Thursday, April 21, 2011

Top 5 books for children wanting to know more about World War One



List by Sonia

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
~Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, from 'In Flanders fields'

Sonia works at Te Matariki Clendon Library, and has reviewed a number of kids and teens books for the (ex) Manukau Libraries website, with a particular focus on the topic of war. Below is a selection from her reviews, which may give you some ideas about where to start if you've got kids around who are interested in learning more about World War One, and what it might have been like to be at the front.

Click here to browse through the rest of Sonia's reviews, which include highly recommended titles such as John Boyne's The boy in the striped pyjamas, Melanie Drewery's Papa's Island and Jane Mitchell's Chalkline.

In Flanders fields / Norman Jorgensen & Brian Harrison-Lever
On a Christmas Day during the First World War, a soldier risks his life to rescue a robin tangled in barbed wire in no-man's-land.

Unlike the bird that is released by the soldier into the freedom of the skies, these young soldiers most often came to their death in this war and all that we have to remember them today, are the white crosses, row upon row, in "Flanders Field."

The illustrations are carefully and beautifully drawn in sepia tones to reflect the "darkness" that is associated with war. Interestingly the graphic artwork runs across most pages making the text secondary to the artwork, and for this reason the book has been appropriately categorised as a "sophisticated picture book."

Suitable reading for older primary and Intermediate-aged children.

Grandad's medals / written by Tracy Duncan and illustrated by Bruce Potter
This book is about a young boy who is really close to his Grandad. They do lots of wonderful things together like going for walks, fishing and flying kites. Early one morning, they attend an ANZAC Day parade. The young boy notices all the old soldiers with their war medals marching up the street and afterwards he asks his Grandad to tell him more about the meaning of Anzac Day.

The purpose of this book is to educate younger readers about the meaning of Anzac Day and the associated traditions from a New Zealand context. There are two special features of note in this book; the inclusion of the Anzac Day dedication, "We will remember them" from the poem "For the Fallen," by Laurence Binyon, and the last page in the book which contains some interesting and useful facts for children and parents about Anzac Day.

The book is beautifully illustrated and is suitable for primary aged children.


A present from the past / Jennifer Beck, Lindy Fisher
This story is a delightful tale about a young girl, Emily, who receives a special gift from her English Aunt when she visited New Zealand one Christmas. Emily is a little disappointed when she opens the gift, until she learns about the story behind the gift.

Emily's grandmother was a nurse serving in France during the First World War. This unique gift, now in Emily's care, was given to all the soldiers by a real princess, and not only that, it helped save her life.

This story also provides readers with an insight into the life of a young royal in 1914 who, through an act of kindness, showed genuine compassion and care to all the soldiers fighting on the front lines at Christmas time.

This is a beautifully illustrated book that you will read again and again, and it reinforces the value of passing on your family's heritage and special stories about our loved ones to the younger generation so they 'will remember them.'

Harry and the Anzac poppy / by John Lockyer ; illustrated by Raewyn Whaley.
Harry is very curious when he discovers a small wooden case underneath his Great-Grandma Kate's bed. The contents of this special box provide a lot of interesting insights about his Great-Great-Granddad who was a soldier in Europe during the First World War.

This 24 page soft cover book is suitable for mid to late primary school students. The dialogue between Harry and his Grandmother Kate is very readable and I liked the way the author included brief letters written by his Great-Great Granddad on every page. The lovely artwork on each page also brings the war time experiences to life which helps connect the reader with the details of what it was like to be a soldier a long time ago in a foreign country and the meaning behind the ANZAC poppy.

An informative and moving story worth reading to children around the time of ANZAC Day (April 25th).

The best Christmas present in the world / by Michael Morpurgo ; illustrated by Michael Foreman.
The story revolves around a man who buys an old fashioned roll-desk that he wants to restore back to it's original condition. Going to the drawers he comes across a secret drawer containing a small black tin. Inside this tin he discovers a special letter written by a soldier fighting on the Western Front to his wife. The letter describes an amazing first-hand account of a special celebration that took place between soldiers from both armies one Christmas during the Great War.

It is a profoundly moving story of the triumph of the human spirit over the ugliness that is associated with war. The beautiful illustrations that accompany this account give children an insight into the wars that our grandparents fought many years ago, and the hardships that war brings to people on both sides of the conflict.

I highly recommend this book for parents who want to have those important discussions with their children about the human cost of war and what can happen when people put aside their differences.

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