Tag Archives: soldiers

A Soldier’s Sketchbook by John Wilson

A Soldier’s Sketchbook: The Illustrated First World War Diary of R.H. Rabjohn by John Wilson. March 7, 2017. Tundra Books, 112 p. ISBN: 9781770498549.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.0; Lexile: 990.

A unique First World War diary, illustrated with more than a hundred stunning pencil sketches, for children learning history and also for adults interested in a new perspective on the War and authentic wartime artefacts.

Russell Rabjohn was just eighteen years old when he joined up to fight in the First World War. In his three years of soldiering, he experienced the highs and lows of army life, from a carefree leave in Paris to the anguish of seeing friends die around him. Like many soldiers, he defied army regulations and recorded everything he saw and felt in a small pocket diary.

Private Rabjohn was a trained artist, and as such he was assigned to draw dugouts, map newly captured trenches, and sketch the graves of his fallen comrades. This allowed him to carry an artist’s sketchbook on the battlefield–a freedom he put to good use, drawing everything he saw. Here, in vivid detail, are images of the captured pilot of a downed German biplane; the horrific Flanders mud; a German observation balloon exploding in midair; and the jubilant mood in the streets of Belgium when the Armistice is finally signed. With no surviving veterans of the First World War, Rabjohn’s drawings are an unmatched visual record of a lost time.

Award-winning author John Wilson brings his skills as a historian and researcher to bear, carefully curating the diary to provide context and tell the story of Private Rabjohn’s war. He has selected each of the diary entries and the accompanying images, and has provided the background that modern-day readers need to understand what a young soldier went through a century ago. The result is a wonderfully detailed and dramatic account of the war as seen through an artist’s eyes.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war, Xenophobic epithets

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 7-10. Russell Hughes Rabjohn was only 18 when, in 1916, he enlisted in the Canadian armed forces to fight in WWI. Following some eight months of training, he was shipped to the French front. Already a trained artist, he was assigned to map trenches, draw dugouts, and sketch the graves of his fallen comrades. As Wilson notes, this gave him leave to carry a sketchbook to the front (soldiers were normally forbidden to sketch, paint, or photograph close to fighting). The more than 100 beautifully rendered pencil sketches contained in this fascinating book are, therefore, a rare visual record of one soldier’s vivid and often chilling experiences of war. The sketches are accompanied by excerpts from Rabjohn’s diaries, five of which Wilson serendipitously discovered in the Canadian War Museum. The entries are enhanced by Wilson’s contextual commentary, and each of the six sections into which the book is divided are introduced by his more discursive background information. The result is a captivating introduction to the realities of the Great War.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2017)
A young Canadian soldier’s reminiscences from the western front.In this unusual memoir, historian Wilson describes being shown Rabjohn’s diary, published privately in 1977, by Rabjohn’s Canadian great-niece. Wilson has transformed the diary into a compelling account of World War I, compiled from Rabjohn’s diary and sketchbooks and supplemented with contextual information about the war. Just 18 when he enlisted in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force in 1916, Rabjohn saw direct action in major battles, including the assault on Vimy Ridge, the Battle of Arras, and the muddy horror show that was the Third Battle of Ypres, or Passchendaele. The extracts from the diary describe intimate wartime experiences of death and destruction in gruesomely dispassionate terms. Apart from a blissful two-week leave in Paris, it’s a story of unmitigated horror, highlighting more than any textbook the futility of war. As a trained artist, Rabjohn was allowed to bring sketchbooks onto the battlefield and thus created a unique portfolio of accurate pencil sketches of trenches, dugouts, and graves. He also depicted scenes of soldiers, buildings, and devastated landscapes, which he reworked and supplemented when he came home. Endpaper maps of Western Europe and the parts of France and Belgium where Rabjohn saw action help situate readers. This unique compilation of firsthand impressions of the Great War will be a valuable resource for adults and teens with an interest in this turning point in world history. (index, timeline, further reading) (Nonfiction. 12-adult)

About the Author

John Wilson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and moved to Canada after university to work as a geologist. Eventually he began to write full time, and today he is one of Canada’s best-known authors of historical fiction and nonfiction for kids, teens, and adults. He’s published more than forty books, including several novels set during the First World War: Wings of War, Dark Terror, And in the Morning and Shot at Dawn. His books have won or been shortlisted for numerous prizes, including the Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Text, the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, the Red Maple and White Pine Awards, the Hackmatack Children’s Choice Award, the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize, and the prestigious Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction. John Wilson lives in Lantzville on Vancouver Island.

