The Great War: Stories inspired by items from the First World War

p. 1 “I grew up with the tin hat.”

An observation over the years, as a mother and librarian, is that as adults we easily slip away from our connection with children’s literature unless it is something quite out of the ordinary, like the ‘Harry Potter’ series. This is not to say that the book I am touting here is ordinary – it is not.

drawing by Jim KayIllustrated by Jim Kay*, with his visceral ink drawings in black, white, and shades of grey, you realize that these stories carry a quiet intensity. Famous authors, writing what is considered KidLit, have contributed stories based upon objects or in pedagogical verbiage, “primary documents &  realia.”  One such story ‘Our Jacko’ by Michael Morpurgo (yes, of War Horse fame, dear adults!) is crafted so that it appeals to lovers of history, mystery, and the complexity of relationships, without ever losing emotional accessibility to either children or adults.

Reading these short vignettes of lives affected by war written to “honor the one hundredth anniversary of the start of First World War,”  is not a far cry from the news headlines of today. Empathy and emotional understanding are the gifts given with each writer’s words.

Authors included are:

  • David Almond
  • John Boyne
  • Tracy Chevalier
  • Ursula Dubosarsky
  • Timothée de Fombelle
  • Adèle Geras
  • A. L. Kennedy
  • Michael Morpurgo
  • Marcus Sedgwick
  • Tanya Lee Stone
  • Sheen Wilkinson

*Ironically, he is the illustrator for the upcoming re-publication of the ‘Harry Potter‘ series.


Kay, Jim, illus. The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War. Somerville: Candlewick, 2014. Print.

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