A group of celebrated writers, including Michael Morpurgo, A.L. Kennedy, David Almond and John Boyne, reflects on simple artifacts from World War I to create a collection of short stories.
The items themselves are simple, even mundane. A wartime butter dish. A compass. A school magazine. But the stories themselves, ranging in setting from the apex of the war to its centenary now, combine each small treasure with a child's point of view to say something profound about memory and loss and what it means to wage war. In Timothée de Fombelle's “Captain Rosalie,” a small girl imagines herself a secret spy as she works to uncover the code that will let her read her father's letters. Tanya Lee Stone's story in verse, “A Harlem Hellfighter and His Horn,” takes readers from America's racially divided cities to Belleau Wood, where a young musician learns that “Maybe making something of yourself is as / simple / as…walking, no / marching / straight into the center of / fear / all while playing a horn." Each story, lovingly crafted, shows a different facet of war in the same way that each artifact reflects something different about the time. Perhaps most moving is Tracy Chevalier's “When They Were Needed Most,” in which a small boy's theft of a cigarette from a Christmas package meant for soldiers becomes the very thing that saves his father's life. Black-and-white illustrations by Kay and photos and descriptions of each artifact complete the whole.
Extraordinary. (Short stories. 8 & up)