Review by Becca Wang
J.E. Miller’s Remember: Lest We Forget is a children’s book that depicts, both through art and words, the stories of those who served in war.
The narrator is a child witnessing the ANZAC Day parade who decides to “step into the shoes” of those affected by the war.
The book follows the journeys of these soldiers, nurses, and veterans, and explores the courage, suffering, and loss that military conflict brings.
Throughout the book there are moments of courage, camaraderie, and the essence of the Australian spirit which balance out the melancholic themes of war-related grief and trauma.
How imagery tells the story
Remember: Lest We Forget is a visually compelling work. Its immersive illustrations depict highly detailed characters and settings that place the reader in the centre of the action.
The illustrations are taken from an open competition Miller held for the book and as a result features art of different mediums (such as watercolour, pastel, and coloured pencil) from people of varying ages and skill.
Miller accompanies the artworks with prose that reads like a poem, integrating alternate rhyme to give the text an engaging rhythm.
She also uses literary imagery to deliver narrative details that complement the illustrations. Her discerning word choices deliver the stories with impact, evoking strong emotions of sympathy, sorrow, and pride in the reader.
Stories written for children
The stories in Remember: Lest We Forget are woven together seamlessly – the journey of the narrator, and subsequently the reader, flows from one character and setting to the next in a way that feels natural and easy to follow.
The commentary is earnest and appropriate and the reactions from the young narrator are authentic and never sensationalised.
Miller connects each story with clear motifs, one of them being the use of the pervasive shoe (“walk a mile in their shoes”) motif when jumping from one story to the next – a motif and image easy to understand for young readers.
Miller’s characters tap into the raw experiences of those who served in wars. She represents them as real, regular people who have experienced and overcome different hardships, instead of unrealistic, invincible heroes. She represents men and women who served in the war, family members related to veterans or victims of war, and veterans with PTSD.
We learn about the different ways war affects people and gain valuable insight to the aftermath of military conflict.
The book honours those that served in wars and educates young readers on how people react and live with the effects of war, trauma, and loss.
Miller’s illustrations paired with the poetic text creates an approachable, earnest work of education and reflection on Australia’s military history for children.