Her website is www.johnwilsonauthor.com.

Teacher Resources

World War I Resources from the NEA

Around the Web

A Soldier’s Sketchbook on Amazon

A Soldier’s Sketchbook on Goodreads

A Soldier’s Sketchbook on JLG

A Soldier’s Sketchbook Publisher Page

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Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray. April 4, 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 512 p. ISBN: 9780316394031.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

She’s a soldier.

Noemi Vidal is seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything–including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.

He’s a machine.

Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination.

Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; War; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Alcohol; Body humor

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 7-11. A trial run for a major offensive against Earth turns into a rescue operation for Genesis soldier Noemi Vidal, as she tries to save a friend from a surprise attack by Earth mechs (mechanized warriors) and ends up boarding a disabled Earth warship from an earlier battle. The ship isn’t empty; for the last 30 years, a one-of-a-kind mech, Abel, has waited for someone to release him from his tin prison. Noemi needs for Abel to complete a deadly mission that will give her planet more time to prepare for the coming war, but his sacrifice becomes less desirable as they get to know each other. This first-rate STEM-packed adventure explores what it means to be human and whether people are truly their brothers’ keepers. The point of view alternates between the two main characters, but Gray too often chooses to tell rather than let the narrative unfold through dialogue and action. There are subtleties to be found, though, in the deft handling of the developing relationship between Noemi and Abel.) | Twitter

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2017)
A teen soldier teams up with an enemy android to end an interplanetary war. During a practice for her Masada Run, Genesis soldier Noemi (a human of Latin American and Polynesian ancestry) discovers an Earth ship abandoned during the last war. The reference is purposeful: it’s a suicide mission to damage the Gate between Earth and Genesis in order to stave off Earth’s offensive. Abel (a mech with artificial intelligence and self-awareness, modeled after his white creator) has waited alone on that ship for 30 years. Abel’s far more advanced than his task-oriented peers, with a (delightfully passive-aggressive) personality of his own, and he wants to return to his “father” but is programmed to recognize Noemi as his new superior and obey her. Using Abel, Noemi realizes she can destroy the gate and save her fellow soldiers’ lives, so she tears across the universe on the desperate, long-shot mission. Abel discovers the changes the past 30 years have wrought: Earth’s environmental degradation makes new homes like pristine Genesis necessary, but Earth leadership can’t be trusted not to destroy them too. Meanwhile, Noemi also learns the fuller picture and connects with people from different walks—including Abel, who she begins to suspect is more than a machine. Nuanced philosophical discussions of religion, terrorism, and morality advise and direct the high-stakes action, informing the beautiful, realistic ending. Intelligent and thoughtful, a highly relevant far-off speculative adventure. (Science-fiction. 12 & up)

About the Author

Claudia Gray is not my real name. I didn’t choose a pseudonym because my real name is unpleasant (it isn’t), because I’d always dreamed of calling myself this (I haven’t) or even because I’m hiding from the remnants of that international diamond-smuggling cartel I smashed in 2003 (Interpol has taken care of them). In short, I took a pseudonym for no real reason whatsoever. Sometimes this is actually the best reason to do things.

I live in New Orleans. So far, in life, I’ve been a disc jockey, a lawyer, a journalist and an extremely bad waitress, just to name a few. I especially like to spend time traveling, hiking, reading and listening to music. More than anything else, I enjoy writing.

Her website is www.claudiagray.com.

