Podcast: World War I books & exhibit
The following is the transcript from the video of the Booklovers Podcast: World War I books and exhibit.
Laura: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Clermont County Public Library’s Booklovers Podcast. I’m your host, Laura. And today I’m with Emily and Stacy. And during this episode, we’re talking about books related to WWI, because Emily’s also going to talk about a WWI exhibit at the library.
Remember to visit our website, Clermontlibrary.org, for show notes with links to all of the books that we’re talking about.
Stacy: [00:00:37] This is a really fun project to kind of dig into because there are so many books about WW II. I picked all the children’s books we’re going to talk about today. So many books about world war II, not so many books about World War I, right?
Laura: [00:00:59] That’s interesting that there aren’t so many about World WarI. I wonder why.
Stacy: [00:01:03] I don’t know. Maybe WWII gets more buzz.
Emily: [00:01:10] I bet there were very few before we had the Centennial.
Stacy: [00:01:15] That’s true.
Emily: [00:01:17] There’s probably more now than there were.
World War I Book Suggestions
Stacy: [00:01:19] Definitely. So, we’ll get started with our first pick here. This one is great for young kids – kindergarten through third grade. It’d be a great read aloud, at home or in the classroom, or, if you like the story, just to read it as an adult, because it is adorable.
It is Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick illustrated by Sophie Blackall, and it actually won the Caldecott honor for the year it was published, which is awesome.
Laura: [00:01:49] It is such a cute story.
Stacy: [00:01:53] Cute cover. The story is in 1914, Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian on his way to tend horses in World War I, followed his heart and rescued a baby bear. He named the bear Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg, and he took the bear to war.
Harry’s real-life great-granddaughter tells the true story of a remarkable friendship and an even more remarkable journey–from the fields of Canada to a convoy across the ocean to an army base in England. And finally, to the London Zoo, where Winnie made another new friend: a real boy named Christopher Robin.
Before Winnie-the-Pooh, there was a real bear named Winnie. And she was a female black bear!
Laura: [00:02:39] It’s really cute.
Stacy: [00:02:43] Yes. And it’s a true story, so it’s a nonfiction pick, which is great.
Laura: [00:02:47] That is awesome. All right, Emily, I think you’re up next.
Emily: [00:02:53] WW I novels for adults get into all different kinds of genres. I stuck with mysteries for this podcast.
And first up is Charles Todd, which is the pen name for a mother-son writing team, and they have two lengthy WWI mystery series. This first one is about inspector Ian Rutledge, who is a WWI veteran.
It takes place after the war. He was – in his pre-war life – an inspector for Scotland Yard and he really just wants to get back into his job, but he’s been shell shocked and he has a lot of mental health issues as a result. And the cases he keeps investigating, keep triggering things for him from his war experience.
There are 22 books in this series already, and it’s still going. And the very first one is this one here on the screen, A Test of Wills. If you’re interested in that time period, you’ve got a lengthy set of stories to explore
Laura: [00:03:54] That’s interesting that it’s a mother and son writing.
Emily: [00:03:58] I was surprised. I had not realized that myself about that author until I did a little more digging.
Laura: [00:04:04] Interesting. All right, Stacy.
Stacy: [00:04:06] My next pick is another, illustrated nonfiction picture book. And this would be great for early elementary readers. Called Soldier for Equality: José de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War by Duncan Tonatiuh. José de la Luz Sáenz (Luz) believed in fighting for what was right.
Though born in the United States, Luz often faced prejudice because of his Mexican heritage. Determined to help his community, even in the face of discrimination, he taught schoolchildren during the day and adults in the evenings.
When World War I broke out, Luz joined the army. His ability to quickly learn languages made him an invaluable member of the Intelligence Office in Europe. However, Luz found that prejudice followed him even to war, and despite his efforts, he often didn’t receive credit for his contributions.
Upon returning home to Texas, he joined with other Mexican American veterans to create the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which today is the largest and oldest Latinx civil rights organization. This was just published this year.
So probably like Emily was saying in conjunction with the Centennial. And I wouldn’t be surprised if won few awards; it’s been getting a lot of really good praise.
Laura: [00:05:37] Well, it seems like a very timely book with all of the things that have been happening recently.
Stacy: [00:05:44] It definitely kind of ties in, can be like another conversation point for civil issues going on right now.
Laura: [00:05:54] So, Emily?
Emily: [00:05:59] Okay. This is the other Charles Todd series. Set during the war, this one features a nurse named Bess Crawford from England. And she was raised upper-middle class. She’s volunteering as a battlefield nurse and taking care of wounded in France and England.
