Tuesday 2 September 2014

Archie's War Scrapbook

Finding books about the First World War for younger children hasn't been easy. I would like my five and seven year olds to know about the War but I don't want to traumatise them. There also seem to be fewer children's books about the First World War than the Second World War. 

Archie's War Scrapbook: The First World War 1914-1918 by Marcia Williams is one of the few books about the First World War for younger children. I am grateful to Sherry at Semicolon blog for this recommendation.

This book is written as a scrapbook by the fictional Alfie who was conveniently given the scrapbook for his tenth birthday in April 1914. It is filled in in scrapbook style with cartoons, copies of pieces from newspapers and letters. The letters are sometimes in envelopes and are made to look authentic: one even has a "grease" stain from bully beef. 

Alfie lives in the East End of London and whilst the book mainly covers what happens at home, in England, the happenings abroad are covered with details in cartoon form at the bottom of each page, in newspaper cuttings and letters. Using this format an amazing amount is covered including changing attitudes to the war, recruitment, conscription, war deaths, war injuries including "shell shock", women going to work, attitude to Germans, life in the country, rationing and food shortages, Zepplins, bombing and the end of the War.

Overall, this is a helpful book which deals with the realities of war in a way that is interesting for younger children but unlikely to cause nightmares. I am planning to use this with my children, and have already read it aloud to them. However, I do have a few caveats: there is one lavatorial reference-to urinating out of the window at night due to fear of the Germans (I can imagine a 10 year old boy writing this!), occasional language that I would prefer my children not to use, for example, the reference to German spies in this caption and a reference to Archie's dog as a ghost dog on the back cover. 

I am hoping to post about other First World War resources that we are planning to use, in the next few weeks. Do let me know about any books about the First World War for children. I do have a short list but would love to add to this.

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  1. I saw the book at a bookstore but didn't look at it closely so I'm glad you're sharing your review of it here. The language sounds true to life, considering the setting is in the East End! I understand why you don't want the children to be exposed to it though. :-)

    1. Hwee, thank you for commenting after I lost the first comment. Yes, I guess the language is true to life but not what I would wish the children to use.

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  2. I also forgot to mention 'The Little Hen and the Great War', by Jennifer Beck:


    which was much more suited to the little ones than 'War Game'.

    Thanks for all your lovely blog posts!


    1. Gwen, thank you so much for these really helpful suggestions. I have been exploring the websites and will enjoy using these with the children. "The Little Hen and the Great War" sounds great for younger children too. I think we will be acquiring a copy!