Friday, 24 August 2012

Friday Five: Children's War Literature

The sad obituary from this week is that Nina Bawden has died, aged 87. She was the author of a fantastic number of books, including Family Money and The Ice House, both of which I thought were excellent when I read them many years ago.

She is probably best known, however, for her children's novel, Carrie's War, which focuses on the plight of two young evacuees during the Second World War as they are sent to a rural world that may as well be alien - it's in Wales. We read it at school, as I think did many people my age, and it left a lasting impression. I loved war stories, and the era in which they were set: the children of the Narnia stories were evacuees and The Famous Five were obssessed with secret passages and food because they were living through the post-war rationing years.

Much is made these days of children needing stories with characters they can relate to. I think this is patronising and doesn't credit the power of childhood imagination or their ability to understand something other than their own immediate environment. Children have amazing war stories now: The Book Thief by Makus Zusak; The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne; and Michael Morpurgo's War Horse spring to mind.

I have since read children's books concerning other wars in China, America, Africa, Canada, India, South America, the Balkan states, and what was once Persia, but up until the early 80s, almost all my reading about war was Euro-centric and (with the notable exceptions of Henry Treece and Rosemary Sutcliffe who wrote thrilling historical fiction) concerned WWII. Because I have already mentioned the highly-influential Carrie's War, I am not including it in this list, although it would otherwise be right up there.

5 Children's Book About War (That I Read When I Was a Child):
  1. I Am David - Anne Holme
  2. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank
  3. The Silver Sword - Ian Serraillier
  4. Goodnight Mr Tom - Michelle Magorian
  5. The Eagle of the Ninth - Rosemary Sutcliffe