Remembering the First World War…

Today and over the weekend across the UK, the lives of the many soldiers who fought in the First World War were commemorated. Aside from the sheer number of people who died, what I can never get my head around is just how young many of the soldiers were – and that some of them, who were below the minimum age for signing up, lied about their age so that they could go off and fight. Sources disagree about the age of the youngest soldier to have served, but some place it as young as 12 or 13. With so many young people doing their bit on the front line and on the home front, it’s a period of history that continues to captivate young writers and readers alike. Here are my picks of some of the most moving, thought-provoking and action-packed books set in the Great War…

when the guns fall silentWhen the Guns Fall Silent, James Riordan

I have been reading this touching story this week, in which a boy visits the war graves in France with his granddad, who tells him about the time when the Allies and Germans put down their weapons to play a football match during a ceasefire on Christmas Day.

remembranceRemembrance, Theresa Breslin

This novel follows five teenagers from two families in Scotland during the Great War. From a soldier in the trenches to a pacifist, and from a frontline nurse to a girl who takes advantages of the new opportunities the war created for women, it shows just some of the ways the war changed people’s lives forever.

private peacefulPrivate Peaceful, Michael Morpurgo

This book, about a young boy named Thomas who goes off to fight in the war and reminisces about his childhood, comes with a ‘have tissues on hand warning’.

anzac boysA Rose for the Anzac Boys, Jackie French

A stirring tale about a girl from New Zealand who goes to school in Europe to learn to be a lady, but ends up starting a canteen in France with her friends, where they care for wounded soldiers.

foreshadowingThe Foreshadowing, Marcus Sedgewick

In this book by one of my favourite writers, a 17-year-old girl poses as a nurse so that she can go to France in search of her brother.

War-Horse-Book-CoverWar Horse, Michael Morpurgo

A boy is separated from his horse by the ravages of war, and each of them go on an incredible journey that will test them and their bond to the very limit. Gripping stuff – yet another by Morpurgo to have me reaching for the tissues!

dancing daysAfter the Dancing Days,  Margaret I. Rostkowski

A girl on the brink of womanhood comes to terms with the brutal after-effects of war when she meets an injured soldier near her home in Kansas.

stay where you areStay Where You Are and Then Leave, John Boyne

Aimed at younger readers, this book by the author of The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas has wider appeal because of the moving content. A young boy’s father promises he won’t go away and fight, but breaks that promise and leaves for war the next day. Four years later the boy finds out his father is being treated for an unusual condition in a hospital in London and sets out to rescue him.

Which books set in World War One would you recommend?

Are there any other periods of history that you enjoy reading about?

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