Let’s face it, there’s no shortage of excellent books out there for anyone interested in the First World War but how do you choose one for children aged between 7-11 that’s not too graphic yet not too saccharine either? The Guardian made its recommendations here and Book Trust here.
An information book I’ve found both useful and accessible is The Story of the First World War for Children published by Carlton Books in association with the Imperial War Museum.
At £15.99 (hardback) it’s not cheap but this book is well-produced, with enough text and information to give a good overview of events and enough illustrations, maps and tables to break and support the text. The glossary and index are easy to use, too. The Story of the First World War for Children is a good one to buy for the KS2 and KS3 school library, methinks.
For me, though, it’s fiction that not only brings the war to life but also helps us understand it and share the pity and pain of it. Here are three fiction titles I highly recommend, especially for those looking for something new. All were published in the last two years and all would make excellent stories to read out loud to a class or as books for independent readers.
First up is Where the Poppies Now Grow written by Hilary Robinson and illustrated by Martin Impey. This book is unusual, given the genre, in that it is in picture book format (as opposed to a graphic novel), yet suitable for any age. That’s a tough act to pull off but Hilary Robinson does it with such surety, the reader is carried along, both by her sensitive text and Martin Impey’s perfectly-matched illustrations.
The story starts with a double-page spread showing the watery sun breaking through grey clouds and alighting upon a field full of poppies. The opening line reads: ‘This is the field where the poppies now grow.’ From then on the story of two friends, Ben and Ray, builds and builds. With each turn of the page, the verse gets longer, the illustrations darker, until Ben and Ray’s destinies are fulfilled, after which we are guided gently back home.
This book is a must for any child’s bookshelf and any adult’s too.
Where The Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey
Published by Strauss House Productions 2014
Hilary Robinson with her second ‘Poppies’ book, The Christmas Truce. Just as good as Where The Poppies Now Grow, even without the chocolate.
To follow : Five Children on The Western Front by Kate Saunders