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Posts Tagged ‘marcia williams’

Now all fit men between the ages of 18 and 41 have to join the forces.  It’s called conscription.  If you are not wearing a disablement or discharge badge, you get shouted at in the street.  Or even given a white feather.  It’s happened to our Ron and he’s only 15 years old.

(from Archie’s War, page 26)

After reading (and loving) the fictional World War II diary of Flossie Albright a couple of months ago, I knew I had to go back and read the World War I scrapbook of her father, Archie.  Archie’s War: My Scrapbook of The First World War 1914-1919 looks just like a scrapbook kept by a young boy.  Archie Albright is 10 years old when his uncle Colin gives him this scrapbook, and only a few pages into his colorful comics and drawings, after he’s introduced his family, best friend Tom, and Georgie the dog, Austria declares war on Serbia, then Germany and Austria declare war on Russia.  When Germany invades Belgium and Britain joins the war, Archie’s life begins to change, and he will use his scrapbook to chronicle his wartime experiences.

Archie’s scrapbook isn’t all fun and games, especially as his uncle Teddy and then his father join the fighting, his mother and sister join the workforce, and food grows increasingly scarce, and readers never forget that he’s a young boy coming of age during what was supposed to be the “war to end all wars.”  Alongside the newspaper clippings and historical tidbits, author Marcia Williams includes vibrant comics depicting the soldiers on the front and the changes back home, among the most sad being the treatment of Archie’s German neighbors in East London.

Williams does a wonderful job merging the history of the war with the antics of a young boy, who at a tender age must learn about loss, fear, shell shock, and hunger but also finds hope and happiness in the countryside.  Archie’s War makes learning the history of The Great War fun for children and adults alike, with letters to be unfolded and read, various postcards and other items from the period, and countless illustrations that are both informative and entertaining.  Williams personalizes the war, letting readers see what happened through the eyes of a young boy who feels so very real.  Best of all, this slim, oversized paperback is made to look and feel like a real scrapbook, and I’m sure with a re-read, you’d find lots of little things that you missed the first time around.

Book 9 for the WWI Reading Challenge

Book 23 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I borrowed Archie’s War from Serena (check out her review). I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Tues 21st May [1940]

The flipping sun shone today — how could it? Did it shine on Hitler? I found this picture of him and his dog — if I was his dog I’d run away so as not to be stroked by his wicked hand.

Simon has gone all grey and quiet again. How can we save his family when we can’t even save ourselves?

(from My Secret War Diary, page 49)

My Secret War Diary, by Flossie Albright:  My History of the Second World War 1939-1945 is the fictional diary/scrapbook of Flossie Albright, a 9-year-old girl living in Honeysuckle Cottage on the High Barn Estate in Dorchester, England.  She lives with her father, her great uncle Colin, and her nearly 1-year-old brother Boo, who hasn’t been given a proper name yet.  Flossie is still grieving her mother’s death when her father joins the Dorsetshire Regiment in anticipation of war with Germany, leaving her to care for her brother on her own.  Flossie is understandably stressed from caring for a baby and going to school, and she’s also frightened that the Germans will invade — especially when gas masks are distributed and planes start flying overhead.

Flossie’s diary is written in cursive and peppered with doodles, photographs, and mementos, which come from author Marcia Williams’ family.  My Secret War Diary is very similar to The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston, except that it’s geared toward middle grade readers and the story flows more easily rather than being molded to fit the mementos.  Flossie’s diary spans the entire war and goes into great detail about the evacuees who come from London, a Jewish boy from Germany who is placed on the estate, food and gas rations, and how the landscape changes when the Americans join the war.  And through it all, readers watch Flossie grow from a strong, sassy young girl into a strong, opinionated, and ambitious young woman.

Williams does a great job showing what it was like to be a kid during the war, with the fear of bombings, having to eat things they wouldn’t have eaten before, and finding small things to do to aid the war effort, such as collecting scrap metal.  She also shows how children can play a role in history, as Flossie is keeping a diary to tell her war story and includes the stories of the Jewish evacuee Simon, a nurse in North Africa, her soldier cousin who is part of the D-Day invasion, and other people experiencing the war in different ways.

My Secret War Diary is amusing and heartwarming, informative, and at times very sad.  Like most people who lived during World War II, Flossie experiences her share of hardship and loss, making the story more authentic.  This is a book both adults and children will enjoy, as it is impossible not to like Flossie, who tells the good with the bad, even when it means exposing her own flaws.  Williams personalizes the wartime experience, and children will learn what it was like for Flossie to be proud of her father but wish he could stay, to be grateful for what little she had but not wanting to eat crows or foxes, and to move on despite crippling grief.  Not only is it a fascinating story, but it also is a feast for the eyes, with letters to be pulled out of envelopes, cards to be flipped open, and even entries written in code that must be deciphered.  I loved it, and I can’t wait to read Flossie’s father’s World War I diary, Archie’s War.

Book 8 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I borrowed My Secret War Diary from The Girl, who received it as a gift from the lovely Serena. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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