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Defy the Stars on Amazon

Defy the Star on Goodreads

Defy the Star on JLG

Defy the Star Publisher Page

An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpugo

An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpugo. January 17, 2017. Feiwel & Friends, 144 p. ISBN: 9781250105158.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.8.

England, 1940. Barney’s home has been destroyed by bombing, and he and his mother are traveling to the countryside when German planes attack. Their train is forced to take shelter in a tunnel and there, in the darkness, a stranger― a fellow passenger―begins to tell them a story about two young soldiers who came face to face in the previous war. One British, one German. Both lived, but the British soldier was haunted by the encounter once he realized who the German was: the young Adolf Hitler.

The British soldier made a moral decision. Was it the right one? Readers can ponder that difficult question for themselves with Michael Morpurgo’s latest middle-grade novel An Eagle in the Snow.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Xenophobic epithets

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 5-8. Morpurgo’s gentle WWII tale is loosely based on a real British soldier who may or may not have spared Adolf Hitler’s life during WWI. Barney and his mother are traveling to Cornwall by train after their home in Coventry is bombed. Another passenger joins them in their compartment, and when the train takes refuge from German fighter planes in a tunnel, to pass the time, the man tells them about his friend Billy Byron, who, during WWI, let a German soldier go instead of shooting him. Later, he learns that the soldier was Adolf Hitler, and he missed his chance at preventing WWII. The narrative is deceptively simple, and while Barney is the narrator, most of the narrative consists of the man telling Billy Byron’s story. The casual tone of the story the stranger tells is in compellingly sharp contrast to the powerful questions it raises about duty and honor. A couple of light twists at the end are not entirely unexpected. Morpurgo concludes the book with information about Henry Tandey, the real Billy Byron.

Publishers Weekly (November 14, 2016)
What if a British soldier had a chance to shoot Hitler on a WWI battlefield but opted to let him go instead? Morpurgo’s incisive historical novel draws inspiration from the life of Henry Tandey, the war’s most decorated British private, who allegedly had just such an encounter. Naming his protagonist Billy Byron, Morpurgo tells the story in flashbacks, as a boy named Barney and his mother flee Coventry on a London-bound train in 1940. Another passenger, who introduces himself as one of Billy’s lifelong friends, describes Billy’s self-doubt, guilt, and dismay when lingering battle wounds prevented him from serving in WWII, since “as far as Billy was concerned, this whole war is his fault.” The stranger’s descriptions of Billy’s compassion and emotional turmoil are gripping in their own right, but Morpurgo will catch some readers off guard with supernaturally tinged twists he drops in the final chapters and epilogue. Originally published in the U.K. in 2015, this is an intricately crafted contemplation of the wrenching consequences of good intentions gone awry. Ages 10-14. (Jan.)

About the Author

Michael Morpurgo is the author of many books for children, five of which have been made into films. He also writes his own screenplays and libretti for opera. Born in St Albans, Hertfordshire, in 1943, he was evacuated to Cumberland during the last years of the war, then returned to London, moving later to Essex. After a brief and unsuccessful spell in the army, he took up teaching and started to write. He left teaching after ten years in order to set up ‘Farms for City Children’ with his wife. They have three farms in Devon, Wales and Gloucestershire, open to inner city school children who come to stay and work with the animals. In 1999 this work was publicly recognized when he and his wife were awarded an MBE for services to youth. He is also a father and grandfather, so children have always played a large part in his life. Every year he and his family spend time in the Scilly Isles, the setting for three of his books.

Her website is www.michaelmorpurgo.com.

Teacher Resources

An Eagle in the Snow Teacher Resource Kit

Around the Web

An Eagle in the Snow on Amazon

An Eagle in the Snow on Goodreads

An Eagle in the Snow on JLG

An Eagle in the Snow Publisher Page

Four-Four-Two by Dean Hughes

Four-Four-Two by Dean Hughes. November 8, 2016. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781481462525.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 820.

