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