The Great War: Stories Inspired by Objects from the Great War
The objects that inspired these eleven stories are very varied and include a tin helmet, some sheet music, the nose from a Zeppelin bomb and a Victoria Cross. The eleven authors are top quality, including Michael Morpurgo, John Boyne, Timothée de Fombelle, A. J. Kennedy and Marcus Sedgwick. The stories are very diverse in scope, tone and treatment.
For example, Tanya Lee Stone’s blank verse story is about an African-American horn-playing soldier in a black regiment, the ‘Haarlem Hellfighters’ who went to war in 1917 and played ragtime music to the troops. Tracy Chevalier’s story was inspired by a Princess Mary Fund gift box. Three children squabble when one of them steals some cigarettes from the gift box due to go to a soldier at the front. The story ends with a surprising, but satisfying, twist.
Sheena Wilkinson offers an unusual slant on the human cost of war as we slowly realize that sixteen-year-old Edith must give up all hope of a college education and a bright future. Her mother is dead, her brother Gilbert has returned shell-shocked from the war. Who else is there but Edith to look after him and their father, and keep house? David Almond’s inspirational story looks at sectarian violence. The Craigs and the Killens have fought for generations. It takes a school visit from Agnes Bourne, whose fiancé John was killed in the Great War, to change things. She shows the children John’s writing case with the now brittle pencils and thin writing paper, and suggests that they each write a letter about a world with no war in it. Gradually, the possibility of mending relationships between the warring families emerges.
Special mention must go to Jim Kay, whose fragmented black and white illustrations complement the stories perfectly. For confident readers of eleven plus. Highly recommended.