World War I for Kids

Did you know that it is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I this year? Chicago Review Press is releasing World War I for Kids: A History with 21 Activities by R. Kent Rasmussen on April 1, 2014 to mark the event.


How and when did World War I start anyway? Author Rasmussen explains that trouble was brewing when the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie on June 28, 1914 set off a chain of events that led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia a month later. As things spiraled out of control, Germany declared war on Russia, France and Belgium on August 1, 1914 and the “European War,” as it was called at the time, had begun.

While Rasmussen details how World War I is thought to have come about, he emphasizes, “Understanding history involves much more than memorizing facts and dates.” He concentrates on how World War I differed from earlier wars and how it changed the “political systems, economies, and cultures” of the countries involved.

Even though the For Kids in the title might sound light or informal, at 192 pages this is a serious, comprehensive work about war. Among the many period photographs and illustrations, it contains scenes of men and dogs in gas masks and in the trenches, but none showing injuries or dead bodies. The cover gives you a good idea of what kinds of illustrations to expect.

Some people might be concerned about presenting a weighty book about war to children, since it is recommended for ages nine and up. It probably would be more appropriate for older kids, but there will be those few younger ones who will devour it. Having an intense history buff for a son I can say with experience that if the tween or teen reader is interested in the topic, he or she will wade through adult nonfiction if that is all that is available. It is refreshing to have a book geared for older children that is so well written and thorough.

Books in the Chicago Review Press For Kids series stand out because they contain hands-on activities sprinkled throughout the text. These activities are so important for readers who are kinesthetic learners, but also for all kinds of learning styles. As anyone involved in the maker trend can tell you, hands-on activities encourage the participants to actively think about concepts, which makes them more memorable. Applying concepts also often generates questions and ideas that lead to further experimentation and research. For example, there are instructions on testing how camouflage works by hiding colored eggs that are camouflaged versus brightly-colored ones. The participants are asked to predict which will be harder to find and then actually test it. Extensions might involve varying the colors, the patterns or the materials to generate better camouflage, etc. Other activities included in the book are making a periscope, teaching a dog to carry messages, making a parachute, and cooking a common ration fed to the troops called Maconochie Stew.

World War I for Kids is a must-have for serious young history buffs, particularly those interested in war history. Mine loves it! Consider it as a resource for high school students studying world history, as it covers WWI with clarity and depth not commonly found in most textbooks. It also will work well for Women’s History Month and Black History Month because it emphasizes the contributions of women and African Americans during the war.

Related Activity:

poppy II

Red poppies have become a symbol of remembrance for war, particularly for WWI (info at BBC). It is said to have started because of a poem and from the fact scarlet corn poppies, Popaver rhoeas, tend to grow in the disturbed soils that result from wartime activities.

1. Research the poem “Flanders Fields” by John McCrae.

2. Obtain some red corn poppy seeds and grow them.

3. World War I for Kids has an activity to press flowers, inspired by actual letters containing pressed flowers sent home by Harry S. Truman (Harry S. Truman Library) How sweet is that?

4. Make a red poppy craft. If the video doesn’t load, try the website.

World War I for Kids: A History with 21 Activities by R. Kent Rasmussen

Age Range: 9 and up
Grade Level: 4 and up
Series: For Kids series
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Chicago Review Press (April 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1613745567
ISBN-13: 978-1613745564

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