Book Review: The Story of the First World War for Children (1914-1918) by John Balam

Reviewed by Phil Ferguson & Ross Young

This is an informative picture-book text describing and illustrating, through text, photographs and other documents, the events of the First World War.

The author has reliably researched the subject in partnership with the Imperial War Museum and the text covers the events of the war from the beginnings of the build-up of national powers and alliances, through to the concluding Armistice of 1918. It also includes the involvement of the colonies belonging to the major powers.

This picture- book does not make an emotional appeal to the reader. There are few truly iconic photographs, no poems or letters home from combatants, no explicit focus on the suffering of individuals nor on the politicians or leaders who influenced its outcomes. Instead, it does exactly what it says on the tin: it gives a purely factual and chronological account of the events of that war and, as such, perhaps fills a genuine gap.

Its stated aim of telling the story of the war is really well supported by the format: each double- page spread has a specific heading, and the information is presented in headed ‘chunks’ with related photographs, maps and other documents.The reader would have little difficulty in following the text, which is written in a simple and direct way, and a glossary is provided to explain technical and military vocabulary.There are short sections on the contributions to the war effort by animals, recruiting posters – and women (a little bit of an add-on, maybe).

It’s only fair to say that the detail in the text of battle positions, manoeuvres and types of ammunition will not interest all readers. I think, however, that the book could be considered as a useful addition to the non-fiction section of a class or school library collection on its merits as a wholly factual information text, most suited to the Upper Key Stage Two and beyond age-range. It also has something to offer the adult reader in terms of giving an overview of the entire progress of the war with all its dubious defeats and victories.



The Story of the First World War for Children (1914-1918) was published 8th March 2018 by Carlton Books Ltd

Phil Ferguson & Ross Young are teachers writing under the name of Literacy For Pleasure and they also help curate the twitter group #WritingRocks. They have a long standing interest in children’s literature and in the quality of the class library.