Monday, April 25, 2016

Evocative artifacts

The Great War: stories inspired by items from the First World War written by many beautiful authors, David Almond, John Boyne, Tracy Chevalier, Ursula Dubosarsky, Thothee de Fombelle, Adele Geras, A.L. Kennedy, Michael Morpurgo, Marcus Sedgwick, Tanya Lee Stone and Sheena Wilkinson.  Illustrated by Jim Kay. Quite the line-up, wouldn't you say?

The title pretty well describes the premise of this collection of short stories; 11 stories based on a specific object that connects in some way to World War I and evokes a time, a place and a prompt for the imagination that takes us, the reader, there.

These items are a Brodie helmet, a compass, the nose of a Zeppelin bomb, a recruitment poster, a Princess Mary’s gift fund box, a soldier’s writing case, sheet music, a butter dish, a Victoria Cross, school magazines, and a French toy soldier.

It may be that your own imagination is stirred just contemplating what the stories might be.

The Brodie helmet becomes a way for family to reconnect to a great-great-grandfather who died too young; the writing case a way for a class of children to understand the waste of war and the bravery needed to create a new world; a compass that provides a melancholy focus for a severely injured soldier who may be able to find the missing pieces once the doctors from the Tin Noses Shop get to work; or how a brass horn literally saved the life of a musician/soldier from the 369th Infantry Regiment, the Harlem Hellfighters.

Each story is very well told. The book is beautifully designed and illustrated. All the artifacts are written about in the back of the book to provide a little more context. This small weighty book will leave readers with lots to think about.

This would be a terrific book to use to model developing a story around an artifact. A co-worker suggested that immigrant families often have keepsakes with interesting stories and may provide inspiration for exploring family history, traditions and culture.

Recommended for thoughtful, strong readers grades 5 and up. I think that older students will take away more from these stories than younger students, however. 


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