From the author of Soldier Boys and Search and Destroy comes a thought-provoking, action-packed page-turner based on the little-known history of the Japanese Americans who fought with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II.

Yuki Nakahara is an American.

But it’s the start of World War II, and America doesn’t see it that way. Like many other Japanese Americans, Yuki and his family have been forced into an internment camp in the Utah desert. But Yuki isn’t willing to sit back and accept this injustice—it’s his country too, and he’s going to prove it by enlisting in the army to fight for the Allies.

When Yuki and his friend Shig ship out, they aren’t prepared for the experiences they’ll encounter as members of the “Four-Four-Two,” a segregated regiment made up entirely of Japanese-American soldiers. Before Yuki returns home—if he returns home—he’ll come face to face with persistent prejudices, grueling combat he never imagined, and friendships deeper than he knew possible.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Smoking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 7-10. In December 1941, FBI agents arrest Yuki Nakahara’s father without cause. By 1943, 18-year-old Yuki and his family have been “relocated” from California to an internment camp in Utah. Despite this, Yuki enlists in the U.S. Army with his best friend, Shig, and they join the Second Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (which comprises only Japanese Americans, as whites refuse to fight alongside them). Yuki initially boasts about becoming a war hero, but is sobered as he sees friends killed by German artillery. After months of relentless battle, Yuki and Shig’s comrades-in-arms suffer countless casualties and gain a reputation as “the Purple Heart Battalion.” Finally, because generals view the nisei soldiers as expendable, Yuki’s battalion is sent on an almost impossible mission to rescue white American soldiers surrounded by German forces. Hughes’ writing effectively evokes the horrors of war and the internal conflict of young men fighting for a country that has treated them unjustly. The challenges of Yuki’s reentry into the States are also well conveyed: the guilt of survival, the difficulty of communicating the war experience to civilians, and the continued widespread racism. Though a couple of conversations seem stilted for the sake of exposition, in general the dialogue reads naturally (even the pidgin English spoken by Hawaiian soldiers is decent). This is historical fiction at its finest—immersive and inspirational.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2016)
The book’s title refers to the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was composed entirely of Issei and Nisei (first-generation Japanese immigrants and their children, respectively) who served in WWII, and which earned the name Purple Heart Battalion because so many of its soldiers were either wounded or killed in battle. In December 1941, Hughes’s protagonist, Berkeley high-schooler Yuki Nakahara, watches helplessly as FBI agents arrest his father as a spy and unceremoniously haul him away. Less than six months later, Yuki and his siblings, all American citizens, are deported with their mother to the Topaz internment camp in Utah. Yet Yuki decides to join the army because he believes it’s the only way he’ll “ever be respected in this country.” Readers follow him through basic training; the agonies of battle, loss, and injury; and his return home. Events, characters, and dialogue create an indelible sense of time and place. When Yuki’s mother protests her husband’s arrest, an FBI agent spits out: “That’s enough, lady. Your husband’s a sneaky little slant-eyed Jap. That’s all we need to know.” A Denver barber refuses to “cut Jap hair” even though Yuki is wearing his Silver Star and Purple Heart. Yuki’s wish to put it all behind him realistically characterizes so many of “the greatest generation”; his father’s lack of physical affection is a cultural marker; and the sweet, naive romance with the girl back home reflects the times. A predictable story arc lessens the novel’s tension; still, Yuki emerges as a true hero during a dark period of American history. betty carter

About the Author

Dean Hughes is the author of more than eighty books for young readers, including the popular sports series Angel Park All-Stars, the Scrappers series, the Nutty series, the widely acclaimed companion novels Family Pose and Team Picture, and Search and Destroy. Soldier Boys was selected for the 2001 New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age list. Dean Hughes and his wife, Kathleen, have three children and six grandchildren. They live in Midway, Utah.

His website is www.deanhughes.net.

Around the Web

Four-Four-Two on Amazon

Four-Four-Two on Goodreads

Four-Four-Two on JLG

Four-Four-Two Publisher Page