These are two samples from a new series by Capstone, Stories of War. Each includes short vignettes from real soldiers and others involved in a particular war. The books open with a brief description of the war on which the book focuses and on key dates. The stories are followed by a glossary, brief bibliography, link to the publisher’s website for more information, and an index.
I read True Stories of World War II first and I can’t wait to introduce it to the kids at my library. It covers all the elements of history that elementary and middle school kids will be interested in. There are five stories in this book and each is the story of a different person from World War II. William Edwin Dyess survived the Bataan Death March, but later died a hero in a plane crash. Jacqueline Cochran formed the WASPs and was a famous aviator, setting many speed, altitude, and distance records. Charles W. Lindberg was one of the soldiers who raised the American flag over Iwo Jima. Lucie Aubrac was a member of the French Resistance and saved her husband’s life, playing a clever trick on the Nazis. Lewis L. Haynes was a medical officer on the USS Indianapolis when it was torpedoed in Pearl Harbor.
Each story includes both first person narration, dialogue, and historical facts. Some include photographs of the person and others include maps and additional information. The art style varies in each story. In William Dyess’ story of the horrors of Bataan, the art is green and earth-toned, showing the lush background of the jungle. The faces and settings are slightly out of focus, keeping the violence from being too graphic and disturbing. In the story of Lucie Aubrac, the panels focus on her face and figure as the text centers on her psychological battle with the Nazis, convincing them to believe her story and unwittingly give her husband a chance to escape.
The stories don’t soften the grim realities of war, but they don’t depict the violence in graphic detail. The art keeps the focus away from the atrocities and death and on the heroic men and women fighting for freedom or survival. There’s enough drama, action, and facts to keep even the most reluctant reader spellbound.
I was expecting the same high quality from the second collection of stories, True Stories of the Revolutionary War, but I was disappointed. The first profiled person, Isaac Bangs, doesn’t actually do anything. He and the other soldiers all look alike and the text is mainly quotes from the Declaration of Independence. Frederika von Riedesel, a wife of a German general, gives a few quotes of her experiences and sits with wounded men. The story is confusing and doesn’t really explain who the men are. Lydia Darragh, a spy in Philadelphia, is better written and a little more interesting. She overhears British conversations and retails them to the Americans. Albigence Waldo, a surgeon’s assistant, waits with the soldiers and then has a few thoughts about courage. Nothing else happens. Anthony Allaire, a lieutenant for the British, is shown charging on his horse in a brief snapshot of a battle. The last story is about one of the wives who followed their husbands to battle, Sarah Osborn Benjamin. She talks briefly to George Washington and the rest of the story shows her walking about and talks about the end of the war.
The Revolutionary War stories do offer a wider range of viewpoints from people on both sides of the conflict, but don’t work as well as the World War II stories because they are more general snapshots of history. The people profiled are there mainly for quotes, not to actually narrate their stories. Kinsella’s art style is much more uniform throughout this book and it’s difficult to tell the different soldiers and other protagonists apart. There are many more engaging books about the Revolutionary War that would be a better choice than this one.
Capstone offers these titles in both paperback and library bound editions. I would suggest the World War II stories are worth the additional price for library bound, but if you’re buying the complete set either skip the Revolutionary War title or go with the paperback.