assist an enemy soldier. That blond soldier, left with only one leg, journeys to Cherry to tell her of Tom’s bravery and to bring her his coat, which she makes into a cuddle-toy lamb for their little son. The hope for peace on the last page seems particularly knotty in today’s world, and one might certainly question the why of a picture book about the horrific losses of war for children so young. But it is done with truth and tenderness. “Once Tom’s darling sewed a greatcoat, / and she buttoned it with brass. / She stitched each seam with tenderness and lined it with her love. / Once she prayed to heaven above.”
Taken together, the folkloric simplicity of the text and the quiet beauty of the illustrations pack a powerful punch for those families that want—or need—to confront wartime violence with their little ones. (Picture book. 4-8)