50 Things You Should Know About The First World War by Jim Eldridge
|50 Things You Should Know About The First World War by Jim Eldridge
|Category: Children's Non-Fiction
|Reviewer: John Lloyd
|Summary: More perhaps for the classroom than the bedroom, but this vivid book will serve as a firm ground for knowledge of the subject.
|Date: June 2014
|Publisher: QED Publishing
They said it would be all over by Christmas. No, not the First World War – the flood of books being released to commemorate the centenary of it. But it hasn't stopped, and while I don't know which year you're reading this review in, I dare say there'll still be books covering this important period of history after whichever Christmas is next on the calendar. This one is launched at a time when it feels quite late, yet of course, the centenary still has four years to run, so it has to have the staying power to remain relevant throughout that time. And with the value it would have for school libraries, I can see that stamina on every page.
It's a non-fiction book certainly for the primary school audience, and as a result, is fully pictorial and not terribly wordy. The '50 Things' idea is a hook to draw one in, and that leads to fifty more salient paragraphs being given us in bold print, mostly but not all given a double-page spread. But there are other boxed-out paragraphs, timelines, factoids written up the edge of the page, illuminating captions and more, so there is certainly a welter of detail. Said diversity of detail can be delivered at times in awkward fashion – even with three paragraphs at most per page it can still be a test to read them in the right order – but it does mean this book covers the gamut of the War, pretty much in chronological order, and more or less in perfectly-judged depth.
The main 50 points aren't all just regarding key events – Verdun, Vimy Ridge et al. They bring many of the relevant areas of the war to life – from the women left working on the home front or the Italian situation to the use of tanks, planes, propaganda, chemical warfare… Quite often you get the empathy of the people alive through the decade, and therefore this book would hit many points on a teacher's curriculum.
Now and again a junior non-fiction read can teach me something I didn't know, and I'm happy with both admitting and reporting that this happened here. I don't think I was aware of a coded message from Germany to Mexico that was supposed to incite a western hemisphere element of the World War, and that that finally goaded the USA to join. It's a handy detail as I'm sure I was supposed to know about it, and it provides me with evidence of the scope and range of this book. It's firm on detail and clever with trivia – allied helmets didn't exist until late 1915 – and as a result, will serve as a great grounding to study. I know many parents will think of having one book on the subject for home use and this would fit the bill if it's got to their attention in time, but I do think it would have more success in the school library, where it would be read more often than if it lived on the home study shelf.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
For a much more individual story of the times, in a very similarly pictorial format, there is Walter Tull's Scrapbook by Michaela Morgan, which is worth a look. For a dyslexia-friendly war story, we can recommend Under Attack by Jim Eldridge and Dave Shepherd.
You can read more book reviews or buy 50 Things You Should Know About The First World War by Jim Eldridge at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy 50 Things You Should Know About The First World War by Jim Eldridge at Amazon.com.
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