Reading About the Great War

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Inly’s middle school students are studying World War I. They are reading “In Flanders Fields,” studying the map of Europe in 1914, and trying to wrap their heads around the unfathomable number of the dead and wounded. In literature class, the students are reading The Lord of the Nutcracker Men by Iain Lawrence and War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. There is even a small group of 8th grade students reading the classic novel, All Quiet on the Western Front

One of their assignments is to find a way to represent the 29 million dead and wounded – to attempt to understand what that number really means and begin to understand the unprecedented toll WWI had on the world. The kids always come up with creative and compelling ways to show the number – like this example using Cheerios:



I also provide them with a list of other books related to the Great War and the early 1900s.  While there are literally hundreds of choices for them when they study WWII later in the year, there are far fewer selections for the WWI-era.  This is the list of books I recommend: 

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance by Jennifer Armstrong

With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman’s Right to Vote by Ann Bausum (The story of the events between 1906 and 1920, which led to women getting the right to vote)

The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane by Russell Freedman (Of course, the students have the opportunity to learn about Dayton, Ohio’s most famous inventors – Wilbur and Orville Wright)

The War to End All Wars by Russell Freedman

Time of Angels by Karen Hesse (a novel about the influenza epidemic of 1918)

Pictures, 1918 by Jeannette Ingold (A 15-year-old girl growing up in Texas during WWI)

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (The story of 16-year-old Hattie who leaves Iowa and moves to Montana in 1918)

A Time for Courage: The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen by Kathryn Lasky (the fictional diary of a 13-year-old girl growing up in Washington, D.C.)

Charlie Wilcox by Sharon McKay (A good book for young readers about a boy who encounters the horrors of war)

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo (a thoughtful novel about a young English soldier)

Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting by Jim Murphy (the true story of the 1914 Christmas truce)

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (Part adventure novel. Part steampunk. Part historical fiction. This book takes place on a biological airship that looks like a flying whale!)

On Feburary 12, the sequel to Hattie Big SkyHattie Ever After – is being released, and I can’t wait to read it. In the sequel, Hattie moves to San Francisco to follow her dream of becoming a reporter. I’ll “report” back as soon as I read it. 




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