Book Reviews: Great War Stories for Young Readers

In 1918 the United War Work Campaign combined the fundraising efforts of service organizations like the YWCA and YMCA. (Library of Congress)
In 1918 the United War Work Campaign combined the fundraising efforts of service organizations like the YWCA and YMCA. (Library of Congress)
WORLD WAR I FOR KIDS, by R. Kent Rasmussen (Chicago Review Press)

World War I was a global conflict that killed millions of people, destroyed empires and created new nations. Not exactly kid stuff, but as an epochal historical event it should be studied by old and young alike. And so comes R. Kent Rasmussen’s World War I for Kids, an impressive yet manageable overview of the Great War. The book sidesteps brutal battles and instead focuses on big-picture narrative and color—the causes of the war, the key personalities, the naval and aerial combat, the life of soldiers in the trenches. It explains, for example, the importance of zeppelins and barbed wire and adds a few activities for kids—learn the lyrics to “Over There,” the war’s most popular song, for example. This is a well-conceived book, and one with a trove of good artwork.

STUBBY THE WAR DOG, by Ann Bausum (National Geographic Kids)

Animals were a big part of World War I. Horses and mules hauled materiel, and there were plenty of dogs, too. A couple of U.S. canines became famous—perhaps most notably a bull-terrier mix named Stubby. As author Ann Bausum tells the story in Stubby the War Dog, Connecticut National Guardsmen training at Yale University in 1917 discovered a stray dog with a nubby tail, named him Stubby, and he became the mascot for the 102nd Infantry, one of four regiments of the 26th (Yankee) Division. The unit smuggled Stubby to France, and before long the dog was living in the trenches and doing four-footed combat duty. Stubby supposedly barked during German gas attacks, and suffered a shrapnel wound during one battle. French women made him a chamois jacket, later decorated with medals, and President Woodrow Wilson shook his paw during a visit with the Yankee Division in December 1918. Bausum has written a longer version of this heroic dog tale titled Sergeant Stubby, also from National Geographic.

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