Friday, November 15, 2013

Review: The World Wars

I think I've mentioned recently that this year we're studying 1900 to the present in history.  I thought I would then post a review of a resource we've been using that has been one we've used often so far this year.

The World Wars is written by Paul Dowswell, Ruth Brocklehurst, and Henry Brook and published by Usborne (If in the UK or outside the U.S., go to this link for Usborne)  I can't remember off hand where I bought this book but it should be available through various book outlets as well as an Usborne representative. 

The World Wars covers both WW I and WW II.  This particular book was a recommended resource for our curriculum this year (Tapestry of Grace, Year 4).   It is used for my Dialectic student (if you're not familiar with the classical education levels, Dialectic is roughly 6th-8th grade). 

The first thing I did when this book arrived was to flip through the pages and look at the pictures.  This book is packed with them.  War is an ugly endeavor.  Photo journalism has long strived to portray that horrid reality.  And so, it is sometimes difficult to find books on the wars without also encountering graphic pictures of the people and events that took place.  Case in point:  My husband was handed a "children's" book on the U.S. Civil War and asked to review it for an online book selling site.  Our excitement over receiving a free resource for our homeschool was quickly squelched when we saw that some of the pictures were of graphically wounded soldiers and fields full of dead and decaying corpses.  Was it real?  Yes.  But I didn't feel my sometimes sensitive children needed to see such graphic pictures at their age.

And so I paged through this book to see what graphic pictures of war and destruction were included.  I'm glad that there were very few pictures of concern for me.  There are lots of pictures of soldiers with guns and other scenes of war and destruction, but nothing I found too graphic for my 7th grader.  I found a couple of pictures that appear to be men in action being hurt in battle (one blurry picture of a man that has his back arched like he was shot while running and another where a man appears to be thrown in the air during an explosion), but reading the captions they are pictures from a movie.  There was a picture of some men with guns running past a soldier lying on the ground of which you can guess is either wounded or dead, but it isn't obvious which.  I didn't see any blood.  There is also a picture of men (not clear) clinging to the side of a boat with a caption explaining that men who fell in the water probably died.  I also found two pictures of people standing before firing squads before their death.  These are what I would refer to anticipatory horror - the pictures aren't graphic but being able to guess what's going to happen next can be disturbing. 

That all said, the pictures I mentioned really do account for very little in the book.  Literally, these were all the pictures that might be of concern for us in  book and the book is 238 pages, most containing pictures, with extra pages in the back of just text.

As far as written content, this book goes through events and time lines of the war in short, easy to understand snippets.  It includes small maps to explain events.  The back of the book includes a list of movies that are related to the wars with a warning that some of the movies will not be suitable for young viewers.  There is also a "Who's Who" section where you can look up various people who were mentioned in the book.  A glossary and index are also included.  Throughout the book there "quicklinks" which are Internet pages you can go to for more information.  Instructions on how to access the "quicklinks" are on the back page of the book.  These quicklinks include video clips, time lines, and additional information to deepen your student's study and understanding.

As I haven't had time to read this book myself, I asked my son about the content.  He assures me that it isn't scary or inappropriate.  I did find at least one instance of the word "h*ll."  Which, when you come to think of it, its a pretty accurate description of war.  I am not aware of any further language of concern.

In the end, what you choose to use for your children to read through is a matter of personal choice.  I think this book was a good choice for us because it really is written for its intended audience of children.  It presents the information in a clear way without becoming too scary or graphic.  I have appreciated its use to help get us through learning about the world wars.

-A

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