I think it starts out at the beginning of a war in the first book and she gets herself very enmeshed in the lives of the soldiers and the families that she encounters during her experiences in the war, which leads to mysteries. This is actually a pretty established series too, considering how long the other series was. This one’s newer, but it still has a lot of books.
And the first Bess Crawford book is A Duty to the Dead.
Laura: [00:06:38] They are a prolific writing team.
Emily: [00:06:41] So if you’re a mystery reader and interested in WWI, there’s lots to explore here.
Stacy: [00:06:47] I love the cover of that book. It’s so pretty that I’d pick it up just for that.
Laura: [00:06:55] All right, Stacy.
Stacy: [00:06:57] Okay. Moving on to fiction, and this is a good pick for mid to upper elementary students, and it’s all about another World War I animal. This is part of a series called G.I. Dogs: Hero Pup of World War I: Sgt. Stubby by Laurie Calkhoven.
Meet Stubby: a stray pup who was taken in by a group of American soldiers-in-training and soon found himself whisked off to the frontlines of World War I as the official mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment!
Stubby served bravely by his soldiers’ sides for 18 months and became a hero when he saved his regiment from a surprise gas attack, and again when he single-handedly caught an enemy German soldier in No Man’s Land. Join Stubby on his incredible journey from puppy to soldier to high-ranking sergeant as he narrates his story of heroism.
This is a historical fiction book because Sergeant stubby was a real pup. Just like Winnie.
Emily: [00:08:10] I bet a lot of kids would like that. Dog books are always popular too.
Stacy: [00:08:13] Absolutely. And I can’t think what other dogs are featured in this series, GI dogs. but I’m sure they would all be really popular picks for students.
Laura: [00:08:27] With a name like Sergeant Stubby, how can you not love it?
Stacy: [00:08:31] So cute.
Laura: [00:08:33] All right, Emily.
Emily: [00:08:35] Our last mystery series, by Jacqueline Winspear is the Maisie Dobbs series. And this is another lengthy one, maybe 15 books or so.
Also, more of a post-war series too and again set in England and the main character is Maisie Dobbs. The first book starts before the war, introduces Maisie, and tells her personal story. There is some mystery, but the future books getting more into the mysteries.
The first book sets up of how Maisie becomes an investigator and the books are, I would say, a little more upbeat than some war story books, but they still get into social issues of the period along the way. And there’s a little romance across the series also. These have kind of neat covers too.
Laura: [00:09:30] I love that illustrated type of work; it’s so appealing.
Stacy: [00:09:38] And she’s already a pretty popular author. So this would be a good kind of natural next choice if they haven’t read the series.
Laura: [00:09:47] I have a guy friend who’s a mystery reader and he reads these because of the time period.
Emily: [00:10:04] It gets into how so many of the young men were killed at that time that it left this generation of women who weren’t really able to marry in a time period where that was very atypical. The book touches on the societal impact of that and how that gives Maisie a little more freedom to get involved in other kinds of tasks.
Laura: [00:10:19] I like that. Okay, Stacy.
Stacy: [00:10:24] So my last two picks are fiction as well, both historical fiction and they are for teens. So this first one is The Button War by Avi. Twelve-year-old Patryk knows little of the world beyond his tiny Polish village; the Russians have occupied the land for as long as anyone can remember, but otherwise life is unremarkable.
Patryk and his friends entertain themselves by coming up with games involving dares until the Germans drop a bomb and the Great War comes crashing in. As control of the village falls from one nation to another, Jurek, the ringleader of Patryk’s group of friends, devises the best dare yet: whichever boy steals the finest military button will be king.
But as the dare progresses to looting the bodies of dead soldiers — and as Jurek’s obsession with being king escalates — Patryk begins to wonder whether their “button war” is still just a game.
Avi delivers a fierce account of the boys of one war-torn village who are determined to prove themselves with a simple dare that spins disastrously out of control.
This is a popular pick, for teenage boys. And, I think, I don’t know if it is anymore, but it used to be required reading.
Laura: [00:11:53] It sounds really good. Okay, your other teen pick?
Stacy: [00:11:56] My other teen pick is War Horse, and we have the issue here that has the movie cover. So, I’m sure there are many patrons that have watched War Horse. If you didn’t know, it’s based on a YA novel of the same title by Michael Morpurgo.
