We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2018 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.
While this picturebook biography is not really about crime and thriller, it does feature the story of an Australian army surgeon. And since we are also looking at narratives of cops, soldiers, the military, it fits right in!
Written by Claire Saxby Illustrated by Jeremy Lord
Published by Random House Australia (2015)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
Ernest Edward Dunlop was said to have grown up around the Australian countryside. He was a brilliant man who finished his four years of secondary school in just three years, and he was also an accomplished athlete, a real sportsman.
It was not surprising that he eventually became a military surgeon: marrying both his mental acuity and physical agility. World War II changed his life forever, as he joined the Australian Army and was placed in charge of the Military hospital in Java, Indonesia.
When the Japanese army invaded and took control of Java, Dunlop became one of the prisoners of war, and was put in command of both British and Australian prisoners. As Saxby noted:
Weary was tall and confident and very skilled both as a surgeon and as a commanding officer. This helped him to negotiate with the Japanese guards. Even so, sometimes he lost his temper and was punished. But always, he protected his men.
Perhaps what struck me the most about this narrative was Dunlop’s integrity of character, his leadership that entailed putting his own life at risk for the well-being and survival of his people, and his courage that was never fool-hardy but also determined, earnest, and well-intentioned.
It struck a chord in me seeing those bamboo sticks; this is a setting that is very close to where I live now (Singapore). As I read the timeline at the end of the book, it did show that Dunlop was transferred to Changi Singapore in 1942 before he and the other POWs were transferred to Thailand to work on the Thai-Burma railway.
I believe that this is a story that will be of interest, not only in Australia, but also in Southeast Asia. In 1976, Dunlop was declared Australian of the Year, and his death in 1993 was mourned by over 10,000 people who lined up in the streets for his state funeral. I am glad to have finally ‘met’ him through Saxby’s and Lord’s tribute to a life well-lived.
#LitWorld2018GB Update: Australia