At the time of writing, we are drawing towards the centenary of the end of the First World War. The 1914-1918 conflict between the British Allies and the German state devastated families and communities in many European nations. Some of the horrors faced by soldiers, communities and the environment are still evident today – 100 years later – but sharing stories about those times to young people can be hard to achieve, as the world has moved on in many aspects. But, lest we forget.
In his new book, Terry Deary (creator of Horrible Histories) tells a story of a young French girl, a misplaced German boy, dealing with treachery, hardships faced during the war, and the heroic lengths various groups of people undertook to ensure an ultimate end of the conflict.
Aimee – whose mother is a spy for the Dames Blanches, informing the British armies about the advances and actions of the enemy – soon get involved in the war effort, but unexpectedly befriends a German boy medic, who only want to help the injured and wounded. Having overhead a secret being shared by a spy, Aimee is suddenly in danger and must escape the clutches of the man with the Silver Hand, who desperately seeks her silence by death.
This is a great adventure story based around the First World War, which could form the basis of a longer study the 1914-1918 conflict, with the book concluding the story on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month. The horrors and challenges of living in a rural French village are not skimmed throughout the story, but Deary has taken great care to deal with the realities of that time in a sensitive but honest way suited for young readers. The book has clear links to Literacy, History, Geography, and Citizenship based activities ultimately supporting a deserved explorational topic suited for all.
This would be a great, absorbing adventure book to read with the whole class, ideally for pupils aged 9+, including KS2 and KS3, with activities to help develop skills, as well as help inform young people about the history of the First World War.