‘A Digger for a digger, she said, hugging her brother. “I’ll keep him safe,” James promised, as he tucked the kangaroo into his top pocket.”
This story set in World War 1, was inspired by a photo Mike Dumbleton saw of French children tending the graves of Australian soldiers who died on the Western Front in the heroic battle for Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918. With its poignant watercolour illustrations by Robin Coucher, it is a gentle book that tells a powerful story.
When Annie’s big brother James goes to war, she stitches the name Digger on her much loved toy kangaroo to give him as a farewell present. James keeps Digger safely in the top pocket of his uniform. As the story unfolds, Digger becomes unstitched, torn and tattered during the fighting. When James is injured, he is cared for by a French family whose daughter Colette kindly mends Digger for him. Not long after, Digger is returned to Colette who sadly mends Digger again with love and care, even making him a little slouch hat, before he is returned safely to Annie in Australia. Digger brings comfort to Annie with the knowledge that on the other side of the world, Colette cared about her brother James, just as she had cared about Digger.
A beautiful tribute and reminder of the special connection that Australia shares with the French town of Villers-Bretonneux.
I’m giving one of my ‘tissue alerts’ for this story that will touch your heart.