Illustrated History Book
Nice Day For A War Adventures of a Kiwi Soldier In World War 1
By cartoonist/comic creator Chris Slane and author Matt Elliott.
Part graphic novel part illustrated history book; this is one Kiwi soldier's experience of life in the Great War, from training in New Zealand to the trenches of Flanders, Belgium and the battle of Messines, in 1917. Chris Slane and Matt Elliott have collaborated to create a highly visual book based on the war diaries of Elliott's grandfather, Corporal Cyril Elliott. It features never-before-seen ephemera from Cyril's time as a soldier, as well as official histories, contemporary writings, cartoons and art created in the trenches by soldiers themselves. Postcards, photographs, letters home, news reports, statistics and other original documents enhance this factual account of a Dink's war service.
Released April 2011 Non-standard Paperback : 278mm X 210mm 96 pp colour
Publisher: HARPERCOLLINS NZ ISBN13: 978186950901
Winner NZPost Children's Book of the Year Award 2012.
Winner NZPost Children's Book of the Year Award 2012 & Children's Non-Fiction Award 2012
LIANZA Non Fiction Award – Elsie Locke Medal Winner 2012
Reviews:For all the grimness of its subject matter this is a surprisingly exuberant book from artist Chris Slane and sometime North & South contributor Matt Elliott, whose grandfather Cyril’s wartime diaries provide the raw material. Elliott and Slane combine photos, text, memorabilia and traditional comic-book handling to breathe new life into an oft-told tale. The multi-faceted approach is perfectly tailored for a post-digital, younger readership. Part-graphic novel, part-memoir, part-scrapbook and all good.
- This is the book I needed for my students when I was teaching History. Nice Day for a War simply describes the day-to-day Life of a New Zealand soldier, Cyril Elliott, in the trenches of the Western Front in the Great War. In fact, since Cyril was a real person - Matt Elliott’s grandfather - it follows him from when he enlisted in 1915 aged 18 (having lied about his age) through his three years and 352 days of service, to his return to TeKopuru, where he worked as a millhand. Cyril’s diaries, souvenirs and official documents provide the skeleton of the book.Chris Slane, one of our best cartoonists (Maui: Legends of the Outcast) has excelled himself with the comic-style illustrations which show Cyril and his mates of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade coping with the trench warfare. Cyril’s diary entries fit well into the graphic novel context: Just about dawn Fritz opened up again with all sorts, mostly gas. Had to wear masks all night, which was agony. Slane, making good use of his own grandfather’s wartime photos, has created illustrations which are sharp and vivid, yet which contain carefully observed details of equipment, clothing and attitude. He has also created the clearest and most informative diagram of Western Front trench systems I have ever seen. These are carefully integrated with the text, so that we see the significance when Cyril’s work party seeks cover in our old support lines. On p.74 men are seen carrying Large wooden A-frames through the mud, while on p.42 readers can see how these A-frames will become part of the trench structure. A remarkable range of contemporary photos, drawings, comments, poems and documents has been carefully assembled by subject (Discipline, Censorship, Trench Life, Patrols, etc) to complement Elliott’s text.The most enjoyable of these are the cartoons, drawn by soldiers for their trench newspapers, always cheerfully unsentimental.
‘Heard of Bill lately?
‘Yes, he’s gone back to N.Z. with both legs off.’
‘Lucky devil.’The landscape Layout of the book enables photographs to be reproduced i n a Large format, and the detail in some is remarkable. On p.48, the 1917 picture of soldiers changing into clean clothes after a bath and de-lousing captures the sheer joy of pulling on clean shirts and socks. The book’s design is by (Diana)Anna Curtis, and she has created a volume which is visually appealing and uncluttered, yet packed with information. Careful attention has been paid to detail. The only slips I can find are ‘travers’ for ‘traverse’, and the definition of a subaltern as ‘a soldier of Low rank’, rather than an officer of low rank. A glossary and bibliography are included. In an age when young people are eager to know the full significance of Anzac day, Nice Day For a War has to be the best.Trevor Agnew, Magpies
- Not a picture book, not a graphic novel, not anything easily pigeon-holed, Chris Slane and Matt Elliott's study-cum-evocation of life in World War I is a great resource and a great read. Sections of graphic-novel style storytelling give us the story of Elliott's grandfather, recreated by Slane from his original diaries.Intercut sections of tightly written historical backgrounding and photos from the period walk us through the world these men were living in and give us the military context for their experiences. Cyril Elliott was still a boy when he enlisted in 1915; he lied about his age, and soon enough found himself on the Western Front.
Slane and Elliott do not put special emphasis on the horrors of the experience. They don't gloss over them either. This is perhaps too information-rich a book to give to a young child - this war has been well canvassed for that age group in any case, in books such as Michael Foreman's War Game and Norman Jorgensen and
Brian Harrison-Lever's In Flanders Fields - but this would make an excellent resource for intermediate age children and teens. It also has enough depth and enough charm - Elliott and Slane have fun bringing the understated humour of the soldiers alive - to satisfy adult readers.Slane's style will be familiar to many readers from his political cartoons in the Listener. That familiarity adds a key dimension to the book. We've all seen photos from this era often enough - though this book features a rich and well-judged array of them - but to see the men from those photos walking, angular, wry-mouthed, through the same landscapes as last weekend's Bill English cartoon brings them into our world.Which is very much the point, and the effect of the book overall, whether you're a pre-existing Slane fan or not. As the war recedes further from our present, Slane and Elliott have given us a route back into its everyday reality. Soldiers' letters to loved ones sit on the page next to 1918 cartoons, diary excerpts provide captions for photos of the scenes they describe, we're offered famous poems and obscure old songs. And through it all Slane's cartoon Cyril Elliott walks. Just an ordinary Kiwi boy, a very long way from home.David Larsen, NZHerald
This is a genuinely intriguing, entertaining and enlightening book about a subject whichis terrible in the extreme. It is thestory of a young bloke called Cyril Elliott who, like many young Kiwi lads ofthe era, figured that enlisting to fight the foe on foreign fields in 1915 wouldreward him with adventures—and a few tales to tell when he got home again.
There arephotos and historical resources, but the point of difference here is thegritty, sometimes graphic, comic-strip portrayal of Cyril’s war, which has beeninked superbly by noted illustrator Chris Slane. Cyril’sgrandson, Matt Elliott, provided thefine words. It isdown-to-earth and at times transfixingas young Cyril’s three years and 352 days in the army are portrayed. Stories of the hell he encountered and thecobbers made and lost were all gleaned by the author from diaries Cyril keptand passed on.
Theletters he wrote are poignant and thoughtful. This was a young man who wasforced to grow up fast.Theillustrated sections will appeal to youngerreaders, which is a good thing, becausestories about men like Cyril (who made itthrough and returned to the mill he onceworked at) are vital ingredientsof our history. Look out forthis, it is a fine book.