When Marcia Williams wrote Archie’s War, it was a unique way of teaching children about the First World War through the eyes of a fictional boy who lived through it. Young Archie Albright makes a scrapbook about the war era, and includes a great wealth of information that most children—or even most adults—would not know about. In honor of the WWI centenary, a new edition of Archie’s War has been released.
The book contains much more than the average children’s book. It is not a mere collection of illustrations accompanied by a few lines of text each, but rather a collection of photos, newspaper clippings, comic strips and more. While there is certainly a good deal of humor in the book, Archie’s War also has several touching moments which portray the impact of the Great War upon the family of a young boy. He has many fears, especially once his father leaves to join the fray. In the midst of his family’s story, however, his scrapbook includes enough information to muddy the lines between children’s book and textbook.
For instance, the book includes a running body count of the war’s battles. It also includes information about the development of tanks, and the growth of female employment in multiple industries. Archie’s War also includes information on some of the horrors that befell soldiers, such as injuries to the head and face. This factors into the book’s education on wartime innovations, as many of these injuries were covered up by masks made of copper, The Guardian reports.
While making his scrapbook, Archie Albright learns about the unstoppable power of zeppelins used in bombing raids and the use of urine-soaked cloth to protect soldiers against gas attacks, but he also learns about anti-war sentiments and pacifism. In Archie’s War, the grandmother is the only character who is not against the war. Some have reviewed this aspect of the book negatively, as she is portrayed as witch-like and incredibly mean. Nonetheless, pacifism was certainly a big part of the WWI era as thousands of conscientious objectors protested Britain’s involvement in the conflict.
Archie’s War contains a wealth of interesting information, from wartime menus to the story of Cher Ami, a peg-legged homing pigeon that received a medal for bravery. Much of the information, however, pertains to citizens and how the conflict affected their lives. The educational and inspiring portrayal of the Albright family in Archie’s War is now available in paperback, a new edition crafted to honor the WWI centenary this year.