|French Children at Play During the War|
Edited by Tony Bradmans
Published by Orchard Books, 2014
'Popping up the Line' is partly based on the experiences of my maternal grandfather, Alfred Gauntlett. He was gassed in the First World War - he survived the attack, but eventually died in middle age. His lungs were so badly damaged that he would only work in the summer. He said very little to any of his family about his experiences in France. When the call came to write something about the First World War, I realised that I had a chance to write about Alfred and, mostly through invention, I have done my best to honour his story and his sacrifice (41).There are some frightening images in the story, but these are described in terms that children will understand and with images that are familiar. A case in point is when the narrator describes soldiers hanging from the barbed wire in No Man's Land:
Whole portions of them . . . were miraculously left behind like tea leaves caught in a strainer - bits of men hooked up and hanging there for all to see, like the display in an awful butcher's window; or if there were enough shreds and rags of uniform still attached to the lumps and limbs, then it was more like the washing flapping on a Monday morning at home (44).When Alfred returns from the front after having been gassed, he recognizes that people want to know what it is like to be in the trenches. Alfred does what so many soldiers did in real life: he keeps quiet, "he couldn't tell them anything not now or ever. He just wanted indoors, calm and a cup of tea" (54). The burden of the truth inside him must be "kept cold like the joint of a half leg of lamb in the meat safe" (55). The story concludes with his daughter Nell remembering how she used to joke with her father–and the realization that the time has passed for this. The game is over forever.
|German Children at Play During the War|
For young children who know little about the war, Bradman includes a short "editor's note" in which he describes important features of the conflict, famous writers who have commemorated the war in their fiction and poetry, and several informative websites. While Stories of WW1 is a book for children, it can also be read by adults. Ideally, it should be read by adults to young children. Each story can act as a starting point for discussing the war; in this way, the story becomes a tribute to as well as a commemoration of the deeply human side of war.
Jane M. Ekstam, Østfold University College, Norway
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