My girls and I are studying World War I, mostly from the U.S. perspective since we’re in the midst of a two-year U.S. History survey. (All that really means is that we’re handling World War I with a light touch since the U.S. perspective is limited.) For World War I and World War II, I have opted to try out a Moving Beyond the Page unit (sample here). I’m reserving final judgment, but with some additional fluffing by way of (what else?) more books, I think it has been a hit. I grabbed a trio of library books related to World War I off the shelves at a couple of our libraries, and I definitely think they’re worth sharing:
The Donkey of Gallipoli: A True Story of Courage in World War I by Mark Greenwood is a wonderful true story that packs quite an emotional punch. It’s the story of a young man named Jack who grows up in South Shields, England. Jack and his friend Billy do all sorts of odd jobs, including leading donkey rides along the beach. As soon as Jack is old enough, he signs onto a ship bound for Australia. In Australia he works a variety of jobs until finally, he is homesick. When he learns that England is at war, he joins up, thinking it will take him home faster than he could ever get on his own. However, instead of going to England, he ends up in Turkey as a stretcher bearer during the Gallipoli Campaign. Jack becomes famous there because he finds a donkey and uses it on rescue missions for the wounded and dying. He and his donkeys become heroes. This is one of those books that has one of those “What!?!” endings. I loved it, and so did my kids, from the 11 year old to the 2 year old. The illustrations by Frané Lessac are detailed and emotive–quite Grandma Moses-like. Highly Recommended. (Candlewick, 2008)
The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribue to Veterans by Barbara Elizabeth Walsh is a gorgeous picture book that gives the background behind the significance of the poppies that are often sold around Memorial Day and Veterans Day by members of the VFW and other groups. This lovely story is about a woman–Moina Belle Michael–who couldn’t give enough; she always found something else to do. This resulted in a lifetime of service in the wake of World War I, and ended with a crowning achievement that has turned into a beautiful legacy of remembrance of those who have served. My only quibble with this story–and one that I found somewhat distracting–is the inclusion of lots of quotations from Moina Belle Michael herself with no introduction as such. (A sentence of text is often followed by a quote with no “she wrote” or “she said” to give context.) Overall, though, this is a small thing in such a worthwhile story. The beautiful portrait-like illustrations by Layne Johnson are the icing on this historical cake. When I was reading this story, I couldn’t help but think of the “hug lady.” (Go ahead and click–it’s a great story!) Several pages of back matter provide information as to how Moina Belle Michael’s legacy has been carried out, how Barbara Elizabeth Walsh came to write the story, and a selected bibliography. My girls read “In Flanders Field” and about how it came to be written as a part of their history studies, so this book was the perfect tie-in for us. Highly Recommended. (Calkins Creek, 2012)
In addition to these two nonfiction picture books, we all enjoyed an absolutely gorgeous fiction picture book entitled Waiting for the Evening Starby Rosemary Wells. It had me on the opening page, which is a poem entitled “Under the Elms” and contains the lines
Enough was plenty.
And what we didn’ t know
Could wait till we were twenty.
“Enough was plenty”–I LOVE that! Oh my goodness–what a beautiful story! It’s about a Vermont farm family and how they live their lives together in the wheel of time:
Time went by like a slow song with so many verses you couldn’t count them.
Of course, the coming of World War I introduces change into their lives, as does the ambition of a big brother who wants to see the world. Family love and the rhythms of nature and the relationships of brothers are what this is about, even more than the war itself. It’s about growing up and growing older and having hope in the face of sadness. Susan Jeffers’ illustrations are gorgeous–I mean, just LOOK at that cover! This one is definitely worth hunting down. Highly Recommended. (Dial Books, 1993)
While I was reading The Poppy Lady aloud to my kids, I saw a war poster on one of the pages that says “Knit Your Bit.” This jogged my memory to recall that I reviewed another World War I picture book a few years ago: Knit Your Bit by Deborah Hopkinson. Alas, I couldn’t find our copy to share it again with my own children, but maybe you can find a copy at your library.
I know there have to be more World War I picture books out there. Do you know of any? I’d love to hear about them!