Thursday, March 12, 2015

Rescued Book #35: The Second World War

Schnickelfritz and I are preparing to study World War Two to end our American history studies this year.  We’ll be using Home School in the Woods’ Time Travelers unit study for our main text, but I wanted to find some supplemental reading.  My stepfather lent us a book he found at a library book sale so technically this isn’t my rescued book, but it’s so special I had to share it with you.

The Second World War. Churchill, Winston S. & Editors of Life. New York: Golden, 1960. 384pp.

One of the great leader of the time was British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  A great orator, he used his power with the English language to pen a number of great books as well.  From 1948 to 1953 he wrote a six volume set entitles The Second World War.  In 1960, Life magazine created an abridged version of the massive work especially for young readers.  Imagine the eloquence of Churchill combined with the award winning photojournalism of Life!  It’s all here!  To be fair, not all the images were taken by Life photographers, some are paintings of famous events, and many pictures were taken by the military from both sides (which frankly is even more impressive because these were the days before journalists were embedded with the troops).

The eloquence of Churchill can’t be surpassed and yet it is still easily understandable to my 12 year old son.  Where applicable, the narrative is in first person with the Prime Minister sharing where he was and what he was doing.  Talk about adding a “you were there” feeling to the reading. Take this passage in the chapter on the Battle of Britain.

One evening—October 17—stands out in my mind. We were dining in the garden-room of No. 10 [Downing Street]  when the usual night raid began. The steel shutters had been closed. Several loud explosions occurred around us at no great distance, and presently a bomb fell, perhaps a hundred yards away…Suddenly I had a providential impulse. The kitchen at No. 10 is lofty and spacious, and looks out through a large plate-glass window about twenty-five feet high….I became acutely aware of this big window, behind which Mrs. Landemare, the cook, and the kitchenmaid, never turning a hair, were at work. I got up abruptly, went into the kitchen, told the butler to put the dinner on the hot plate in the dining room, and ordered the cook and other[s] into the shelter, such as it was. I had been seated again at the table only about three minutes when a really very loud crash, close at hand, and a violent shock showed that the house had been struck…The big plate-glass window had been hurled in fragments and splinters across the room, and would have cut its occupants, if there were any, to pieces.

While the book is written for young readers, I’m not necessarily encouraging you to let you kids peruse without parental supervision.  This is a book about war—there are pictures of injured children and dead bodies.  On the other hand, there are some amusing photos as well.  One picture shows an idyllic field turned into a junkyard with old cars and jalopies.  They were scattered about to prevent German planes from having adequate landing space.  The caption says the Brits also dug trenches across racetracks and golf courses for the same reason.

The book covers everything from the World War I peace treaty (which Churchill refers to as The Follies of the Victors) and Hitler’s rise to power through the dropping of the atomic bomb and Churchill's address to the nation after tendering his resignation at the end of the war.  My one disappointment is most of the maps throughout the book are only about the size of a baseball trading card.  There are maps of the European and Pacific theaters in the front and back covers of the book though.

I happened to check and this fine volume is still available in many libraries.  I will be scouring used book sales hoping to rescue my own copy.

You can see all my rescued books by clicking here.

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