Veterans Day reading suggestions

by on November 6th, 2015

As Veterans Day approaches, I’m thinking back on some of the children’s chapter books I’ve  read about World War I. I’m old enough to have a grandfather who actually enlisted to serve in World War I. Fortunately for me and his other descendants, he came down with influenza right away and didn’t recover until the fighting was over.

Jacket.aspxDescribing any war to children is a difficult task. Last year John Boyne published Stay Where You Are & Then Leave. It’s the story of nine-year-old Alfie Summerfield who remembers that it was on his fifth birthday when the fighting started, and the war still shows no sign of coming to an end. Living in London, Alfie is a resourceful young boy who finds a way to make money to help the family. He also finds clues to the fate of his soldier father who he has not heard from in a long time. This book deals with some complicated themes of war, but in a story suited for upper elementary readers. A neighborhood friend is a conscientious objector to the war, and Alfie finally finds his father  in a mental hospital suffering from shell shock. I think the author does a good job of showing the effect of war on a variety of people. Maybe things work out a little too smoothly in the end for adults to easily accept, but it could happen that way.

Animals played an important role in combat in World War I and several children’s books celebrate their service. Soldier Dog by Sam Angus  follows the story of soldier dogthirteen-year-old Stanley who runs away from home to join a weary army in 1917.  He is assigned to the new Messenger Dog Training School and soon forms a bond with a difficult but courageous Great Dane. Dogs continue to serve in the armed forces and young readers can find quite a few other fiction and nonfiction books on this topic.

war horseMy favorite  book about World War I is War Horse by Michael Morpurgo.  This is a powerful story about war told from the point of view of the horse, Joey.  The pointlessness of war is a main theme of this compelling narrative. This book is also great to listen to on audio or a family film that stays true to the book.

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