This searing World War I novel reveals the unspeakable slaughter of soldiers on all sides fighting against people who are just like them. An English farm horse, Joey tells his story; the first-person narrative blends the animal’s physical experience with what men say.
It’s 1914 and Joey is a beautiful bay-red horse with a distinctive cross on his nose. He has a special bond with Albert, who is too young to join the war. Albert’s father sells Joey to the army and Joey is thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges toward the enemy, witnessing the horror of the battles in France.
But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey’s courage touches the soldiers around him and he is able to find warmth and hope. But his heart aches for Albert, the farmer’s son he left behind. Will he ever see his true master again?
Laura: [00:13:16] This is going to touch everybody in their feelings.
Stacy: [00:13:22] Yes. It’s a very emotional story. And I didn’t realize this, but I picked so many books about animals in three of my picks. So, something for everybody.
Laura: [00:13:35] Well, who doesn’t like animals, right?
Emily: [00:13:37] Exactly. Very much. Always a go-to theme in children’s books.
Stacy: [00:13:40] Absolutely.
Laura: [00:13:42] I think it has a lot of crossover appeal too. Something you could read with your kids, because again, who doesn’t like animals?
Stacy: [00:13:51] Definitely.
Laura: [00:13:52] You get emotionally engaged when it’s an animal story.
Stacy: [00:13:58] Yes.
Emily: [00:13:58] I bet this is one that would work for those car rides, where they want something that both grandma and the kids can listen to.
Laura: [00:14:06] Multi-generational appeal, good picks!
Stacy: [00:14:10] Thank you.
World War I Exhibit
Laura: [00:14:11] And next up, Emily, you’re going to tell us a little bit about the online exhibit.
Emily: [00:14:17] The Smithsonian offers several different poster exhibits to organizations, like libraries, that can be used for displays. We were planning to do this in-person, but decided, under the circumstances, that we would move it to an online exhibit so it will be easy for everybody to get to engage and experience it. This is going to be up in November and run through the end of the year. You’ll be able to find the exhibit on the library’s website. The exhibit is called World War I: Lessons and Legacies.
There are several posters in the exhibit that you’ll get to look through, again, all put together by the Smithsonian and they’re on a variety of topics. Each poster looks at a different aspect of the war. There’s topics like propaganda, the soldier experience, the Homefront experience, the roles of women, medicine during the war, and then the aftermath of the war. And what I think is really neat about this exhibit, while I was going through and putting the site together, is that so many of the topics covered in the posters, parallel things that are still being talked about in the news today.
For example, there’s the 1918 flu pandemic. Of course, pandemics are very timely for us now, unfortunately. There’s discussion about like the role of the media, about the treatment of immigrants, issues of racial oppression and voters’ rights, and even what the role of the US should be in the world. That was a big discussion point after WWI. Should we be a global player or should we be more isolationist?
Emily: [00:15:48] I think it’s neat to look for those parallels and in the way the exhibit is set up, it guides you through that. So, this is really appropriate for teens and adults. And homeschoolers and teachers, I think, all could find this of interest to use. In addition to the posters, we offer discussion questions and invitations to get drawn into little aspects of the posters and think about how they tie in with the period and the current times. We have tons of books suggestions that let you explore each of the topics further. And we also link to a lot of other really nice online exhibits from other sources, that let you delve into each topic more.
Something really cool, a little extra piece that we’ve added as exhibit, is that we’re going to have a series of videos by local historian, Gary Knepp. He recently wrote a book about Clermont County connections to WWI. He’s going to talk about the experiences of local residents, both as soldiers and then on the Homefront also.
Laura: [00:16:45] There’s a lot of really great information. I’m glad that we’re still going to go ahead and have the exhibit.
Emily: [00:16:55] I think it will be fun for people to take a look at it. I had fun putting the site together, so I hope people enjoy looking at it.
Stacy: [00:16:59] It’s so neat now that exhibitions or programs are becoming virtual, kind of out of a need, but this is really neat because we’ll have it available through the end of the year. But afterward maybe they’ll still have it. So, it’s kind of neat that some things can be archived forever.
Emily: [00:17:30] And I think this makes it, for schools or homeschoolers wanting to use the content, a little easier by having it online.
Laura: [00:17:39] Well, and it’s all in one place, so people don’t have to go and search for it.
Stacy: [00:17:43] That’s awesome.
Laura: [00:17:45] Thank you, Emily and Stacy for sharing your book with us and also talking about the exhibit. Thank you to our listeners and viewers for joining us. Subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss an episode.
And until next time reader read on.